The Chinese Hamster, also known as the Chinese Dwarf Hamster and striped hamster is one of the five types of hamsters that are common as a pet.
The striking feature of the Chinese Hamster 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 are going to cover everything there is to know about the Chinese Hamster.
The Chinese Hamster 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 that it has a longer and more noticeable tail compared to other hamsters.
Also, do 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 at 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:
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.
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:
Unlike Syrian Hamsters, Chinese dwarf hamsters can be held both alone and in pairs or groups. Here are some guidelines to make sure they don’t fight:
First of all: When looking for a dwarf hamster cage, you should be careful when going for a traditional wire cage. Some of these are built for Syrian Hamsters where a Chinese Hamster can squeeze out between the bars.
Below we have listed our three top picks for the best Chinese hamster cages. For the wire cages, we have of course made sure that your little dwarf hamster cannot squeeze out between the bars:
Lixit Savic Hamster Heaven Cage:
Great option for both Syrian and Dwarf Hamsters with lots of ground floor for your hamster to run around. It comes with built-in tubes and a wheel. While the wheel is too small for a Syrian it is perfect for your little Chinese Hamster.
Finally, the bars are very close together so there is no chance your little Chinese Dwarf can escape this cage!
Lixit Animal Care Savic Dwarf Hamster Cage, X-Large
This hamster cage has a lot of similarities the cage above it. Instead of repeating the features, we’ll mention the difference, which is mainly that there is fewer tubes built-in in this cage. Besides that, it is to a large degree the same as above.
Ferplast Hamster Cage:
This cage is very different from the other two. It has a large floor with access to bedding and a wheel in the middle and a little, cute staircase in between the two.
It is very easy to clean and the built-in wheel is perfect for a Chinese dwarf hamster.
For more in-depth information about the best hamster cages check out our guide here.
When you have found the cage you want, it’s important 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.
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 have 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 out there for hamster huts and we especially love this option for Chinese Hamsters.
Here’s a quick checklist for the Chinese hamster cage:
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 always 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.
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 level of activity means it’s absolutely critical to have a hamster wheel (where they can run their little marathons).
When getting a hamster wheel there are two important 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.
Below you can see our three recommended options when it comes to dwarf hamster wheels:
You should have one wheel per hamster i.e. if you have two hamsters in the same cage, you should get two wheels.
When you have your hamster cage ready with a hut and a wheel you should consider adding some toys.
There are essential to help it peek its curiosity and to prevent boredom, and more importantly, having something to gnaw on will help keep its growing teeth the right size.
You can easily find something in your home including cardboard to chew on. Usually, cereal boxes or toilet paper rolls are some good options for this purpose.
While these are often good and solid options, there is 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).
Our favorite Chinese hamster toy is the wooden ladder bridge. The reason we love these is you can bend them to make any shape which 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! Click here to see our favorite hamster bridge.
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 explore 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 awesome experiences with these. One or two of these in the cage will give your hamster a lot of tunnel to play in. Here’s a tunnel we’ve had great experiences with. We also absolutely adore this little tree train / tunnel.
The final toy we recommend getting is a hamster ball. Hamster balls are great for having your hamsters explore the house.
As an added benefit, it is a great place to keep your pet when cleaning its cage. For that alone, we recommend getting a hamster ball.
When buying a hamster ball, it’s important to buy it in the right size (as with the hamster wheel). This particular hamster ball is great for Chinese Hamsters as it has a good size, ensuring your hamster doesn’t arch and hurt its back.
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:
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!
This will lead to a negative response and will 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 where you 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.
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:
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.
Historically, seed hamster food has been the main choice of food 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 diet not balanced and worse, your hamster will not get all the vitamins it needs.
Thus, if you go with seed hamster food, make sure the food bowl is empty before giving it more food.
Pelleted hamster food is now considered a better option. In it, everything is mixed so every bite your hamster takes is by definition balanced. Pelleted food usually looks like small biscuits, cookies or cereal.
Due to the balanced diet, we also recommend getting pelleted hamster food. Here are out top three choices for hamster food:
Like us humans, “normal” food should be the main 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:
There are also many other snacks you can give it and we have covered hamster snacks extensively here.
We recommend giving your hamster a treat once or twice a week.
The link above is good 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 seem like small amounts to us, can be a large amount for a Chinese Hamster.
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 attempting to have hamster babies. This is due to the American Humane Society advising against it.
The main reasons for doing so are:
With that said, if you have Chinese hamster babies or your hamster is pregnant, here are the most important pointers:
Hamsters are mammals which belong to the rodent family. In short being member of the rodent family means its teeth are always growing.
In other words, hamsters are born with their teeth that keep growing through their entire life.
Where us 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 simply start gnawing the cage instead – a sure sign that something’s wrong.
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