Chinese hamsters, also known as Chinese striped hamsters or Chinese dwarf hamsters, are small rodents native to the deserts of China and Mongolia. Technically, they are not dwarf hamsters, but they have been given this name because of their small size compared to other common pet hamsters, such as the Syrian hamster. They are usually brown with a black stripe on the back and a lighter belly. They also have longer tails than most hamsters. As pets, these hamsters are not hard to care for. They are generally docile and easy to tame, although some can be a bit temperamental and irritable. In addition, they do not take up much space in the home and their food is readily available at most pet stores.
Summary of species
COMMON NAME: Chinese Striped Hamster, Chinese Dwarf Hamster
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Cricetus griseus
ADULT SIZE: 3 to 5 inches long, weighing 1 to 2 ounces.
LIFESPAN: 2 to 3 years.
Chinese hamster behavior and temperament
Chinese hamsters are nocturnal, meaning they sleep during the day and are awake at night. But sometimes they may wake up during the day to eat and move around for a short period. However, it is best not to wake a sleeping hamster to handle it. This may cause it to become cranky and try to bite you.
As pets, hamsters are usually good-natured and are comfortable in arms if they have always been handled from a young age. But if they are not used to being handled, some may become nervous and irritable. Also, because they are very small and quick, they can be difficult to handle. It is best to sit on the floor when holding your hamster, as accidentally dropping it, even from a few feet in the air, can cause serious injury.
Chinese hamsters do not bond with people the way a dog or cat would. But once they get comfortable with you, they may approach their enclosure if you are nearby. Chinese hamsters can be kept alone, in pairs, or small same-sex groups. However, hamsters kept together may show territorial aggression toward each other. Your best chance to avoid aggression is to acquire littermates that can grow up together and become accustomed to each other’s presence. Avoid contact between your hamster and other pets in the house, as they could injure this fragile rodent.
Hamsters are generally quiet, low-maintenance pets, although they may keep you awake at night with their activity if their cage is in your bedroom. Be prepared to spend a few hours a week feeding your pet and keeping their enclosure clean. Handle your pet as well and let him play on a small hamster exercise ball or other safe areas outside his enclosure for at least a few hours a day (probably at night when he is awake).
Chinese hamsters average 7 to 8 centimeters in length and weigh 1 to 2 ounces. They reach maturity at approximately two months of age.
Although these hamsters are tiny, they need an enclosure that is as large as possible and that you can provide. It is usually their main play and exercise area, so sufficient space is essential for their health. At a minimum, the cage should be 2 feet long, 1 foot wide, and 1 foot high.
Cages usually consist of a plastic base and a wire mesh lid or a glass or plastic aquarium. The wire cage allows for better air circulation, but you should make sure that the spacing of the bars is narrow enough so that your hamster can’t sneak in.
Include a nest or hiding place for small animals in the cage, which you can find at most pet stores. There are also all kinds of tubes, burrow tunnels, and bridges you can add to your hamster’s habitat to enrich it. Also, be sure to include wooden chew sticks or other toys designed for hamsters, as this will help them wear down their ever-growing teeth.
Clean the enclosure at least once a week, replacing all bedding and washing surfaces with mild soap and water. Hamsters often choose a corner of their enclosure as a bathroom. Therefore, it is a good idea to empty and change the litter in this area every day to keep it clean.
Specific substrate requirements
Place 1 to 2 inches of bedding, such as poplar shavings or paper products, on the bottom of the enclosure. Hamsters can be hypersensitive to certain bedding materials, such as cedar shavings. It is important to avoid this substrate as it can cause dry skin, alopecia, and secondary bacterial infections in the animals concerned.
What do Chinese hamsters eat and drink?
In the wild, hamsters have a varied diet consisting of seeds, grains, nuts, plants, and insects. In captivity, you can feed your pet commercial hamster food, supplemented with vitamins and minerals. Follow the instructions on the package for the amount to feed each day. You can do this at any time of day, as hamsters like to snack during the day and night rather than eat specific meals.
Supplementary foods should not make up more than 10% of your hamster’s total diet. Apple pieces, carrots, and oatmeal are possible options. It’s best to give fresh food only when the hamster is awake (often at night), so it can eat it before it starts to spoil. Remove any fresh food from the enclosure within 24 hours, being sure to look for any bits of food your hamster may have hidden in the litter box.
Finally, hamsters should always have access to clean water. It’s best to use a small pet water bottle attached to the side of the enclosure, which is more hygienic than a water dish. But make sure your hamster drinks from the bottle constantly before removing the water bowl.
Common Health Problems
Hamsters are generally hardy animals, but they are prone to certain health problems.
Wet tail is a common condition in rodents, especially hamsters. Formally known as proliferative ileitis or regional enteritis, a wet tail is diarrhea that usually results from stress or unhealthy living conditions, leading to a bacterial infection. In addition to diarrhea, your hamster may be lethargic and lose its appetite. Consult a veterinarian immediately, as a wet tail can be fatal if left untreated. It can also be contagious to any other hamsters in the pen. So if you have other hamsters, put them in a separate cage and monitor them for symptoms. Clean the main pen thoroughly and do not put hamsters back together until you are sure they are symptom-free.
Hamsters are also prone to lung and airway problems that can quickly become severe. Symptoms include wheezing, runny nose, sneezing, and lethargy.
In addition, when they don’t have adequate chew toys, some hamsters may have overgrown teeth, which can interfere with their ability to eat.5 You may notice that your hamster’s teeth seem longer than normal, or you may simply find that he’s not eating and is losing weight. A veterinarian can trim the teeth if necessary, and then advise you on proper dental care.
Before getting a hamster, it’s important to find a veterinarian nearby who can treat your pet.
How to train your Chinese Hamster
Training a hamster usually involves taming it with your hands. Start handling your hamster gently when it’s young, making sure not to rush or push it. If he becomes stressed, put him in a safe, comfortable place. All the time spent in your hands should be a positive experience. You can even give him treats while holding him to help with the taming process.
A running wheel in conjunction with a large enough enclosure should be enough to keep your hamster in the good physical condition and prevent obesity and other health problems. There are also exercise balls you can put your hamster in to keep him safe outside his enclosure. Always keep an eye on him when he is outside of his enclosure.
Hamsters are fairly clean animals that groom themselves. They do not need baths. However, if there are times when dirt or debris gets caught in your hamster’s fur, you can use a damp cloth to help him gently remove it.
The biggest monthly cost for a Chinese hamster is its food and bedding. Expect to spend between $20 and $40 depending on your choice of food and bedding (and the size of his enclosure). You’ll also need to replace chew sticks, nests, and other toys regularly, which will cost about $10 on average. Also, don’t forget to provide an annual veterinary checkup and emergency medical care.
Advantages and disadvantages of keeping a Chinese hamster as a pet
Chinese hamsters are low-maintenance pets that don’t take up much space and don’t make a lot of noise. They can also be very entertaining and interesting to watch. However, they are quite fragile animals that need to be handled with care. And since they are nocturnal, they may not be very active during your waking hours.