Dwarf Hamster Facts That Really May Shock You
If you think hamsters are cute, you had better prepare yourself for this. There's an even smaller, dwarf version of the hamster that's even cuter.
Dwarf hamsters are as small as a pet can get, and they're surprisingly easy to care for. They make excellent first pets for kids ages 8 and up.
Before bringing one home, here are all the dwarf hamster facts you need to know about these cute and cuddly creatures.
Dwarf Hamsters Are Tiny
Average-sized hamsters are around six to eight inches long, but dwarf hamsters are much smaller. Usually, they stay under four inches in length, even as adults.
There Are More Than One Species of Dwarf Hamster
Think a hamster is a hamster? Think again. There are 10 different species of dwarf hamsters. Seven of them belong to the genus Cricetulus, while the other three belong to the genus Phodopus.
Dwarf Hamsters Aren't Vegetarians
Let's not get crazy. These fluffy little critters aren't ruthless predators feasting on steak and BBQ ribs. They do, however, snack on bugs in addition to seeds, grains and berries.
The exact diet of hamsters in the wild depends on what region their species lives in.
Dwarf Hamsters Exist in the Wild
Dwarf hamsters look like they wouldn't survive outside of a pet store, but they're surprisingly hardy. They're native to Asia and Europe, ranging as far north as Siberia and as far south as Syria and Pakistan.
Each hamster species has a different habitat, ranging from arid scrubland to forested mountains.
The Roborovski Hamster Is the Smallest
All dwarf hamsters are small, but the Roborovski dwarf hamster is the tiniest of all. It rarely tops two inches in length.
As cute as they are, the tiny critters are quick and tough to handle, particularly for kids.
Not All Dwarf Hamsters Are Nocturnal
Hamsters are often described as nocturnal, but that's not actually the case. Most species of dwarf hamsters are crepuscular, meaning they're most active at dawn and dusk.
They evolved this way in order to conserve energy during the hottest part of the day.
Dwarf Hamsters Don't Hibernate
Hamsters can often be found snoozing the day away, but they don't actually hibernate. In addition to plenty of naps throughout the day, they enter a period of sleepy inactivity called torpor.
Torpor occurs when the animal's environment gets too cold. They remain in torpor for anywhere from a few days to weeks, depending on how long cold temperatures persist.
Dwarf Hamsters Only Breed in Spring and Summer
Humans can have babies at any time of year, but many animals have a specific breeding season.
For hamsters, breeding season ranges from April through October. During this time, one female can have up to five litters.
Think Having Triplets Is Intense? Try Having 13 Babies at Once
Dwarf hamsters can have anywhere between one baby at a time to 13. The gestation period of dwarf hamsters lasts between two and three weeks.
Wouldn't it be nice if human pregnancies were that fast?
Baby Hamsters Wouldn’t Last Long Without Mom
Baby hamsters are totally helpless. They're born without fur and can't open their eyes for a few days, so they're completely reliant on Mama Hamster to help them out.
If your hamster is expecting, it's extra important to make sure their enclosure is peaceful and comfortable. When under excessive stress, hamsters have been known to eat their own offspring shortly after birth.
To Other Animals, Dwarf Hamsters Look Like a Snack
While we joked about hamsters being cute enough to eat, most animals wouldn't get the joke.
Dwarf hamsters, like mice, gerbils and other small rodents, are prey animals. Foxes, owls, snakes and many other wild animals consider hamsters to be tasty treats.
Hamsters Aren’t Immune to Habitat Loss
Hamsters are bred in captivity for the pet trade, and they're never in short supply. In the wild, however, they face the same threats as other species.
Farming is the biggest threat, since it disrupts hamsters' natural habitat. Some farmers also consider hamsters to be pests and attempt to exterminate them.
Only Four Dwarf Hamster Species Have Been Domesticated
While there are 10 dwarf hamster species, only four of them have been domesticated:
- Campbell’s Russian dwarf
- Winter white Russian dwarf
- Roborovski dwarf
- Chinese dwarf
In the Wild, Hamsters Live in Burrows
Hamsters instinctively burrow to protect themselves from harsh temperatures and hungry predators. Their tunnels are works of art, featuring multiple entrances and chambers.
They're basically round, fluffy hobbits with four legs.
Hamsters Are Basically Hoarders
When you're a wild dwarf hamster, you never know when you'll find food next.
In preparation for potential scarcity, hamsters gather food in their burrows to save for later.
Chubby Cheeks Are an Evolutionary Tactic
To help them collect food more efficiently, hamsters evolved with two cheek pouches.
The sack-like structures can expand to hold up to a week's worth of food at a time, which they carry back to their burrow for storage.
Hamsters Navigate the World Using Scent
If you wear glasses, you have something in common with your pet dwarf hamster. All hamsters have poor eyesight. So poor, in fact, that they rely on their noses more than their eyes.
Hamsters use scent glands to mark where they've been while they're out gathering snacks. On the way home, they simply follow the scent trail to find their way back to their cozy burrows.
Hamsters' Front Teeth Keep Growing Forever
All rodents, hamsters included, have two large front teeth that grow continuously throughout their lives. They rely on these teeth to properly gather food and build their nests, so it's critical that they grow back should they break.
Their constantly growing teeth can cause problems if they're not ground down on a regular basis. Hamsters like to chew on wood to get the job done.
Hamsters Can Be Kept in Same-Sex Pairs
Dwarf hamsters can be kept with a buddy of the same gender, but conflict isn't unheard of.
Keep a close eye on hamsters kept in pairs just in case they have a falling out and need to be separated.
Dwarf Hamsters Prefer Spacious Cages
Whether kept alone or as a pair, hamsters are best kept in a large enclosure. They can survive in a smaller cage, but that would be like spending your entire life locked in your bedroom.
When selecting a cage, make sure the bars are spaced close together. Cages with wide bars are designed for larger rodents, and dwarf hamsters will gladly take the opportunity to make a break for it.
Dwarf Hamsters Come With Their Own Personalities
All hamsters have their own personalities, which means some are more likely to bite than others. Full-sized hamster species, like Syrian hamsters, tend to be more docile, and many dwarf hamsters are sweet and even-tempered.
To help teach your hamster to be gentle, socialize them little by little using healthy treats as a reward. Over time, they'll become less fearful of you and won't have a reason to nip.
Chubby Little Hamsters Need Exercise Too
A plump hamster is a happy hamster, but hamsters still need to move around to stay in tip-top shape.
Every hamster enclosure should include an exercise wheel. Pick up one with a solid frame, not one with bars, to avoid injury to their tiny paws.
Hamsters Aren't Fans of Extreme Temperature Swings
If the temperature in your house is comfortable for you, it's probably comfortable for your hamster.
That said, hamsters are averse to rapid temperature swings. Place their enclosure far from open windows and direct sunlight to avoid stressing them out.
Feeding a Dwarf Hamster Is a Breeze
As a rule of thumb, hamsters should be fed once daily. Most commercially made hamster food is fine. Just fill up their bowl and discard whatever they don't eat within a day.
Hamsters love fresh treats, but keep seeds, fruits and vegetables to about 10 percent of their diet.
Like Dogs, Hamsters Can't Handle Chocolate
Feeding a hamster sugary yogurt drops and tons of fatty nuts is a recipe for a trip to the vet. Keep treats like that to a minimum, and avoid avocados, macadamia nuts and chocolate at all times.
Before feeding your hamster a new treat, make sure it's not on the list of toxic foods.
Dwarf Hamsters Aren't Very Messy
Hamsters are extremely easy pets to care for. The bottom of the cage should have a soft layer of bedding, like dye-free shredded paper or wood shavings.
The bedding can be replaced once a week, or spot cleaned more frequently if you notice any unpleasant smells.
Dwarf Hamsters Live Short (But Very Sweet) Lives
Sadly, nothing lasts forever, not even adorable pet hamsters. Most dwarf hamsters only live one to three years.
While having to say goodbye is heartbreaking, there's one upside. It gives new pet owners a chance to learn about a new pet without a huge commitment.
Plus, did we mention they're really cute?