Chinese hamsters are unusual among the small varieties of hamster because they have somewhat more in common with the larger Syrian hamster than with the dwarf hamsters. In fact, Chinese hamsters are not thought of as dwarves; they are in a special category known as ratlike hamsters or mouselike hamsters due to their appearance.
Chinese hamsters are about 4 inches long and don’t have the characteristic “dumpling” look of other hamsters; rather they are narrow-bodied with a short, sleek coat. Dwarf hamsters with the Latin classification Phodopushave fur-covered feet, even on the bottom. Chinese hamsters have sparse fur on the feet, but the soles are bare like Syrians. Most unusual, Chinese hamsters are the only hamsters kept as pets that have respectably sized tails; tails that are long enough to wriggle and wrap around one’s finger when held.
Like Syrian hamsters, Chinese hamsters must be housed singly. They are rather more timid than Syrian hamsters and don’t often initiate contact. Once a Chinese hamster is used to contact, though, they sit placidly in your hand for petting and don’t ramble or fidget, unlike most hamster species.
Chinese hamsters are swift and athletic. One of the most enjoyable ways to interact with them is to devise a safe, enclosed space with boxes, tubes and other toys, a sort of “amusement park,” and to watch them dart about it at dizzying speed.
Chinese hamsters are crepuscular, so they wake slightly earlier in the evening than Syrian hamsters. Chinese hamsters are vigorous exercisers, and so should be furnished with a solid-floor exercise wheel and other diversions.
The typical Chinese hamster is dark brown or slate, with a darker stripe running along the spine and a white underside. There is also a dominant spot variety whose coat is lighter overall, and mottled.
Chinese hamsters are more difficult to breed than other hamsters, which makes them more difficult to find in pet stores. Chinese hamsters seem to have a higher incidence of diabetes, as with common dwarf varieties. For this reason, a diet containing lower natural sugar content should be followed as a precaution.
As with all hamsters, if you’re interested in adopting the cute, sweet-natured Chinese hamster, seek a responsible, knowledgeable source to obtain one; chances are better that your pet hamster will enjoy a longer and better-quality life.
The recommended habitat for Chinese hamsters is at least 2 square feet or larger to accommodate running. Climbing toys are advisable, along with securely fitted tubes and a sturdy, solid-floor exercise wheel.
Feed Chinese hamsters a fresh, high-quality, store-bought grain mix, supplemented with tiny bits of green vegetable, and an occasional protein, such as cooked, unseasoned chicken. Any fresh foods should be removed immediately if not eaten. Chinese hamsters, like dwarf varieties, are prone to diabetes, so fruits should be avoided or fed very rarely and cautiously. Fresh water should always be available.