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Discover the Chinese Dwarf Hamster – A Hard to Find Pet That Is Well Worth the Hunt

If you’ve researched dwarf hamsters for any length of time, then you’ve probably come across a reference to the Chinese Dwarf Hamster. And you might have gone from thinking of this little guy as a pet when you read the “rat-like” or “mouse-like” description. If so, you are doing yourself a terrible disservice because, of the four species often referred to collectively as “dwarf hamsters,” this delightful pocket pet is the most sociable with its companions and, by far, the most interesting.

He’s not really a dwarf

Although the Chinese hamster is often grouped with dwarf hamsters due to its similar size, scientifically speaking, it is not really a dwarf. Siberian, Campbell’s and Roborovski hamsters belong to the genus Phodopus, while the Chinese hamster belongs to the genus Cricetulus. And the misunderstanding doesn’t stop there.

This fun little guy is actually known by many names. Striped Hamster, Chinese Striped Hamster, and sometimes Dwarf Striped Hamster. Two of these names add even more to the environment of confusion.

First, the name, Dwarf Striped Hamster, is also used to refer to the Russian Siberian or Winter White Hamster (Phodopus sungorus). Second, there is debate as to whether the Chinese striped hamster is the same species as the Chinese hamster (Cricetulus griseus). There are some scientists who suggest that it is a separate, but closely related species (Cricetulus barabensis), or a subspecies, with the Latin name then, Cricetulus griseus barabensis. Some even suggest it’s the other way around. The Chinese hamster is a subspecies of the Chinese striped hamster. (Nah!)

Does not matter. Let the taxonomists figure it out. Whatever you call him, he’s an interesting little guy and a rare find…literally. Chinese hamsters are not easily bred in captivity and there are ownership restrictions in most of the United States. California, for example, requires you to get a license.

Too cute to be a rat

The Chinese hamster is one of about six hamsters that make up the group known as “rat-like hamsters.” This is because their heads are longer and more pointed than other hamsters, resembling that of a rat. Their bodies are thinner and their fur shorter and sleeker. In addition, they have a longer tail that is about an inch in length and semi-protective. can be used to aid in climbing.

Like true dwarf hamsters, Chinese hamsters are tiny, only 4 inches long. Their natural color is agouti. individual hairs are “striped” with both light and dark colors. They have cream bellies and a black stripe running the length of their spine.

There are two color variations: the dominant spotted, which has a predominantly white coat with gray-brown spots spread along the dorsal stripe, and the black-eyed white, an all-white hamster distinguished from an albino by its black eyes. Both of these variants are rare because breeding two identical animals of one of these varieties rarely produces viable offspring. Additionally, black-eyed white males are said to be sterile.

Chinese hamsters have relatively long lifespans. A few are known to live up to four years, although the average life expectancy is two and a half to three years.

The Loner of the Dwarf Hamster Hamster Set

While true dwarf hamsters tend to be friendly with others of the same species, this is not the case with the Chinese hamster. In fact, although experienced breeders have some success keeping these animals in pairs or groups, it is not recommended for the novice handler. Females are extremely aggressive and have been known to attack, and sometimes kill, other hamsters that invade their territory.

Instead, they are usually quite friendly to their keepers and very rarely bite. However, they can be a little difficult to tame because they are extremely timid when young and a bit jumpy.

These tiny creatures are fast, agile and expert climbers. They have the endearing habit of clinging to their human companion’s finger with all four legs and, sometimes, their tail (much like an opossum would cling to a branch). They will not hesitate to jump from great heights, which can lead to serious injury or worse. When handling them, it’s best to make sure they have a “safe landing” by minimizing the distance they would fall should they suddenly jump out of your hand. These characteristics make the Chinese hamster a very poor choice as a pet for anyone under the age of 12 or so. Teenagers and young adults would find them absolutely fascinating

Caring for your hamster

The requirements of caring for a Chinese hamster are very similar to those of any other hamster. They need a good quality commercially prepared hamster seed mix supplemented with occasional fresh greens, fruits and vegetables (avoid onions and their relatives). A special treat of worms, crickets or a small amount of boiled egg may also be given. Hay can be used to provide additional dietary fiber and has the added benefit of providing nesting material for your pet. A constant supply of fresh water is an absolute necessity for the promotion of good health and friendly disposition.

Because of their squiggly bodies, small children can easily squeeze through the bars of almost any cage. So wire cages are definitely not a good choice. A 10 – 20 gallon aquarium with a tight screen cover is generally your best choice. As with all hamsters, pine or cedar shavings should not be used as litter. Aspen shavings or pelleted newspaper work well. Be sure to provide material that your hamster can build a nest with. Acceptable materials include hay and clean shredded paper or tissue that does not contain chemicals or dyes.

Be sure to include a nest box of some sort and a variety of hamster toys. Hamsters are very active creatures and also need to gnaw to keep their teeth sharp. An exercise wheel and various soft wooden chew toys are essential.

An excellent find

If you think a Chinese hamster is just right for your household, your best bet for finding one is to locate a professional breeder in your area. He or she will also be able to inform you of any laws governing the conservation of these wonderful little creatures in your geographic area. Although hard to find, Chinese hamsters are, without a doubt, a rare and fun pet.

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