Roborovski dwarf hamsters (Phodopus roborovskii), sometimes affectionately called robs or robos, are the smallest of the dwarf hamsters and have the longest lifespan. They come from the desert areas of western and eastern Mongolia, China and Russia. Busy and very active when awake, these little hamsters are entertaining to watch but difficult to hold.
Roborovskis have two color types: normal tans, which have distinctive white "eyebrows," and white-faced types. Both have a slate gray undercoat and white underbelies. They are the only dwarf hamsters that don't have a dark stripe down their back. These tiny hamsters grow only 2 inches long and they are thinner than other types, but have longer legs.
Speed and Agility
Long legs and a natural quickness make Roborovskis the fastest of the dwarf hamsters, and it's not unusual for them to jump 2 feet into the air. They watch for a chance to dart out an open cage door or leap out of an aquarium when you remove the lid. Their speed and agility also make holding your pet a challenge. When startled, they will jump out of your hand. Be careful when opening the cage and hold your pet firmly, but gently, so that you don't squeeze him. The difficulty in handling Roborovskis makes them unsuitable pets for children.
Roborovskis as Pets
Roborovskis are very social around others of their kind, but timid around people. They have a reputation for being nippy little hamsters that are difficult to train, and they are best suited to experienced adult hamster owners. Let them get used to your hand inside their cage by offering them small treats in the palm of your hand. All hamsters are nocturnal, but these little guys wake up later than most, and are most active between 9:00 and 10:00 at night. They are easily startled and will experience less stress if they are kept in a quiet part of the house.
A 10-gallon aquarium makes a good home for two to four Roborovskis. Cages are unsuitable for these tiny hamsters because they can squeeze between the bars. Cover the aquarium with a mesh lid to prevent leaps to freedom. They need a lot of exercise because of their high metabolism, so give them an exercise wheel. You'll need more than one wheel for a group of Roborovskis. Aspen shavings are the preferred bedding because they don't irritate their skin. You'll also need a water bottle with a drip tube, a food dish and hiding places.
- Hamsterific: About Roborovskis
- Our Best Friends: Hamsters; Holly Sullivant
- The Hamster Handbook; Patricia Pope Bartlett, et al.
- Your Happy Healthy Pet Hamster; Betsy Siino
- Small Animal Channel: Roborovski Hamster
Jackie Carroll has been a freelance writer since 1995. Her home-and-garden and nature articles have appeared in "Birds & Blooms" and "Alamance Today." She holds a Bachelor of Science in medical technology from the University of North Carolina.