Dwarf Hamster Care Sheet

Maria Zayas, DVM
By Maria Zayas, DVM on Apr. 24, 2023
Dwarf hamster pink background

In This Article


Dwarf Hamster Species Overview

Dwarf hamsters are small, energetic rodents that make excellent companions for beginner pet parents. The following information outlines all the basic care needs for a range of dwarf hamster breeds, including: 

  • Djungarian hamsters 

  • Chinese hamsters 

  • Russian hamsters 

  • Roborovski hamsters  

Dwarf hamster breeds grow to only 2-4 inches long, while adult Syrian hamsters can grow to about 6 inches. 

When selecting your new dwarf hamster, keep in mind dwarf hamsters can be housed together in same-sex pairs if the two animals were raised together. Otherwise, dwarf hamsters are best left in separate enclosures. 

Socialization is key for these pets. When socialized properly, dwarf hamsters are friendly animals and can enjoy gentle handling from their pet parent. Pet parents should allow newly-homed hamsters time to adjust to their surroundings. 

When handling your hamster, these delicate pets  should be handled over a soft surface to prevent them from injuring themselves if they jump or fall. Never grab a hamster by its tail or squeeze its body when handling them. Hamsters may bite when startled, especially if they were sleeping at the time. Some species, like Chinese and Roborovski dwarf hamsters, are generally less likely to bite. 

Dwarf hamsters have muscular, expandable cheek pouches that they can use to store food, bedding, and other small objects! Pet parents should seek veterinary care if their hamster has swollen cheek pouches that don’t empty after a few hours. 

Dwarf hamsters are usually nocturnal but can adjust to their pet parent’s schedule over time. Hamsters often spend nights eating and running on their exercise wheel, so they may not be the best companions for light sleepers. 

Dwarf Hamster Characteristics 

Difficulty of Care 


Average Life Span 

2-3 years with proper care 

Average Adult Size 

2–4 inches long, depending on species 



Minimum Habitat Size 

24" L x 12" W x 12" H for single hamster 

Dwarf Hamster Supply Checklist

To keep a dwarf hamster happy and healthy, keep these basic supplies on hand: 

  •  Appropriately sized habitat  

  •  High-quality hamster food  

  •  Treats  

  •  Bedding  

  •  Nesting fluff  

  •  Food bowl and water bottle  

  •  Exercise wheel  

  •  Hideaway place 

  •  Toys  

  •  Wood chews  

  •  Mineral chews  

  •  Dust and dust bath  

Dwarf Hamster Habitat

Choosing the Right Enclosure 

Dwarf hamsters are tiny yet mighty and need adequate space in their habitat to roam, exercise, and rest comfortably. The ideal dwarf hamster habitat should measure at least 24” L x 12” W x 12” H. Enclosures should be well-ventilated with a deep, solid base and secured with an escape-proof lid. Always provide the largest habitat possible. 

Metal/wire-based habitats offer the best ventilation and are easy-to-clean. However, hamsters can escape the enclosure if the bars aren’t spaced closely enough. If a wire cage is used, the spaces between the cage’s bars should be around ¼-in apart or smaller to prevent the hamster from escaping or getting stuck.  

Glass or plastic habitats are better at confining mess and preventing escapes, but their solid walls can block air circulation. Pet parents may also find that habitats made from these materials trap odors more quickly. 

Recommended Products: 

Setting Up Your Habitat 

Hamsters are comfortable in average household temperatures, no greater than 80 F. Keep habitats in a quiet, draft-free area that’s not close to an air conditioner or accessible to other pets, like cats and dogs. Habitats should never be kept in a drafty area or direct sunlight. 

Dwarf hamsters can be kept in same-sex pairs if they were raised together. Otherwise, adult hamsters should not be housed in the same enclosure. Dwarf hamsters kept in the same habitat should be monitored for aggressive behavior. If the two hamsters fight, separate them. Pet parents should never keep different species of animals in the same habitat. 


Dwarf hamsters need two types of bedding in their habitat: an absorbent substrate to line the bottom of their enclosure and a fluffy nesting material that they can use to make a cozy burrow. 

  1. Two inches of high-quality paper-based bedding or crumpled paper should be placed at the bottom of the habitat. Paper-based bedding should be used instead of wood bedding since paper is digestible and will not harm a hamster’s gastrointestinal tract if ingested. Cedar and unprocessed pine bedding products have aromatic oils that can irritate a hamster’s sensitive respiratory tracts and should be avoided.  

Recommended Products: 

Adding nesting material to a hamster’s enclosure can help it satisfy its natural desire to build nests, hide food, and burrow. 

Recommended Products: 

Décor & Accessories 

Hideout box: Dwarf hamsters should have at least one hiding space in their habitat for privacy. Hideout boxes made from chewable materials like hay or wood make excellent choices.  

Plastic hideouts are durable and easier to disinfect, but remember to  remove them from the hamster’s enclosure he begins to chew on it. The broken plastic pieces can obstruct a hamster’s gastrointestinal tract if ingested and cause serious injuries. 

Recommended Products: 

Running Wheel: Daily exercise is vital to a hamster’s overall health. An appropriately-sized running wheel is a convenient way to satisfy a hamster’s instinctual need to run. Ensure that the wheel’s running surface is smooth and won’t entrap a hamster's feet or toes, causing injury. 

Recommended Products: 

Toys: Enrichment toys can help reduce boredom and encourage mental/physical stimulation. Hamsters’ upper and lower front (incisor) teeth never stop growing, so they should have plenty of safe wooden toys, mineral blocks, and other pet-safe chewable items that can wear down their teeth gradually as they grow. 

An exercise ball can help hamsters stay in shape and enjoy some time outside of their usual enclosure. 

Recommended Products: 

Cleaning & Maintenance of Dwarf Hamsters

Pet parents should spot-clean their dwarf hamster’s bedding daily, removing any soiled material and uneaten food. The entire habitat and its contents should be cleaned thoroughly at least once a week. 

To clean a hamster’s habitat, take these steps: 

  1. Move the hamster to a pet-safe temporary enclosure and remove any old bedding or litter from the habitat. 

  1. Use a small animal habitat cleaner or 3% bleach solution to wash the habitat and any accessories. The bleach solution should stay on the habitat for at least 10 minutes to ensure that the surfaces are properly disinfected. If using a commercial habitat cleaner, such as the Kaytee Clean Cage Small Animal Habitat Deodorizer Spray, follow the manufacturer's instructions. 

  1. Rinse the habitat and accessories thoroughly with water, making sure to remove any trace amounts or residual smells of the cleaning agent or bleach solution. 

  1. Allow the habitat and its contents to dry completely before placing new bedding, clean accessories, and the hamster back into the habitat. 

  1. Return the hamster to the clean habitat. 

Dwarf Hamster Diet & Nutrition

Dwarf hamsters eat a diet of high-quality hamster lab blocks or pelleted food, as well as limited amounts of grains, vegetables, fruits, hay, and treats. Hamsters are primarily nocturnal, so feeding sessions should take place at night. Hamsters should always have access to fresh, clean water. 

A nutritious and well-balanced hamster diet consists of high-quality hamster lab blocks or a nutritionally-balanced pelleted food formulated especially for hamsters. Hamsters should be fed daily, preferably at night. 

Recommended Products: 

Grains, vegetables, fruits, hay, and treats, offered in limited quantities (no more than 10% of the hamster’s daily diet). Most fruits are hamster-safe, but hamsters should never eat fruit seeds or pits, citrus fruits, or rhubarb. While hamsters can enjoy most vegetables, do not offer them garlic, onions, unripe tomatoes, raw beans, or potatoes. Fruits and vegetables should be cut into small, bite-sized pieces before serving. Because fruits are naturally high in carbohydrates, excess fruits in a hamster’s diet can upset their gastrointestinal tract and cause unhealthy weight gain. 

Be sure to discard any uneaten fruits and vegetables after 10 hours, as they may spoil and cause infection if eaten. 

Recommended Products: 

Fresh, clean water; water should be changed daily and offered in a shallow, chew-resistant bowl or water bottle. Pet parents should regularly clean and thoroughly rinse their little one’s water bowl or bottle to prevent bacteria from forming. 

Make sure to get a bowl that is shallow not be too deep, since a hamster may slip into them and become trapped. Make sure that the bowl is sturdy enough to not be knocked over by an excited hamster. 

Recommended Products: 

Do not allow dwarf hamsters to consume chocolate, caffeine, or alcohol–these are toxic and may cause death or serious illness. Sugar and high-fat treats should also be avoided because they can cause an upset stomach. 

Grooming & Care for Dwarf Hamsters

Dwarf hamsters groom themselves and rarely need baths, but pet parents can spot-clean them by using a damp washcloth or unscented baby wipes, as needed. 

Some dwarf hamsters enjoy taking weekly dust/sand baths to remove oil and dirt from their fur. Pet parents can add a shallow dish of bathing sand, like Tiny Friends Farm Small Animal Bathing Sand. When selecting a dust, make sure that the product is suitable for hamsters. The dust bath should not be left in a hamster's habitat for more than 12 hours at a time. 

Hamster urine typically looks cloudy or milky. If a hamster’s urine looks bloody or is foul-smelling, contact your veterinarian. Female hamsters usually pass a creamy, white discharge after ovulation. Consult a veterinarian if you see any vaginal bleeding or significant changes in the appearance of a hamster’s discharge. 

Nail Care: Most hamsters will not need to have their nails trimmed, as they wear them down with daily use. If a hamster’s nails begin to curl, or if they start leaving scratches on themselves during self-grooming, take them to the vet for a trimming. 

Dental Care: Hamsters’ front (incisor) teeth grow continuously, so pet parents should provide them with safe wooden toys, mineral blocks, or other chewable items to help keep their teeth at a manageable length. The enamel of a hamster’s incisor teeth naturally darkens and yellows as they age. 

Consult a veterinarian if a hamster’s teeth seem too long, if they are drooling excessively, or if they are dropping food when they eat. 

Veterinary Care for Dwarf Hamsters

Annual Care

Dwarf hamsters should be examined by a veterinarian once annually. Veterinarians will track their weight and regularly check their teeth. It is advisable to transfer your dwarf hamster in their normal cage if possible or in a small transport carrier.

Signs of a Healthy Dwarf Hamster

  • Clear eyes

  • Clean nose

  • Clean ears

  • Thick, shiny hair coat

  • Clean feet

  • Nails and teeth that are not overgrown

  • Clean, dry hair around rectum

  • Inquisitive nature

  • Strong appetite

  • Moderate to high energy

When to Call a Vet

  • Weight loss

  • Wet, fecal stained hair around rectum

  • Wounds or trauma

  • Lumps

  • Coughing, wheezing, sneezing, nasal discharge, or other respiratory difficulties

  • Diarrhea

  • Anorexia

  • Drooling

  • Overgrown teeth

  • Bloody or foul smelling urine

Common Illnesses in Dwarf Hamsters

  • Diarrhea

  • Wet tail

  • Bite wounds

  • Demodectic mange

  • Cancers

  • Alopecia (hair loss)

  • Malocclusion

  • Hairballs

  • Gastrointestinal foreign bodies

  • Hypothermia

  • Amyloidosis

  • Cardiomyopathy

  • Rectal prolapse

  • Stroke

  • Diabetes

Dwarf Hamster FAQs

Are dwarf hamsters friendly?

They can be if socialized properly! Dwarf hamsters are nocturnal, high energy, fast moving, and can be nippy–so without proper socialization they aren’t always known for their friendliness. With proper handling they are curious, attention seeking, and very human-centric little pets.

Is it better to have two dwarf hamsters or one?

Dwarf hamsters, unlike Syrian hamsters, can be kept as pairs and in fact prefer to be kept in pairs or groups.

How long do dwarf hamsters live as pets?

18-24 months, though sometimes as much as 3 years.

Are dwarf hamsters smart?

While not quite as intelligent as dogs, or some other pocket pets such as rats, dwarf hamsters are still considered highly intelligent with incredibly curious personalities.

Are dwarf hamsters easy to care for?

Dwarf hamsters are relatively easy to care for. Their enclosure setups have a standard set of rules to build from, their diet and enrichment toys are easy to source, they don’t require a lot of space or have a strong smell, so they can live in just about any home.

What should I not do with a dwarf hamster?

Don’t leave a dwarf hamster unattended with a small child, leave their enclosure unsecured, use cedar shavings for bedding, or provide too much fresh produce in their diet.

What do dwarf hamsters need in their cage?

Dwarf hamsters need a cage that has a thick layer of bedding inside that they can burrow into, food and water bowls, a variety of objects to chew, and an outlet for their energy such as an exercise wheel.

Do dwarf hamsters need baths?

Dwarf hamsters don’t necessarily need to be bathed and won’t generally tolerate a water bath. However, they do enjoy sand baths, and these can help keep their coats stay clean and healthy while also a fun enrichment activity for your pet.


Featured Image: iStock.com/Andrey Sarapulov


Maria Zayas, DVM


Maria Zayas, DVM


Dr. Zayas has practiced small animal and exotic medicine all over the United States and currently lives in Colorado with her 3 dogs, 1 cat,...

Help us make PetMD better

Was this article helpful?

Get Instant Vet Help Via Chat or Video. Connect with a Vet. Chewy Health