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A Complete Guide to Roborovski Hamsters

I've kept many types of rodents over the years, but Roborovski hamsters are one of my favorites.

The Roborovski hamster originates from Russia. It is the smallest species of hamster, the most timid and often claimed as the cutest. These adorable little hamsters are most active at night and in the early morning and are very playful, curious and will have a go at just about anything. They enjoy having lots of toys.

These hamsters are available all over the world but are harder to come by than the typical Syrian hamster (golden hamster) or the Russian dwarf. These hamsters are not as suitable as a pet for most people and require an experienced, older, patient owner to bring them on. They are a lot less cuddly than most other hamster types and can be difficult to handle.

You can keep them alone, in pairs or small groups preferably of the same sex to prevent unwanted breeding and fighting.

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Lifespan

Roborovski hamsters tend to live slightly longer on average than other species of hamster. Their average lifespan is 3–4 years, and they have been known to live even longer than that in some cases.

They are less prone to common hamster ailments than Syrian, Chinese and Russian dwarf hamsters get which can be a big relief to many pet owners. There are other illnesses which they are at a much higher risk of than other hamsters such as broken bones, crushing, mites or ticks, allergies, overgrown claws and teeth, rapid weight loss, seasonal itching, skin conditions, and prolapse of the eye (eye bulges, comes out entirely or bursts) due to the shallow setting of their eyeballs.

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Who Is the Roborovski Suitable for?

Roborovski hamsters grow to be 2–3 inches in length as an adult. It is not uncommon for them to be slightly smaller or a little larger. They can take a long time to tame, can be difficult to handle and are very quick.

Due to their size, speed and risk of biting, the Roborovski hamster is not a suitable pet for a child even with supervision. They can very easily suffer from injuries, broken bones, eyes popping out, being crushed to death or dropped. A frightened Robo may bite. They do not give a nip like a Syrian—they bite and cling. They are also very timid and require a lot of quiet time, attention and patience and someone who is able to be patient with them as many do not entirely lose the skittish nature.

They are most suited to owners whom are teenagers or adults who have previous experience with hamsters and preferably mice. They are not a beginner pet, have special requirements and tend to live longer than the other species of hamsters. These hamsters do better in a quieter household with no predatory animals (e.g. cats).

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Habitat and Housing

They can live in most standard hamster/mouse cages and have the same bedding without issues. Included is an image of the perfect type of Roborovski set-up cage.

Make sure the bars are the standard size or narrow size. If your Robo is especially small you could opt for a plastic or glass tank with a secure lid that has plenty of space for roaming around. Alternatively, you could build yourself a bin cage from a large clear plastic tub and make a mesh side or a mesh roof.

Always keep a lid and make sure whatever you choose has plenty of air and is fully secured to prevent escape. Most of the cages or tanks for hamsters and small rodents you see in the pet shop will be suitable, just make sure there are no large drops and the cage isn't too oversized for your tiny friend.

Like with any hamster, it is advised you avoid small, cramped or cages with lots of tubes, especially with males, as they are difficult to clean, hard to set-up and tend to build up fumes which can make your hamster very sick. They can also cause a lot of stress due to the complex, cramped or upsetting conditions.

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Male Vs. Female

It can be hard to correctly identify the gender of a young or very small Roborovski especially when they are not tame. It is always good to consult charts, have a vet take a look at them or learn to hold them in the correct way to sex them without causing them any harm.

Female Roborovski hamsters: Smell less, are more dominant, may be slightly larger, do not have the yellow scent patch on their belly.

Male Roborovski: Have a stronger smell which is much like male mice/chlorinated, have a yellow patch on their belly which is a scent gland, are very active, submissive and may be slightly smaller than the female.

There is little difference between the temperament of the males and females so it is entirely your choice if you want a particular gender or not.

You can keep 2-3 males together or 2-3 females together without issue as long as they're introduced young. If you keep a male and female together they will breed, fight and the female will dominate, attack and possible even kill the male in some more extreme cases. Female hamsters are very dominant. It is a better idea to stick to a pair of the same sex but they can live happily alone.

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Diet

Roborovski hamsters are perfectly capable of eating any decent quality mixed hamster food. Make sure it has plenty of variety such as dried banana, sunflower seeds, grain, hamster biscuits, other seeds, and mealworms are also okay.

Foods Roborovski Hamsters Can Eat

  • Banana
  • Apple (no seeds)
  • Pasta (small amounts raw or cooked)
  • Carrot
  • Completely plain dog biscuits
  • Blackberry (small amounts)
  • Broccoli
  • Watercress
  • Thoroughly cooked lean chicken (small amounts)
  • Thoroughly cooked boiled or scrambled eggs


Any extra vegetables or fruits should be given sparingly and as a treat. Make sure you only give them tiny pieces to prevent them getting stuck in their pouches and going soggy so they can't get it out, the food rotting in the cage, or an upset stomach from happening. Your hamster doesn't want vegetables or fruit the size of their head, it's far too much for their digestive system to handle so keep the pieces small and as treats only.

Your hamster can also have any other hamster or small animal treat from the pet shop as long as it is marked suitable for hamsters/mice. This includes chocolate drops, yoghurt drops, seed sticks, grain bars, etc.

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Breeding

Breeding Roborovski hamsters should be left to very experienced owners or professionals as you could be left with a lot of unwanted babies you can't keep and that nobody else will take. There is not a high demand for them so you won't hit a goldmine breeding them for sale.

If your hamsters accidentally have babies they should be separated immediately. Although the males will usually help raise the young, the female will become fertile the moment the babies are born and they might mate again. This is not good for her health or productive when it comes to preventing unwanted litters. Please make sure you sex your hamsters as well as the person selling them to you as often people in pet shops are wrong or can't handle them very well.

Roborvoski hamsters can be surrendered as pinkies, this can be very stressful to the mother and the pinkies (newborns) will be used for reptile food. This is extremely cruel. The best option is to wait until they are old enough, separate the genders and surrender them to a rehoming shelter than can find forever homes if you are unable to do so. Please don't sell them off to just anyone as this could end in disaster.

Roborovski Hamster Breeding Facts

  • A Roborovski pregnancy lasts for 3 weeks - 21 days on average.
  • They can have anywhere from 1-8 babies at a time.
  • Males and females can raise young together.
  • They can be harder to mate than other hamsters as the male and female have to like each other and compliment one another.
  • These hamsters can raise babies in colonies with lots of other hamsters.
  • If raised in colonies some hamsters may try to steal babies of others.
  • Breeding should be done only by two hamsters between 4-7 months old who are perfectly healthy and unrelated.
  • Most Roborovski hamster's do not usually breed December-March and breed more during warmer months unless they are kept in a constant warm environment.
  • Cannibalism does happen where the mothers eat the babies due to threats to the nest, human scent on them, too many to feed, predatory animals around such as cats, over crowding, not enough food, unable to produce milk, too few babies in the litter, too young to care for them, etc.
  • Newborn hamsters with no fur are called pinkies.
  • Pregnant females do not usually show any signs of pregnancy until very close to their due date and gain very little-no weight.
  • By 21 days old the babies are able to live without the mother and father and should be separated by genders and kept together for another 2-3 weeks before going to new homes.
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Common Ailments

Like with any animal they can get ailments. Typically Roborvoski hamsters are quite healthy if cared for properly. Your largest risk with them are broken toes or skin problems such as mites, allergies, barbering or stress itching.

Roborvoski hamsters are at a much lower risk of an extremely serious condition called wet tail. It is caused by an overgrow of bad bacteria in the gut, usually caused by stress, sometimes caused by prolonged filthy conditions, stomach problems, poor diet, too much fibre and is especially common under 12 weeks of age. This does not mean they are immune, if your hamster starts to smell foul, has the runs, a dirty bottom and seems hunched with a mussed coat and is losing their appetite and drinking less you should go immediately to the vets as only antibiotics in the early stages can treat it. If untreated it will cause eventual death and severe dehydration.

Mites, ticks, fleas, etc are all very treatable with certain medicines you drop on the skin. You can get these from your vet or from most pet stores but seeing as they are so tiny you must carefully weigh your hamster before using anything to treat them with and thoroughly clean the cage afterwards.

Roborvoski's seem more prone to allergies and general itching than any other hamster type. Be warned that in pairs or groups the other hamster may pull out their fur or over groom them causing hair loss. Old age, stress and bedding allergies can all cause red, flaky skin and hair loss. Greasy fur means the bedding isn't being changed enough/your hamster is allergic.

They can also get: eye problems, brain injuries, broken bones, birthing difficulties, tumours, cysts, urinary tract infections, uterine problems, problems with the ears, overgrown teeth and claws, diarrhoea, dehydration, worms, general injuries, abscesses, and anything else other hamsters can have.

It is important to take your hamster to the vet if you notice any signs of illness or injury so it can be treated with optimum results.

FAQ

  1. Do Roborovski hamsters have pouches? - yes they do but they are much smaller and often most mixed foods will not fit in unless they are small grains, sometimes seeds or the food has been broken into pieces. They tend to use their pouches less than other hamsters.
  2. My hamsters are fighting, what should I do? please make sure your hamsters are two of the same gender, it is very common for a male and female to fight even if they have mated. If they are two of the same gender you should keep an eye on them. Some scrapping is normal in the first few days which will consist of chasing, squeaking and slapping or pushing each other around. The moment you see one of them draw blood they should be separated immediately to prevent other issues.
  3. The pet shop sold me two saying they were both boys but they're a male and female. What should I do? there isn't a lot you can do as you have them and they are your pets. Most pet shops will not take returns and if they do the animal will likely be used for food if not for a lifetime of breeding. It is best to separate your hamsters immediately unless you want babies and fighting. Keep them in separate cages and they will be fine. You should also make a complaint to the pet shop and if you have the name of the person who sold them to you, report them for improper conduct.
  4. How old do you have to be to buy them? Legally in the UK you can buy an animal from 16 years old with ID, however, almost all pet shops will not sell a pet to anyone under the age of 18 regardless of parental consent. You must always take your personal photographic ID with you as proof of age or you won't be served. In most countries it is 18 years old. Please be aware that there are shops that will refuse to sell Roborovski or Chinese hamsters if they are for children.
  5. My hamsters have had babies. What do I do? It is up to you, you should separate the male and female immediately as the female become fertile the moment after she gives birth. Even though males will usually help out raising the young. Allow the female to raise them until they are old enough and surrender them to a rehoming shelter (best option) find them new homes (properly vet people before sale) or hand them in to a pet shop. The shop, however, may use them for breeding, for food or refuse to take them. Please make sure to correctly sex your hamsters and keep males and females separate if you do not wish to have babies.
  6. What should I do if my hamster keeps biting me? You should persevere with your pet, keep handling them gently and daily, allow them to get used to your smell, spend time talking to them. You should always leave your pet for at least 4-7 days before attempting to handle them and give them a chance to settle into their new home. Your hamster is biting because he/she feels threatened by you. Biting is more common in young hamsters.
  7. My hamster's teeth are too long, what can I do? you should always provide wooden toys or blocks from the pet shop for your hamster to chew on. These help with the teeth. Hard mixed food can also help and even bars can wear down teeth (although bar biting is not good for their teeth)
  8. I can no longer care for my hamsters. What should I do? You shouldn't have taken animals you cannot keep or afford in the first place. You should surrender them to an animal shelter that offers small animals, this is the best option as a pet shop may refuse to take them, put them down, use them for food or breed them to death. Selling them on won't generate much money and they could end up somewhere very cruel so unless you know someone willing to give them a permanent home, you should take them to the local shelter.
  9. What do I do if I think my hamster is sick? Take it to the vet for treatment. Only a vet can prescribe antibiotics, perform minor surgery, treat injuries or diagnose a medical condition properly unless you are extremely knowledgeable. A sick hamster needs help.
  10. My child wants a Roborovski but it says they are not suitable. Is there a better pet I can choose from? Rats are the best possible pet for a child along with Giant African Land snails, dogs and fish. Children need a hardier animal that is less afraid, poses low-no risk of biting and that they can handle. Those three do just that. The Roborovski is too fast, too tiny and too fragile/nervous for a child to handle.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Comments

Already mentioned but.. on July 29, 2020:

That cage is not suitable for ANY creature. Hamsters deserve big habitats. If your concern is money, don’t get a hamster as they require the love and care you would give to any large animal. The ikea detolf is great if you want a large space for your hamster, and it doesn’t cost as much. But yeah, the shown cage isn’t suitable at ALL. Please do read other articles and watch recent YouTube videos to know the proper care for animals like these.

Concerned citizen on June 21, 2020:

I know it’s already been said, but the cages recommended are NOT big enough for any hamster, even a robo. Most hamster cages in stores aren’t big enough, the minimum floor space needed is 450 in square. Also, don’t worry about buying too big of a cage. There’s no such thing as too big! If you are on a budget then you can make a cage out of a large storage tub(make sure it meets the minimum requirements) by cutting a large area out of the lid and punting mesh over it. Also the article didn’t mention: you need to have at least 6 inches of bedding in at least part of their cage.

#hamsterloverartlover on June 15, 2020:

ok. First of all, people NEED to STOP judging hamsters of their size and short life to decide what they deserve. Hamsters MAY be small but they actually NEED big cages. 450 sq inches of floorspace is the bare minimum in the us and cananda today. So that cage they show is a terrible hamster cage. It is about 100 sq inches. And if you dont believe me, go on youtube, search: Victoria Raechel. She us a hamster owner and has been owning hamsters for 11 years. She knows everything Germany knows about hamsters. (The reason why I picked that specific country is gor 2 reasons; 1. Victoria says she reasearched german hamster care. 2. Germany has the BEST hamster care out of every other place in the world. So check her out.

Basic robo/hamster information, this article shows a lot of bad things! (robo breeder here) on June 08, 2020:

The cage you have pictured with this information is the worst! In fact it's best not to use such a cage at all! It's best to use an aquarium or bincage, a place in which they can dig. In this article it says robo's are prone to breaking bones, well, that's no wonder if you get a wire cage. Hamsters do not see depth and with wire cages/higher levels they fall down quickly. Simply put: do not get a wire cage, the only wire cage that is somewhat acceptable is the Alaska as long as you put in sawdust up to the bars.

Also, same sex groups often fight, always make sure that when you have a group of Roborovski's to have a spare cage. If they fight, they often fight to the death and eat the loser afterwards. You do not want to find a half-eaten hamster. Even if they are brothers, even if they have been together for a year or longer, they can start fighting from one day onto another. Never hesitate to put them apart once they fight. A hamster is often happier alone than in a group, groups cause a lot of stress. Roborovski's are very prone to fighting, if you want to keep hamsters together, don't start with Robo's, but with Campbelli's, they are easier to keep in groups. (Never put Syrians, Chinese or Russian dwarves together, they always fight to the death)

Another important thing is the size of your wheel. Get a wheel that's at least 20cm diameter or else they can get back problems. Not to mention, get a wheel that is closed on one side and doesn't have bars or else they can seriously injure themselves (get stuck, break something, etc.).

Never use a hamster ball, these are very dangerous. Paws often get stuck between the small holes and hamsters can easily loose paws that way. Not to mention they have no sense of control which causes a lot of stress in a hamster ball. Throw these away or put some Chinchilla sand in one of the halves so they can take a sand bath instead.

Jalera Tate on June 04, 2020:

My robo is aggressive I got her today do u know why she is aggressive

Isabel Z on May 21, 2020:

What if your hamster is pulling out it's hair and it's by itself?

EuanC on April 13, 2020:

I'm writing a lot of articles on hamsters, if people want some other ideas on hamsters then you can take a look! https://www.justhamsters.net/

Divinity on April 03, 2020:

Are Roborovski hamsters allergic to flour

help on March 26, 2020:

my hamster likes to bite what can i do?

monica on March 26, 2020:

i love hamsters and i only have one .

Hamstaluvva on February 10, 2020:

Hi! I have two robos, Pumpkin and Coconut. They love each other like they have always been sisters. The sad part though is they are always running away from me. I follow all the steps I find online, and they always work a little. They are going up to the top of their cage, and in their hide whenever I stick my hand in. Should I try taking it a little slower? Pls give me some advise if you can.

By, Hamsaluvva

Robo lover on January 27, 2020:

No. 8 is overly harsh! People's circumstances change in a way that's totally unpredictable. Not only that but you can't assume that every pet shop doesn't care for their animals. I work in a pet shop in the UK and all of our staff care very much about our livestock and for your information we offer a rehoming service for just such a situation!!

Robo breeder on January 10, 2020:

The cage you have pictured with this information is the worst! In fact it's best not to use such a cage at all! It's best to use an aquarium or bincage, a place in which they can dig. In this article it says robo's are prone to breaking bones, well, that's no wonder if you get a wire cage. Hamsters do not see depth and with wire cages/higher levels they fall down quickly. Simply put: do not get a wire cage, the only wire cage that is somewhat acceptable is the Alaska as long as you put in sawdust up to the bars.

Also, same sex groups often fight, always make sure that when you have a group of Roborovski's to have a spare cage. If they fight, they often fight to the death and eat the loser afterwards. You do not want to find a half-eaten hamster. Even if they are brothers, even if they have been together for a year or longer, they can start fighting from one day onto another. Never hesitate to put them apart once they fight. A hamster is often happier alone than in a group, groups cause a lot of stress. Roborovski's are very prone to fighting, if you want to keep hamsters together, don't start with Robo's, but with Campbelli's, they are easier to keep in groups. (Never put Syrians, Chinese or Russian dwarves together, they always fight to the death)

Another important thing is the size of your wheel. Get a wheel that's at least 20cm diameter or else they can get back problems. Not to mention, get a wheel that is closed on one side and doesn't have bars or else they can seriously injure themselves (get stuck, break something, etc.).

Never use a hamster ball, these are very dangerous. Paws often get stuck between the small holes and hamsters can easily loose paws that way. Not to mention they have no sense of control which causes a lot of stress in a hamster ball. Throw these away or put some Chinchilla sand in one of the halves so they can take a sand bath instead.

Ghost on October 25, 2019:

No.8 answer is a little harsh. You must also give benefit of the doubt and stop being so presumptuous. Some people find themselves in situations where they can no longer care for any animals, such as life altering accidents, dependants and care giving (example; if you suddenly have to move in with an elderly relative in order to give them full time care), depression, cancer and other serious developments.

Some times it just can't be helped!

Honestly this article is so high and mighty in some places.

Hey on July 13, 2019:

What Gender should I get for Roborovski Hamster?

lee on May 13, 2019:

one of the two males i have has passed away and i worry that the other will get lonely.

ive seen him looking around alot.

maybe its just me puting my human feelings and seeing that in his actions.

have you found that they do well even after cage friends passing

Duh on May 05, 2019:

That cage is not "perfect".

1- there cannot be enough bedding, hence hamsters are digging animals, they need a place to burrow.

2- hamsters are night animals, there is too much light-through plastic in that cage

3- it's better not to have platforms or floors, because they will most likely fight over it

4- it's wayyyy too small, it's even stressing for me, not talking about the poor creature. They may get more aggresive, start chewing on the bars (that could break their teeth and they end up with a problem eating)

5- there are possibilities that the wheel would be small, which could cause the animal to arch their back into an 'U', which could cause injuries and most would be fatal

And what is wrong with oversized cages? The bigger the better. You can add various hideys, things to chew on. They have a place to run around in the night. I owned around 6 hamsters, so I went through different sized cages and recently I have my hamster in an aquarium with 10 cm of woodshavings and non-seethrough hideys.

I am not saying that this article is all wrong. I said what I know and what I considered wrong about it.

Jeeeeyyy on April 05, 2019:

My Robo Hamster nibbled me yesterday morning, what does it mean?

mariah on March 23, 2019:

I wondered what the best way to handle them is

Hamster on March 03, 2019:

Hey, I really need help, you see. I have 4 Robo hamsters in a pretty big glass cage, they don’t fight, they don’t bite me or anything, but they don’t really look the best, their fur is kind of shiny and slimy grimy looking, they are pretty awful looking, I have bath sand in the cage, but it has never helped, I’ve tried so many types of it, what can I do to make them look better?

Questions on February 23, 2019:

I have one her name is cookie and she is hazel on the top and white on the bottom and im wondering what kind she is sooo anybody comment after mine and pls tell me in yoyr comment, and a few more questions... Pls tell me why she bit me when we first got her? And She likes my cat and my cats scared of her my hedchog get along with her but not my cat anyways thx for letting me comment! Pls Tell me what my questions are to oh darn i mean answers to my questions anyways thx PetHelpful !

OMG on August 03, 2018:

All of these hamsters are babys and are the cutest thing. I have one but the wheel makes too much noise. But i still love my hamster her name is cinnamon Chubby Cheeks Lopez socop. Sheade me get 40 subs on YouTube I love her so much every time i see her i freak out that is how much i love her. Plus what do i do when my hamster bites me ? Does she love me or hate me?? Anyway Thanks for puting this up!!

Hey on July 23, 2018:

I was wondering if anyone could answer my question. My Roborvoski hamster has a patch of skin on the chest which has no fur. I was wondering if it was a sickness or something else. If you know, please reply to my comment. Thanks.

Hi on July 21, 2018:

can the robo be taken out? If I buy a small pouch can I take her where I go?

Me on April 09, 2018:

My hamster doesn’t like being stroked what can I do ?

hi on February 23, 2018:

cute

julie on January 28, 2018:

I Loved this article it was so helpful when I was getting my hamster

Hap on January 16, 2018:

They are cute

Lala on October 20, 2017:

That cage is WAY too small

Responsible Hamster Owner on August 10, 2017:

We were convinced to buy 2 Robo Hamsters from a local Pet store for our 6year old daughter .. claiming the 2 were the same sex as they had been together for a couple months... needless to say as summer started our Robos had babies... all of which from her first litter died.. the mom seemed devastated so we did some research and decided to let her have another litter.. making the decision to keep and look after all the babies she would have from that second litter... She had 3 but only 2 survived... as soon as she had delivered (as we had missed pregnancy signs as she really didnt get any bigger with them.. and we check on all our hamsters 12 or more times a day making sure they all have what they need... ) we removed the Daddy and put him in his own cage we had previously started to prepare just for him... apparently that was not fast enough as 3 weeks to the day from delivering her 2nd litter she delivered her 3rd litter containing 5 more babies... this was not expected at all.. but we are more then happy to care for theses beautiful babies and give them all forever homes... my ONLY concern regarding this decision is sexing these babies... as soon as we are able as we most definitely do not want more... as we now have 9 Robos and 2 Panda bears... any added advice for sexing??

ThePetMaster (author) on April 05, 2015:

Thank you, Alicia! I'm glad you now know all about Roborovski hamsters! :)

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on April 05, 2015:

This is a very detailed and useful hub! Thank you for sharing the information. I've never heard of this type of hamster before.