Also known as Chinese striped hamsters, the Chinese hamsters are among the smallest rodents popular as pets. These hamsters are native to the desert area of Mongolia and China. Even though these hamsters are not typically dwarf or hold any dwarfism genes, they were given this name solely due to their small size.
Even though all Hamsters are tiny in size, the dwarf hamsters are even smaller than all of them. The Syrian hamsters can be considered as a considerably larger pet compared to a Chinese dwarf hamster. The hamster comes with a black stripe that runs down its back to the tail.
Thanks to this unique stripe, these Hamsters are also known as Chinese striped hamsters. These tiny rodents are very docile, which makes it reasonably easy for pet owners to tame them. As pet species go, hamsters are extremely easy to care for. However, as a responsible hamster parent, you need to properly understand your hamster’s mood, as they can sometimes become a bit aggressive and nippy.
- Common Name: Chinese striped hamster, Chinese hamster, Chinese dwarf hamster.
- Scientific Name: Cricetulus griseus
- Length: After reaching maturity, an adult hamster reaches 3 to 5 inches in length
- Weight: A mature Chinese Hamster weighs about 1 to 2 ounces
- Life Expectancy: Chinese hamster can live up to 2 to 3 years
As the name suggests, the Chinese hamsters are rodents native to East Asia. These tiny rodents of the Cricetidae sub-family originated in the arid region of Mongolia and northern China.
Normal proportions of the Chinese hamster are different from the rest of the hamster species. Compared to others, these hamsters tend to have thin and long bodies. These hamsters also have a relatively long tail compared to other hamsters. As we mentioned earlier, Chinese hamsters are not technically dwarf hamsters. These hamsters do not belong to the genus Phodopus, like the Roborovski dwarf hamsters or Russian dwarf hamsters.
The body colour of the wild Chinese hamsters is greyish brown. There is a black stripe located just over their spine on the top of their body. They have a whitish belly which gives them a unique look. The combination of their small body, long tail, and distinctive colouration makes these hamsters look more like a mouse.
The truth is these hamsters do belong to a group that is known as a rat-like hamsters. Apart from the wild hamsters’ colour, you can find the variation of Chinese hamsters in the pet industry that comes with several white spots. These hamsters are covered with Grey white all over their body. The only striking point is the dark stripe that runs through their back towards the tail.
As we have already mentioned, the Chinese hamsters tend to grow within 82 and 127 mm in body length. The baby Chinese hamsters weigh about 1.7 grams right after they are born. As these hamsters mature, they tend to weigh 30 to 45 grams. The male hamster has a reasonably large scrotum compared to its body size. Like all the other hamster breeds, Chinese hamsters are solitary animals and prefer to be independent.
Behaviour and Temperament
Like most other hamsters, Chinese hamsters are also nocturnal animals, which means these rodents go to sleep during the day, and all the activities start at nightfall. However, if need be, you can find these hamsters occasionally waking up during the day to move around and eat for a short while.
Even if your hamster moves around the enclosure, it is not suitable for you to handle it. Try your best not to wake up a sleeping hamster for handling. If you do that, your pet hamster can become a bit grumpy and try to bite you as well.
Pet hamsters are generally good-natured docile animals. Pet owners rarely face any difficulty in handling pet hamsters in captivity. You need to make sure you hold your pet hamster at the correct times from a very young age. If you fail to do that, your pet hamster can become very nervous and aggressive during handling.
Other than that, it can be significantly difficult for you to handle Chinese dwarf hamsters, thanks to their small size. It is better to practice holding your hamster while sitting on the floor. If you drop a Chinese hamster from a couple of feet of height, it can cause severe injuries.
Chinese Hamsters are free-spirited animals. That is why even in captivity, they don’t bond with the owners like a cat or dog would. But once they get to know you, they may acknowledge your presence. For example, when you sit by their cage side, they make you come to you.
The Chinese hamsters are very territorial animals. That means they can start showing aggressive behaviour to each other from eight to ten weeks of age. If you want to avoid such aggression, you should give the housing pattern some thought. It is better to keep littermates together that have been growing up together since they were young. It’s also better to make sure that your hamster does not come in contact with any other pet of your house. In some less than frequent times, they may get along. However, it’s always best to have them separate as this is what they prefer.
Even though a hamster does not bark or meow, it can still keep you awake a night. Such as, if you choose to keep the cage in your bedroom, hamsters are awake at night and love going round and round on the hamster wheel.
You also have to spend a couple of hours every week to keep the enclosure properly clean. You can also take your hamster out of its cage and play with it using a small hamster ball or a hamster exercise area.
In the wild, Chinese hamsters live in burrows that they excavate on their own. Some of the hamster burrows have a single entrance, while others have two or three different entries. The burrows with more than one entrance are most likely to be the homes of the matured hamsters. The experts think that the younger animals tend to choose the simpler burrow designs than their more mature counterparts.
In the more extensive burrows, you can find separate living chambers and food storage areas. Most of the Hamsters create a particular place away from others for resting as well. Even though Chinese Hamsters are highly territorial, you can often find these burrows very close to each other. That is what creates the misconception about hamster inhibition and creates an impression of a colony.
Chinese hamsters have enormous cheek pouches. With the help of these pouches, the hamsters can collect a vast amount of food to take into their burrows.
Not only that, these small rodents are excellent climbers. They use their prehensile tail as a tool to climb great heights. However, it is difficult for these rodents to showcase their arboreal skills in the enclosure.
Mating and Reproduction
The Chinese hamsters become sexually active at about five weeks of age. While in the wild, mating and giving birth to baby hamsters may not be that big a deal. Breeding Chinese hamsters in an enclosure can be a bit tricky. The mature female hamsters tend to be very aggressive towards their male counterparts and often cause serious injuries.
There are several different ways to get around this issue. You can introduce a male and a female hamster to each other when they are still young and let them grow up together if they are both civil to each other. Having a larger cage will help in this situation. Many breeders have experienced success by following this method. In the pet industry, it is standard practice to introduce a younger female hamster to an older male so that the male hamster can become the dominant one. However, this trick does not always work.
If the female Chinese hamster already has a litter, you should only place her in the same cage with a male when she is in heat. The female Chinese hamsters come into heat every four days. Other than this, they also come to heat right after giving birth. From that, you can calculate the time when a hamster is in heat reasonably well.
It is better to introduce the Chinese hamsters on neutral ground. Never put the male hamster inside the female cage, as that can lead to severe fighting. Once the female hamster conceives, a females gestation period lasts for about 18 to 23 days. After getting pregnant, the female Hamsters tend to be excessively aggressive towards their male counterparts. If you want to keep the breeding pair together even after the female has gotten pregnant, you should create more hiding places inside the enclosure. These places offer a hiding place for the male to spend some time getting away from the female.
The female Chinese hamsters start to show pregnancy only a couple of days before giving birth. Female hamsters tend to give birth to 6 to 12 blind baby hamsters. The female Chinese hamster will get into heat only after a couple of hours of giving birth. So, if you do not want another litter, you should remove the male Chinese hamster from the enclosure before the female gives birth.
When do hamsters get fur?
The baby hamsters grow up very quickly and develop their fur coats at about five days of age. By the time these baby hamsters reach two weeks of age, they become the miniature version of their parents.
Two Weeks Old
Starting from this time, the Chinese baby hamsters start drinking and eating on their own. Separate the male babies from the female once the babies reach about three to four weeks of age. You can keep the female babies with their mother till they can find a new home for themselves, at around eight to ten weeks old.
Handling Baby Hamsters
You can start to handle the baby hamsters from around three to four weeks old. Do not handle the baby hamsters before this time, as the mother may reject them due to the scent you can leave on them. When you start holding the babies, they tend to get very nervous at the beginning. However, with continuous gentle handling, they become very accustomed to it rapidly.
Wild Chinese hamsters, like all other wild hamsters, can hibernate during the winter. However, their hibernation is known as permissive hibernation that means these animals can hibernate at any time, be it winter or summer. The Chinese hamsters start hibernation to avoid extreme environmental conditions. Hibernation generally occurs when it is freezing, but it can also happen when it is too hot. The Chinese hamsters can also go to hibernation if there is a severe lack of food.
That is why it’s imperative to look after your hamster, provide it with fresh food and water and place the cage in no expected drafts or near any heating sources, like a radiator. This type of hibernation can be dangerous for captive hamsters because they are not prepared for hibernation.
The Chinese hamsters reach a physical state known as torpor. It is more like a profound sleep than and true hibernation. Such as a bear does. Compared to natural hibernation, torpor lasts only for a short time. The Chinese hamsters can go into torpor for a few hours or even a few days.
The problem with permissive hibernation is that the hamsters do not prepare for it. The danger comes from this trait. If your pet hamster goes onto hibernation for a long time, it can die from either dehydration or hyperthermia. A hamster will stay in the torpor state until the condition improves significantly.
Hamsters are generally considered hardy animals, but a couple of health issues are common among hamsters.
Wet tail is a widespread illness that Chinese hamsters can get. It is a kind of diarrhoea that is generally caused by unhealthy living conditions. Apart from having diarrhoea, your hamster may start to show lethargy and a lack of appetite. If that happens, you should seek veterinary care immediately.
If not treated, the wet tail disease can be fatal. Not only that, it is incredibly contagious and can affect other hamsters living in the enclosure. So if you are housing a couple of Chinese hamsters together, you should put the infected hamster in a separate cage until their health has improved. You should also thoroughly clean the primary cage before putting the rest of the hamsters back inside it. Do not reunite the hamster and the healthy ones if you are not sure they have overcome the illness.
Hamsters are prone to respiratory illness. The common symptoms are nasal discharge, wheezing, lethargy, and sneezing. This problem also requires veterinary treatment.
Teresa has studied canine behaviour and canine nutrition. She loves sharing her knowledge and educating through her articles. Teresa has some pets that she adores two dogs, two cats, and one hamster.