The Chinese hamster

Originating from Northern China and Mongolia, the Chinese hamster belongs to a group known as rat-like hamsters. They are also known as the Striped hamster or the Chinese Striped hamster. With a slender mouse-like body, short nose, stocky legs and an inch long, hairless tail, the adult Chinese hamster only reaches a size of about four inches (ten centimeters) with the males being slightly larger than the females. Their natural coloring is usually a dark brown fur over the back of the hamster with a darker stripe running along the spine and off-white belly fur.

The small size of the Chinese hamster often gets them confused with the dwarf hamster. This breed is not a dwarf hamster, just similar in size. Because they are so small, it is recommended to avoid using a wire cage for your Chinese hamster as they may be able to squeeze through the bars. An aquarium or other solid-sided cage with a screen or secured top is the safer choice. Despite their small size the Chinese hamster still needs a cage with ample space for sleep, play, and exercise.

They are nocturnal but will be awake to eat and play for several short periods during the day. Their diet is similar to other hamster breeds, a good quality hamster food supplemented with fresh fruits and vegetables.

An extremely timid breed, the Chinese hamster is generally of good temperament and nips infrequently. They can be a challenge to handle because they are so small and often very quick. They are not a popular choice for younger children that want a hamster that they can hold and play with. However, if provided with a large enough cage as well as several toys to play with, the Chinese hamster is an interesting and enjoyable pet to watch.

The Chinese hamster has a life span of approximately two to three years and the reputation for being an aggressive animal with others of its breed. Because of this reputation, it is generally recommended to keep only one Chinese hamster per habitat to avoid problems with fighting.

Some owners and breeders manage to house their Chinese hamsters in pairs or groupings but it requires a large amount of space and the hamsters must be introduced to each other at a very young age. They are bred at about four months and the pregnancy lasts about three weeks. The female Chinese hamster can have a litter with as many as six pups.

With their gentle disposition, the Chinese hamster can make for a pleasant pet but they are not commonly found in pet stores because there are restrictions on keeping them in several states in the United States. Pet owners wishing to acquire this breed should check with their state’s Fish and Wildlife Department before purchasing the hamster.