The Winter White Hamster, also known as the Djungarian Hamster or the Siberian Hamster is one of the most sought after dwarf hamsters out there.
Belonging to the Phodopus Genus and closely related to Campbells Dwarf Hamster they are common as pets in Europe, Asia and North America.
What distinguishes the Winter White is its amazing ability to change the color of its fur to being fully white as Winter approaches - hence their name “Winter White”.
Today, we are going everything there is to know about the Winter White Hamster. We will explore their curious nature, their color-shifting looks and how to care for them to give them an amazing life. And the fact they are rodents, so they always need something to chew.
Where does the winter white dwarf hamster come from?
Winter Whites are native to Asia, more specifically northwest China, Kazakhstan and Mongolia. In these regions it gets very snowy in the Winter.
To hide from predators, the winter white developed an ability to change its fur color to white (from more brownish during Summer) to blend in with the snow.
Where they sleep, however, it it not wild as the Siberian Hamster digs approx. 3 feet (1 meter) down where besides sleeping, they raise their offspring and hide from predators.
These burrows will typically have up to six entrances and to keep warm in the Winter, all but one of these entrances will be stuffed with wool, animal fur or other similar material it can find.
Winter white hamster size, color and looks
The Winter White Dwarf Hamster is approximately half the size of a Syrian Hamster and slightly larger than the Roborovski Hamster coming in at 2-3 inches (5-8 cm). At this size, it will usually weigh around 1 ounce (30 grams).
Winter Whites come in three different colors and while other colors are possible, these are usually the result of cross-breeding with Campbells Dwarf Hamster. The three colors are:
- Normal - black and gray with black eyes
- Sapphire - bluish gray color
- Pearl - mainly white coated hamster
And again, while it might not happen in captivity, the winter white will turn white during the Winter.
During the Summer, the Winter White will (like many other hamsters) have a dorsal stripe, but compared to other hamsters, it will have the following distinguishing features:
- Rounder oval looking body shape
- Fur covered feet and legs
- More Romanesque nose profile
- Softer to touch, smoother and less woolly coat
Winter White Dwarf Hamsters as pets
Winter whites are a great option if you are looking for a hamster as a pet. It is easy to tame and has a very nice temperament.
It is also slower than the Roborovski Hamster making it easier to handle for smaller children.
Besides its speed and temperament, it is also worth considering it is mostly active at dusk and at night. The Winter White hamster is nocturnal and as such, sleeps during the day and is active at night.
This, of course, fits well with the schedule of most people, however, it might be a problem if you have very small children that goes to bed early. For most children (and adults!) there is plenty of time to bond in the evening. It is great seeing the little hamster run through its little tunnels.
Finally, a Winter White can live alone and it can also co-habituate with other winter whites of the same sex.
To sum up, here are the facts to consider before getting a winter white:
- Very nice temperament
- Relatively slow (for a dwarf hamster)
- Easy to tame
- Awake in the evening and at night
- Can live alone, in pairs or in groups
Winter White Hamster life span
Compared to other pets, hamsters have a relatively short life span and the Winter White Hamster is no different - it has a life expectancy of 2 years. With that, it is the shortest lifespan of typical hamster pets.
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 winter white 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:
- Diet & nutrition
- Sickness (make sure not to keep it in a draft)
- Housing environment
- How much it exercises
- Level of happiness
Winter White Hamster cages, minimum cage size and huts!
Unlike Syrian Hamsters, Winter White dwarf hamsters can be held both alone and in pairs or groups. 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
- Unlike Roborovski Hamsters (where it’s the opposite), males are easier to keep together as there is a smaller risk of fighting
- If you see any signs of a fight between your hamsters, separate them immediately
Winter White Hamster cages: Bigger is always better!
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 winter white can squeeze out between the bars.
When it comes to hamster housing, remember this: Bigger is always better and the minimum required aquarium should be 24 inches long and 12 inches wide. A 20-gallon aquarium will typically adhere to this.
Below we have listed our three top picks for Winter White hamster cages. For the wire cages we have of course made sure that your little dwarf hamster cannot squeeze out between the bars (click to see them):
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 Winter White.
Finally, the bars are very close together so there is no chance your little winter white can escape this cage!
- EVERYTHING YOU NEED: the cage comes with lots of accessories including tunnels, exercise wheel, two houses, a penthouse, a water bottle and more.
- HUGE SIZE: The hamster heaven metro cage lets you build a heavenly home for you hamster. The cage measures 80cm x 50 cm x 50cm with 9.5mm bar spacing.
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 winter white dwarf hamster.
For more in-depth information about 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 Winter White Hamsters.
Here’s a quick checklist for the Winter White hamster cage:
- Buy an aquarium or one of our recommended hamster cages as Winter White hamsters may squeeze through the bars of most wire hamster 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
Wheels, toys and tubes your Winter White Dwarf Hamster will love
Besides playing with an entertaining your Winter Whites, you should also make sure they can entertain themselves. This is where toys and tubes enters 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.
Mimic your Winter White’s natural instincts with the hamster wheel
You might know this already but if you don’t here’s the thing: Hamster 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 Winter White Hamster that means the wheel should be at least 5 inches (12cm) in diameter.
Below you can see our three recommended options when it comes to Winter White 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.
2 Amazing Winter White Hamster toys
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).
Stimulate your hamster’s curiosity with wooden ladder bridges
Our favorite Winter White 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!
- Cute bridge is made from natural wood sticks held together with two flexible metal wires.
- Easily bends to fit a variety of shapes and sizes to reach elevated areas; encourages exploration and exercise.
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 Winter White.
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 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.
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.
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 Winter White Hamsters as it has a good size, ensuring your hamster doesn’t arch and hurt its back.
- Ribs inside to provide better gripping power for pets
- Ideal for dwarf hamsters and pet mice
How to handle your Winter White 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:
- 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
- Start speaking with your hamster and put your hand in the cage. Do not put your hand over your hamster
- Start touching your hamster and make it comfortable with you touching it
- Start picking up your hamster, cupped in the palm of your hand
- 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!
This will lead to a negative response and will make the taming process troublesome.
The other thing to note about Winter White 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.
Food, diet and treats for a healthy and varied Winter WHite Hamster diet
Winter White’s run a lot so like us humans they need a good and balanced diet. Winter Whites are omnivorous which means they eat plants, seeds and meat (insects).
Besides the insects, this is mimicked in the hamster food you can get, and below, we've listed thre three best options.
However, there are many types of hamster food out there and if you want to go venture on your own, here are some guidelines. 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 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: Ensures your hammy gets the vitamins it needs
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.
Your hamster will indulge in these treats
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 things including:
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 Winter White hamster high acid foods including citrus and oranges.
Also, when giving treats to your Winter White remember it’s a small animal so what seem like small amounts to us, can be a large amount for a Winter White.