Dwarf Hamster: Breed Profile & Care

Dwarf Hamster

Dwarf hamsters are several tiny species of hamsters that are primarily native to desert regions around the world. These small, social creatures differ from their larger, more territorial relatives in that they thrive in pairs or small groups rather than living alone. As pets, they are usually tame and easy to handle, and fun to watch as they dig tunnels and frolic in their enclosures. They are also easy to care for, requiring a fairly simple diet and regular cage cleaning.

Overview of the species

COMMON NAMES: Dwarf hamster, Campbell hamster, Robo (Roborovski) hamster, Syrian hamster, Black bear hamster, Chinese hamster.

ADULT SIZE: Average about 2 inches long; weighs about 1 to 2 ounces.

LIFETIME: 3 years in captivity.

Behavior and temperament of the Dwarf Hamster

Dwarf hamsters include many different species, and each has specific personality traits. For example, the Campbell hamster is a curious little creature that is particularly easy to handle. Robo (or Roborovski), a particularly tiny dwarf hamster that weighs little more than a quarter ounce, sleeps more during the day than the other species. And the Chinese hamster (which is not technically a dwarf species, but is just as small) is known for its tendency to dig tunnels, especially in its bedding. Overall, dwarf hamsters are captivating and low-maintenance pets. They don’t necessarily form a strong bond with their humans like a dog or cat, but they will learn to recognize you and come to the side of their enclosure when you are around (especially if you have a treat).

All hamsters are nocturnal, meaning they play and eat at night and rest during the day, although some hamsters can adapt to their owner’s sleeping and waking times. However, if you try to wake a sleeping hamster to manipulate it, it may growl and bite. In general, many hamsters wake up in the evening and like to interact with their owners at this time. Also, while hamsters make very soft and minimal vocalizations themselves, their movements at night can be a problem if you are trying to sleep. If you are a light sleeper, you probably shouldn’t keep your hamster’s enclosure in your bedroom.

Most dwarf hamsters accept being held well, but they may bite if they are not comfortable.1 They don’t necessarily need other companions, but it may help them feel more comfortable if you keep them in pairs. They should generally be kept separate from other pets, including other hamster species.

Size Information

Generally, the size of dwarf hamsters depends on the species. On average, they are about 3 inches long and weigh 1 to 2 kg. They usually reach sexual maturity at about 2 months of age.


A dwarf hamster’s living space should be as large as possible to provide as much exercise and play as possible. A cage approximately 2 square feet in size and about 30 inches high is the bare minimum recommended by some animal welfare organizations. Habitat options usually include a glass or plastic aquarium with a secure lid and ventilation or a wire cage with a plastic bottom. Wire cages allow better air circulation to prevent overheating, but do not protect against drafts as well as plastic or glass. Make sure there is enough space between the wires so your hamster can’t slip between the bars.

In the compartment, provide an exercise wheel with a solid surface, not bars, for your hamster to run on. Also, place plenty of chew sticks made of wood or mineral products in the enclosure for chewing. Chewing maintains the hamster’s incisors, which are constantly growing back. Also, add a small nest or sleeping house (available at most pet stores) for your hamster to rest and hide when he wants to feel safe.

Hamsters can acclimate well to average temperatures in the house. Just watch for extreme temperature fluctuations and keep the den out of direct sunlight and drafts.

Specific substrate requirements

The bottom of the cage should be covered with a 1-2 inch thick layer of bedding, such as chemical and dye-free shredded paper or hardwood shavings. Change the bedding once a week when cleaning all cage surfaces with soap and water, and remove wet spots daily.

What do dwarf hamsters eat and drink?

A bowl of food and a small bowl or bottle of fresh water should always be available for your pet hamster. Ask your veterinarian how much food is appropriate. In general, you should feed your hamster once a day, preferably in the evening when it wakes up and becomes active. Discard uneaten food after 24 hours.

Look for a commercial hamster food mix that is specially designed for dwarf hamsters. This will give your hamster all the vitamins and minerals it needs. You can also offer limited amounts of certain seeds, grains, fruits, and vegetables, such as oats, carrots, and greens. Supplementary foods should only make up about 10% of your hamster’s total daily diet.

Limit foods high in sugar and fat as much as possible and avoid toxic foods such as macadamia nuts, avocados, and chocolate.

Common Health Problems

Dwarf hamsters are prone to many health problems. Hair loss and skin lesions can be caused by many different things. Some of the most common causes include the animal rubbing against something in its enclosure or being attacked by a cage mate. Skin abnormalities should be examined as soon as possible by a veterinarian, as they can quickly become infected.

Hamsters are also prone to digestive problems, which are usually related to an infection of the digestive tract. Wet tail, a bacterial infection that causes diarrhea, is sometimes the result of stressful or unsanitary living conditions. Hamsters with wet tails should be treated immediately by a veterinarian, as this condition can result in death as soon as 24 hours after symptoms appear.

Some dwarf hamsters, including Campbell’s hamsters and Chinese hamsters, tend to develop diabetes. However, this can often be prevented by feeding your pet a low-sugar diet and giving it enough opportunity to exercise

While yellow teeth are normal in hamsters, teeth can sometimes grow too large, especially if they don’t have enough chewing material to wear them down. Overgrown teeth can interfere with the hamster’s feeding, so they will probably need to be trimmed by a veterinarian. The vet will then be able to make sure that you are doing everything possible to keep the teeth at a normal length.


Before you get a dwarf hamster, make sure there is a veterinarian near you who can treat it. Not all veterinarians have experience with this animal.

Training your dwarf hamster

A calm and gentle approach from a young age can help your hamster feel safe and secure while being held. It is best to sit on the floor in a safe room (such as a small bedroom with the door closed) when holding your hamster, as these animals can move very quickly and get out of control if you are not careful. You should never drop your hamster from a great height – even a few feet is a lot for them – as the little animal can get seriously injured. It’s also important to never hug your hamster, as this can hurt the animal or cause it to bite you.


A running wheel and a large enough enclosure should give the hamster what it needs to stay in shape and prevent obesity and other health problems. There are also exercise balls that allow the hamster to exercise outside of its enclosure. Make sure the ball is the right size for a dwarf hamster, and always keep an eye on the hamster when it is outside its enclosure.


Hamsters are fairly clean animals that groom themselves. They do not need baths. However, if dirt or debris gets caught in their fur, you can help them remove it by gently rubbing the spot with a damp cloth.

Grooming costs

Food and litter will be your biggest monthly expense for a dwarf hamster. Expect to pay $20 to $40 per month, depending on the food and type of bedding you use (and the size of the habitat). You’ll also need to replace chew sticks and nests regularly, which cost about $10 on average. Also, don’t forget to schedule an annual veterinary checkup and emergency care.

Advantages and disadvantages of keeping a dwarf hamster as a pet.

Dwarf hamsters are fairly easy pets to keep. They don’t take up much space, are relatively quiet, and are fun and interesting to watch. However, they are nocturnal, so they may not be very active when you are awake, and they can rob you of sleep at night. They also tend to be fragile animals that should be handled with care.

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