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Small, cuddly and undeniably cute, winter white hamsters (Phodopus sungorus) make precious pets. Hailing from the grasslands of Siberia, they are sometimes called Siberian hamsters, Djungarian hamsters and Russian winter whites. Well cared for, winter whites live around two years and delight you with adorable antics.
Winter whites come in three color schemes. He can be dark brown; blue-gray, called sapphire; or pearl. If he's a pearl, he'll have a white coat tipped with darker color. The winter white is a dwarf breed, between 3 and 4 inches long in adulthood. He gets his name because of the camouflage he adopts during winter weather. His coat will turn white if exposed to long nights and short days in the winter. Come spring, he'll look like his old self again. He can be mistaken for a Russian dwarf Campbell, so make sure you obtain yours from a reputable breeder to be sure exactly what breed you're adopting.
Winter whites are shy, so yours will appreciate having his cage in a quiet corner. He's nocturnal, so he'll be running on his wheel at night -- he needs a lot of exercise, so make sure he has a wheel. He can adapt to sleep during the night if he receives treats and attention from you during the day -- twilight is a good time to approach him otherwise. He's a bit of a chatterbox, squeaking and squawking. If you hear him make a high-pitched scream, this means the little guy is spooked.
Unlike larger hamstes, a dwarf may want a buddy in his cage. Keep him with a same-sex winter white pal or hamsters from his litter. A 10-gallon tank will be big enough to house a couple of hamsters, but the more hamsters you have the more room they'll need. Provide plenty of hidey holes, wheels and toys for your little guys to share. Don't get any toys in which one hamster could corner another since they can become aggressive from time to time. When you give treats, make sure you give one to all your pals at the same time, or they could get upset.
Get Hammie a quality hamster food mix. He can have treats from time to time, like fresh carrots, lettuce or other vegetables. Feeding him treats by hand will help form a stronger bond of trust between the two of you. Avoid fruits, corn or dairy. These contain sugar, which could cause your pal to develop diabetes, which winter whites are prone to. Administer the food by filling a sturdy food dish or by scattering the feed on top of the bedding for him to gather up.
- Hamster image by Stana from Fotolia.com