Hamsters seem to always have cheeks full of food; after all, their name does come from German word “hamstern,” which means “hoard.” Dwarf hamsters, the tiniest in the hamster species, are similar in size to mice. Despite their small stature, these nocturnal cuties are popular pets for children and human night owls alike.
The average lifespan of a dwarf hamster is one to two years. However, each species and individual hamster is unique. Growing up to 2 to 3 inches and tipping the scales at up to 2 ounces, dwarf hamsters come in three different species: Russian, Chinese and Roborovski. Chinese dwarf hamsters can live up to three years, while Russian and Roborovski tend to live only two. Providing the proper care as an owner can help ensure the longest, healthiest life possible for your dwarf hamster.
Dwarf hamsters are social creatures and enjoy living in pairs. Make sure to get two same-sex hamsters to prevent breeding, though. Since dwarf hamsters are much smaller than traditional, or Syrian hammies, it’s important to get a cage with little space in between the bars -- lest they slip out. Mice cages are a good option. Dwarf hammies are active, and those with the most space to play and climb will seem happy and healthy. Cover the floor of their habitat with wood shavings and paper bedding for nesting and staying warm; Russian dwarf hamsters are particularly sensitive to the cold. These little guys also love a separate bedroom area where they can cuddle and feel more secure as they snooze. Clean the cage once a week to ensure optimal, hygienic conditions.
Dwarf hamsters do well on a quality hamster mix containing seeds, grains, cracked corn and pellets. You may supplement their diet with small amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables, like apple, spinach, lettuce and carrot, however not too much. An abundance of fresh foods can cause upset stomach. The ASPCA recommends giving your hammy fresh food every two or three days and fresh, clean water daily. Avoid feeding raw kidney beans, onions, raw potato, rhubarb, chocolate or candy, as they’re unhealthy and even toxic.
Potential Health Problems
Hamster teeth are constantly growing, so provide wooden toys, mineral stones or treats for them to grind on. Without these, their teeth may grow so long they irritate or even start growing into their chins. Dwarf hamsters are also prone to respiratory problems, including colds, which they can catch from their owners. Signs of illness include dull-looking eyes, matted fur, weight loss, shaking, runny nose, prolonged inactivity and diarrhea. Seek veterinary care if your hammy shows signs of illness.
- ASPCA: Hamster Care
- Fresh Fields Rescue: Dwarf Hamster- Facts and Care Sheet
- Dwarf Hamsters: Everything About Purchase, Care, Feeding, And Housing; Sharon L Vanderlip, D.V.M.
Hamster image by Stana from Fotolia.com
Christina Stephens is a writer from Portland, Ore. whose main areas of focus are pets and animals, travel and literature. A veterinary assistant, she taught English in South Korea and holds a BA in English with cum laude honors from Portland State University.