Campbell’s Dwarf Hamster is currently the most common type of dwarf hamster on the pet market. They are prominent personalities in a tiny hamster. Campbell’s Dwarf Hamsters often get a bad rap for biting, but this is usually due to the different needs and handling style preferred by Campbell’s Hamsters vs. the more docile Syrian Hamsters. There are a variety of color mutations among the Campbell’s hamster including the traditional markings of the brown and grey Campbell’s hamster, albino, black-eyed white, grey, fawn and a variety of mottled colors.
Hamster History – The Origins of the Campbell’s Dwarf Hamster
The wild Campbell’s Russian Dwarf Hamster was first discovered in 1902 in Tuva by W.C. Campbell, and are also native to the steppes and semi-arid areas of Central Asia, the Altay Mountains, and provinces of Heilungkiang and Hebei in Northeastern China.
By 1968, researchers were able to find breed Campbell’s in captivity in the United Kingdom and used as laboratory animals. In 1973, a pair of breeding dwarf hamsters was obtained from the London Zoo by a member of a United Kingdom hamster fanciers group and by the 1980’s, they became more widely available on the pet market.
Just The Facts – Campbell’s in a Nutshell
Campbell’s Dwarf Hamsters live an average of 1.5 to 2 years, although some hamsters have lived for as long as four years. They reach adult size at 10-12cm in length with males being larger on average. Domesticated Campbell’s hamsters generally display nocturnal (awake at night, sleeping during the day) behavior or crepuscular (awake around dawn and twilight, sleeping during the day and night) behavior, and are moderately adaptive to the schedule of their human family. Campbell’s dwarf hamsters are omnivores, and their teeth grow throughout their entire lives.
Campbell’s Dwarf Hamsters can live socially with other dwarf hamsters of the same gender if they are raised together from the same litter or introduced at a very young age, although not all Campbell’s enjoy living with other hamsters. It is not recommended to introduce adult hamsters.
Female Hamsters come into heat every 4 days and generally have an 18-21 day gestation period. While the average litter is about eight hamsters, litters of over 15 have been reported.
A Rainbow of Hamsters!
Campbell’s Dwarf Hamsters have been on the pet market for a while, and they come in a variety of color mutations. The original color of the Campbell’s Dwarf Hamster is brownish grey with a lighter belly and a dark dorsal stripe.
Campbell’s Dwarf Hamsters come in a variety of colors and will fall into one of three categories:
1) “Agouti” colors that show the wild markings of a lighter belly and dorsal stripes
2) “Self” colors where the hamster is a solid color all over
3) “Broken Color” where the hamster has either a collar, mottled coloration or spots.
Colors include Black, Argente, Blue Argente, Agouti, Platinum, Blue, Dove, Opal, Chocolate, and Creme.
Bad Rap – The Biting Hamster
Campbell’s Dwarf Hamsters often get a bad rap for biting, and it’s not uncommon to hear them labeled as “mean” hamsters. Campbell’s Dwarf Hamsters are a less forgiving species of handling mistakes than many other hamsters. And require more time and attention to stay friendly and tame than other species of hamsters.
Many Campbell’s Dwarf hamsters also display cage territorial behavior and are more reactive to hands in their environment and more likely to bite under those circumstances.
So what is the owner of a biting hamster to do? If a hamster is biting inside of the cage, using a scoop (either a large soup spoon, an upside down nest box or a similar item that allows the hamster plenty of room to climb on) to remove your hamster from the cage before playtime can help them understand that their space is not being invaded. Don’t use it to scoop up your hamster, instead hold the item at ground level in front of your hamster and allow them to step into it, and then step out of the scoop onto your hand outside of the cage. It will allow your hamster to initiate playtime with you, or to avoid the scoop if they don’t feel like coming out to play.
Hamster still nipping and nibbling outside of the cage? Campbell’s Dwarf Hamsters commonly use their mouth to explore new items, much like a puppy. Be sure that you handle your hamster with clean hands to avoid any interesting lingering smells that might attract your hamster’s mouth. If your hamster is still nipping, rub some Bitter Apple on your hands, and it will often quickly discourage a mouthy hamster.
Faux Paws – The Social Campbell’s Hamster
Not all Campbell’s Dwarf Hamsters prefer to live socially, and even hamsters from the same litter may fight once they reach teenage or later on during their adult years. While there are plenty of hamsters who will live happily through their lives together, there are others that simply prefer to be on their own.
If you are keeping dwarf hamsters together socially, its recommended that you provide plenty of resources to avoid the hamsters fighting. A food bowl that is large enough to accommodate two hamsters at either side or two small food bowls, two water bottles, multiple nest boxes, toys, and wheels can keep a social group of hamsters happy and non-competitive.
Kept socially, Dwarf Hamsters can be very vocal when having social arguments. While their squeaking and screeching can sound like a bad fight, the best rule of thumb is to keep a close eye on them. And separate hamsters if you see that one is being bullied (constantly chased, stayed away from food/water/toys, fur is being chewed) or if one hamster bites another.
Worried about a lonely hamster? Offer them plenty of toys and extra time outside of the time playing with you, and your dwarf hamster won’t feel alone. Many Campbell’s prefer to live on their own rather than share their toys, space, and nest with other hamsters.
Sweet Enough Already – Diabetic Campbell’s Dwarf Hamsters
Campbell’s Dwarf Hamsters may develop diabetes early or later on in life, and it’s important to catch symptoms soon so you can make dietary adjustments to ensure your hamster’s comfort and health.
Signs of diabetes include Excessive Drinking, Excessive Urination, Poor Coat Condition, Lethargy (mild or severe), Low Body Temperature, Shivering, and Temperamental Behavior.
Most drug stores will sell Keto-Diastix Test Strips that you can use to test your hamsters at home. To check your hamster’s diabetes, either you can put very gentle pressure on their abdomen and place the strip at their genitals to get them to urinate onto it, Or you can place your hamster in a plastic container and wait until they pee onto the bare plastic to dip the strip in the urine. The packaging of the strip will have a color chart which will indicate the levels of glucose and ketones in your hamster’s urine.
If your hamster has high ketones, and anywhere from high to no glucose, offer your hamster a 50/50 solution of water and unflavored Pedialyte in their water bottle to help regulate their levels. Pedialyte should be switched out daily, and once the bottle is open it’s recommended that you freeze unused Pedialyte into ice cubes and thaw them as needed.
If your hamster has no ketones and high glucose, you will need to remove all sugar including dextrose, maltose, corn syrup, molasses and other types of sugar.
In any event, a hamster that has the readings of diabetes should be on a high protein, low fat and high fiber diet. You’ll want to either cut or eliminate all sugars, including artificially added sugars and natural sugars present in fruits and vegetables such as corn, peas, carrots, and apples.
Veterinary treatment is available for diabetic dwarf hamsters, although many vets can only confirm the presence of diabetes. A hamster savvy vet may be able to prescribe Glipizide, an orally administered insulin for Type 2 Diabetes. If a hamster is being treated with Glipizide, it is crucial to have your hamster tested at least once a week to monitor its blood sugar levels as Glipizide is hypoglycemic. Due to the risks and stress of Glipizide treatment, it is highly recommended that dietary adjustments are made first before putting a hamster on medication.
There is currently no known cure for diabetes in dwarf hamsters, but with simple diet management, many diabetic hamsters live long healthy and happy lives.
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