Hamsters are among the most popular pets worldwide. The word “hamster” comes from the German word “hamstern” that means hoarding. This reflects the practice of these animals to hoard food in their habitats and cheek pouches.
Dwarf hamsters are quite popular as pets among those who love hamsters. The main appeal is their small size that means the care needs are reduced.
Moreover, dwarf hamsters are more independent compared to other hamster breeds, making them suitable for people who do not have as much time on their hands.
The dwarf hamster includes four breeds: the Campbell’s dwarf, Chinese, Roborovski and the winter white hamsters.
The winter white and Campbell’s hamsters are the most common dwarf hamsters. Winter white hamsters are also called Djungrian or Siberian hamsters. They live for 1-3 years and are inhabitants of central Asia and Siberia.
Winter white hamsters can change their colors from a dark grey to white in winter, hence their name. This change is however not common in pet winter white hamsters because of the indoor lighting and artificial heat in winter.
Campbell’s dwarf hamsters are the more common ones in pet stores. Though they closely resemble the winter white hamsters, these hamsters have smaller ears than the latter and have no dark fur on their crowns.
Moreover, Campbell’s dwarf hamsters do not turn white in winter and are not so tolerant of the cold. Unlike the winter whites, the hamsters will shelter and exercise in winter to generate heat rather than curl up.
The Campbell’s dwarf hamster is named after Charles William Campbell. This was the first westerner that captured and named the species in 1902 in Shaborte, a Mongolian village.
The hamster belongs to the phodopus species thus its scientific name, phodopus campbelli.
Below are some tidbits on the care of the Campbell dwarf hamster and what to expect when keeping it.
Campbell’s Dwarf Hamster Appearance
Initially, the Campbell’s dwarf hamster was grey-black with a prominent black dorsal line and a white belly. With the many breeding programs that started when the hamster was kept as a pet, there are now several colors available for them.
The most common are cinnamon and white in addition to the traditional grey. Some of the non-standard colors for the Campbell’s dwarf hamster include blue fawn, black, beige, dove and black-eyed white.
The hamsters are primarily available in mottled (banded, collared or spotted) and platinum (pearl) patterned varieties. Mottled hamsters have random white hair patches on their colored coats while platinum varieties have white hairs mingled into their coats giving them a “silvering” look.
Campbell’s dwarf hamsters have two “fancy” coat types including the Rex and satin coats. Satin-coated hamsters have shiny greasy coats while Rex hamsters have textured coats with curly whiskers.
When young, Rex Campbell’s generally have sparse coats. The Campbell’s dwarf hamster is thickset and broad with a short tail and short legs. Its broad head blends into its body with its wide-set eyes and a blunt nose.
In the wild and captivity, Campbell’s dwarf hamsters use Harderian glands to mark their territories. These are skin glands found just behind their ears.
Campbell’s Dwarf Hamster Behavior
The Campbell’s dwarf hamster is an outgoing and curious pet. Since this hamster is quite energetic and active. Unlike most breeds, the animal is social and can be kept with other animals of its kind when introduced to them while still young.
It is not recommended to introduce a new hamster to a cage housing grown Campbell’s dwarf hamsters because there is a risk that your existing animals will attack the new hamster.
Occasionally, even hamsters that grew up together start fighting. In this case, it is prudent to separate them into different cages.
Campbell’s dwarf hamsters, like other hamsters, are nocturnal. They are most active at night just like in their natural environment where they adapt this behavior to avoid predation.
Therefore, when planning the placement of their cages, opt for areas away from living quarters to guarantee sound sleep.
Though peaceful, Campbell’s dwarf hamsters are easily frightened. This is because they learn to be on their guards in the wild as prey to many animals. As such, avoid waking up a sleeping hamster or mishandling them.
The hamster should also be housed away from loud noises and bright lights that might make it uncomfortable. Since they are small and quick, it might be challenging for kids to handle Campbell’s dwarf hamsters.
Campbell’s Dwarf Hamster Food and Diet
Campbell’s dwarf hamsters are herbivores that generally feed on nuts, seeds and vegetation in the wild. In captivity, your hamster can thrive on high-quality prepackaged foods or pellets.
When using pre-packaged food mixes or pellets, give your hamster a teaspoon or two per day. Pellets should make up the bulk of a hamster’s diet in captivity but you can substitute them with fresh vegetables or grains and hamster treats.
The supplemental feeds should not constitute more than 10% of your pet’s diet. Start with half a teaspoon per day and check the hamster’s reaction. If you notice any issues, withdraw the food.
Your Campbell’s dwarf hamster should have constant access to clean water. The water bottle that guarantees this can be kept secured to the cage and filled with fresh water daily.
The nozzle on the bottle should be checked regularly to ensure it works since it can, at times, be blocked when a hamster deposits food particles on it. For the food serving, opt for a ceramic bowl so that your pet does not chew it.
Though hamsters can eat almost anything, some foods are toxic and will adversely affect their health. For a Campbell’s dwarf hamster, avoid onions, chocolate, celery, unwashed fresh produce, kidney beans, garlic, potato tops and rhubarbs in the diet.
Sugar should also be restricted in a hamster’s diet because it can lead to obesity. Therefore, when choosing your seed mixes, steer clear of those with dried fruits since these have high sugar content.
Edible chews are also essential in the diet of a Campbell’s dwarf hamster. They will wear down your pet’s teeth.
Uncooked pasta, hard dog biscuits and edible dog chews are good options for your hamster. The chews will also prevent your hamsters from biting down on the cage bars and escaping.
Campbell’s Dwarf Hamster Housing
You can choose to house your Campbell’s dwarf hamster in a wire cage but this will not be escape-proof since the animal is too small. A solid-sided cage with a well-ventilated top or an aquarium will be the best options for your hamster’s housing.
Use unscented natural cellulose fibers or aspen wood shavings as substrates for the bottom of the cage. These, unlike wire flooring, will not snag your hamster’s little feet. The cages should always be well-cleaned to prevent the smell of ammonia that arises from the accumulation of urine.
A Campbell’s dwarf hamster will usually sleep in its nesting box if you provide one. Wooden or cardboard structures might not hurt your pet but your best choice is a ceramic hamster hut because it is easy to clean and chew-proof.
The hamster hut also comes in diverse shapes and colors. As active animals, you should have a cage environment that supports exercising and activities in your hamster.
Without this, it is easy for the animal to slip into stress and other health issues. An exercise wheel, tubes and compartments are must-haves for the hamster cage to keep it active.
Allows your Campbell’s dwarf hamster plenty of room for exploration. When keeping multiple hamsters in the same cage, ensure each of them has enough space so that you do not deal with territorial fights.
A sand bath container in which the hamster can clean itself should also be included in a corner of the cage. This will minimize the cleaning needs of the cage.
Campbell’s Dwarf Hamster Health and Care
The most common health conditions you might deal with when raising a Campbell’s dwarf hamster are wet tail and diabetes. When caught early, you can change your pet’s diet to keep diabetes under control and also increase its exercising.
Some of the typical signs of diabetes in hamsters include poor coat conditions, excessive urination, shivering, negative behaviors and excessive thirst. The urine in hamsters with diabetes has been described as having a “sickly sweet” smell.
Most instances of diabetes in Campbell’s dwarf hamsters are attributed to heat, genetics, pregnancy and stress. Though the condition is incurable, ensuring your hamster has enough drinking water and does not become too hot keeps diabetes under control.
When not controlled, diabetes in your hamster will considerably shorten its lifespan, make your pet lose weight and leave you with an animal that has a tatty look.
Wet tail in Campbell’s dwarf hamsters follows an excess of bacteria growth in the animals’ digestive systems. It is primarily characterized by diarrhea.
Prompt treatment with antibiotics is crucial because the condition is highly contagious and might affect the other rodents in your space. Moreover, it can quickly kill your pet.
Campbell’s Dwarf Hamster Breeding
The normal gestation period for Campbell’s dwarf hamsters is 18 days, though this can, at times, stretch out to 25 days. The shortest recorded gestation period for these hamsters is 13 days.
The hamsters are polygynandrous, meaning the males and females have multiple mates. Depending on their locations in captivity, Campbell’s dwarf hamsters have different breeding seasons. In Tuva, for instance, breeding starts in April while in Transbaikalia, it starts in May.
In their natural habitats, Campbell’s dwarf hamsters produce 3-4 litters comprising about seven young ones annually. As pets, they can get 1-18 litters comprising 1-9 young ones annually.
The males pull babies out of the females’ birth canals during birth. They then clean the newborns then feed the females and young ones until they are strong enough. Newborns lack hair and are helpless.
The parents take care of them for about 17 days, then they are weaned. At 23 days of age, males attain sexual maturity while females get to sexual maturity at 48 days old.
What is the Lifespan of Campbell’s Dwarf Hamster?
Most Campbell’s dwarf hamsters live for an average of two years in captivity. The lifespan is shorter than this in the wild because of the adverse conditions and predators.
The short lifespan in the wild is also because of dietary issues that predispose the animal to different health conditions.
How Big do the Campbell’s Dwarf Hamster Get?
The Campbell’s dwarf hamsters can grow to adult lengths of 3-4 inches. The hindfoot measures about 0.53 inches long while the tail length is 0.20 inches.
While the adult’s size might seem like a non-issue when choosing your hamster, it determines the ideal cage size and hamster wheel for your pet.
Are Campbell’s Dwarf Hamsters Good Pets?
Yes, Campbell’s dwarf hamsters are good pets because they are social and will bring a lot of joy into your life. They might, however. not be the best choices for households with very small kids.
This is because they are easy to drop when handling because of their small size. Dropping them, in turn, startles them and might make them bite their handlers.
Therefore, if you have kids, you can keep them from handling your Campbell’s dwarf hamster until they are old enough to do so gently and with minimal risk of dropping them.
Pet stores have several dwarf hamster breeds in store and it is easy for people to get confused when picking a Campbell dwarf hamster. In most cases, pet owners will confuse a dwarf winter white for the latter.
Others will often settle for a hybrid of the winter white and Campbell’s rather than a pure Campbell’s dwarf hamster.
Be careful to buy your hamster from a reputable pet store to get a pure-breed Campbell’s dwarf hamster. Ask about the breeding and history of the hamster as well to be sure of what you are getting.
With these guidelines, you can become the best Campbell’s dwarf hamster owner. When getting one of these little creatures, you are also playing a part in their conservation.
This is because, in their natural habitats, they lack enough food or water and their burrows are threatened by livestock that destroys them.