Winter White (Phodopus sungorus):

Guide to Species Appropriate Care

Introduction:

The Winter White dwarf hamster (Phodopus sungorus), also commonly known as the 'Djungarian dwarf hamster' or 'Siberian dwarf hamster', is a small species of domesticated hamster measuring at a length of 8-10cm, and weighing an average of 40-60g. The first reports of the Winter White dwarf hamster are found in scientific literature dating back to 1773 , and for a long time they were believed to be a sub-species of Phodopus along with the Campbell's dwarf hamster, and they were referred to as Phodopus sungorus sungorus, while the Campbells dwarf was referred to as Phodopus sungorus campbelli. It wasn't until 1984 that they were officially recognised as entirely separate species, despite reports written much earlier dictating so, and consequently individually became known as Phodopus sungorus (Winter White) and Phodopus campbelli (Campbell's dwarf). Their scientific name, 'Phodopus sungorus', comes from the region in which they are found: Djungaria, a region south of the Altai mountains, hence the other commonly used name for the Winter White being 'Djungarian dwarf hamster'. Alternate spellings of Djungaria include Sungaria - hence 'sungorus' - , and Dsjungaria. The term 'Phodopus' is attached to other hamster species to include Phodopus sungorus, and also Phodopus campbelli and Phodopus roborovskii. This term is derived from the greek words 'phous' (blister) and 'pous'  (foot), and is in reference to the pads on the plantar (bottom) surface of the foot. 

 

Habitat:

The Winter White is native to Russia and Kazakhstan (they can be found specifically in the steppes of south-western Siberia, eastern Kazakhstan, and the Hakisi and Minusinsk Steppes of the Kraznoyarsk Region of Russia along the Yenisey River). For a very long time, they did not share any crossovers in their habitat range with their distant relative, being the Campbell's dwarf hamster, being separated by the Altai mountains. However, more recent map distributions have shown Winter White's inhabiting regions of the Altai mountains indicating that within the last 50 years, the Winter White's habitat range has expanded, to where the two species now share a small overlap in habitat in the Krasnogorski district and at Boyka.  Their habitat preference is also perhaps one of the more diverse of the domesticated species, and they have been observed in dry steppes, wheat fields, alfalfa fields, grassy meadows, and forest regions.

 

The Winter White also experiences a harsh climate and have been observed having moments of activity in temperatures as low as -40C, and have physical traits that reflect this. A unique trait of the Winter White dwarf hamster that separates them from our other domesticated species is their unique ability to turn white in the winter, hence 'Winter White', to allow them to further camouflage within the snow. They also have furred feet, in stark contrast to the bald feet of the Syrian and Chinese dwarf hamsters, that further protects them from extreme surface temperatures. However, their ability to turn white is not influenced by weather as is often commonly believed. Rather, it is influenced by daylight. Shorter daylight hours signal to the animal that winter has come, and so the animal turns white in response (their winter coat also grows in thicker, and slightly longer, to prepare for the colder weather). It is not uncommon for Winter Whites in captivity to either not change into a winter coat at all, or to change into a winter coat in spring rather than winter. This is due to the presence of artificial lighting in the home , or owners keeping their room too dark in other seasons. Their ability to survive harsh climates in the wild also does not mean you should subject your pet Winter White to such extreme temperatures in captivity. In the wild, they only venture out in such extreme temperatures for brief periods, and they also gain weight in the winter months and develop and thicker winter coat and dig their burrows up to 1 meter below the ground, and enter a torpor state where their basal metabolic rate decreases which further gives them the ability to withstand such a harsh climate where they will not only face extreme temperatures but also food shortages. However, if your Winter White hamster is continuously subjected to temperatures <15C, then  they will likely enter into a torpor state as a survival mechanism. As your pet hamster has not prepared to enter such a state in the same way wild hamsters do (by building extensive burrow systems in the wild, and gaining weight), this can be incredibly dangerous. Because of this, it is important that you ensure the room temperature does not drop below 18C.  It is impossible to confuse a dead hamster with a hamster who is in torpor: hamsters who have passed will be stiff to the touch within 20-30 minutes (known as 'rigor mortis'). 

 

 

 

 

 

In the wild, the Winter White has been observed digging burrows at a depth of 32cm-100cm+, where their burrow consists of one main corridor often 1 meter long, of which several tunnels break off into other chambers which allows them to keep their toilet separated from the main hoard and nest of which the latter is lined with nesting materials, including moss, animal fur, and dried grass. While they have been observed digging their own burrows, they have also been observed overtaking the pre-established burrows of other species in preference of building their own, and this behaviour is see relatively frequently in captivity with some Winter Whites showing an intense preference of using a multi-chamber house rather than building their own burrows. Nonetheless, it is viewed as a requirement to offer them deep substrate in captivity to provide them with the option of digging their own burrows if they so wish.

Social Behaviour:

The Winter White is best housed solitary in captivity. In the wild, they are often strict loners having only been observed in pairs or larger groups during breeding season, or during harsh winters, indicating that their social nature in the wild is only as it relates to reproduction and survival tactic. Aside from reproduction and survival, in the wild the Winter White behaves more like a loner, and they have even been observed respecting the territory boundaries of their same sex counterspecifics. Housing them together in captivity provides no benefit to their more solitary nature, and only poses a major risk to their health and wellbeing regardless of the space provided, or knowledge the keeper possesses. As a pet, you should not be breeding your Winter White nor does your pet hamster have to worry about keeping warm to survive the harsh winter. As such, Winter Whites are best kept solitary in captivity and in no circumstances do I advise you attempt co-habbing adult Winter Whites.

Activity:

In the wild, the Winter White is described as both crepuscular and nocturnal and often behave more nocturnal in captivity. This means that they are often not awake until very late at night (10pm-12am) and for this reason are often very poor choice pets for young children, and instead are better suited for teenagers/adults. Sometimes they can be seen venturing out in late evenings (crepuscular) but usually only for brief periods. Whether your hamster behaves more crepuscular as a pet or more nocturnal varies from hamster to hamster. It is important however that if you are not prepared to have a pet who often isn't awake until very late at night, that you reconsider choosing a hamster as a pet. 

Physical characteristics:

Despite being entirely different species, the Winter White dwarf hamster and Campbell's dwarf hamster are still frequently confused with each other today, with many failing to be able to detect the physical characteristic differences between the two. To tell the two apart, I advise you look at the head shape of both hamsters. The Winter White has a more rounded, 'roman nose', while the face of the Campbell's is more pointed and 'mouse-like'. The varieties of Campbell's dwarf that are commonly confused with the Winter White have yellowing in the transition between their side arches and white underside, whereas this trait will be completely absent on a Winter White.  The dorsal stripe is also wider on the Winter White, at least 1mm wider than that of the Campbells. The Winter White also only comes in three officially recognised varieties known as: Agouti, Sapphire, & Pearl whereas there are a multitude of officially recognised Campbell varieties. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hybrids:

Because the species do share similarities, and because they were believed to be sub-species of each other for many years, this has to the creation of the man-made 'hybrid dwarf hamster'. It is important to note that there is no evidence of this occurring in the wild, and is understood to be a sole product of captivity. The Winter White and the Campbells dwarf have the same number of chromosomes, which makes them the only two captive species capable of reproducing and producing viable, fertile offspring. However, one primary issue with this, is that because many fail to be able to differentiate the two species from each other, and because they were believed to be sub-species along with the Campbells for many years, the majority of purebred lines have been destroyed by such improper breeding practices with few true purebred Winter White lines existing today as a result. Due to this, any hamster that physically looks like a Winter White, but does not have recorded lineage to prove so, is assumed to be a hybrid. Individuals that look predominantly Winter White, that is those who show little to no characteristics of a Campbell's dwarf hamster, are typically referred to as 'Winter White Hybrids'. While many hybrids often do lean more heavily to one species more so than the other ('Winter White Hybrids' and 'Campbells Hybrids') this is not always the case, with some individuals being so hybridised that they look like an even mix between the two species. In these cases, these individuals are typically referred to as 'Russian Dwarfs' or simply 'Russian Hybrids'. They are not an officially recognised species, as they are not their own species, and so terms used to describe them vary amongst different people. The breeding of hybrids has also led to the creation of new colour varieties, that are neither officially recognised colour variants of purebred Campbells or purebred Winter Whites. One such notable variety is the 'mandarin' variation. While the origin of the mandarin gene is debated, it has become so popular that even if the lines were ever pure Winter White, any mandarin Winter White available in the pet trade today is guaranteed to be a hybrid. This is further concreted by the fact that there are also several health concerns attached to this mutation (such as increased risk diabetes), and so they viewed as unethical to intentionally produce. More information on the various hybrid colours can be found over here. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Species Appropriate Care:

An important aspect of species appropriate care is understanding how your hamster behaves in the wild. 'Species appropriate hamster care' is beyond simply providing your hamster with natural decor, and calling it a day. It is about understanding your hamsters wild behaviour, as so we can implement certain aspects (as close as captivity is capable of replicating) to captivity, to provide our hamsters with as much of an enriched life as possible. So, now that we’ve discussed aspects of their wild behaviour & natural habitat, along with how to identify your hamster so that you can provide them with the most appropriate care for their species, let’s discuss how to practice species appropriate care for Winter Whites in captivity along with going over various other aspects of care including behaviour, taming, and health.

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Distribution map I created by overlaying the distribution map of Phodopus sungorus and that of Phodopus campbelli that can be found on ICUN red list. The overlap in range is highlighted in yellow.

Agouti Winter White. This is also known as 'Wild Type', and is what the Winter White looks like in the wild. There is some variance amongst the Agouti variety but you will notice the absence of yellow on the side arches. Agouti Winter Whites also have a obviour large dark 'diamond' on the top of their forehead, as seen in the hamster pictured above. 

Agouti Campbell's dwarf. Notice the yellowing on the sides: this will always be absent on a Winter White. Other traits to look for include the more pointed snout compared to the more rounded snout of the Winter White, and also lack of the larger, darkened 'diamond' shape on top of their head along with narrower dorsal stripe. 

Sapphire Winter White, 'Sherpa'. Notice no yellowing on side arches, more rounded snout, and thicker dorsal stripe. Another indication is also the noticeably larger, darkened head marking in comparison the Opal Campbells. This isn't always as obvious on the Sapphire/Pearl variations as it is on the Agouti, but is still present.

Opal Campbell's dwarf. Once again, I will bring your attention to the yellowing on their side. The Opal Campbell's is frequently confused by many with the Sapphire Winter White, but the yellowing on the Opal campbells is often very heavy and impossible to miss. 

female Winter White hybrid, 'Sterling', transitioning to her winter coat. When your hamster is transitioning to a winter coat, they will often look 'patchy' as shown above before eventually turning completely white (however, few make the full transition in captivity). It is important to again clarify that this change has nothing to do with room temperature, and is not an indication that your room is too cold. This change is 100% related to the amount of light they receive. 

Pearl Winter White, 'Nanook'. Pearl Winter Whites are completely white hamsters with a darkened dorsal stripe. They are distinguished by similar coloured varieties of Campbell by their thicker dorsal stripe, and facial features. 

@fivelittlehams

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Winter White Hybrid dwarf hamster, 'Sochi'. The hamster pictured above is an example of 'Mandarin Pearl'. While there are some debates over the origin of this colour, it is now exclusively found in hybrid lines due to improper breeding practices. In hybrids that show primarily Winter White characteristics, as is the case for the hamster pictured above (note the roman nose in particular), we typically refer to these individuals as 'Winter White Hybrid'. This implies that this hamster looks like a Winter White, but does not have lineage to prove purity. Once a line is hybridised, it can never be pure.  

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Sapphire Winter White, 'Oshie'. Note the thicker dorsal stripe and darkened diamond shape on her head. The darkened 'diamond' head marking is a trait of the Winter White.

Opal Campbells dwarf. If you compare this hamster to the Sapphire Winter White discussed previously, you will notice the thinner dorsal stripe and lack of obvious darkened diamond on the head in addition to the yellowing on the side: all of these traits are those of a Campbells dwarf. 

 

Enclosure

Cage size:

Winter White dwarf hamsters, despite their physical size, are still incredibly active animals that require large enclosures that reflect this. Commonly available enclosures in pet stores, or even cages marketed for hamsters online, are often simply just far too small and can cause dwarf hamsters to be become very territorial and aggressive (a behaviour known as 'cage aggression'), bar chewing (which is incredibly dangerous, and can result in permanent damage to the teeth that will require extensive veterinary attention to manage), and smaller enclosures will also need to be cleaned out much more frequently which can cause an immense amount of stress to your hamster. Given the active nature of hamsters, it is advised that you provide them with an enclosure of a minimum footprint of 4,000cm2/620"2. While I say of 'minimum footprint 4,000cm2/620"2', there are only a select few ways you can reasonably achieve this number as it is important to keep in mind the length and width of the enclosure you are choosing, as more narrower enclosures make it very difficult to create an enriching layout for your hamster. Due to this, to make optimum use out of a minimally sized enclosure, I recommend 80cm x 50cm, or 100cm x 40cm. Enclosures <35cm wide should not be considered suitable for housing, regardless of total floorspace of the enclosure, due to the inability to create an appropriately enriching set up in an enclosure so narrow. Winter White dwarf hamsters must also be provided with 4,000cm2/620"2 of continuous floorspace: this number cannot be achieved by connecting smaller enclosures together. Examples of suitable enclosures for Winter White dwarf hamsters include:

Remember: while 4,000cm2/620"2 is considered to be the bare minimum, for the better welfare of your pet, you should always strive for beyond this when possible. The minimum is not a magic happy number that automatically ensures your pet will be happy. If your pet acts visibly stressed in their enclosure (see: BEHAVIOUR), it is a sign that they are not content with their enclosure and a more enriching layout or upgrade to a larger enclosure is necessary. The enclosure should also be placed in a room that experiences natural lighting, but not in direct sunlight or near drafts. 

 

Substrate:

While floorspace is important, it is also important to consider the height of the enclosure you are purchasing to cater for appropriate wheel size + appropriate bedding depth. While in the wild, some Winter Whites have shown a preference for overtaking the pre-existing burrows of other animals (like marmots), it is still important to provide them with ample substrate as so they can create their own burrows if they wish. Minimum substrate depth recommendations for Winter White dwarf hamsters are 16-20cm or 6-8". They should have this depth of substrate throughout at least 1/2-3/4, if not the entirety, of their enclosure to allow them to create adequate tunnel systems if they so wish, and the substrate provided must also be stable enough to hold their burrows (i.e. kaytee soft granule bedding offers poor burrow stability, so it is not an optimum substrate choice to use for this purpose). Pine & Cedar shavings should not be used due to high phenol levels which can cause respiratory distress in small animals, and neither should any scented variety of bedding. The ideal substrate should be low dust, low-no phenol levels, non-scented, and offer appropriate burrow stability. Examples of safe substrate options include:

 

To cater for an appropriate substrate depth + appropriate wheel size, it is recommended that an enclosure for a Winter White dwarf hamster be at a minimum 50cm tall. 

 

Tip: Mixing in a soft grass hay (i.e. meadow hay) in between layers of bedding can also aid in improving burrow stability, and I recommend you be exceptionally generous with it if using a substrate such as *hemp which as a stand alone substrate, does not offer the best stability for burrows. Bedding must also be tightly compacted and not 'fluffed up', as this further improves the stability of the bedding to help prevent your hamsters burrows from easily collapsing. In the wild, their composition of the ground in which they burrow in (i.e. clay) along with the moisture are the main aspects that provides their natural burrows with stability and prevents them from easily caving in. In captivity, we don't have this, so we use hay - to act similarly to roots - along with tightly compacting substrate, to provide their burrows stability in captivity. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The minimum height recommendation I give, being 50cm, is based on minimally sized enclosures (4,000cm2). This is because your hamster needs deep bedding throughout a reasonably sized area in order to create burrow systems (as discussed in the introduction, in the wild the Winter White can dig burrows up to 1 metre in length!). However, if you choose an enclosure that is significantly larger than the floorspace minimum of 4,000cm2, then there is more leeway with the height as with a larger enclosure, you would be able to dedicate a shallow area to cater for the height of a wheel while still dedicating an appropriate sized burrow area. An example of this leeway with height is seen with the IKEA detolf (pictured above). Despite only being 37cm tall, the detolf is large enough to dedicate a large area for burrowing while allowing for a shallower area to fit an appropriately sized wheel. If you are going to use a bendy bridge as a bedding barrier like shown above, please ensure you appropriately secure them before doing so. You can read more about this over here: A Word of Caution on Bendy Bridges. 

Calculating how much substrate is required to fill your enclosure:

To calculate how much bedding you need to fill your enclosure, you need to know the internal measurements of the length + width of the enclosure you plan on filling + the bedding height of which you want you achieve. From this, you then plug these measurements into a simple formula of length (cm) x width (cm) x bedding height (cm) = cm3 of bedding required to fill your enclosure. To get this answer in litres, you simply divide the answer by 1,000. 

Example:

If I have a 100cm x 50cm enclosure and want to fill it with 30cm of bedding:

100cm (length) x 50cm (width) x 30cm (bedding height) = 150,000cm3

If I want this answer in litres:

150,000/1,000 = 150 litres of bedding would be required.

 

It is important to note that when filling a cage with bedding, in order to make it stable enough to hold burrows the substrate must be compacted by pressing it down. As such, if you buy a bag of bedding that claims to expand to 50 litres for example, compacting it down in the cage may only fill it to an average of 30l capacity (or less). For this reason it is advisable to buy an extra bag of bedding than the amount you need. i.e; if you need 100 litres of bedding buy at least three or four (if you want to be extra safe!) 50 litre bags.

Nesting material:

Regardless of whether you choose paper or wood based substrate, your hamster should also be offered a variety of nesting material to nest with. In the wild, Winter White dwarf hamsters have been observed using a wide variety of nesting materials including animal fur, dry grass, and moss. In captivity, there are several safe options you can offer them. These options include:

  • 100% natural dried moss

  • Kapok wool (please see "On the Topic of Kapok: an Informal Discussion")

  • Shredded, non-scented toilet paper

  • Soft grass hays, i.e. meadow hay (Timothy hay can be very course & 'pokey", and I do not recommend you use it).

 

 

Under strictly no circumstances should you use products marketed as 'hamster wool'. 'Hamster wool' is not to be confused with kapok. The fibres of kapok are very thin and brittle, and easily pulled apart and broken. The fibres of hamster wool are long and tough, and are not easily pulled apart or broken and so can wrap around limbs, cutting off circulation, and when accidentally injected can pose a choking hazard. 

Cage cleaning:

If your enclosure is an appropriate size (bare minimum 4,000cm2/620"2 as discussed), and has an appropriate substrate depth throughout at least 1/2-3/4 of the enclosure, and you are using an appropriate substrate, then an entire cage clean is entirely unnecessary. Instead, species appropriate enclosures can often easily be maintained via spot cleaning alone 1-2 times a week. This process involves removing soiled handfuls of bedding and replacing them with clean, fresh substrate. All enclosures should be regularly spot cleaned. If you feel as though your enclosure needs a larger clean, remove 1/3 of the soiled bedding and replace it with fresh substrate. This step however, may not be required by many. Use your eyes & nose when cleaning - if something is not dirty, then don't clean it for the sake of cleaning it. Conducting complete cage cleans is usually entirely unnecessary if you are following the appropriate enclosure + bedding guidelines, and will only cause an immense amount of stress for your hamster (You can read more about this over here). This also applies to completely rearranging cage layouts and likewise, cleaning items in the enclosure. To avoid causing too much stress to your hamster, it is advised that if a cage rearrangement is required, you keep all essential items (wheel, water, and hide) in the same place and only make changes if they are absolutely necessary (i.e. if your hamster is bored, etc - not because you simply want to change the cage theme to match the season, hamsters are not room decorations!). 

If your hamster has passed away or has an illness and you need to conduct a full cage clean, all natural decor can be sanitised by baking it in an oven at 100C for at least 1 hour. Please note that baking any items that are held together via glue will often cause the glue to ooze, and items to fall apart or need slight fixing. This is easy to fix: simply clean off excess glue, and re-apply as necessary. If your hamster passed away without explanation, or has or has passed from an illness, any items that cannot be appropriately sanitised must be thrown away.  Cleaning down the enclosure with a pet-safe disinfectant in the case of a hamster passing is also recommended. For disinfectant, I recommend F-10: this is a veterinary grade disinfectant, and should be used if you have had a hamster pass from unknown causes or from an illness. A 50:50 vinegar:water solution cannot be used as a disinfectant in the case of a hamster passing from disease. I do not recommend the use of bleach either: this is toxic, and if you are not careful, traces can easily be left behind. Please use a veterinary grade, animal-safe disinfectant for the safety of your pet. F10 is very commonly found from reptile speciality shops

"but how do I clean my hamsters burrows without destroying them?"

The simple answer is you cannot. There is no possible way to clean a hamsters burrows without damaging them, or destroying them completely. However, cleaning a hamsters burrows is rarely required. Being exceptionally clean animals, they will clean their own burrows. On average every 4-5 weeks, hamsters will typically push soiled substrate out through the entrances of their burrows to clean them by themselves. When they do this, you can dispose of their bedding they've piled up and provide them with additional nesting material.

 

 

 

Wheels:

Hamsters run for miles in a single night, and so regardless of how large the enclosure is, they should always have an appropriately sized wheel. Wheels provided must be smooth surfaced (i.e. no large, raised rungs!), and of a safe design. Rough surfaced wheels (i.e. barred and meshed) can cause injury to the foot. When these injuries on the foot become infected (as they can easily become, due to the tendency of hamsters to use their wheel as a bathroom!), this cause a painful condition known as 'ulcerative pulimtitis' or more commonly known as 'bumblefoot'. While some cover the surface of meshed wheels with other materials such as tape, etc, other dangers of these wheels include their design. 

 

While having a smooth running surface is important, the wheel must also be of an appropriate size, as too small of a wheel can cause your hamsters back to become arched, and force your pet to run in an uncomfortable running position. The ideal size wheel should allow your hamster to run perfectly straight and in a natural running position with the head level and not being carried above the shoulders. For Winter White hamsters, recommended minimum wheel size is 22cm-25cm, or 9"-11". However, some hamsters may be larger (or smaller) examples of their species. If you wish to assess your hamster as an individual, I advise that you measure your hamsters body length (from tip of snout to tail!) and multiply x 2.5 to find the ideal minimum diameter for your pet. If you want to avoid the possibility of having to upgrade in the event of the wheel being too small and don't have your hamster yet to assess them as an individual, then I recommend you purchase a 27cm/11" diameter wheel: it is practically unheard of for a Winter White to require a wheel larger than this. Examples of recommended safe wheels for Winter White dwarf hamsters include:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note: I personally advise against flying saucers being offered without supervision to hamsters . This is because most flying saucers have a steep slope, and even those that don't are still a circular running track. There is concern that because they are circular, your hamster may overly-favour running in one direction (either clockwise, or counterclockwise) which can lead to an imbalance of muscle development. This is a risk that is heightened with the use of flying saucers that slope at an angle. It is of my opinion that flying saucers cannot be used as replacements for traditional upright wheels, and care should be taken with even offering them as an option alongside a traditional upright wheel. If you offer your hamster both options, and they overly favour the flying saucer, I believe it is best to remove it and use it for supervised playtime fun only. 

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female Pearl Winter White, 'Akira', on 27cm diameter wheel. On an appropriately sized wheel, your hamster should be able to run in a natural running position with the head level and not being carried above the shoulders as demonstrated above. If your hamster is constantly carrying their head above the shoulders when running, the wheel is too small and must be upgraded - a wheel being too small is not always as obvious as a badly bent back.

Enclosure Setup

 
 
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female Pearl Winter White, 'Nanook', collects shredded toilet paper for her nest. I always recommend that hamsters be at least offered shredded toilet paper to nest with.

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being very clean animals, hamsters will typically clean their burrows themselves, as shown

above where one of my hamsters has shoved a mixture of chewed up cork log and soiled

substrate out of their burrow to maintain their own sanitary living space. 

Hides:

An appropriate main hide for a Winter White must have an entrance opening of at least 6cm/ diameter as this is to cater for the increased size of your hamster when their cheek pouches are full. Should a hamster with full cheek pouches run through a diameter much less than this, they may become stuck, or cause injury to their delicate cheek pouches. The main hideout must also be:

  • bottomless & placed on top of the substrate, to allow your hamster to expand off it with their own burrows if they so wish

  • have an easily removable lid that is not treated 

  • be made from a breathable material (i.e. wood or cardboard, NOT plastic!)

  • be non-transparent and not even semi-translucent

  • ideally have multiple chambers (minimum of 2-3) or at least be large enough to allow your hamster to keep their hoard and toilet separated (I recommend 20cm x 30cm minimum)

  • held together via pet-safe glue and be completely free of nails and/or metal staples

It is more ideal for a Winter White to have a multi-chambered hide vs just a large hide as they have shown an intense preference for inhabiting the pre-established burrows of other species in preference of building their own in the wild, so to cater for this preference in captivity, providing your Winter White dwarf hamster with an appropriately sized multi-chamber hide is best. Recommended options to choose from include:

With wooden hides, you can treat the wood with a pet safe varnish (i.e. plastikote brush on craft enamel, rodipet varnish, etc) to protect them from urine, but the lid of the house must be left untreated. This is because varnishing the lid affects the breathability of the material. This can lead to issues with condensation build up, and harbour mould and bacteria growth in your hamsters hoard (and is one of the reasons for why plastic hides are viewed inappropriate). Houses must also be propped up on stilts (i.e. wooden dowels) to prevent them from crushing your hamster if they burrow under them. 

Misc. Enrichment:

While an appropriate sized wheel and hide are important aspects of a Winter White's enclosure, your hamster needs more than a hide and a wheel to keep them happy and allow them to live an enriched life. Hamsters have poor eyesight and so are not stimulated by bright, flashy objects and so instead, we rely on stimulating them via engaging them in natural behaviour (which can be achieved by scatter feeding, providing other foraging opportunities, etc.) and by providing them with a multitude of different textures to explore (i.e different types of natural materials, and digging pits with peat moss). Substrates like corn cob, coconut bark, peat moss, etc. are also otherwise unsuitable to provide as the main substrate in the enclosure as they have a tendency to mould easily, become dusty, or don't offer appropriate burrow stability. But, they can be safely offered in a small area in the enclosure (i.e. in a container for easier management) where they can be easily managed and monitored. Given the diverse habitat range of the Winter White, many of them enjoy digging pits filled with pet-safe soil. It is important to also note that like many rodents, hamsters will often chew anything in their enclosure. It is for this reason that any items made of plastic or other fabric materials are best avoided in favour of items made of natural materials. Examples of appropriate enrichment you can provide your hamster include:

  • Cork tunnels/flats/branches

  • Grapevine 

  • Driftwood (anything labelled as 'mopani wood' is generally best avoided due to high tannin content!)

  • Bamboo root 

  • Foraging opportunities such as wheat sprays, oat sprays, flax sprays, millet sprays, etc.

  • Tunnels such as bendy bridges, willow tunnels, and birch tunnels

  • Scatter feeding instead of bowl feeding

  • Digging pits that can be filled with a different textured substrate such as peat moss, corn cob, coconut peat/bark, etc.

Many natural items (like cork, grapevine, bamboo root, etc.) can fe round in the reptile/aquarium section of pet stores or via reptile/aquarium speciality shops if you do not have access to stores like Zooplus, Rodipet, and Getzoo where these items can also be purchased. 

While in the wild they wouldn't exactly have enrichment like cork tunnels, or bendy bridges, they would have endless space to explore. In captivity, they have limited space and so to make up for this as much as possible, we have to focus on providing them with as much enrichment as possible to make optimum use of the space they have. Cage size and enrichment are not independent from each other: the larger the enclosure you have, the more enrichment you can provide your hamster. However, not all natural products are created equal. There have been reports of items made of coniferous wood leaking resin, despite companies who make these products marketing them as being 'resin-free'. It is for this primary reason that I advise you avoid all products made of coniferous bark in favour of other materials (i.e. hardwood) instead. Other examples of enrichment I advise you avoid for your Winter White include:

  • Any items made of coniferous bark for reasons listed above.

  • Items, excluding the wheel which must be closely monitored, made of plastic (being rodents, hamsters often chew - plastic shards are very sharp, and can cause damage to delicate cheek pouches, are very dangerous if accidentally ingested, and overall provide your hamster with no enrichment and so pose unnecessary risk).

  • Fabric items (i.e. snuggle sacks: hamsters have a natural desire to collect material they view as cosy for their nest via ripping these types of items to shreds often when you are fast asleep and unable to intervene. This can be dangerous as they may expose threads and get them caught in their teeth, nails, etc. Some hamsters don't chew them, but these are a rare exception).

  • Hanging toys such as suspension bridges (Winter White hamsters have very short tails, and are unskilled climbers: these types of toys provide no benefit to them & only pose a risk should they fall).

  • Levels at a height greater than 15-20cm.

  • Any item that is held together via nails or metal staples (as hamsters, like many rodents, often chew things they can expose nails/staples that may cause your pet bodily harm or break/chip teeth).

Sand bath:

Sand baths not only have the added benefit or providing your hamster with a different texture to explore and so are a further form of environmental enrichment, but they are also essential to allowing your hamster to keep their coat clean and healthy. Hamsters, unless medically necessary, should never be bathed in water so instead, we provide them with a sand bath to allow them to bathe instead. For a Winter White dwarf hamster, I advise your sand bath should be at least 30cm x 20cm (or equal footprint) or if you wish to use a circular sand bath, at least 27cm/11" in diameter. Containers that you can use as sand baths include:

 

 

Sand provided must also be fine sand free of larger particles (i.e. small rocks) that may cause damage to the skin and coat when your hamster rolls in it to bathe, be low dust, and be 100% natural sand that is free of any vitamins/minerals (i.e. NO calcium sand!) or added dyes. Bird sand can also not be used as it is too sharp. Examples of safe sand to provide include:

If none of these options are available to you, you can use childrens play sand. However, you must dry the sand before using it (baking it to sanitise is also advisable, and dries out the sand quicker too) and also sieve it to remove larger particles before offering it to your hamster. 100% quartz free sand, or 'meerschaum' (also known as 'sepiolite') is better than 100% quartz sand at absorbing oils from their coats, but either option works perfectly fine. However, if you have a particularly greasy hamster, and quartz sand doesn't seem to help, then I advise you switch to meerschaum. 

Chew toys:

The added bonus of natural enrichment, while not only being of a huge benefit to your hamsters mental & emotional well being, is that is also doubles as a safe chew toy should your hamster take interest in chewing it. Your hamsters food also naturally wears down their teeth so while chew toys in a natural enclosure are not exactly necessary, many hamsters often enjoy them nonetheless as so from an enrichment perspective, they can make a nice addition especially because some hamsters have a preference for chewing more on certain items more than others. You don't need to buy an abundance of 'chew toys' marketed for hamsters in pet stores: having a natural enclosure, an appropriate mix, and offering a few hamster safe twigs is more than adequate. Safe chews to offer your hamster include:

  • Willow twigs

  • Apple twigs

  • Hazelnut twigs

  • Pear branches

  • Dandelion roots

  • Dried plantain  

You can can also offer edible dog chews such as Whimzees, however as these are more of a treat option that more so doubles as a chew toy, I advise you offer these much more sparingly (i.e. once a month). 

Water Bowl or Water Bottle?

Whether you choose to use a water bowl or a water bottle, or even offer both, is completely up to you. To hopefully make that choice an easier one for you to make, let's go over the pros and cons for both.

Water bottle - pros:

  • Keeps water clean and unable to be contaminated easily with bedding or dust

  • Prevents evaporation

Water bottle - cons:

  • Difficult to clean, as you have to take apart a bottle to properly clean the spout

  • The dark spout creates a perfect breeding ground for bacteria if you do not thoroughly clean it (use a q-tip!)

  • Only releases small droplets of water at a time, which can be frustrating to some hamsters

  • The frustration can lead to hamsters biting the spout, which can lead to broken teeth

  • Hamsters who haven't been observed chewing the spout have still broken teeth from the metal ball inside the spout

  • Due to changes in pressure in the bottle, they often stop working or completely empty and soak your hamsters cage

  • Due to how much water they can hold, owners can become lazy and not change them on a daily-every other day basis

Water Bowls - pros:

  • Allow your hamster to drink freely & unobstructed, in a much more natural drinking position

  • Easy to clean

  • There is no metal ball or metal spout to chew, so no risk of damage to your hamsters teeth

  • Ensures your hamster has 24/7 access to water, as they don't leak or randomly stop dispensing water like bottles

Water bowls - cons:

  • Can become easily contaminated with bedding or dust

Ultimately whichever option you choose is a matter of personal preference. Regardless of which option you choose, water should be changed every day or at the very least, every 2nd day. If you choose to use a water bowl, there are some precautions you must take to use one safely. Water bowls must:

  • Be placed on a solid surface (i.e. on top of a house, granite slate, etc) so that they are not easily contaminated with bedding.

  • Be shallow and of a small diameter to eliminate drowning risk (I recommend <8cm diameter)

  • Be either glass or ceramic as so they are not capable of being easily tipped over if your hamster places their paws on the rim of the bowl.

If you choose to use a water bowl, recommended options for Winter White dwarf hamsters include: rodipet bowls, getzoo bowls, trixie bowls, or tea light holders

Main diet:

The Winter White dwarf hamster, as discussed earlier, is more of a 'habitat generalist' and has been observed in a diverse range of different habitats in the wild - from semi-desert, to grasslands. Because of this, they have a higher tolerance for more cereals in their diet as they are frequently found in wheat fields compared to their commonly confused counterpart being the Campbells dwarf hamster, and their diet in captivity can reflect this. However, this is only true as it relates to purebred Winter White dwarf hamsters (which can only be purchased from an ethical breeder, and will typically include certification stating so). Any Winter White that does not have proof of pedigree is assumed to be a hybrid, and so they should be fed a diet that more so reflects the natural diet of a Campbells (they do not differ too greatly, and so species appropriate diet for a Campbells would still be an appropriate diet for a Winter White hybrid!). This is because Campbells are from much more barren habitats, and so consume less cereals, and they are at increased risk of diabetes due to some having a genetic predisposition to the metabolism of carbohydrates. There is there is concern with hybrids that because they are crossed with the Campbells that they may be sensitive to diets high in carbohydrates too from their Campbell side. Furthermore, hybrid hamsters are from unethical backgrounds: the intentional breeding of hybrid hamsters is very much so frowned upon, and so little regard may be put into the genetic health of these hamsters as they are not bred by ethical breeders. While ethical breeders do not breed a hamster that has tested positive for diabetes, unethical breeders do not take this cautionary step. Even some purebred Winter White lines have developed diabetes: one study in particular notes a 10% occurrence (which is quite a significant amount) of hyperglycaemia in certain lines.  Overall you have a hybrid hamster, it is best to treat them as a Campbells, even if they look like a Winter White: that is, avoid the use of 'unnecessary carbohydrates'. If you have a purebred Winter White, you can include more cereals in their diet but they should be whole cereals, and not flaked or refined, as these are broken down more gradually. 

 

An important aspect of species appropriate care is feeding a species appropriate diet. What this means is feeding a diet that replicates the animals natural diet as close as captivity is capable of achieving. A species appropriate diet should be:

  • reflective of the natural diet of the species you are feeding it to (i.e. you cannot feed a dwarf hamster a food for syrians or vice versa).

  • be free of artificial dyes, preservatives, or flavourings.

  • free of added sugars and in the case of Winter White dwarf hamsters, be free of added dried fruits.

  • be free of pelleted extrusion. 

In saying that, I recommend the following mixes for both purebred Winter Whites and Winter White hybrids. 

Some of the above foods do not list guaranteed analysis, and this is because in species appropriate hamster care, there is more focus on providing a balanced diet vs just hitting a certain percentage of protein, fat, and fibre. Of course, this does not imply that the overall guaranteed analysis is not important, as it is, but focus is put on providing a balanced diet as if you focus on this, you really cannot go wrong (similarly to how we as humans do not sit down and calculate the guaranteed analysis of our meals, but rather focus on eating a balanced diet instead!). We ensure a mix is balanced by including a variety of starch and oil seeds, and mixing these at specific ratios (between 70:30 and 80:20 starch:oil for the majority of hamsters) and including animal protein at 5-6% of the total overall diet (though for very young hamsters, or pregnant/nursing females, we typically recommend 7-8%) along with supplementing the diet with fresh food at a minimum of twice a week (safe foods to offer can be found over here). If you buy a species appropriate food this is already done for you, with the exception of foods that do not already include animal protein the diets. Should you buy a mix that does not include animal protein and has noted that it requires you to supplement this yourself, you must first decide how much protein you want to include in the diet (as noted earlier, hamsters <6 months or those pregnant/nursing require more protein their diet). You then need to know the weight of the food you are supplementing (i.e. 500g, 2500g, etc.). Once you know these two things, it is a very easy calculation that I will demonstrate in the example below

Example:

I have bought a 500g bag of food that requires me to self-suplement protein. My hamster is >6 months old, so I wish to have 5% of the diet be protein. 

500g (mix weight) x 5% (protein) = 25g.

Therefore, I must add 25g of protein to my 500g mix.

If you are feeding an appropriately balanced diet, calculating the GA is not necessary. However, if you feel more comfortable knowing the guaranteed analysis, recommended numbers to aim for are between 15-18% protein (hamsters <6 months old, or those pregnant or nursing litters: 18-22% protein), 5-12% fat, 10-15% fibre.  This will not be possible to calculate in a pre-made mix that does not list the GA but if you are purchasing from a reputable company (such as those mentioned), you will not have to worry. If you are making your own food, you can learn how to calculate the GA over here

If you do not have access to the above mentioned mixes, you can check out the Hamingway's food database. If you would like to read more into important aspects of diet & nutrition, along with learning how to make your own hamster food, I recommend my other blog post which can be found over here at Choosing an Appropriate Hamster Food: with an Introduction to Homemade Diets

Forage:

Hamsters, in addition to being scatter fed their main diet, should also have foraging opportunities in the form of dried flowers, leaves, and sprays lie flax sprays and a variety of millets: this allows them to harvest seeds vs simply collecting them, and is a further form of of engaging them in natural behaviour and a form of sensory enrichment by providing them with a variety of textures and scents to explore.

 

Commonly used and recommended foraging opportunities to provide your hamster include:

  • Silver millet

  • Red/yellow millet

  • Flax sprays

  • Dari cob

  • Grass panicles 

Commonly use dried flowers and leaves include:

  • Birch leaves

  • Apple leaves

  • Raspberry & strawberry leaves

  • Marigold

  • Rose petals

  • Chamomile

  • Dandelion

  • Sunflower petals

  • Cornflowers

This is not an exclusive list, but rather jst the most popular used options. For more safe forage items to offer, you can check out mixerama. Other small companies have also started selling foraging boxes internationally. Examples of these include: Tiny Flowers Shop, and Oakwood forest.

Treats:

Many commercially available hamster treats are laden with artificial colourings, flavourings, sugars, and fats. While some are fine with the idea of feeding their hamsters foods like this on the basis of them "just" being treats, we have to take into consideration the physical size of the hamsters themselves. Yoghurt drops may look small to me and you, but they are a huge serving of pure fat & sugar to an animal as small as a hamster that would arguably be the equivalent to you sitting down and eating an entire cake in one sitting. It's not healthy, and it's not doing our pets any favours. They would go just as crazy over a healthier treat option and so we should make an active effort to treat our pets properly; and feeding them a months worth of sugar & fat in one sitting is not the way to do this. Treats don't have to be store-bought, but if you do want to include some store-bought treats in your hamsters diet, they must be free of:

  • Artificial Preservatives (i.e. BHT, BHA, Ethoxyquin)

  • Artificial Dyes (i.e. Yellow #6, Red #40, Blue #2, Yellow #5)

  • Unspecified Animal Protein & Animal By-products (i.e. poultry meal, bone meal, meat & animal derivatives, any animal by-products regardless of if specified).

  • Added sugars (i.e. sugar, molasses, fructose, corn syrup)

  • Treats fortified with vitamins & minerals for any other species but hamsters.

Examples of high quality store bought treat options include:

  • Whimzees dog chews

  • Soopa dog chews

  • Tribal dog treats

  • Barking heads 

  • Cosma snackies/thrive rewards/purebites cat treats

  • Lily's kitchen bedtime biscuits

Of course, treats don't have to be store bought and hamsters will go just as crazy over nuts & seeds such as:

  • Sunflower seeds

  • Pumpkin seeds

  • Safflower seeds

  • Cucumber seeds 

  • Walnuts (you must crack the shell if offering shelled walnuts, as it is too hard for a hamster to break themselves!)

  • Peanuts

  • Cashews

  • Pine nuts

  • Dried fruit such as apple, pear, or banana (offer very sparingly to Winter Whites, i.e. small piece once a month)

  • Insects (i.e. crickets, mealworms, silkworms, waxworms, etc)

It is also important to ensure that any seed/nut/fruit you purchase does not included added salts, flavourings, or sugar. Feed nuts more sparingly due to high fat content! 

 
 
 
 
 
 
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Place bowls on a solid platform so they can't be easily knocked over, or easily contaminated with bedding. I place all of my hamsters water bowls on top of their houses.

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Hamsters need more than just a hide, wheel, and a couple chew toys scattered throughout. Create an enriching layout with natural decor, and provide foraging opportunities with sprays, and scatter feeding. Above photo shows partial view of enclosure housing my female sapphire Winter White, 'Oshie'. 

akira.sand.jpg

Tip: Placing a hide in the sand bath can also allow your pet to feel more secure when bathing, and can also double as a cooler place for them to retreat to in the summer months.

 

Diet & Nutrition:

forage_edited.jpg

female Sapphire Winter White, 'Oshie' foraging for her scattered food mix. Whenever possible, hamsters should also be scatter fed rather than fed from a bowl. This encourages natural behaviour. Hamsters have an amazing sense of smell, so don't worry about smaller seeds sinking into substrate: this just makes it all the more fun for your hamster to find! 

Teeth chattering:

Teeth chattering is a sign of an upset hamster. They do this out of irritation/annoyance, and/or anger. 

Vocalisation:

Hamsters can screech if they have been startled, feel threatened, or in severe pain. It can be very alarming to hear, and if your hamster screeches at you while you are trying to pick them up, or if you have walked by their enclosure, it is best to back off and let them calm down. A hamster who has screeched is likely to bite you as they feel threatened, so back off and let them settle down. If your hamster screeches when they are being handled and are otherwise calm, or when you touch their stomach, this is often an indication that there is an underlying health problem (this is often accompanied by other symptoms, i.e. swollen stomach, pear shaped hamster but not pregnant, excessive discharge, etc) and a vet trip is necessary. 

Occasionally hamsters will make occasional slight vocalisation, that can sound like a very quiet 'chirp': this is not very common, though can happen very rarely. However, if your hamster is making slight squeaks accompanied by a 'clicking' sound that is persistent, please seek veterinary treatment immediately. Your hamster likely has a respiratory infection or is in pain, and this requires immediate veterinary intervention. There is no home remedy for respiratory infections: please do not try and treat a hamster with a respiratory infection at home with thyme tea. This does not work, and simply masks symptoms rather than actually treat the infection. A hamster with a respiratory problem needs antibiotics, not a herbal tea. 

Monkey barring & Wall surfing:

Monkey barring is a stereotypical behaviour, and is not a result of your hamster simply enjoying climbing. Hamsters are terrestrial animals, and monkey barring is abnormal behaviour and is a direct result of their environment. Monkey barring is a reflection of your hamster being unhappy with their enclosure. Even if your enclosure is above the minimum size, your hamster may still be unhappy with their environment. If changed up their enclosure and adding more enrichment does not help, it is a sign that a larger enclosure is necessary. 

Wall surfing is the equivalent to monkey barring, but for non-barred enclosures (i.e. glass tanks, bin cages, or wooden enclosures). It is when a hamster stands on their hind legs, and 'clambers' at the walls of their enclosure looking for an escape route. Likewise with monkey barring, this is a reflection of your hamster being unhappy in their enclosure, and if a change in layout does not eliminate the problem, then an upgrade to a larger enclosure is necessary. 

Bar chewing:

Bar chewing is a stereotypical behaviour, and can bring with it major health consequences. Hamsters who relentlessly bar chew can suffer broken or chipped teeth, or bar chew so excessively that they their teeth get pushed further up into their skull. It can also cause other minor issues like 'bar burn', where the hamster experiences hair loss around the nose from chewing the bars, but is nonetheless a very dangerous behaviour that must be stopped immediately. 

Rubbing lemon juice on the bars, or blowing in your hamsters face, should never be recommended as 'treatments' for bar chewing. Punishing a hamster for being unhappy in their enclosure is simply inhumane, and they do not have the mental capacity to understand that they will receive a punishment if they chew their bars. The only 'treatment' for bar chewing is to upgrade your hamster into a larger enclosure, with more enrichment. Once a hamster starts to bar chew however, it some cases it can become a bad habit regardless of environment. For this reason, it is advisable to choose an enclosure with no bars for a hamster who has exhibited this behaviour. 

 

Health check up:

Hamsters are prey animals and so often hides signs of illnesses before it's too late. Because of this, it is important to perform regular check ups on your hamster to ensure they're in tip-top shape, including weighing them on a regular basis. As hamsters are prey animals who often hide any signs of illness, the first indicator that something is wrong is weight loss - but this is not always very apparent before it has rapidly progressed. As such, it is important to weigh them regularly as so you get a feel for what is normal weight fluctuation for them, and what is not. To do this, you can pick up a very cheap kitchen or pocket scale online or in the baking section of stores. For accuracy due to how small dwarf hamsters are, I recommend scales that weigh to the nearest 1/100th of a gram (i.e. this scale). Other important aspects of a hamster health check up include:

 

  • Eyes: should be clear and bright, with no discharge or redness.

  • Teeth: should be yellow and even (white teeth in hamsters are a sign of stress!)

  • Rear: should be clean and dry 

  • Ears: clear and free of discharge 

  • Coat: free of balding spots (though thinning fur is normal in senior hamsters)

  • Nails: short, and not curling 

  • Nose/Mouth: clear, dry, and free from discharge 

  • Scent gland clean, and not blocked 

It is also important to assess your hamsters overall body condition to ensure that they are maintaining a health weight, and are not anorexic or obese (which can seriously jeopardize their health!). Winter White dwarf hamsters are naturally round, but they should not be overly-so. The average body weight for Winter White dwarf hamsters is 40-60g. I must reiterate that this is the average weight range: hamsters outside of this weight range does not necessarily imply that they are over/underweight. However, while there are some larger individuals (and some smaller individuals!), if your Winter White is 75g+, there is a high likelihood that they may be overweight.  If they are <30g at 6 months old or older, then they are either very small or underweight. 

Male or female:

While in Syrian hamsters it is the female who is the larger and has more of an 'odour', in the Phodopus species it is the opposite. That is, it is the male who is the larger, more 'muskier' scented of the two. To sex a Winter White dwarf hamster, gently cup them in one hand and turn them on their back as pictured or a much easier, alternative option is to put them in a clear glass container. The gap between their sexual organ and anus is what you are looking for: there is a noticeably wider gap on males than females.

Also unlike with Syrian hamsters where their scent gland is on their flanks, the scent gland that Phodopus species, including Phodopus sungorus or the Winter White, use to mark their territory is located on their ventral side on their abdomen. How obvious the scent gland is is not dependent on whether the hamster is a male or female (though it is often most prevalent on males), but I do advise regularly checking the scent gland to ensure that is is not clogged, as this can be a problem some very senior hamsters experience. In the case your hamsters scent gland is blocked, you can use a q-tip soaked in warm water to gently clean the area. 

Earwarts:

Warts can occur in any species, but appear to be particularly common amongst Winter Whites and Winter White hybrids. Warts are often harmless, if just a little unsightly. In some cases they can be easily removed, but in other cases they are inoperable or even come back after removal. So long as the wart does not grow to a large size or interferes with your hamsters quality of life, or do not appear to be irritated/bleeding, warts can often be simply left alone. Discuss with a veterinarian as to what the best choice will be for your hamster. 

Diabetes:

Diabetes in dwarf hamsters is more often caused by genetics than bad diet (while a poor diet can certainly speed up the process and cause increase risk, whether or not a hamster is diabetic is not necessarily a reflection of diet). Winter Whites in particular are most frequently used as animal models for non-obese type 2 diabetes, though ethical breeders are always testing their breeding hamsters for diabetes and consequently, phase out any line that tests positive to eliminate high risk from their lineage. However, as discussed earlier, there are few true purebred Winter White lines and so many of the Winter Whites available in the pet trade are hybridised and unless you purchased the hamster from an ethical breeder, it is practically a guarantee that your Winter White is a hybrid. The issue with this is because they are viewed as unethical to breed, no ethical breeder works with them and so any hybrid - which is any Winter White dwarf hamster without proof of pedigree - is produced by an unethical breeder who is not breeding to better health of the species, and so these individuals may be at subsequently higher risk of developing the condition as unethical breeders do not take care with ensuring that they are not breeding diabetic individuals, or individuals from lines that have experienced high incidence of the disease. Due to this, if you have a hybrid hamster, it is advisable to take precautions with their diet and to not feed them any foods with added sugars, or excess carbohydrates. While as discussed earlier, diabetes is more often that not genetic, we take dietary precautions in the hopes that it will help in the delay, prevention, or severity of disease. Symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Excessive thirst

  • Excessive urination 

  • Anorexia in severe cases

  • Sickly sweet smelling urine

If you suspect your hamster is diabetic, diagnosis can easily be made at home with the use of a quick dipstick test. Purchase keto-diastix testing strips (these can be found online, or via a pharmacy) and place your hamster in an escape-proof plastic container (i.e. bin cage) with no substrate. If your hamster does not pass urine within 15 minutes, put them back in their enclosure and try again later. Once they have passed a sample, take your dipstick and dip it into the sample. Use the colour key provided with the testing kit to interpret the results.  If your dipstick test reads positive for glucose, your hamster may be diabetic and you need to make a vet appointment to discuss treatment options. 

If your hamster tests negative for diabetes, but has any of the symptoms of a diabetic hamster that influenced you to test them, please seek veterinary attention immediately. 

Stargazing:

Stargazing, as it is often called, is a neurological condition that can vary in its severity along with symptoms. Stargazing can occur in any species of hamster, but it is most prevalent amongst poorly bred hamsters i.e. Winter White hybrids. As hybrids are always from unethical sources, the potential for neurological problems - while not common - are important to keep in mind. A common symptom of  'stargazing syndrome' is when the hamster stands on their hind legs, looks up ('stargazing') and subsequently falls onto their back. It is a repetitive behaviour, and not just something that happens once or twice. Other symptoms of stargazing can include: wobble when walking, or a hamster spinning in a very tight circle (I describe it as like a 'tornado'). Neurological conditions like stargazing interfere with the animals quality of life, and hamsters diagnosed with severe forms of these conditions will require a simplified layout that is still large enough and enriching (as boredom can worsen severity of symptoms) that will cater for their mobility problems & allow them to spin without  injuring themselves by bumping into objects. If the hamster can otherwise eat, drink, and groom normally, and does not spend every waking moment spinning in a tight circle, then these individuals can often go onto lead otherwise 'normal' lives with some adjustments in their care. It is often much more distressing for you as an owner to witness than it is for the hamster themselves to experience, as they have learned to adapt with this way of life.

 

One such adjustment to the care of a hamster with a severe neurological problem is their frequent inability to safely use a wheel, for example. However, they can still be provided with out of cage time to allow them to safely exercise this way. It is also important that you closely monitor a hamster diagnosed with a neurological condition for worsening of symptoms. It is not uncommon for symptoms to worsen over time and interfere with the hamsters ability to eat and drink as normal and in these cases, euthanasia must be considered. It is also important that you do not confuse a hamster with an underlying genetic neurological disorder as one with an ear infection, as the symptoms can be similar. Because of this, a vet visit is always recommended to rule out potential other underlying causes for your hamsters behaviour. 

Aggression:

Winter Whites are not known for being aggressive, but this doesn't mean that it's not a problem that you may potentially encounter. An aggressive Winter White can be a simple case of an untrusting animal who is not tame or who has been previously severely mishandled and so is defensive around humans, but it can also be caused by other problems. Cage aggression is one such problem that may be a cause of severe aggression, and is a behaviour exhibited when hamsters are housed in too small of an enclosure. This leads to them becoming very territorial over their enclosure, and subsequently becoming fixated on attacking anything that comes within close proximity. If you fear your hamster may be cage aggressive, try upgrading the enclosure and providing a more enriching layout, and start the taming process all over again. If this does not ease the aggression, and your hamsters still acts obsessively aggressive towards you, your hamster may have an underlying neurological problem that is causing them to act in such a manner. Should this be the case, there is no treatment for this sort of aggression. In some cases, an upgrade to a larger, more enriched enclosure can help lessen the severity of the aggression even if it is neurological and not a case of cage aggression. 

Hybrid dwarf hamsters:

Hybrid dwarf hamsters are hamsters that are the product of crossing a Winter White (Phodopus sungorus) with a Campbell's (Phodopus campbelli). We refer to these hamsters as 'hybrids' as the Winter White and Campbell's dwarf hamster are two completely different species, however they are similar enough which allows them to procreate and produce viable, fertile offspring. It is important to note that this would never happen in the wild, and hybrid hamsters are widely considered unethical to intentionally breed for as due to the difference in head shape between the two species, it can lead to birthing complications for the female. However,  other concerns with the intentional breeding of hybrid dwarf hamsters is the increased risk for health problems. 

I surveyed 169 hybrid dwarf hamster owners. Of this sample size, 53% said that their hybrid dwarf hamster experienced no health problems that could be associated with the hamster being poorly bred. The remaining 47% said that their hybrid dwarf hamster did experience health problems that they believed to be associated with the hamster being poorly bred. 78% of those who said that their hybrid hamster experienced a health problem that they believed was due to poor genetics stated the health issue experienced by their hamster. The breakdown of those health issues experienced was:

  • Cancer: 32%

  • Unexplained sudden premature death (<1 year): 17%

  • Diabetes: 13%

  • Stargazing: 13%

  • Eye issues (abnormally small/large eyes, early onset cataracts, etc.): 8%

  • Unexplained obsessive aggression/obsessive behaviour: 7%

  • Organ Failure: 6%

  • Dental issues: 4%

This survey was conducted via instagram poll, so please take it with a grain of salt. It is not specific to Winter White hybrids, and includes Campbell hybrids. While effort was made to eliminate false results, it is not flawless.

While a hamster being a hybrid doesn't guarantee health problems, and likewise a hamster being a purebred doesn't guarantee it to be exempt for experiencing health problems, it is important to keep in mind that any animal from an unethical source (as hybrids always are) is at increased likelihood for health issues. As with any animal, you should have a vet fund set aside and have access to an exotic vet prior to bringing your hamster home. I recommend at least €250 per hamster. This will cover you for the majority of common health emergencies (i.e. respiratory infections, tumour removal, etc.) but of course, prices will vary from country to country. While having a vet fund is not exactly necessary, it will help lessen the financial hit should you have to deal with multiple costs at once. 

Keeping hamsters cool in warm weather:

If the temperature in your room exceeds 24C, your hamster is at risk of heat stroke. To help keep hamsters cool in warm weather you can:

  • Use a fan, but do not point it directly on your hamsters cage.

  • Dampen a towel in cold water, and drape it over part of your pets enclosure.

  • Chill sand in a fridge and offer it your hamster in a container, you can also place a hide in the chilled sand to offer them a place to sleep.

  • Similarly, you can offer them ceramics that have been chilled in the fridge for a few hours.

  • Granite tiles also offer your hamster a cool place to lay on if they feel too hot.

  • Open the windows, but pull the curtains/blinds so that the room is not further heated by the sun.

DO NOT ever pour cold/ice water on your hamster to cool them down. This will drop your hamsters body temperature too rapidly, and can kill them. 

Keeping hamsters warm in cold weather:

If the temperature in your room drops below 15C, your hamster is at risk of torpor. It is advisable to keep your room temperature at >18C to eliminate risk of torpor. To help keep your hamster warm in winter you can:

  • Offer them plenty of bedding to burrow (>15cm, though deeper is better!).

  • Offer them plenty of nesting material (i.e. shredded toilet paper).

  • Invest in a room heater if possible.

DO NOT use heat lamps or heat mats that are not hooked up to thermostats. These items are rarely necessary but if they are, please use them safely. Heat lamps/mats are a fire hazard if incorrectly used, and if not hooked up to a quality thermostat can overheat your hamster and kill them. If you do use a heat lamp or heat mat, please position them at either the extreme left or extreme right of the enclosure. This is to allow your hamster to escape the heat if they want to. Please know the difference between a thermometer and a thermostat.  A thermometer will simply measure the temperature, however while they are not 'as' important as a thermostat, these are important nonetheless to check that your thermostat is not malfunctioning and is set properly. A thermostat can be set to a desirable temperature, and it will control the heat source by turning off the heat source once the desirable temperature is reached (to prevent overheating), and turning it back on when the temperature drops out of the desired range. I recommend using a heat lamp over a heat mat: heat naturally comes from above, not below. Please also use a non-light emitting heat source (i.e. Arcadia Deep Heat Projector, or Ceramic Heat Emitter). DO NOT use red or blue light bulbs. While hamsters cannot see the colour red, they can still see the light these bulbs emit and they will disrupt your hamsters natural sleep cycle.

Behaviour:

Dwarf hamsters have a preference for more tiny seeds in contrast to the Syrian hamster, and so their diet should reflect this. For a Winter White, offer 1 teaspoon every day, or 1 tablespoon every 2-3 days. Adjust according to your hamsters individual requirements!

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female Pearl Winter White, 'Akira', foraging for flax. Flax sprays are a beloved forage item by many hamsters!

Health:

 
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ceramics stay cool in warm weather, and can offer your hamster a cooler place to sleep should they feel too warm in their burrows. Ceramic tealight holders/wax burners are often the perfect size for small dwarf hamsters!

Accidental Pregnancy:

It is an all too common occurrence for owners to bring home one hamster, and get more than they bargained for. If you suspect your Winter White hamster is pregnant, the first step is to not panic! 

If you are housing your Winter White in a large, natural enclosure, it is recommended that you move them into a smaller, more basic enclosure (a commonly used option is an IKEA Samla bin). This makes it easier for you to monitor the pups, but it also makes it less likely for them to stray too far from the nest or become abandoned by the mother, and is overall believed to help lessen the risk of something going wrong. The gestation period for Winter White dwarf hamsters is typically 21 days. Though there are some reports of an earlier gestational period of 17-18 days, 20-22 days seems to be the most common for the majority of females. Pregnant hamsters requires additional protein supplementation in their diet and it is recommended to feed them a diet closer to a protein content of 20-22% (remember: just as too little protein is bad, too much is also!). To supplement protein, you can increase the insect portion of your hamsters diet. For reference, as discussed under Diet & Nutrition, Winter White hamsters are typically fed diets consisting of 5% animal protein. For a pregnant/nursing female, and very young hamsters (her pups), it is recommended to increase the overall percentage to 8%. Other commonly used forms of protein supplementation include cooked chicken or turkey. 

 

3-5 days before your hamster is due (the nipples will become more obvious and apparent when your hamster is close to birth), ensure the enclosure is clean as you won't be able to do much cleaning for the next 2 weeks to minimise the risk of upsetting the mother, which can in turn lead her to cannibalise her young. Should this happen to you, don't beat yourself up over it: even if you ensure she is kept in a quiet room with minimal disturbance, some females will still cannibalise their young. They do this if they feel they are sick, in danger, or simply because they just were too young themselves to raise a litter. If possible, move the enclosure to a quiet room in the house, to further minimise disturbance to the mother and keep the overall set up of your enclosure basic: the last thing you want is a hamster giving birth in a tight fitting tunnel! You must also remove the wheel, and it is advised that you keep it removed until the pups are around 2-3 weeks old. 

At 2 weeks old, this is when all the pups should have their eyes open. It is at this time that it is generally considered that you are out of the immediate danger of the mother cannibalising her young, and so this is when you can clean the enclosure. At 4 weeks old, the pups should be separated according to sex. Many breeders advise  keeping the pups together in same-sex groups for as long as possible (i.e 6-8 weeks) as this is an important time during which they learn from each other. Rough play is normal pup development, but if you feel as though they are being overly rough with each other, then separate them as you deem fit. 

If after 24 days your hamster does not give birth, or if your hamster looks pregnant but you know that it's not possible, please seek veterinary attention immediately: there may be an underlying health issue that is causing your hamster to be bloated. 

Please note that you should never intentionally breed your hamster if you are not financially prepared to deal with a medical emergency, and if you do not possess extensive knowledge of genetics, health, temperament and behaviour of the species you are breeding. Breeding without being financially prepared for expensive medical bills, and breeding without full understanding of the animals of which you are trying to breed, is reckless and could produce severely deformed young or even kill your female. 

Senior care:

Hamsters are typically considered seniors when they are >18 months old. It is typically between the ages of 18-22 months that you will notice your hamster ageing. Common symptoms of ageing are fur thinning, and gradual weight loss.

 

It is important however to not confuse symptoms of other signs of illnesses as symptoms of ageing. If your hamster is suddenly and rapidly losing weight, or has thinning fur accompanied by itching or red irritated skin, please get your hamster seen by a vet immediately regardless of your hamsters age as these are different to the weight loss & fur thinning naturally experienced by ageing hamsters. 

 

Typically, no major changes to their care will be required, but some older hamsters may have difficulty grooming themselves, or have some mobility issues with arthritis. In these instances, you can aid your hamster in grooming by using a warm, slightly damp cloth or cotton pad and aid them in the areas necessary (i.e. around their rear, or scent gland).  In the case that your hamster has mobility issues, a decrease in cage size is not often necessary but rather simplify the layout to make their enclosure easier for them to navigate. They can still have enrichment (i.e. cork logs) but if your hamster is experiencing mobility issue, it is best to keep any enrichment provided all on one level (i.e. remove all levels, leave cork tubes laying down and avoid stacking them, etc.) and keep all their essential items within close proximity (i.e. keep the house, wheel, water, and food within close proximity to each other vs having them on opposite ends of the enclosure). You may also consider starting to bowl feed a hamster with mobility issues to make their food easier to access. If your hamster has severe arthritis, seek a vet for advice on how to make their life more comfortable.

Choosing where to get your Winter White:

While hybrids are not guaranteed to get health problems, and likewise purebred Winter Whites are not guaranteed to go without them, please avoid supporting the intentional breeding of hybridised dwarf hamsters by choosing rescue/adoption, or going through ethical breeders instead and avoid purchasing hamsters from pet stores and likewise smaller scale, backyard breeders. I will always encourage you to 'Think Adoption First' and to give a home to an animal in need. You can find a handful of rescue organisations over here. If you are looking for a breeder, find a hamster forum or join a facebook group for hamsters in your country and if ethical breeders are available, they can point you in the direction of where to find them (these groups can also suggest rescues for you too). Remember: any breeder can claim they are ethical, but that doesn't mean they are. I will go over the questions you should ask a breeder to ensure the hamster you are purchasing is ethically bred:

Q: What is the lineage of this hamster, and/or what breeders do you have connections with?

Ethical breeders will work with different hamsterys, and so the name of other hamsterys will be in their lineage/be their connections. i.e, "fivelittlehams hamstery". 

Q: How many times do you breed your female in her lifetime?

Female hamsters should have a maximum of 3 litters in their lifetime. 

Q: Can I see housing conditions of your hamsters?

Breeders are not exempt from providing appropriate housing conditions for their hamsters! Some will use the excuse that they are breeders so can't be expected to meet these criteria - this is FALSE. Only rescues should be given a pardon with housing standards (to a degree). Breeders who choose to bring more animals into this world should not. They must house their animals in species appropriate set ups. While some may not let you see their hamstery in person due to concerns some may have with cross contamination, they should at the very least show you photos of their setup.

Q: What is your goal you hope to achieve by breeding?

Ethical breeders breed to improve the health and temperament of the animals we love. If the breeders  answer does not include 'to better the health and temperament', then they are not ethically breeding. 

In the case of Winter Whites, please ensure your breeder is working with purebred lines. Ask to see the hamsters pedigree if you want to be sure, which they should not have a problem with showing.  Please also ensure that they are not working with any problematic mutations (such as hairless or chushy). You can read more about why these genes are problematic over here: Choosing Where to Get Your Hamster: Adopting vs Shopping & Problematic Hamster Mutations. 

Taming:

Winter Whites are typically very curious, outgoing hamsters and so are generally easy to tame. As I am writing this care guide as it relates to species appropriate care, I will be writing this taming advice in terms of hamster-led taming. This is when taming proceeds at the animals pace, rather than being forced upon by the owner. To make things easier to understand and follow, I will break this process up into a series of steps. The following steps all take place within the hamsters enclosure unless explicitly stated otherwise. I believe the best results for taming an untrusting hamster are achieved by keeping them in the environment that they are most comfortable in: being their enclosure. It is for this primary reason that I discourage 'bathtub' bonding, or putting untrusting hamsters in playpens for the purpose of taming them. While these are fine means of exercise for your hamster, I prefer a more 'hamster-led' taming approach in an environment where your hamster is most comfortable; being their enclosure.

Step 1 - Let them settle:

It is important that when you first bring your hamster home, you allow them to settle down before interacting with them. After all, they've just moved to a new place, with new people, and they don't know where they are or who you are. You will receive a multitude of different opinions as to just how long you should leave your hamster settle without any interaction, with some even advising you leave them alone for 5-7 days, but I disagree with this more extreme way of approaching taming. Instead, I advise leaving your Winter White completely alone for  24-48 hours. 

Step 2 - Earning their trust: 

While to some 24-48 hours might seem far too soon, this is actually a fairly common method of taming for many different species and is a method I practice with Winter Whites in particular. When you bring an animal into a new environment, you want them to understand that in this new unknown you are somebody they can trust, not fear. The first step to gaining a hamsters trust is by getting them comfortable around you. To do this, it is very simple: hand feed them some healthy treats (i.e. seeds!) as this way your hamster will make the connection with you being someone who offers them their favourite snacks, and not someone they need to be fearful of. When you are hand feeding your hamster, you can gently pet them while they're eating. If they stop eating and turn to look at your hand; stop petting them, but don't pull away. Hamsters are naturally very curious animals and once they've examined what they were curious about, they'll usually go back to doing whatever they were doing prior to the distraction. This is also important for them to learn what your hand is, so they can learn the difference between human fingers and a treat. When your hamster resume eating, you can resume petting. If they walk away, then leave them alone but sit next to them and talk to them gently as this will further aid in getting them more comfortable with your presence. This step is the one of the building blocks of the taming process, and for Winter Whites can take an average of 7-10 days before your hamster is ready to progress to the next step. 

Step 3 - Building trust:

Once you feel as though your hamster is more comfortable with hand feeding and you gently petting them, you can place food on the palm of your hand. I don't encourage doing this in the previous step, as the previous step is intended to get them more comfortable with your hand and also to help them learn the difference between food and fingers, making them less likely to bite your palm during this step. This step also allows  your hamster to get more comfortable with your hand, and they will often step up and it on your palm while eating. I also encourage gently petting your hamster during this process. I advise repeating this step for at least 5-7 days before proceeding.

 

Step 4 - Introducing your hamster to handling: 

After completing step 3, your hamster should in general be more comfortable with stepping up onto your hand either with or without the encouragement of food so we will now progress onto handling. Place your hand inside the enclosure, and when your Winter White hamster hops onto your palm, raise your hand approximately 10cm off the ground of the enclosure. You can pet your hamster, or offer them treats during this time. If they look like they want to get down, then place your palm on the ground and allow them to walk off. Many will come back out of curiosity, in which case you are free to repeat this process how many times a day your hamster is willing to participate. If you feel your hamster is ready, you can also introduce them to pay time during this step. When they step up, if you have a playpen within very close proximity, you can then transport them to their playpen. This can also further establish a positive relationship with your hamster, as they will learn to associate you with someone who allows them out to play. 

This is the taming method that I practice with my own Winter Whites, that I have used to tame the Winter White hybrids I have owned since 2015. It is not a bible, it is just my own personal preference for taming that I have found works best for me. It is also not guaranteed to have you a tame, outgoing hamster - some hamsters prefer little to no human interaction, and no taming method will change that. Regardless of which taming method you choose, it is important that you don't force your hamster to interact with you if they do not want to. Under strictly no circumstances should you also ever disrupt a sleeping hamster for the purpose of wanting to 'play' with them, regardless of how tame your hamster is. Hamsters are naturally crepuscular and nocturnal, and frequently lean more heavily towards the nocturnal side in captivity. This means they are often not awake until 10pm-12am. If this is not something you are willing to deal with, then do not get a hamster. Reducing the use of artificial lighting in your hamsters room and allowing the room to be dark when it is supposed to be dark can help encourage your hamster to come out earlier (closer to 10pm), but it is not a guarantee. Remember all animals are individuals, and that this guide is written based on my personal experience. While taming is incredibly beneficial for health checks and vet visits and can make these times less stressful for the hamster to experience, some hamsters just do not want to be tamed - and that is okay! If you are not willing to care for an animal that does not follow the expectations you have for them, perhaps they are not the right pet for you. Human interaction should never be forced.

Handling:

Winter White hamsters are generally easily handleable hamsters. They are small, and so even if they try to squirm from your hands, they are relatively easy to restrain/hold compared to the larger Syrian hamster. Winter Whites are known, are are popular for, their ease of handleability and generally calm demeanour. However, it is important to note that while being easy to hold and friendly are traits the Winter White is known for, it does not necessarily imply that every single Winter White will adhere to this stereotype. Furthermore, it is important to stress that hamsters overall will not often appreciate being held for anymore than 1-2 minutes. They prefer exploring, and are not a pet you should get if you want something to hold and cuddle. If you are not prepared or are unwilling to deal with a hamster who may not be handleable at all, it is then important to assess the hamster individually before bringing them home.

To pick up your Winter White, there are two popular methods of doing so. I am going to refer to these two methods as "the scoop" and "the claw". 

The "scoop method":

To use the scoop method to pick up your Winter White, cup your hands around the hamster and gently scoop them up. 

 

 

To use the claw method, you are quite literally going to shape your hand into a 'claw', as shown below, and pick up your hamster as shown. I do not advise you use the claw method with un-tame hamsters, or hamsters who are not familiar with you. Hamsters are prey animals, and the claw method is similar to how a bird of prey will pick them up and may cause your hamster to startle and bite in defense. However, tame hamsters can be unbothered by this method as demonstrated by my own Winter White hybrid, Oshie, below:

If you are transporting your hamster to a different area, or if your hamster is perhaps more squirmy or does not like to be handled, then you can use a mug or similar container to transport them from one area to another. These containers are affectionately known as "hamster taxis" and can take the form of measuring jugs, mugs, or even tupperware. Coax them into the container, and then transport them as necessary. It is advisable to use a hamster taxi if you are transporting your hamster to a different area of the room, or to a different room of your house. Even very tame hamsters can spook, and this just offers a further means of ensuring safety of your pet.

Exercise balls, hamster leashes, and playpens:

Hamsters have very poor eyesight and rely heavily on their sense of smell and touch for general direction and overall stimulation. In a ball, they can't interact with their environment at all thus it is not only providing them with absolutely no enrichment at all, but it's also an extremely disorienting experience. The animal often runs the ball full speed into every single object in its path, which can be incredibly dangerous to the animal inside as they're tossed around and often have difficulty bringing the ball to a complete stop. The ventilation slits are not only completely inadequate ventilation, but they pose a risk to little toes & nails - those ventilation slits can (and have) rip them, and there have been cases of broken toes. 

Hamsters and leash are two words that do not belong in the same sentence. They are notorious escape artists. To get a leash tight enough in order to prevent your animal from being able to manoeuvre itself to escape, would not only be incredibly uncomfortable for the hamster, but would require just one quick move by the animal to potentially cause itself devastating injury. They are very small, fragile bones - and it does not take a whole lot of force to break them. One quick dash, the short leash runs out of slack, and you will be incredibly lucky if your hamster escapes with no injuries. If the leash isn't tight enough, other areas of concern include the animal chewing their way to freedom, or simply just escaping from the harness and getting lost. Regardless, there is too much risk associated with these leashes that they are best avoided.

Hamsters must have either access to a hamster-proofed room to exercise, or a secure large playpen to explore. Out of cage time is supposed to be an stimulating experience, and a chance for your animal to explore & for you to provide more enrichment. Regardless of if you claim to have a ball with adequate ventilation and ensured your hamster could not bump into obstacles, this simply just cannot be achieved by locking them in a ball. In absolutely no circumstances should exercise balls (or hamster leashes!) be considered suitable for hamster use; they serve no benefit, and only pose as a safety risk.

Overview:

  • Solitary housing.

  • Cage size minimum guideline is 4,000cm2/620"2, with a minimum of 50cm height.

  • Minimum bedding depth guideline is 15-20cm/6-8", throughout at least 1/2-3/4 of their enclosure.

  • Substrate must be non-scented paper based, or safe wood such as hemp, spruce, or aspen.

  • NO pine or cedar shavings.

  • Minimum wheel size is 22cm/9", though some may require a minimum of 27cm/11".

  • Multi-chamber hide made of a breathable material is most recommended.

  • Provide a multitude of natural enrichment.

  • No plastic other than a wheel, which must be closely monitored, is permissible. 

  • Minimum sized sand bath recommendation is 30cm x 20cm or equal footprint, i.e. 27cm diameter bowl.

  • Food offered should ideally reflect their natural diet and be free of pellets, dried fruit, sugars, dyes, and preservatives.

  • Generally healthy, though some health issues can be prevalent amongst hybridised individuals.

  • Generally friendly, outgoing, and easy to tame and handle species.

  • Require a large secure playpen, or access to a hamster proofed room for exercise​

Sources:

  1. Iucnredlist: Phodopus sungorus

  2. iucnredlist: Phodopus campbelli

  3. Oxford Academic: Phodopus sungorus

  4. Oxford Academic: Phodopus campbelli

  5. A comparison of two species of dwarf hamster Phodopus campbelli and Phodopus sungorus

  6. www.dwerghamster.nl

  7. Torpor and hypothermia: reversed hysteresis of metabolic rate and body temperature

  8. Siberian hamster

  9. Djungarian Hamsters — Small Graminivores with Daily Torpor

  10. Barbiturate sleeptime in mice exposed to autoclaved or unautoclaved wood beddings.

  11. Animal Protection - Small Rodents as Pets

  12. A modern analogue of the Pleistocene steppe-tundra ecosystem in southern Siberia

  13. Abnormal pairing of X and Y sex chromosomes during meiosis I in interspecific hybrids of Phodopus campbelli and P. sungorus.

  14. https://www.dwerghamster.nl/hybride/watiseenhybride/index.php

  15. https://www.dwerghamster.nl/algemeen/medisch_en_ongedierte/diabetes/index.php

  16. https://www.dwerghamster.nl/algemeen/medisch_en_ongedierte/index.php

  17. DashingHamsters: Stargazing

  18. http://www.diebrain.de/zw-nachwuchs.html#Geburt​​

 
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older hamsters tend to have a slightly more 'scruffier' appearance, have thinner fur, and often have an arched-back appearance as they enter their senile years.

 
 

Winter White hybrid, 'Oshie'. Scooping your hamster from below is the best method as it is the least threatening to your pet.

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Downloadable Infographics:

 

As I am aware that not everyone appreciates text-heavy guides, I have created a series of condensed infographics to accompany each care guide. The first is a condensed care sheet to cover the basics of species appropriate care. The second is not yet complete, but will a series of infographics further breaking down each section addressed in these care guides. These are free for personal use only.

Care sheet:

Condensed care guide:

If you are interested in a Winter White, you may also be interested in the Syrian hamster, or Campbell's dwarf