Last Updated: 1/2/17
General Care and Maintenance
How many and what sex should I get?
Cages and Supplies
Catalogs and Web Sites
Photos of Other People's Hamsters
Please note that I have not cared for any hamsters since 1994! But, I still get a few questions about them every few months and requests to add links. So, when this page is updated, it is usually just the addition of links.
All of my dwarf Siberian hamsters stayed in a metal and plastic cage of 11"x13"x25" high with three levels. The cage came with a nest box and two exercise wheels. Only one was needed. I added wood platforms and mesh on the ladders. They could not climb without the mesh.
Masha, Irena, and Olga
These are the "Three Sisters." I do not have a record of their assumed birthday, when I got them, or when most of them died. Masha died a few weeks after we got them. Her teeth grew into the roof of her mouth. By the time I realized this and they were cut, she was too starved to resume eating. Irena suffered a fall after we had had her for a few months. This resulted in crazy behavior on her part and later a rectal hemorrhage. She would spend hours chewing on the metal bars and behave as though drugged. I think she may have suffered a stroke when she fell or some brain damage. Fearing for her life when a large bloody mass appeared out her rear, we called her breeder who said it could be a fetus stuck upon birth and maybe Olga was male. We took her and Olga to visit their breeder who said they were both girls; it was a hemorrhage; there was nothing we could do; and she would shortly die according to the breeder. She lived like this for about a year. Olga survived the longest, I believe about a year and a half. Olga died on 2/1/92.
Huey, Dewey, and Louie
The three brothers were born on 12/24/91 in a local pet store. We got them on 2/3/92. Huey died on 9/8/93. Louie died on 4/15/94. Dewey died on 8/21/94. Thus, they lived from 19 to 30 months. That is a long time for these hamsters. I miss these adorable, soft, cute animals!
Hidalgo and Mendes
On 12/12/16, I adopted two male dwarf hamsters. Someone had given a litter of five males to Petco, and they adopted them out. I was told they were Djungarian hamsters (Phodopus sungorus) but I had written down the scientific name on the cages for the other Djungarians that they were selling, and they said Phodopus campbelli or Campbell's dwarf hamster. I am not sure which they are. I named them Hidalgo and Mendes but since I cannot tell them apart, I call them One-y and Two-y. They are in a 20 gallon glass aquarium in which I previously had mice. The girl thought they were 4 to 6 weeks old.
Here are photos of Hidalgo and Mendes on 12/13/16.
Most information that one needs to know is found in books and from talking to people. There are a few things; however, that I would like to stress. ALL pet hamsters should see the vet as soon as possible after you get them. Firstly, they all need to be checked for their general health and sex. I cannot tell you how many times a male became a female or a female became a male! Hamsters, the least likely of mammalian pets to visit the vet, should be checked out at first for their general health, teeth, and sex. This vet visit is also a good time to learn about your pet's care.
The next item I would like to stress is that an animal's home can NEVER be too big. If your choice is between a tiny cage and a large one, ALWAYS opt for the larger one. The animal will be happier, and you will not have to clean it as often.
Finally, keep any cages, litter pans, etc. as clean as possible. Most cages should be cleaned well at least once a week. There is NO such thing as "an easy to care for" pet. All require your time and love!
How many and what sex should I get?
I have not found much of a behavioral difference between males and females. Either sex is fine. Some say males are easier to tame. First, I kept 3 girls and later, 3 boys. In both cases, there was fighting, often very noisy squeaks. No one got hurt. So, for dwarf Siberian hamsters, keeping 2+ boys or 2+ girls is the best setup. They must be siblings from the same litter, or they may not get along. You could also get a boy and girl but expect little ones to show up. Unlike with many small mammals, daddy can stay with the mommy and babies but this can result in one litter after another. Only do this if you are a breeder who knows of homes for the offspring. For other, larger species of hamster, a single animal is best. Relatives can get along but fighting is much more common in regular hamsters. Ordinary hamsters occur as solitary animals in the wild while dwarf Siberian hamsters occur in colonies of one mature male and two to six mature females and young. So, just to be clear, if you have regular hamsters (Syrian hamsters), they should only be kept as individuals as they will fight and can really hurt each other. Dwarf Siberian hamsters can live in groups but care must be taken to introduce them to each other. It is much easier to keep siblings of the same sex than to try to introduce unrelated animals. The breeder we visited kept one male with a group of about four females and their young to each cage (a way-to-small glass 10 gallon aquarium but that is what happens with mass production. They do not care about the animals' health or well being.).
Cages and Supplies
Again, the bigger, the better. Often hamsters are placed in glass tanks under 10 gallons or tiny metal or plastic containers. A few hamsters should be in a 10+ gallon tank or a large metal cage. My dwarf Siberian hamsters were in an 11"x13"x25" metal cage. These cages are best left to larger species of hamsters. Mine always had their feet fall through and could not climb the ladders. Thus, I added wooden platforms and mesh over the ladders. For dwarf hamsters, I would suggest glass tanks. A 10 gallon glass fish tank is usually about $7. A 20 gallon tank is even better. It costs about $20 and can house an ordinary hamster or two to four dwarf Siberian hamsters.
Cover the bottom with bedding like CareFresh or pine shavings. Do not use cedar shavings or pine shavings with additives. All metal cages have pull out bottoms where you can add newspaper. In this case, be sure to add some areas where the hamster has sure footing (wood, plastic plates, etc.). You should add a small sleeping box with soft bedding in every case. They sell a fluffy material for hamsters' beds. I gave my hamsters this and paper towels to make their beds. Also, provide tissue boxes, empty toilet rolls, blocks of untreated wood, and other toys you can buy. Hamsters love to chew and play. Exercise wheels are good but be sure they are secure and not too big (for dwarfs). Clean the litter at least once a week. Clean everything with warm water and soap at least every two weeks. Mine always got mad that I messed up their beds and would spend the next two days making a better, new bed.
Start with a high quality, mixed hamster food. It should contain other foods beside seeds. Then, also provide small pieces of carrot, other vegetables, and fruits. They eat most any vegetarian food. Feed similar foods as you would to a rabbit, including carrot, broccoli, apple, pear, cucumber, squash, zucchini, and small amounts of kale, grapes, cauliflower, parsley, and other fruits and vegetables. As treats, you can give them cantaloupe, honeydew melon, strawberries, wine berries, blackberries, etc. The key is to give lots of variety and not too much of one thing (especially fruits and leafy vegetables). Also, in rural areas free of grass treatments, grass, dandelion greens, clover, and many other lawn plants cannot be beat. Again, only give these in small amounts and avoid a few poisonous plants. Seeds and nuts preferred by hamsters include sunflower, safflower, millet, peanuts, and more. Since they are fatty, only feed these in small amounts. Experiment.
Hamsters rarely get sick and when they do, they are hard to treat. They can have maloccluded teeth. These require trimming. Hamsters can get mites which are sometimes treated with ivermectin injections. Sometimes, hamsters catch wet tail. This is a bad diarrhea that requires treatment. There are medications available without seeing a vet. Due to their small size, hamsters are difficult to treat. Most only live a few years. My hamster Irena fell, had a stroke, and developed a hemorrhage which was untreatable.
These are the two hamster books I own. Both are good.
Hamsters: A Complete Owner's Manual by Otto von Frisch, Barron's, 1990.
A Step-by-Step Book About Dwarf Hamsters by Chris Henwood, T.F.H. Publications, Inc., 1990.
Here are links to those two books and another one on dwarf hamsters that looks good.
Free catalogs for small mammals from That Pet Place can be obtained by calling 1-888-THATPET.
Drs. Foster and Smith has a small animal catalog that you can receive free by calling
1-800-826-7206. You can enter their site from the link below:
Drs. Foster & Smith - The Trusted Name in Small Pet Supplies
Please let me know to where any of the below sites that do not work have moved. These links were last checked on 8/15/08 with bad links being fixed or deleted.
Yahoo hamster links
Complete Hamster Site
Hamst er FAQ (Note: This is an archived version as the site is now gone.)
Hamster Care - this is an on-line hamster store
Hamster Land - hamster site (geared towards the golden hamster)
Hamster House - "The best hamster hangout for all hamster lovers."
Here are two photos of Youn's albino dwarf Siberian hamster, Junior. They were sent to me in October of 2003. He is so cute!
Wind & Weather sells neat things for your garden!
Copyright © 1997-2017 Robyn Rhudy