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Chinese Dwarf Hamsters: The Complete Guide [Facts + Checklist]

The Chinese Hamster, also known as the Chinese Dwarf Hamster and the striped hamster, is one of the five types of hamsters common as a pet.

The Chinese hamster’s striking feature compared to other hamsters is its shape.

Quite simply, a Chinese hamster has a longer and thinner body (especially compared to the Syrian Hamster) and also has a longer tail.

And in today’s article, we will cover everything there is to know about the Chinese Dwarf Hamster.

Chinese Dwarf Hamster Color and Looks

a chinese dwarf hamster

The Chinese Hamster [1] is approximately half the size of a Syrian Hamster and slightly larger than the Roborovski Hamster, coming in at around 3 inches (8 cm).

At this size, it will usually weigh around 1 to 1.5 ounces (28-42 grams).

The Chinese Dwarf Hamster has a dark brown color and is sometimes confused with a Russian Dwarf Hamster. It is white on the belly and has a black dorsal line along its spine.

The final feature to note in the Chinese Hamster is its longer and more noticeable tail than other hamsters.

Find out more info on this video.

Chinese Hamster: Behavior and Temperament

Chinese hamster

Like the Robo Hamster [2], the Chinese Dwarf Hamster is extremely active.

Thus, if you take it out of the cage, it’s a good idea to put it in a playpen or a hamster ball.

Also, due to its speed, it can be quite hard for small children (below the age of 7) to handle a Chinese Hamster.

Besides the ease with which you can handle the hamster, it is also worth considering it is most active at dusk and night.

The Chinese Dwarf Hamster is nocturnal and, as such, sleeps during the day and is active at night. It is most active around 6 PM and afterward.

Of course, this fits well with the schedule for most people, and if you have children aged 7+, there’ll be a lot of time for them to play with the hamster in the evening.

Finally, a Chinese Hamster can live alone, and it can also co-habituate with other Chinese Hamsters of the same sex.

If you haven’t had a hamster before, we recommend having only one Chinese Hamster in a cage to “learn the ropes.”

To sum up, here are the facts to consider before getting a Chinese Hamster:

  • Very nice temperament
  • Very fast (for a dwarf hamster)
  • Harder than most other hamsters to handle
  • Awake in the evening and at night
  • Can live alone, in pairs or in groups

Chinese Hamster Lifespan And Other Facts

Compared to other pets, hamsters have a relatively short lifespan, and the Chinese Hamster is no different – it has a life expectancy of 2-3 years. This is quite typical for most hamsters regardless of breed.

While this may sound like a short time (which it is), it does make it more attractive for first-time pet owners who are maybe not ready for the +10 year commitment of a dog.

Watch this video to have additional information about Chinese dwarf hamsters’ lifespan.

Because of that, a Chinese hamster will often be the first pet in a family.

Of course, there are many factors influencing the life expectancy of a hamster. These include:

  • Genetics
  • Sickness (make sure not to keep it in a draft)
  • Housing environment
  • Diet & nutrition
  • Level of happiness
  • How much it exercises

Chinese Hamster Cages, Minimum Cage Size And Huts!

Syrian Hamster

Chinese dwarf hamsters can be held alone and in pairs or groups, unlike Syrian Hamsters.

Here are some guidelines to make sure they don’t fight:

  • Introduce the hamsters at a young age and at the latest before their 12-week birthday
  • Make sure they are the same sex
  • If you see any signs of a fight between your hamsters, separate them immediately

Interior Decorating For The Perfect Hamster Home

When you have found the cage you want, it’s crucial to have a designated place for your hamster to eat.

For that, you should get a food bowl with a size that’s large enough to prevent it from tipping over.

We recommend getting one made of stainless steel or ceramic materials as these materials cannot be chewed up and, on top of that, are hygienic.

a chinesedwarf hamster drinking water

Besides food, your hamster will get thirsty (from all that running), so it will also need water.

We recommend getting a water bottle.

This is again to ensure your hamster doesn’t tip it over and suddenly has to make do without any liquids.

However, spills will happen, and you will need to clean the cage. We recommended cleaning your cage once a week.

Finally, you should design an area within your hamster cage where the hamster can sleep and relax. There are some very cute options for hamster huts, and we especially love this option for Chinese Hamsters.

Here’s a quick checklist for the Chinese hamster cage:

  • Buy an aquarium or one of our recommended hamster cages as Chinese hamsters may squeeze through the bars of other wire cages
  • Get one that’s at least 24 inches long and 12 inches wide
  • Increase the size by 0.5x for every extra hamster in the cage (i.e. for two hamsters the cage should be 36 inches long and 18 inches wide)
  • Designate an enclosed area for sleeping arrangements
  • Get a ceramic or stainless steel food bowl and a water bottle
  • Clean the aquarium once a week

Best Wheels, Toys and Tubes Your Chinese Hamster Will Absolutely Love

Besides playing with and entertaining your Chinese Dwarf, you should also make sure they can entertain themselves.

This is where toys and tubes enter the picture.

You probably have something in the house you can use, and good cheap hamster toys include cardboard boxes, toilet roll tubes, and cereal boxes.

You always need something your hamster can chew on as its teeth are constantly growing.

Having something to chew on helps keep the teeth at a reasonable length.

Also, we recommend having some wood in the cage it can gnaw on at all times.

Mimic Your Chinese Hamster’s Natural Instincts With The Hamster Wheel

You might know this already, but if you don’t, here’s the thing: Hamsters run – they run a lot, and some hamsters run the equivalent of 4 human marathons per night!

This incredible activity level means it’s critical to have a hamster wheel (where they can run their little marathons).

When getting a hamster wheel, there are two essential things to consider:

1: Get a plastic wheel. Metal wheels are made with rungs (kind of like a ladder). Your hamster can fall through the traps and hurt itself. Further, metal wheels often have sharp edges.

To avoid any wheel-related injuries, we recommend getting a plastic wheel made of one-piece molded together.

2: Make sure it’s large enough! Your hamster will hurt itself if it’s running with an arched back. For a Chinese Hamster, that means the wheel should be at least 5 inches (12 cm) in diameter.

You should have one wheel per hamster, i.e., if you have two hamsters in the same cage, you should get two wheels.

Chinese Hamster toys

You should consider adding toys when you have your hamster cage ready with a hut and a wheel.

They are essential to help it pique at its curiosity and prevent boredom, and more importantly, having something to gnaw on will help keep its growing teeth the correct size.

You can easily find something in your home, including cardboard to chew on. Usually, cereal boxes or toilet paper rolls are good options for this purpose.

While these are often excellent options, there are always the risk materials not labeled as pet-friendly can contain residual chemicals that are not good for your hamster.

And that’s why we recommend getting hamster toys produced for pets (unless you are sure about your household items not containing anything that can be unhealthy for your hamster).

Stimulate Your Hamster’s Curiosity With Wooden Ladder Bridges

Our favorite Chinese hamster toy is the wooden ladder bridge. We love these because you can bend them to make any shape your hamster will love.

Further, as it’s made out of wood, your hamster can chew on it – but don’t worry, it can chew on these for many months before the wood goes bad and spoils!

We recommend getting a couple of these. This ensures you can always alter the look of the cage, which will stimulate the curiosity of your Chinese Dwarf.

Your hamster will love hiding in and exploring wooden tunnels

Another great way to explore the cage is by using wooden tunnels. Hamsters love to hide in enclosed areas, and we have had excellent experiences with these.

One or two of these in the cage will give your hamster a lot of tunnels to play in.

Have Your Hamster Explore Your House From The Safety Of Its Hamster Ball

The final toy we recommend getting is a hamster ball. Hamster balls are great for having your hamsters explore the house.

It is a great place to keep your pet when cleaning its cage as an added benefit. For that alone, we recommend getting a hamster ball.

When buying a hamster ball, it’s essential to buy it in the correct size (as with the hamster wheel).

This particular hamster ball is great for Chinese Hamsters as it has good size, ensuring your hamster doesn’t arch and hurt its back.

How to Handle Your Chinese Dwarf Hamster

Let’s get this out-of-the-way first: Basic hamster care is not complicated, and hamsters can become tame if you train it.

There are five basic steps when it comes to taming your hamster:

  1. When bringing your hamster home give it 2-3 days where you don’t handle it and allow it to adjust to its new surroundings
  2. Start speaking with your hamster and put your hand in the cage. Do not put your hand over your hamster
  3. Start touching your hamster and make it comfortable with you touching it
  4. Start picking up your hamster, cupped in the palm of your hand
  5. Become best friends with your hamster and make it tame by playing with it daily (or close to it!)

For a more in-depth guide to taming your hamster, you can click here.

A final note on taming your hamster: You should never wake up your hamster when it sleeps!

Never!

This will lead to a negative response and make the taming process troublesome.

The other thing to note about Chinese Hamsters is while they are clean animals, you still need to clean the cage. You should do this once a week to remove all the bedding, clean the cage and put new bedding in.

While doing so, it can be beneficial to have a hamster ball or a playpen to keep your hamster in check.

READ MORE: Do Hamsters Live in the Wild?

Chinese Hamster – Best Food, Diet and Treats

Chinese Hamsters run a lot, so like us, humans, they need a good and balanced diet.

Chinese Hamsters are omnivorous, which means they eat plants, seeds, and meat (insects).

Besides the insects, this is mimicked in the hamster food you can get.

However, there are many types of hamster food out there, and it can be a challenge to figure out what is best. Generally, there are two types of food you can buy:

  • Seed Hamster Food
  • Pelleted Hamster Food (our preferred choice!)

Whatever type of food you decide to buy, you should ensure it has the right combination of nuts, grains, and seeds with a nutritional balance of 3-6% fat and 12-15% protein.

Seed Food: The Historical Option

Historically, seed hamster food has been the primary food choice when getting a hamster. While it can be okay, it does risk your hamster being picky, only eating its favorite seeds.

This will lead to a balanced diet, and worse, your hamster will not get all the vitamins it needs.

Thus, if you go with seed hamster food, ensure the food bowl is empty before giving it more food.

Pelleted Hamster Food: Ensures Your Hammy Gets The Vitamins It Needs

Pelleted hamster food is now considered a better option. Everything is mixed in it, so every bite your hamster takes is balanced by definition. Pelleted food usually looks like small biscuits, cookies, or cereal.

Due to the balanced diet, we also recommend getting pelleted hamster food.

Your Hamster Will Indulge In These Treats

Like humans, “normal” food should be the central part of a hamster’s diet.

With that said, and again, just like us, humans, hamsters love treats. Luckily, most common household greens can also be used for hamster treats, and hamsters especially love treats such as:

  • Cabbage
  • Spinach
  • Banana
  • Carrots

You can also give many other snacks, and we have covered hamster snacks extensively here.

We recommend giving your hamster a treat once or twice a week.

The link above is suitable for reference, but if you don’t have time for it now, we want you to remember one thing: Do not give your Chinese hamster high acid foods, including citrus and oranges.

Also, when giving treats to your Chinese Hamster, remember it’s a small animal, so what seems like small amounts to us can be a large amount for a Chinese Hamster.

Helpl! My Chinese Hamster is Pregnant – Here’s What To Do!

When you grow fond of your Chinese hamster, it can seem like a good idea to have hamster babies.

However, while it may seem like a good idea, we recommend not having hamster babies. This is due to the American Humane Society advising against it. [3]

The main reasons for doing so are:

  • Chinese hamsters may eat their babies
  • It is hard to find a new home for the baby hamsters (a Chinese Hamster will typically have 3-7 litters) and major pet suppliers like Petsmart and Petco do not purchase or acquire small animals from private owners

With that said, if you have Chinese hamster babies or your hamster is pregnant, here are the most important pointers:

  1. Beef up your hamster’s diet by adding calories and more protein
  2. Clean the cage and remove the hamster wheel and other toys, so the baby hamsters don’t injure themselves
  3. Leave the cage be for the last couple of days before birth. If a baby hamster gets your scent the mother may reject it
  4. Labor usually takes 1-2 hours with 15-30 minute intervals between the small pups coming into our world
  5. Do not disturb or enter the cage for at least two weeks. This again has to do with the mother potentially rejecting the babies if they get the human scent.
  6. Make sure there is enough food and water
  7. Separate the hamsters at the age of 4-5 weeks

We recommend reading our extensive guide for more information on hamster babies.

READ MORE: Dwarf vs Syrian Hamster: What’s the Difference?

Chinese Hamsters and Their Ever-Growing Teeth

Hamsters are mammals that belong to the rodent family. In short being, a member of the rodent family means its teeth are constantly growing.

In other words, hamsters are born with teeth that keep growing through their entire life.

We humans brush our teeth. Hamsters take care of their teeth (and keep their size in check) by gnawing on stuff.

If there isn’t anything to gnaw on in the cage, the hamster will start gnawing the cage instead – a sure sign that something’s wrong.

a chinese dwarf hamster

What do you think about Chinese Dwarf hamsters? Let us know in the comments section.

Resources

1. What Type of Hamster Should You Get? [Internet]. www.petmd.com. Available from: https://www.petmd.com/exotic/general-health/what-type-hamster-should-you-get

2. Trimpert J, Vladimirova D, Dietert K, Abdelgawad A, Kunec D, Dökel S, et al. The Roborovski Dwarf Hamster Is A Highly Susceptible Model for a Rapid and Fatal Course of SARS-CoV-2 Infection. Cell Reports [Internet]. 2020 [cited 2021 Dec 18];33. Available from: https://www.cell.com/cell-reports/fulltext/S2211-1247(20)31477-7?_returnURL=https%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS2211124720314777%3Fshowall%3Dtrue3. Is a hamster the right pet for you? [Internet]. The Humane Society of the United States. [cited 2022 Mar 3]. Available from: http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/hamsters/tips/hamsters_as_pets.html

Alina Hartley
Alina Hartley

Alina Hartley is a small-town girl with a ginormous love of bearded dragons. It all started with Winchester, a baby bearded who was abandoned at the shelter by his former owners because of a birth defect that caused one front leg to be shorter than the other. Alina originally went to the shelter looking for a guinea pig, but one look at Winchester and it was love at first sight. From that day on, Alina has dedicated her life to learning everything she can about bearded dragons. She loves helping new beardie parents start their incredible journey with these magnificent reptiles.
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