Roborovski hamsters are also called desert dwarf hamsters, robo hamsters, and robo dwarf hamsters. They are one of the most popular breeds. These little rodents are super sweet, but there are other aspects you should consider, such as Roborovski hamster lifespan, tameness, health, and personality.
Our readers’ most popular and frequently asked questions about the Robo Dwarf Hamster.
What’s in this guide to the Roborovski Hamster
- Where does the Roborovski come from
- Health and Care
- Roborovski Lifespan
- Roborovski care
- Similar breeds to the Roborovski
- Is a Roborovski right for me?
What is a Roborovski Hamster
Phodopus roborovskii is more commonly known as the Roborovski hamster.
Roborovski hamsters are the fastest hamsters. They are extremely active. Some owners have measured their robo dwarfs running 100 miles a night in their wheels!
Their fur is soft and fine. Robo hamsters are scrupulously clean and perform elaborate toilets. Like all hamsters, they have cheek pouches where they store their food.
These little cuties are the smallest of the dwarf hamsters.
Where does the Roborovski Hamster come from
They have only recently been domesticated. It wasn’t until the 1990s that they were bred as pets. Scientists are still learning about their natural history.
What we do know is that these desert hamsters originally come from dry sand steppes and deserts in Northern China, Mongolia, Southern Tuva, and southeastern Kazakhstan.
They are named in honor of the person who first collected them.
Roborovski Hamster Appearance
Roborovski Hamster Size and Weight
The robo dwarf hamster can be just 4 – 5cms long. That’s super tiny! They can grow to be 6-8cms long.
They are very cute, in part because they are so petite. In fact, adult Robos only weigh between 20 – 25 grams!
Their tiny size and speed however can make them hard to handle.
You’ll need to be very gentle when you pick them up and put them down, and watch that they don’t make a dash for the door when you play.
Roborovski Hamster Colors
Colors are limited. The ones that aren’t brown or beige have white markings.
Agouti is the normal color – light brown or beige with gray roots. These hamsters look like they have white eyebrows and no dorsal stripe.
White-faced robo dwarfs can be found. They are sometimes referred to as “husky” in color.
Other colors exist as well, but are quite rare. Breeders may have access to Platinum Robos, with a lighter face that fades to white over time.
Pure white Roborovskis exist, too. Mottled Robos, red-eyed Robos, and pied Roborovskis may also be available.
Roborovski Hamster facts
The British Zoological Society attempted to breed captive Robos since as early as 1970 but weren’t successful until they imported some more hamsters from Holland in 1990.
According to Bernard Hill’s documentary ‘Wild China’, Robo Dwarf Hamsters have been known to run the equivalent of four human marathons in a single night!
Roborovski Hamster temperament
Roborovski hamsters are naturally gentle, so they make good pets. Though your robo dwarf hamster cage might be full of activity!
However, scientists doing research on them call them un-tameable. This means that they might not try to bite you, but that they may never get used to being picked up or cuddled.
Their size and speed make them difficult to control. Also, they are known as escape artists.
They are nimble, lively, and agile, with nervous-looking movements.
They may shy away from human contact, even if handled daily from birth.
Do Roborovskis bite?
Although the Roborovski hamster isn’t too keen on human contact, they are unlikely to bite. If they want to get away from your hands, they’re probably quick and small enough to scarper without nipping.
As always make sure you exercise caution when handling any animal.
Taming Roborovski Hamsters
As we noted, desert dwarf hamsters are considered to be somewhat untamable, though naturally gentle.
However, you can get them more used to your presence, making life less stressful for the both of you. Going through the taming process has also been shown to reduce hyperactivity in Robo hamsters.
First, let your hamster get used to its surroundings.
Allow it a safe, comfortable place. If it feels safe in its cage, don’t keep poking it with your finger while it is in there.
Then, let your hamster get used to you. Wait a week or so before touching it. Spend some time just talking gently to it and being around.
Only handle the hamster when it is awake. Robo hamsters are crepuscular. So, they will be most active in the mornings and evenings, or at night. That’s one of the roborovski hamster facts you can take to the bank.
Build up interactions gradually
Use a different container to restrict your hamster while you are engaged in a taming session, such as a box.
Do not grab your hamster. You can put your hand out to it, but mostly let it come to you.
Read your hamster’s body language. If it gets agitated, put it back in its safe spot and try again. Offer treats as a reward.
Taming your hamster will not happen immediately. Be patient. Play with your hamster daily. The more time you spend with it, the tamer your hamster will be.
If you don’t play with your hamster every day, it may stop being used to you. Creating a strong human-animal bond is important in the care and control of your hamster!
Roborovski Hamster Exercise
Your Robo dwarf hamster will have bundles and bundles of energy.
A large part of how you can care for your hamster is to make sure he has lots of space to run around, burrow and climb. We’ll add some links to some great toys towards the end of this article.
You’ll learn that a good roborovski hamster cage is only half the battle!
A well exercised hamster is a happier hamster.
Roborovski Hamster Health
Robo hamsters are generally a healthy breed, and rarely get sick.
However, they may experience certain health issues and injuries from fighting, from mites, and from illnesses such as diarrhea and the development of tumors.
If your hamsters develop symptoms that don’t get alleviated after treatment, visit your vet!
Roborovski Hamster Mites
If your hamster scratches a lot, it may have mites.
You’ll be able to see mites on your hamsters’ fur. They will be moving at the roots of the hairs. They can burrow into the skin as well.
This, along with the mites biting at dead skin, will make your hamsters itch. Bald spots, scabs, and crusty skin may occur. Check the ears, too!
You can get rid of these using anti-mite sprays and drops from the pet store. But it’s a good idea to check with your veterinarian first.
In the meantime, clean and disinfect the cage and quarantine your hamster if you have more than one. Mites can transfer to humans as well as hamsters, so wear gloves!
If you don’t treat it, mange can occur, and you must take the hamster to a vet for antibiotics and medication.
Roborovski Hamster Wet Tail
Wet tail is more common in younger hamsters, and is caused by various types of stress.
Some causes include too much early handling, early weaning, malnutrition, and unsanitary cage conditions.
Stress stimulates the release of bacteria from inside the intestines, which results in diarrhea and dehydration. If your hamster develops this condition, get it to a vet immediately.
Antibiotics and treatments for diarrhea and dehydration will be required to heal your hamster. This treatment must be properly administered.
Robo Hamster Spinning
Some desert dwarf hamsters, especially the white-faced Robos, show a balance disorder called “spinning.”
This is a genetic neurological defect, and shows up when the animals are stressed or excited. There is no cure.
You can minimize the symptoms, though. Isolate your afflicted hamster from others, and give it a safe, quiet environment.
Some hamsters experience it worse than others. If you think your hamster’s quality of life is affected, you may have to make some difficult decisions. Do not consider breeding these hamsters.
Roborovski Hamster Lifespan
How long do Robo hamsters live?
In captivity, Roborovski hamster lifespan is an average of three years. Some have lived up to four years.
This is slightly longer than the average for other pet hamster breeds.
Baby Robo hamsters are weaned at about 19 days, and hamsters become sexually active at 4.5 months or so.
They tend to breed in the summer months, with litters ranging averaging six.
Do Roborovski Hamsters smell?
These little tykes shouldn’t smell particularly bad. If they do, it may be a sign of an ailment.
For example, a symptom of wet tail is a foul odor.
If you’re sensitive to smell, perhaps consider a female robo dwarf hamster instead of a male. Males have a scent gland that means they smell a little more than their female counterparts.
Roborovski Hamster care
Taking care of robo hamsters is very similar to taking care of other types of hamsters.
Your Roborovski hamster must have an especially secure cage with narrow bar spacing (1/4 inch) so it can’t escape. A wire cage with a plastic bottom is ideal. Check out the best hamster tanks here.
As mentioned, it will need lots of space to run in. An exercise wheel is also absolutely essential.
Choose comfortable, non-toxic bedding for your pet, such as natural paper bedding.
Give your dwarf hamsters commercial mixes that are balanced properly for hamsters. They can also have small amounts of fruits and vegetables.
You should provide water, preferably via a bottle. They may not drink a lot, as they are adapted to desert conditions.
You should still change the water every day, though!
Roborovski Hamster Food
Food mixes will contain a variety of different types of food, specially formulated for hamsters. Avoid food mixes that have been formulated for other animals.
About a tablespoon a day is sufficient per hamster. Remember to clear out their bed every couple of days as they will store old food there.
Provide fresh foods to your hamster once or twice a week. Avoid items high in water content, such as most fruits. If you feed fresh food, then clear out their food store daily to avoid rotting.
Because of their desert origins, too much water content can give your hamster diarrhea. Dry or dehydrate juicy foods first if you are concerned.
In the wild, Roborovski hamsters eat insects during part of the year. So, insects can be fed as treats. Crickets and meal-worms can be purchased at pet shops.
Keeping Roborovskis together
Robo dwarfs are very social. So, as long as they lived in groups while young, you may be able to pair it with a hamster of the same gender. You may even be able to have a group of them together.
However, as it gets older, your robo dwarf may not be as tolerant of a cage mate. Male hamsters get along better with one another than female robo hamsters do.
If you are keeping two or more together, make sure they can each retreat to their own space with their own food, water and exercise wheel.
Roborovski Hamster Fighting
You may wish to have a separate cage on hand, just in case. Note that just because your hamsters got along when you got them, this does not mean they always will.
If you see them fighting more often, consider housing them separately. Should the fighting continue, you may also wish to take one or both to a vet to see if one is sick.
If you house hamsters together, always be looking for unusual, aggressive behavior.
Watch for signs such as missing fur and timidity on the part of one hamster. A less dominant hamster will constantly hoard seed in its cheek pouches.
You can find out all about keeping more than one hamster together here.
Caring for a baby Roborovski Hamster
In the event that your Roborovski hamster breeds, make sure you give your female plenty of extra food and veggies. Being a mom is tiring work for hamsters too!
Your baby robos will be born hairless and blind. So, don’t worry if this is a shock to you. They will gain vision and a coat within a number of weeks.
Showing your Roborovski Hamster
According to the dwarf breed exhibition standard the following applies if you are considering entering your robo dwarf.
‘The hamster shall be fit, curious when awake and tame to handle. The body shall be well fleshed but with no surplus fat. The coat shall have a healthy sheen and be clean.’
You can look at the finer details of the requirements here.
Rescuing a Roborovski Hamster
It’s unlikely that you’ll find a breed specific hamster rescue, even though this is a really popular breed.
However, you will be able to find hamster rescues in your area. They might be able to point you in the direction of a Roborovski dwarf.
Rescuing animals, is in many respects, better than buying from pet shops or unethical breeders.
The rescue center staff should be able to provide health testing and tell you all about your potential new buddy’s personality.
If you like this pet you may be looking for a small, friendly pet with bundles of energy? Here are some other pets that also have those characteristics.
- Russian Dwarf Hamster
- Dwarf Winter White Hamster
Roborovski Hamster Products and Accessories
Toys are important for the health of your hamsters. You can find a range of the best hamster toys here.
Hamsters live in burrows, so they should have access to a tunnel. These simulate their burrows in the wild. You can put this in a good Roborovski hamster cage
Their teeth are continually growing, so they need a supply of chewable items to keep those teeth in good condition. Note that chewing plastic can lead to health issues.
Hamsters enjoy climbing, so having structures they can climb on is helpful. They also enjoy digging, so providing sand or bedding that can be manipulated in that way will help occupy them.
A hamster ball allows them to run around your house on the floor without danger (although you should be cautious about stairs).
Roborovski Hamster Wheel
Because Roborovskis are so active, even more so than other types of hamster, a wheel is a necessity.
Choose a wheel that is the proper size for the hamster.
Consider one that is made up of a solid surface, rather than rungs, to cut down on the possibility of injury.
Is a Roborovski Hamster right for me?
Now that you know the facts about Roborovski dwarf hamster care, you can decide for yourself if you should get one!
They are adorable pets, easy to care for.
But they may not be the best for children, because they are so fast and don’t like human contact as much as other hamsters.
They also may fight with one another, if you have more than one.
Do you have a Roborovski?
So, do you think you want a Roborovski hamster? Do you already own one and love it? Let us know in the comments! We’d love to hear about it!
References And Resources
- Can Two Hamsters Live Together
- Cool Hamster Cages
- Elwess, N. and Bouchard, A., (2007), “Modeling in Roborovsky hamsters,” Science Scope, 30(8).
- Feoktistova, N., et al (2013), “Decorative forms of hamsters of the genus Phodopus (mammalia, cretinae): Analysis of genetic lines distribution and features of hair changes,” Biology Bulletin Reviews,” 3(1).
- Feoktistova, N., et al (2004), “Seasonal changes in desert hamster Phodopus roborovskii breeding activity,” Current Zoology, 51(1).
- Ikeda, H., et al (2016), “Disparities in activity level and learning ability between Djungarian hamster (Phodopus sungorus) and Roborovksii hamster (Phodopus roborovskii),” Animal Science Journal 68(3).
- Ross, P. (1994) “Phodopus roborovskii,” Mammalian Species, 459.
they are so cute!!!!!!!!!!
beautiful I have a little girl only had her a day she is so friendly and easy to handle unlike other types of hamster I’ve had in the past
I do agree Natalia! Robo hamsters are awesome, all my visitors are enchanted by mine.
I have a Robo and she was nuts at first, running everywhere, and had one speed, “The Flash”…lol But, we’ve had her for about a year now, and she’s like a little hippie… She just chills very calmly in our hands, she’ll lay on her back, she’ll let us gently rub her little tummy and chin. If it’s possible for an animal to be more trusting of these giant beings that are always picking her up, I wouldn’t believe it. It’s like she doesn’t even care and is completely unfazed by being handled.
She doesn’t even run away when we reach into her habitrail to pick her up… She stops what she’s doing, looks up like, “Oh, it’s one of the hoomans!” and sits there calmly until she’s picked up.
I am 42 and have been raising hammies since I was 5, I’ve had everything from Syrians, to every type of dwarf hamster. This is our first Robo and everything we’ve read about them 100% contradicts the temperament of this wee lady we have.
She’s just so darn cute, and chills like some old hippie, she never runs out of your hands, she never tries to jump, you can just lay her on her back any time you want and she’ll lay there and let you pet on her tummy, neck, and chin.. She just has absolutely zero fear, and I’m glad she’s that relaxed with us, but one has to admit, it’s really usual…lol.
We bought a couple of Robo hamsters and my little girl really loves them and is constantly trying to handle them. (I do stop her.) Just in the last day or so we’ve noticed the fur on their backs looks like it’s kind of greasy…they’re not fluffy and clean there anymore. Would this just be from her handling them too much or is something else going on? I haven’t noticed them scratching or seen any scabs on them. They appear to be eating the same as usual. I’d love some advice. Thank you!
I got 4 robo hamsters recently and they seemed to be fine with each other at first. But now they seem to always be fighting. I do not want to separate them forever, but if I wanted to give them some alone time in a cage to themselves. How long should I do that for? and is it better to put the bully or victim alone if I had to choose one, I don’t have enough cages to give each one their own.
I have a Robo and we got him 5 or 6 months ago, but he still seems to be frightened of me and his cage often have a foul smell, I’m sure it’s not wet tail. And now he have a patch of what seems to be missing hair and I think I will check for mites. Please help, I’m caring for him as best as I can.
We have had our little Oliver for a few months now. He is the sweetest little guy ever! He allows my 5 and 7n year old to hold and play with him. I can tell he is most comfortable in my hands, as he stays still and will let me pet him. He is very active in his cage. But I tell people we got a special one because when we open the cage he will crawl out into my hand. He loves his humans. Very contradictory to what I have read.
I have a roborovski hamster and I love him to bits, I’m experienced with hamsters and absolutely love dwarf hamsters.
Mine is called phoenix
Glad to have read this article although it didn’t teach me anything I didn’t already know.
Great guide for beginners