Category Archives: Dwarf Hamster

Species of Dwarf Hamster

What Are Dwarf Hamsters?

Dwarf hamsters are defined by the genus ‘Phodopus‘. There are three main species of dwarf hamster: Campbell’s, Roborovski’s and Winter Whites (often people group Chinese hamsters in with dwarves, but in terms of phylogeny they aren’t an official dwarf species, belonging to the genus ‘Cricetulus’).  There are several myths surrounding dwarf species, including  that they bite a great deal, are difficult/impossible to tame and I once saw them deemed ‘evil’. So hopefully this run down will help to clear some things up.

Campbell’s Dwarf (Phodopus Campbelli)

Campbell’s dwarves were first discovered in the early 1900’s by W.C. Campbell, and they originate from Russia, China and Mongolia. They’re the most commonly referred to species, and are known by many as the biters. In fact, Campbell’s, whether kept in pairs or solitary are prone to cage aggression if their housing is too small. Contrary to belief however, not every Campbell’s is devil spawn. They can in fact, be very sweet, and very tame. Like any hamster, the time taken can vary but with patience and a bit of TLC Campbell’s can be a great pet.

In the wild, Campbell’s live in great burrows which are maintained at higher temperatures than the outside in order to raise their young. They are scavengers, and will steal nesting material and food in any way they can. Because of this, Campbell’s much prefer a deep cage with plenty of digging material, and watching them build their nests and burrows can be very entertaining. Providing such an environment can also help to reduce boredom and aggression.

Although most seem to think that dwarves require less space, Campbell’s in the wild will travel up to a mile per evening, scavenging food and nesting material, another reason why space and a good quality wheel is important to reduce stress for your tiny friend.

Winter Whites (Phodopus sungorus) 

Winter Whites are arguably one of the most fascinating dwarf species. Though less common than the Campbell’s, WW’s are more trusting of humans and are known for being easier to tame and less likely to run away/nip. In the wild, they’re most common in Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Siberia and are well adapted to their colder environments. It is debatable as to whether they are social creatures; many do best alone.

The most distinguishing feature of a WW is it’s bold dorsal stripe and ability to change colour according to the seasons. In summer, WW’s don a brown  summer coat, which shifts to a pure white coat in winter. Their weight will also change considerably throughout the year.

WW’s can be sweet, fun and interesting but their rarity is worth noting. Very few ‘true’ lines of WW are still in existence, with most pet shop lines being hybrids (Campbell’s x WW). While hybrids can also be sweet, loving creatures, they are prone to a number of medical and neurological issues; the most common being higher susceptibility to diabetes and so it is worth bearing in mind when purchasing a ‘WW’ from a pet store or accidental breeder.

Secondly, their ability to communicate with litter mates/other hamsters is hindered. Campbell’s and WW’s are very different species, and they will communicate differently.  Since the proportion of Campbell’s:Winter White genes is often unbalanced and will vary between hamsters, it may make it difficult for cage mates to communicate, a common suspected source or quarrels between those housed together.

Roborovski Dwarves (Phodopus roborovskii)

Roborovski dwarves are the smallest, and most unique dwarf species, originating in and around the Ghobi Desert. They are known to have the deepest burrows in the wild, and are said to run the equivalent of a human marathon per night. Roborovski’s are also the most social of the dwarf species, thriving often in pairs or small groups.

In terms of being tame, Roborovski’s are the most difficult. They’re very fast, and can be shy and timid but provide great entertainment when burrowing and can become sweet pets given the right owner and plenty of patience. For this reason, they are better suited to a more experienced hamster owner. They are particularly fond of sand baths and large enclosures, and will use near enough all the space that is provided.

A Final Word:

In conclusion, any species of dwarf can make a good pet, given the owner as the right knowledge, a lot of patience, and plenty of tasty treats! They are not nearly as ‘evil’ as they are so often made out to be; most cases of grumpy dwarves are actually caused by inappropriate housing and a general lack of knowledge. Dwarves can make sweet, cuddly and most of all fun pets to keep.

 

How To Catch An Escaped Hamster

It can be very upsetting when your little friend escapes but try not to panic, there are several steps you can take to maximise your chances of finding them quickly. It’s best to start these steps as quickly as you can, waiting and doing nothing isn’t a good idea if you want to recapture them safely.

Do A Thorough Search Of The House

•  Start in the room the hamster’s cage is in and work outwards one room at a time.
•  Look under cabinets, drawers, shelves and bookcases, don’t forget to look inside, behind, and under everything.
•  Look in boxes and draws, shoes, purses, backpacks and bags.
•  Check under chairs/sofas and beds for any holes the hamster could have climbed inside.
•  Search under fridges, cookers, washing machines and other appliances. Again, look for holes the hamster could have got into.
•  Check anywhere warm and dark, like the room the water heater is in.
Whilst you are searching, make a note of any holes in the floors or walls they could have got into.

Finding If They Are Hiding Anywhere

•  Remember, your hamster will be most active at night so this is the best time to track them. Turn off the lights and sit quietly in a central location so you can hear any noises, have a torch (flashlight) handy.
•  Place the cage on the floor with a ramp leading up to the door (you can use CD/ DVD cases or books to construct this)
•  Put tin foil on the floor with a small pile of food and water in a jam jar lid/bowl in the middle. Do this in every room close to the wall, your hamster may be frightened and they tend not to want to come too far out in the open and often follow the walls when moving around.  It helps to put out strong smelling food like cheese to attract them, but tie it down, any commotion with them pulling at it on the tin foil will alert you to their presence.
•  Place flour on the floor next to any holes or places you can’t search, tiny footprints may give you a clue where they are hiding.
•  If they like using their wheel place this close to the wall in the room they were last seen, some can’t resist taking it for a spin. Put a few pieces of bigger hamster food in the wheel, this will create a fairly loud noise as they rattle around.

Just for clarification, by tin foil I mean this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aluminium_foil

If You Spot Them

Move slowly and don’t make sudden jerky movements, you’ll frighten them back into where they are hiding. Have a fairly big sheet or towel handy, your hamster will likely be scared and moving very fast, throwing a sheet/towel over them may give you valuable seconds to recapture.

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If Your Hamster Has Gotten Into The Wall

You will need to be patient and try and tempt him out using the foods mentioned above. If it is a male hamster a female can often encourage them to come out, if you don’t have one see if you can borrow one for the night from a friend or fellow forum member. If you suspect your hamster has fallen into the cavity and can’t get out you may need to call in the fire brigade/RSPCA (or local animal welfare organisation) who may need to remove fixtures and fittings in the house to get to them.

The Bucket/Bottle Trap

This method has been around for years but it’s quite effective, to construct this you will need:

•  A bucket/plastic storage tub/cardboard box
•  Sellotape
•  Scissors
•  An empty plastic soft drink (soda) bottle

(Please note a ‘stunt’ hamster was used in these photos, not a real one)

Cut the top off the plastic bottle making a hamster sized hole. Use the sellotape to cover the sharp edges.

Make a ladder using books/CD/DVD cases as a ladder leading up to the box (this picture is a rough guide to how it should look, I’m sure you’ll be able to construct something better) Balance the bottle on the books and tub and place a piece of cheese in the end furthest away from the opening. You can also use peanut butter smeared on a cracker.

The hamster will smell the food and enter the bottle to grab it

It will tip the balance and fall into the box, unable to get out.

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Hopefully your furry friend will not be away for too long, I hope some of these ideas will help :)

© Spacemonkey 2011

 

Hamster Essentials

An IntroductionWe all think of Hamsters as children’s pets right? It might surprise you to know that they are becoming very popular with the more mature pet owner due to their small size and relatively low feeding and housing costs.

 
So, what will you need?A heavy ceramic food dish and a ball bearing drip water bottle attached to the cage at a suitable drinking height are a must.

A good mix of dry hamster food that does not contain additives should be provided, such as Harry/Hazel Hamster or Vita mix complimented with a small selection of fresh fruit and vegetables. Only give small portions of fresh food at a time as too much can cause stomach upsets, and also to ensure your pet eats it and is not left rotting in their food stash.

Your Hamster will need a nest of some kind, many people choose to provide a house or box where he or she can feel safe away from prying eyes. There are many on the market and this can be a fun way to add a bit of interest to your pets home, of course Syrian hamsters are much larger than their Dwarf cousins and will need something bigger.

The cheapest and best nesting material is plain, ordinary toilet tissue or paper towel torn into strips and placed into the cage, ideally, it should be easy to pull apart when wet in case it gets pouched/swallowed. NEVER use the fluffy type of bedding, this is very dangerous to your pet should it be swallowed or become trapped around their limbs.

The base nesting material can be wood shavings, avoid Cedar shavings as they have been proved to give off toxic fumes and can cause lung problems. Pine shavings are a hot subject on many hamster forums, there is no conclusive research to prove that it is harmful to hamsters so I will keep an open mind on this subject. Of course you may choose to use paper based alternatives, the most common being Aspen or Carefresh. This is very much a personal choice and can be adapted to suit your hamster’s needs and your budget.

A good sized exercise wheel is an excellent way to amuse your pet and also vital for exercise. It is important to purchase a solid wheel if you can because the metal, or runged versions can be dangerous if feet or limbs become caught and may result in a breakage. An excellent way to make these wheels safer if you have one or can’t afford/find a solid one is to wind cardboard strips around it stopping any danger of small feet becoming trapped.

Your hamster should be able to run on his/her wheel without bending their back, often the wheels that come with cages are very small and although fine for Dwarfs, a fully grown Syrian hamster will need something larger. These are often referred to as ‘Jumbo’ wheels and come with different brand choices, Wodent Wheel, Rolly Jumbo, Comfort Wheel and Silent Spinner all being popular. Take time to choose the one that is right for your Hamster

There are many different toys available for hamsters but more often than not a simple cardboard tube or box can provide hours of entertainment as can an empty and cleaned ceramic flour pot or glass jar. This are particularly useful in hot weather, providing a welcome cool spot to retreat to.

Wood chews should be provided to help prevent your hamsters teeth overgrowing, try to find ones with natural or no colouring, remember hamsters have poor eyesight and really don’t care what things look like!

Taming Your Hamster

Many theories exist as the best method of taming your hamster. Of course all have their own merits and we all have different ways of approaching this crucial stage in getting to know your pet. My preferred method is to allow the Hamster to dictate its own pace, letting it come to you when its natural curiosity gets the better of him or her.
 
Starting out
 
It’s important to let your new pet settle in to its new cage when you first bring it home, 1 or 2 days should be sufficient for them to become familiar with their new surroundings and start to get to know the sounds, sights and smells of their new environment. Its important here to let the Hamster move at his own pace, an early forced attempt at holding them before they are ready can cause a major setback which may take weeks to repair.Slowly and quietly talk to your Hamster, much like you would talk to a small child, let them become familiar with their name. Offer small treats such as some plain popcorn (the type you pop at home from corn kernels) or a cornflake, later on you can give small pieces of fruit and vegetables but it is important not to introduce these too quickly at first, they can cause stomach upsets in young animals not used to this in their diet.

The 1st attempts at contact

My preferred method of initiating the first contact is to sit on the floor with your pet’s cage in front of you. Make sure the room you are in has all doors closed and escape routes blocked in case of unexpected dashes for freedom! (The bathroom is excellent for this as it has minimal hiding places, but check whatever space for escape holes, if one is there they’ll find it!)

Open the door of the cage and attract your Hamsters attention by offering a treat or waving your fingers gently in their eye line, always introduce your hand at eye level, don’t attempt to bring your hand in from above as this will scare them and provoke a predator response (think big bird swooping down to eat you – you’d run!). Let the Hamster sniff at your fingers if they wish but do not touch them at this stage as it will more than likely startle them, it can be helpful to keep your hand still in the cage for a while to help them get used to it.. After a few nights of repeating this your Hamster will know what to expect when your hand enters their cage, they will know it’s not a bad thing as it often brings food, at this stage they may start to explore your hand or try to climb onto it. You must let them take things at their own pace, a sudden grab for them will more than likely leave you with a painful bite and reduce confidence levels on both sides.

After doing this for a while your Hamster may well now ask to come out if the cage door is open and will climb out on its own, now you can attempt to pick them up. Using both hands gently scoop them up, making no attempt to place your hands around their body, fold your arms and let him or her run over you for a few minutes, whilst they are doing this stroke their back lightly. Having a cup or bowl is useful to place them back into the cage at this stage as being grasped may cause them to jump suddenly or ‘ping’ as it is known. This is why it is very important to be as close to the ground as possible should this occur.

After a few nights of doing this your Hamster should become more accustomed to you, and allow you very gently put your hand around them and replace them into the cage, I find once they get the taste for freedom it’s usually followed by an attempt on their part to come out again straight away!

The exercise ball can be a great taming tool here, let them climb out of the cage and into a ball, let them run around for 15 minutes, and then place the ball opening against the cage to let them return home untouched, after a few times of doing this when it’s time for home let them come out onto your knee instead and gently stroke them, if they feel unhappy let them return to the safety of the ball. If you repeat this they will associate having fun running around with being touched, and once they become interested in play time they should be willing to be interacted with to get it. Another great and safe way of getting to know them is to sit in an empty bath with the cage and let the hamster explore, this helps them get to know your scent, do this for short periods at first so they don’t become scared.

Depending on how much time you dedicate to this routine your Hamster could be tame in a week or two, but never rule out a sudden unexpected jump until you have owned and handled them regularly for at least 2 months, its best not to rush this process, don’t get over confident and forget the golden rule to take things slowly.

However experienced you are at taming there is a very strong possibility you will get bitten in the process at some point, this I’m afraid is par for the course, some Hamsters are more highly strung than others, you may get screamed at, hissed at, and all manner of other tricks to keep you away, but the most important thing is not to let it discourage you, to coin an old phrase, you must get right back on the horse! Needless to say if I had a pound for every time I have felt small teeth I would be a very rich woman, I still bear the scars! Has it put me off Hamster ownership? No way!

Conclusion

It might seem a daunting task at first but with a little time and patience you can share a special bond with your pet. After all, a happy Hamster enjoys time out of his cage interacting with you and your family. I don’t claim to know everything and every owner develops their own way of doing things but this method has worked well for me over the years, should you choose to follow it I’m sure it will for you too, good luck…. and don’t give up!