The Roborovski's Dwarf Hamster
Roborovski hamsters, often referred to in abbreviated form as robos, are the smallest pet species of hamster. These little hamsters are very speedy, like hamster on caffeine, and often can be quite daunting to handle for a novice hamster owner. Many nickname this little critters as fuzzy goldfish, as quite often the best way to enjoy them as a pet is to set them up in a tank style cage (recommended as their small size often means escapes in wire cages) and watch them interact with each other and their surroundings.
Wheels are a vital part of a Roborovskis cage, they spend a lot of time running, and often they are happier in Syrian sized wheels running with others.
They can live well in colonies of same sexed hamsters, or in same sex pairs. Mixed sex pairs can be done for breeding, though the female can get a bit temperamental to the male. Colonies of females and pairs of females tend to get on less well than male counterparts. This said many breeders have managed this with success, though many more owners end up with one robo to a tank. Though they are social creatures they live a happy life alone in an enriched environment.
They tend to be around 5-8cm in length though I have now had a few males reach the 10cm mark. Their most striking feature other than size is their white eyebrows and whisker marks (not present in huskies) giving them the look of little old men with bushy white eyebrows and moustache.
The roborovski hamsters are the least concerned by food, which is why I despair when I see people advice others to tame their robo by offering food, or even the old chestnut of leaving your hand in the cage till they walk over it. That’s fine if you are not used to hamsters (in which case a Roborovski hamster is maybe not the best choice) but its time wasting and not very productive.
If they do run away from your hand you have one of two options, 1) grab. it’s not as bad as it sounds are works well when they are young, I use the same method there as I do on young syrians etc, put your hand in and quickly dart and enclose your hand totally around the hamster, keeping them just a bit from the tub floor so that if they do ping there is not a big fall 2) use something to get the out of the cage. by putting in a toilet roll, or even something you use for housing to an everyday ladle, put something in there, you will find that if you put it near they will jump in, then you slowly raise them from the tub ( best to always practice robo taming over a tub or a bath lined with towels.
Unless you are very skilled at capturing escaped robos) once they are at a sufficient height put your hand next to the object, to some extent you can encourage them onto the hand but 9 times out of 10 they will run onto it anyway, as it beats sitting still there.
Then it’s a case of keeping up with them one hand after the other, if they are going too fast then simply tighten your hand around them creating a tunnel they run through this slows them down, once they have got used to running on hands the grabbing straight form cage works well.
One very important fact to remember is a robo bite is nothing to fear. Just as anyone who has tamed Syrian babies will tell you, the taming process comes with nips, when they are small these don’t really hurt, at the most they are a bad pinch. Robos stay that size never able to get their jaws properly around you, so unless they get a very good area they will barely harm you at all. Many robos people buy will barely have been handled and this myth about them being a hamster you watch doesn’t help this. I now have had a few robos I took to shows regularly and put in the pet class, so people can see how happily you can grab them out of a cage, how once they get used to it they will sit in your hand, or wait for a hand instead of leaping off. Mine after a lot of time and no fear (you need to build your confidence as much as theirs) will now happily be passed around and are actually more patent than some of my syrians!
A robo will let you know if your are holding them too tight, as any animal be this with a squeak or a nibble, (though it helps to know that they are not nibbling simply as they are unused to handling) be brave over the handling, if you hold them lightly to start off with you will have them pinging everywhere. Soon once they learn you are no threat and it’s really not that bad they start to enjoy being tunnelled along your hands, strokes and as previously mentioned being passed around.
They appreciate extra small seeds to their diet, such as budgie seed, or a millet spray, other than that their care is the same of that of any dwarf. They tend to live for around 2 years, though some do live longer.
Copyright © Anita Workman & David Workman, 2008