So What's a Roborovski?

Roborovski hamsters are easily the least-known of all domestic hamster species. Like the Winter White hamsters, they originally came from northeastern Asia (although their origins are slightly farther south than their cousins'). Roborovski hamsters are less popular than Syrian hamsters for several reasons, including temperament, but admirers of the species say that Roborovskis have several advantages over their larger cousins.

One simple reason for Roborovskis' obscurity is that they were not available at most pet shops until very recently. Instead they were available only as a "novelty breed" from specialized breeders. Not only were they costly, they were also undesirable because of the necessity of shipping them, which many pet owners find cruel and inhumane. However, they are now bred and sold in many large pet stores.

Roborovskis are a type of dwarf hamster and can be as small as five centimeters (about 2 1/2 inches) from head to tail, or as long as seven centimeters (3 1/2 inches). They eat the same food as most other hamsters, although the portions are generally smaller. It is generally said that Roborovskis are nocturnal, but they seem to be much more flexible than other species of hamster and often wake up in the daytime for a short stroll around their cage.

Owning a Roborovski

Regardless of their availability, Roborovskis are not recommended for first-time hamster owners. Although they are very fun to watch and more active than golden hamsters, they tend to dislike human handling (at least at first). Although they can be tamed, it is harder than taming most types of hamster and can be a long, frustrating journey for an inexperienced owner.

However, for many hamster owners (even inexperienced ones!) owning a Roborovski is well worth it. They are sometimes said to be more intelligent than other species and even loyal, bonding most closely their owner (or whoever feeds them). This reputation for loyalty may arise from their notorious shyness and the fact that they often need many weeks to get used to a new owner.

One benefit of owning a Roborovski is that they never, ever bite. Even when at their most stressed, their most violent response is a series of frantic squeaks - Roborovskis are almost completely silent at any other time. However, this is a dubious distinction as hamster owners shouldn't be stressing their animal that much anyway!

Roborovskis make enjoyable, good-natured companions if treated gently, and will happily eat from an owner's hand. Although they like their space, they'll gladly welcome you into it if you treat them well.

Important Things to Know

More information about owning a Roborovski is scattered liberally around the Web, and I would highly recommend most of the resources out there (but remember to take everything with a grain of salt). However, there are several very important differences between a "regular" hamster and a Roborovski.

First of all, and most importantly, don't buy a wire cage. Although wire cages are good for larger hamsters, the bars are too far apart for a dwarf hamster. He could escape, or worse, get stuck between the bars.

Second, hamster owners vary on the correct amount of food, but I've heard around 2 tablespoons (maybe a small handful) per day. Dwarf hamsters need about half that.

Another important note: cedar bedding is a bad choice for all small rodents, because the dust can easily get in their small lungs and cause an infection. Cedar bedding for a Syrian hamster is bad enough, but never get cedar bedding for a dwarf hamster. Aspen shavings, ready-made cardboard bedding, and sterilized dirt are all good alternatives.

More Information

Go to the hamster node for excellent information about all hamster species, from Winter Whites to Goldens. Also see hamster bong's Everything you wanted to know about hamsters, and then some! with plenty of factual - and not-so-factual - hamster links.

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