How to Introduce a New Dwarf Hamster into Your Current Hamster's Home
If you already have one dwarf hamster and are thinking about adding a friend to make things more cozy, there are two extremely important steps that must be taken:
- First, make sure you are prepared to have two separate cages. This is just in case the two decide they definitely don't care for each other's company.
- The next thing to be sure of is that you get another hamster of the same sex.
Once those first two considerations are out of the way, you're ready to begin the introduction process. Please keep in mind that when I talk about dwarf hamsters, I'm speaking from the viewpoint of someone who only owns females.
I've found that the best way to get your current dwarf and a new dwarf used to each other is by putting them both into a strange environment together, so neither one has established the place as its home.
If you put a new dwarf into a cage with the one you already have, you're asking for trouble and a big fight. By fight, I mean to the death. A dwarf hamster can kill another dwarf. I've seen it happen. Your current dwarf gets acclimated to her home and her scent gets on everything. Then when the newbie is introduced, it's an invasion of your current hamster's space. That is why the neutral territory method is best for introducing a newbie is best.
I mainly use the bathtub in my spare bathroom. I plug the drain and put both of the dwarfs in the tub at the same time. This creates a bit of a shock affect to their territorial instincts. Both are in unfamiliar surroundings. At first, they will be more busy checking out the place than each other. Eventually, they will come face to face and there will be a bit of a showdown.
Dominance and Fighting
The first time you see and hear your dwarfs fight it can be alarming. Don't panic and separate them right away. Watch the behavior of both. You'll find that one will tend to be more dominant, and one will be more submissive. The submissive one will flip onto its back with its mouth open, and lie still in a sort of "I give up and don't want to fight" pose. After watching this type of action for a while, you will learn which behavior is real fighting and which behavior is related to dominance. You'll know when it's really time to separate the two.
I've had dwarfs do the dominance fighting thing a couple of times and get along perfectly from then on. I've also had times where I've had to keep them separated and do the neutral territory bath tub thing a couple times a day for a week or so.
An alternate method that I use when two dwarfs are really fighting is to put them in a smaller strange place together to force them to get along. This can be seen in the photo above. I use a really large popcorn or salad type bowl. Make sure the sides are high enough that they can't jump out. You can even put a small amount of food in the bowl to give them something to do.
Putting Them in the Cage Together
Since the scent of the dwarf you had first is in the cage, clean the cage thoroughly to get the scent out of everything. Change the litter and food too. Once that has been done, take the old and new dwarf in the same hand and put them in the cage together.
Be prepared to see the same type of dominance fighting as you did in the neutral territory test with the bath tub or bowl. Like I mentioned, you'll start to learn what fighting behaviors you need to be concerned about, and which are just a power struggle for dominance. Having more than one place for a dwarf to go is beneficial in this case. If one is rolling over and submissive, at least there is a place to flee to.
Patience and Time
If you're not willing to repeat the above steps and work with your dwarf hamsters, I would recommend sticking with only one. If you ever see that fighting has drawn blood, I would separate them at this point and try the neutral territory thing over and over if needed.
I've only had one instance of two dwarfs not being able to get along when introduced patiently over time. She lives in a separate cage and is put in with the others occasionally just to have some "hammie" time with her own kind. Like a good thing, it doesn't last forever and she goes back into her own home.
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.