Syrian vs. Dwarf Hamsters, What Should I Get For My Family?
As pets go hamsters are fairly easy to take care of. Hamsters require no walking, are not particularly dirty or stinky, they are small and do not take up much space and are generally inexpensive. Hamsters are also fairly hearty animals and can be a very good pet for a child or a family with several children. There are however, two distinct choices when it comes to adopting a hamster for your family, and that is the dwarf hamster and the syrian hamster. I spoke with Ken Brocx, the founder of Hamsterific.com, an authoritative hamster and small pet website about this question and what his recommendations would be to someone considering adopting a hamster but not knowing exactly which route is best for his / her family.
Thanks Ken for taking the time to speak to us. First of all, let's assume a family
with a young child or children (let's assume around seven or eight years of age for
this example) is considering adopting a hamster or hamsters for their home. Would
you personally recommend either a dwarf hamster or a syrian hamster in this case?
Typically I would recommend a syrian hamster for younger children. Dwarf hamsters
are smaller which can make them harder to handle. Also, if a dwarf manages to
get loose they are faster than syrians and thus harder to catch. Syrians tend to be
more docile if they are properly raised.
Syrian hamsters are supposed to be solitary once they are weaned, but that's not the
case with dwarf hamsters is it?
No. Most dwarf hamsters prefer some company, but that means more space. That
can be a problem since many commercial cages are too small for more than one
hamster, even a dwarf hamster.
Is there any reason to purchase a dwarf hamster solitarily? Or would it be better to
adopt two dwarfs rather than one?
In the wild dwarf hamsters live in colonies, so I prefer to keep them that way. A
dwarf hamster on it's own will need a lot of attention to keep it from
If you initially purchase a dwarf hamster and later wish to introduce a second (or
third) dwarf hamster would that be possible or are you asking for conflicts with such
It depends on the particular dwarf hamster and on how long they have been alone. If
a dwarf hamster has been on it's own for more than a month I find it is very difficult
to introduce a new cagemate. Young dwarf hamsters will accept a new hamster
much more readilly than an older dwarf hamster. Also dwarf hamsters tend to
socialize better with siblings than with strange or unfamiliar hamsters.
Are dwarf hamsters generally less hearty creatures than syrians?
Both dwarf and syrian hamsters are very hardy creatures. Dwarf hamsters have been
domesticated for a much shorter time than syrians, and because of that there has
been less of an opportunity for them to become inbred. Inbreeding can cause many
problems with the health of any breed of hamster. In syrians this often results in a
hamster that is difficult to tame. In dwarf hamsters it is very common to see
diabetes in inbred pups.
What kind of equipment would you recommend someone about to adopt a hamster
get for their hamster's new home?
Hamsters need a constant supply of clean water, a food bowl that's heavy enough
that it will not tip over when a hamster is crawling on it, a wheel for exercise and a
"Nest" where they can feel secure. Wheels are not just toys. A hamster in the wild can
run several miles a night marking it's territory and looking for food and the only way
we can duplicate that in a confined space is a wheel. In the wild hamsters live in
burrows underground. For nesting a hamster needs a place where it feels it can
retreat from danger. A hamster without a nest will feel insecure and nervous.
What are the life spans of dwarfs and syrian hamsters?
Dwarfs usually live 2-4 years depending on breed, living conditions and genetic
disposition. Syrians live about 2-3 years.
What would you suggest someone look for when purchasing or adopting a hamster?
The most important things are the hamsters health and personality. The color, long
hair and pretty eyes will not matter much if you have a sick hamster. Look for clean
and dry fur, especially around the butt of the hamster, stressed hamsters can get
Wet Tail, which is a deadly type of diarrhea. Wet Tail can spread to surrounding
cages and it can be very difficult to sterilize an area after an outbreak. Personality is
very important, too. If you pick an outgoing hamster that does not mind being held
you're probably going to have a much easier time taming and making friends with
him or her.
Is there a reason to adopt a hamster (s) from a breeder rather than a pet store?
Professional breeders usually take great care in ensuring their hamsters are not
inbred. Inbreeding can result in many health and personality problems. Many pet
stores buy from these same breeders, although some may just let their hamsters
breed in the store leading to rampant inbreeding and hamsters with poor health.
Also, just because a person has lots of hamsters and sells them does not mean they
are a quality professional breeder. Do not forget to check your local shelters, too.
Animal shelters often have hamsters that need good homes.
Is the diet of the syrian significantly different than that of a dwarf? I know, for
example, that giving dwarf hamsters fruit that may be high in sugar could be
problematic because dwarfs may be more likely to become diabetic.
Other than that, syrians and dwarfs have similar diets.
What is "heat" exactly? It's related to nuts in some way is not it or is it related to other
types of foods as well? And does "heat" affect a syrian and dwarf the same way?
Well, there are two types of "heat". "Heat" can be the term for when a female
hamster comes into season, but you are talking about the condition that affects
hamsters that eat too many fatty foods. That type of "heat" is usually caused by an
owner who wants to feed their hamster a treat, usually sunflower seeds, and goes
overboard. Too much oil, like that in sunflower seeds, can cause a hamster's
metabolism to speed up and cause them to lose hair. That's "heat" and I've only
seen it in dwarf hamsters.
Any last words, warnings, recommendations or other thoughts in general that you'd
like to share with someone who is interested in adopting a hamster?
Health and personality are the most important things in buying a new hamster, buy
the biggest home for your hamster you can , never put two syrian hamsters
together, and play with your hamster as often as you can!
With Ken Brocx Interview, founder of Hamsterific.com an authoritative website on hamsters
and other small pets.