Roborovski Hamster

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Other name(s): Roborovski Dwarf Hamster; Robo Dwarf Hamster; Robo Hamster; Dwarf Roborovski; Desert Hamster

Scientific name: Phodopus roborovskii

The basics:
The Roborovski Hamster is an endearing pet in the smallest of packages. Though they are the tiniest of the hamster species, they are one of the most active: the Roborovski is the marathon runner of the rodent world. If you enjoy watching the antics of a pet the loves to run and climb, the Roborovski Hamster might be a good choice. However, though the Roborovski has a reputation for a sweet-natured temperament, their speed and agility makes them a poor choice if you want a pet you can handle. For this reason, they may not be ideal for households with children that want closer interaction with the family pet.

Originally hailing from the deserts and high steppes of Mongolia, Manchuria, Northern China, and the Gobi Desert, the Roborovski Hamster was imported to the United Kingdom in the 1960s, and to North America in the late 1990s. They’re not uncommon in pet stores around the world. If you can’t find them in your local shop, breeders of the Roborovski Hamster are usually not difficult to find.

Appearance / health:
The Roborovski Hamster is the smallest of the hamster species, reaching a length of only about 2 inches. They have round bodies, a short tail, and a head that blends into the body. The Roborovski’s legs are longer than those of other species. They have a broad head with a short, blunt nose, large eyes, and small rounded ears. Hamsters have large, expandable cheek pouches which will become more or less visible based on how full they’ve been stuffed with food.

Unlike other hamster species, the Roborovski Hamster does not have the dark dorsal stripe down the back. They have short fur that comes in a variety of colors and patterns. The wild Roborovski has a sandy-brown agouti coat with a white belly and white “eyebrows”. Other color variations include a darker agouti, a white-faced agouti, husky (white-faced with an pale orange agouti coat), mottled/pied, platinum, “head spot” (pure white with a spot of color on the head), “white-from-white faced” or “dark-eared white” (a white hamster with a greyish undercoat and ears), “white-from-pied or “pure white” (a solid white coat), and “red-eyed” (caramel colored coat with dark brown undercoat, red eyes, and pale ears).

Roborovski Hamsters have a predisposition for a neurological disorder that causes them to spin in circles, a behavior which gets worse in times of stress or excitement. While incurable, many times the disorder does not significantly impact quality of life. All hamsters are prone to certain illnesses including impacted cheek pouches, over-grown teeth, respiratory infections (often from too much moisture, drafts, or very high temperatures), “wet tail” (diarrhea caused by stress), and indigestion related to food. The Campbell’s Dwarf Hamster has an average lifespan of 3 to 3.5 years.

Behavior / temperament:
The Roborovski Hamster can be shy and skittish but when properly socialized from a young age, rarely bite. They are one of the most active and fast-moving hamsters, are adept climbers, and will spend many of their waking hours running on a wheel – it’s essential your Roborovski has plenty of room to exercise and explore. Though generally sweet-tempered, their size and speed make them difficult to handle. Roborovski Hamsters are more social than many hamster species and can potentially be kept in pairs and groups of their own kind if raised together or introduced young.

Hamsters, including Roborovski’s, are nocturnal and will be most active in the evenings. They may venture out occasionally during the day for food or some brief exercise. When disturbed during the day, they may be more prone to bite and you should never reach into a sleeping hamster’s house. They like to run, climb, and gnaw and should be given appropriate ways to do so. Hamsters have poor eye sight so care should be taken if they are allowed to explore areas they could fall from.

Your Roborovski Hamster’s cage will be the most important investment you make for your new pet, and many commercial cages are much too small for an adult hamster. Recommended floor space is at least 360 square inches and bigger is always better. Popular cages include 20-gallon long glass tanks and modular cages. For hamsters as small as the Roborovski, wire cages are not recommended. On their own, modular cages are usually much too small but are designed to be expanded via stacking and tubes. Though modular cages look bright and fun, they can be difficult to clean and may have ventilation problems. Cages with external or linking tubes are not recommended in households with cats or other animals that might knock structures loose.

The second most important choice for your new hamster’s home is bedding. Aspen shavings and paper-based beddings are ideal. Pine and cedar shavings can irritate a hamster’s sensitive respiratory tract and should never be used. Hamsters like to dig, so bedding should be a minimum of 3 inches deep. If you notice your hamster is particularly fond of burrowing, more is better!

A wheel is an essential addition to your hamster’s cage. Hamsters can run as much as 5 miles in a night, so choosing a safe and appropriate wheel is essential. The wheel should have a solid running surface – bars and mesh can cause serious problems with a hamster’s feet, including a painful condition called Bumble Foot. In addition, to prevent back injury the wheel needs to be large enough that your hamster can run with its back straight.

A wide variety of toys and tubes can be used in your hamster’s cage and many can double as a much-needed chewing surface. Your hamster should also be provided with at least one hideout/house and the occasional sand bath. The cage should also include a water bottle and a food dish.

There are many commercial foods available to provide a well-balanced diet for your hamster. They come in the form of pellets, lab blocks, and seed mixes. While hamsters probably enjoy seed mixes the most, many may be high in fat and low in protein. Choosing a food with a good mix of both pellets and seed, or mixing your own from two different foods, is the best way to ensure your hamster is getting everything it needs. In addition, you can a small amount of birdseed or millet. Many hamster owners keep a dish of pellets or lab blocks and then scatter some seed mix throughout the cage to encourage a hamster’s natural foraging behavior.

In addition to the dry food mixes, hamsters should be given small portions of fruits and vegetables. Don’t over-do the fresh food with your Roborovski Hamster – too much moisture in the diet can cause diarrhea. Hamsters like to hoard their food so only as much fresh food as they will eat in a day should be offered to avoid hidden rotting food.

A variety of edible chews are available to help wear down your hamster’s teeth. In addition, hard dog biscuits, a small amount of uncooked pasta, and even edible dog chews are popular. Other treats should be given sparingly, and those high in sugar should probably be avoided.


big personalities, pretty smart, cute hamster


agressive hamster, beginner rodent owner, children, squeaky wheel, messy cage, biting problem


energetic, Nocturnal Madness Willow, socialization, cheek pouches, leather gloves

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