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How to Care for Russian Hamsters

| Updated September 26, 2017

Things You'll Need

  • 10-gallon aquarium or small animal wire cage with solid bottom

  • Ball drip water bottle

  • Small heavy food dish

  • Bedding

  • Toys for dwarf hamsters

  • Veterinarian

Russian dwarf hamsters are known by several other names, including Campbell's dwarf, Siberian and Djungarian hamster. According to Hamsterific.com, Russian hamsters were first taken from the wild to be a laboratory animal but in the 1970s they were introduced to the pet trade. The founder of the California Hamster Association, Linda Price, warns that because of their tiny size and fast actions, Russian hamsters are better pets for adults than children. Russian hamsters can now come in several colors and coat patterns. They have special needs compared to the bigger, more familiar Syrian hamster.

Choose a home for the Russian hamster or hamsters. Use at least a 10-gallon aquarium with a wire mesh lid, a plastic and wire cage or a wire cage. Make sure the cage has a solid bottom. Since Russian hamster feet are so small, they may get caught in homes with a wire mesh bottom. Make sure wire mesh or wire bars are close enough together that the tiny hamster can slip out. Get one home per dwarf hamster. Although Russian dwarfs are friendlier hamsters than other hamster species, "Taming Your Pet Hamster" reports that dwarfs can suddenly not get along and fight.

Set up the hamster home. Include a gravity drip water bottle or two, because dwarf hamsters will quickly kick bedding into a dish of water. Any feed dishes should be heavy enough so that the hamster can't tip it over. Hamster toys like wheels should be specifically for dwarf hamsters; otherwise they will be too heavy for the small hamster to move. Put in at least one inch of bedding so the Russian hamster can dig and tunnel about. Good bedding includes aspen wood or recycled paper products.

Feed twice a day. Dawn and dusk are best, because this is the time when Russian hamsters are most active. They are mostly active at night. Dwarf hamsters only need about half a teaspoon of commercially available hamster food. Russian dwarfs also enjoy a live mealworm or a tiny bit of cooked meat once a week. Dwarf hamsters like fresh fruits and vegetables. Remove any uneaten fresh food in 24 hours or it will start to rot.

Find a veterinarian used to dealing with hamsters. Russian dwarf hamsters deserve proper veterinary care when they are ill. Because Russian hamsters are so small, an illness can quickly kill them. Always call the vet if a hamster stops eating, grows a strange lump, drinks far more than usual, has a large open wound or is suddenly behaving strangely. Altered behavior is often a sign of illness.


  • Russian dwarf hamsters are prone to diabetes. Signs of diabetes include drinking and urinating far more than usual. According to Linda Price, diabetic Russian hamsters can be successfully managed through diet.


  • Do not give cotton bedding listed as "small animal nesting material" to dwarf hamsters. According to Hamsterific, the Russian dwarfs will swallow threads which can cause intestinal blockages.