Care instructions for Dwarf hamsters

Pasningsvejledning for Dværghamstere

There are many different cute little dwarf hamsters, and they are cute, really cute! They are available in all kinds of colors and in many different breeds.

What you need to be aware of is that:
- small children may find it difficult to handle them properly, understandably trying to stop them from running away so they don't fall down, but the reaction for children is often to hug the animal…. Their skeleton bends easily, they are tiny and even small human children are huge and strong compared to a small dwarf hamster. When they are squeezed too hard, you can actually see the eyes almost pop out of the little ant's head...
- Even if you buy 2 cubs that have always been together, when they become sexually mature they can fight, and the only solution is to separate them, i.e. you have to be prepared that you can end up with 2 cages. So be sure before choosing 2.

1. Animal species
Campbell's Dwarf Hamster (Phodopus campbelli) Winter White/Russian Dwarf Hamster (Phodopus sungorus) Roborovski Dwarf Hamster (Phodopus roborovskii)

2. Full grown size
P. campelli: 8-11 cm and 30-55 g. P. sungorus: approx. 8 cm and 34-50 g. P. roborovskii: 5-7 cm and 15-25 g.

3. Life expectancy
P. campelli and P. sungorus live for 1.5-2 years, while P. roborovskii typically lives up to 3-3.5 years.

4. Recommended size and layout of facility or cage
Dwarf hamsters are twilight/nocturnal animals. In the wild, they dig or take over an underground passageway system in which they live, sleep and store food. The cage for two individuals must be at least H36 x W80 x D40 cm and approx. 25% larger in floor area per extra individual. You can use a terrarium with an upper part of wire netting or cages with a suitable distance between the bars so that the animals cannot escape. The cage can advantageously be used well in the height with several floors. The bottom layer can be shavings, wood chips and other non-dusty natural material. It is most optimal if the animals themselves can dig underground passages and caves in a suitable soil layer. As a minimum, there must be digging possibilities in the facility (e.g. a box with soil). All individuals must have access to a cave and fine hay or paper as nesting material. Avoid straw, stiff hay and other things with sharp ends, as they can damage the cheek pouches, and hamster cotton wool is strongly discouraged, as the hamster could risk entanglement in it and, in the worst case, lose limbs and suffocate.

The cage must be placed out of drafts, cold and direct sunlight, but still so that daylight can penetrate.

5. Special care needs, including special requirements for temperature conditions
Dwarf hamsters are fine kept at room temperature, but not too hot. Chinchilla sand for sand bathing as fur care should always be available. Dwarf hamsters must always have something to gnaw on, e.g. branches from unsprayed fruit trees, and dog biscuits. Perishable feed residues and excrement are removed and the drinking water is replaced every day. Once a week, the bottom layer and some of the nesting material must be changed. The entire cage is thoroughly cleaned as needed.

6. Stimulation and need for exercise
To stimulate the dwarf hamsters' activity, you can hide food items in different places in the cage. There must also always be an opportunity to dig. Flower pots, boxes and cardboard tubes can be used as hiding places. P. sungorus and P. campelli are relatively easy to tame, while P. roborovskii is shyer and more difficult to tame and handle. P. roborovskii is therefore best suited as a hobby animal, not a pet.

P. roborovskii in particular are known for their speed, and dwarf hamsters generally need plenty of exercise. In addition to a spacious cage (possibly with several floors), the dwarf hamsters can also exercise outside the cage under supervision, but be sure that all doors, windows and other holes/cracks are completely closed, as they can otherwise easily escape. Even better would be to use a closed running yard where they can run around freely. Fixed-bottom scooters can be used as a supplement to (never as a substitute for) a spacious cage.

7. Feeding
Ready-made mixtures for hamsters (without a large content of sunflower seeds and nuts, which are fattening) must be used as basic food. Daily supplemented with mealworms, grasshoppers, hard-boiled egg white, a small piece of raw chicken, possibly some cat food or dog biscuits. Washed fruit and vegetables, e.g. apple, pear, strawberry, cherry and peach (without stones and seeds) can be given as treats. Dwarf hamsters have expandable cheek pouches to transport food to a storage chamber. Be sure to regularly check the storage rooms for easily digestible food residues.

8. Social needs
A male and female will often be able to go together (with young as a result). Same-sex couples may have a greater tendency to become aggressive. Individuals should be put together before approx. 8 weeks of age. Throughout their lives, care must be taken that they do not fight and stress each other. Any rare and short-lived aggressions are not a problem as long as they have plenty of space and cover. If an individual is kept alone in a cage, it must regularly have contact with another conspecific, so that its natural social behavior is stimulated, e.g. cages next to each other or composition on neutral ground. All species should only be kept with their own species.

9. Propagation, brood care and possible neutralization
P. campelli can breed all year round in captivity, while P. sungorus breeds from April to September. Both species usually breed for the first time at 3-6 months of age, are pregnant for 18-21 days and have approx. 4-6 children. P. roborovskii breeds for the first time at a slightly later age, is pregnant for 23-30 days and usually gives birth to 3-5 young.

Dwarf hamsters that have just given birth can become pregnant again very soon after giving birth, but you should wait at least a few months before mating them again. Newborn cubs are naked, blind and deaf. The female typically becomes more aggressive when she is pregnant and lactating, and during this period she must be completely calm. The young are weaned at 21-25 days old (later for P. roborovskii). The cubs must not be separated from the mother until they are completely weaned.

Crossings between P. campelli and P. sungorus can occur in captivity, but these are strongly discouraged, as cross-species can have unpredictable and negative consequences for the offspring.

10. Typical signs of illness and reduced well-being
Avoid sugary feed and too many sugary treats, as the animals can become overweight and develop diabetes. Dwarf hamsters can easily develop fatal respiratory infections (difficulty breathing and possibly sneezing) if they are kept too cold or in drafts. Diarrhea is often caused by feeding them too much fresh greens or by switching between feed types too quickly. Then only feed with the basic hamster food for a few days, and then it usually goes away. Go to the vet immediately with a dwarf hamster if it shows signs of illness, as they are quickly ruled out.

Other informations
Prepared by Dyrenes Beskyttelse (www.dyrenesbeskyttelse.dk) in collaboration with the Danish Hamster Association (www.hamsterland.dk). The care instructions contain general information about the care of an animal species/animal group. Further information can be found in the library or on the above and other websites. The professional content of the care guide was approved by the Council regarding the keeping of special animals on 4 December 2013 in accordance with the executive order on commercial trade in animals.

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