Syrians are the larger of the hamsters, are nocturnal and live in solitude. In captivity they MUST live in a cage on their own. If they are put in with another hamster they will fight and can cause serious injuries.
Syrians love climbing and therefore in many ways the wire cage is preferable. The cage must be large. Many of the cages for sale classed as ‘starter homes’ are too small for adult hamsters. The wheels that come in most cages as standard are in fact too small for an adult Syrian – some Syrians can grow quite large. It is vital a hamster is given the opportunity to exercise – in the wild they would travel for up to 5 miles a night in search of food. If the wheel is too small they will be unable to use it.
Females tend to be a bit more alert than males, and often wake up during the day to see what is going on. Males prefer to laze around or occasionally they pop out of their nest to use the loo or find something to eat. It is possible to train them to come out earlier in the day, which is especially helpful if the hamster belongs to a child as otherwise by the time it would normally rally round, the child will be going to bed and will miss them.
It is the male who will have the very long fur and a ‘skirt’. This will need brushing regularly to prevent wood chippings getting caught in it and it becoming matted. Use either a small pet brush, or you could try using an old toothbrush.
With the long haired hamsters finer sawdust is sometimes preferable as it is easier to brush out of their fur rather than the larger pieces of wood chip that can get matted into their coat and usually end up needing to be cut out.
Chinese hamsters are probably the most uncommon, certainly when it comes to finding hamsters in pet shops.
They can be quite friendly little hamsters and often have a good temperament. You can keep them in pairs but if they fight they will need to be separated. They are quite small when fully grown and look a bit like a mouse except they don’t have long tails.
They enjoy similar food and living conditions as the dwarf hamsters and generally are very healthy.
These hamsters look very similar to Campbells but in fact they are smaller and their colouring is different. Winter Whites tend to be a dark grey colour, whereas Campbells are often brown – having said that, you can get black eyed white and platinum Campbells. They can live in pairs of the same sex from the same family.
Despite their resemblance to Campbells, they are less territorial, friendlier and easier to handle. Never mate a Winter White with a Campbell as the Winter White female is likely to encounter difficulties during the birthing process as her babies will probably be too large for her to give birth to.
They do not have a history of diabetes as Campbells do. Their diet and housing requirements are, however, much the same as Campbells.
Campbells are much smaller than Syrians and live in colonies. Unless you are planning on breeding, if you decide to offer a home to Campbells make sure they are the same sex otherwise you could find yourself with a lot more than you originally planned. They are relatively friendly to each other, although sometimes fights do break out, especially if the dominant female is challenged. If one is being picked on and is injured you should move them into a cage of their own, but do not be too hasty in separating them in case it is just a squabble. Once separated, it is unlikely you will be able to re-introduce them at a later date.
Campbells have a reputation of biting humans, although it you’re lucky you might find one who is very friendly. My first experience of Campbells was very good and I was fortunate to have a very friendly one called Flossy. I automatically assumed that all Campbells were this sweet, it was only when I agreed to foster a mother and her babies that I discovered that Flossy was a rarity. The mother would spit and hiss at me even when I went near the cage.
Also, whilst they may be very sweet when they are babies their personality can suddenly change when they reach adulthood and they can become more aggressive.
Roborovski (Robos) are the smallest of the dwarf hamsters and originated in Mongolia. They can live in colonies, but excessive overcrowding may result in cannibalism of young if they feel there will not be enough food or space. This also applies to other dwarf hamsters if overbred.
Be careful if keeping a few together as you can become over-run by them if you’re not careful.
They are great fun to watch as they are very active and entertaining. Due to their size and speed they are not ideal for small children who want to handle their pet. They are generally very healthy hamsters.
They are best kept in tanks with lots of toys, such as tubes and other objects that they can climb in, over or through. They set up great assault courses and in order to get from A to B they will tend to go all round the cage rather than going direct!