A dwarf hamster will have a very short life, having a lifespan of just between 1.5 years and 3.5 years. This means, of course, that it won’t outlive you. Even though you won’t enjoy their company for a lot of years, they are easy pets to keep and they’ll squeak in a really cute way from time to time, being really great companions for the average pet lover.
The sociability, as well as their cute appearance, are making dwarf hamsters more and more popular among people looking to get a pet. They are considered short-tailed hamsters, which puts them in the genus Phodopus. They will be categorized as either Roborovski’s (Desert) dwarf hamsters Winter White Russian (Dzhungarian) dwarf hamsters, or Campbell’s dwarf hamsters. The last two categories are very much alike in terms of color and size, which is why most people won’t really know which is which. There is also a different species of hamsters, the Chinese hamsters, that although very similar to dwarf ones, belong to a different genus, the Cricetulus genus.
As I said before, this species has an average life span of between 1.5 and 3.5 years, but different species will have different life expectancy ranges. The Campbell’s dwarf hamster and the Winter White Russian one will have a similar lifespan, of 1.5 to 2.5 years. During this time they would reach a size of between 8 and 10 cm. The Roborovski hamster, on the other hand, lives slightly more, reaching an age of 3 to 3.5 years, but is also the smallest, with a maximum length of a maximum of 4 to 5 cm. Finally, the Chinese hamster will usually reach the age of 2.5 to 3 years and a size of 10 to 12 cm.
They won’t need more than a cage designed for small rodents, considering their small size. You can line their cage with pine shavings, or if you want to use something else, try to avoid cedar as cage lining. Some of these creatures will be very allergic to cedar oil, which in big amounts can even become lethal. If you go for a wire-sided cage, then you will notice shaving scattered all around it. This is because hamsters really like to dig. A te-gallon glass tank would be great for a pair of hamsters if you want something better than a cage.
The tank should have at least a salt block, an exercise wheel, and a water bottle inside. You can also throw a couple of toilet paper tubes for them to use as tunnels and play with. You don’t necessarily have to add a lid, but it won’t hurt, especially if you have other pets like cats around. If you’re going for a cage instead of a tank, especially while the hamster is small you should make sure it doesn’t squeeze out through the tiny openings. You will also have to clean the cage or aquarium at least once a week.
While in their natural habitat, they will eat a combination of plant materials and seeds. While keeping them as pets, you can give them pellets that are made for rodents. A popular brand is Purina Rodent Chow. When you feed them mixed seeds, you will notice that they like to pick the seeds they like and leave everything else behind. This will, in turn, cause a nutritional imbalance, which considerably reduces their lifespan. This is why it is better to keep seeds as a treat for special occasions.
Considering that greens will cause some very nasty digestive upsets to this pet, if you want to add some vegetables to the diet, you should try to keep the amount of greens to a minimum or even avoid them completely. They really like to eat potatoes and carrots. If you notice food disappearing as soon as you place it in the cage, then look in the next or in the corners of the cage, because this rodent likes to hide food for later.
These creatures are in no way early risers. They will only start to become active in the evening, keeping it up throughout the night. You will only notice some sporadic daytime movements. These rodents are very nearsighted so if you want to pick one up, make sure you talk to it first so it hears you and gets comfortable around you. While picking one up, if your hand smells like food, it might try to munch on it. A bite will hardly ever be painful but it might scare you. If you don’t know how to pick up a hamster without hurting it then try this: pin it down and then scoop it up with the bedding surrounding it. As soon as your hamster feels cupped by your hands, it should relax. Be careful where you put your hamster once you are done petting it. This rodent is known to walk right off the edge of things and can lead to injuries.
To wrap things up, dwarf hamsters are considered really great pets to own, that require minimal care and will usually get along with anyone.