Want to know more about Winter White Hamsters? Then you’ve come to the right place!
Pocket pets like hamsters and guinea pigs are a solid choice for pet lovers who have limited space or simply want to add an adorable, small animal to their household menagerie.
If this sounds like you, have you considered choosing the Winter White hamster as a new companion animal?
Also known as a Winter White Russian hamster, these hammies are inexpensive, undergo a fascinating color change phenomena, and are about half the size of the popular Syrian hamster.
Fun winter white hamster facts: the tail on this little guy is so short that it all but disappears when he sits down, during the winter he loses weight, and oddly enough his dark fur turns white in winter (hence the name).
Winter White hamsters
The Winter White hamster is also referred to as the Winter White dwarf hamster as well as the Winter White dwarf, due to its diminutive size.
If you’re thinking that dwarf Winter White Russian hamsters would make entertaining pets, we agree!
In order to give you a better idea of what it entails to own one, we’re going to delve into what is required to care for a baby winter white hamster and answer the question, “How long do Winter White hamsters live?”
Along the way we’ll talk about Winter White hamster health and whether or not Winter White hamsters should cohabitate.
But first let’s take a look at the background of this interesting little fellow with the color-changing coat.
Winter White hamster size and features
There are two basic types of hamsters, but both are known as “pocket pets” because of their small size.
The Syrian is perhaps the most popular hamster and reaches up to 7 inches long. In contrast, Winter White hamster size is smaller – they grow to approximately 2-4 inches long.
The Winter White hamster is a Djungarian hamster, one of three species in the genus Phodopus. All three of these species are considered to be dwarf.
The Winter White hamster has a rounded shape, furry little feet and features a dark stripe running across the top of its body. Winter White hamster eyes are black, but if the hammie is albino it will have red eyes.
The Winter White hammie is native to Russia. The hamster is commonly found across its native habitat – including the wide open spaces of Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Manchuria, and shivery Siberia.
Winter White hamster colors
In the wild, the Winter White hammie’s darker fur is commonly supplanted with white fur once winter hits.
The switchover is nature’s way of protecting these little guys and gals. Once the color change takes place, they are able to blend into the snow all about them, fooling potential predators.
During the summertime, when it’s better for animals to match the earthy tones of their environment, the Winter White transitions its body coat back into a dark brown to light brown fur with gray to brownish facial fur.
However, in captivity this color change is not as commonplace. Both genetics and the hormone prolactin play a part in the color transition, and there needs to be fewer than 14 hours of daylight for the fur to switch over.
While a domestic Winter White hamster’s fur coat can change in the winter, the degree of change varies. Some hammies will become completely white while others may have slight patches, spots or bleaching of certain areas only.
Although this dramatic color change phenomena is less frequent in domestic Winter Whites, they do lay claim to a greater number of colors than their wild counterparts.
A Pearl Winter White hamster and a Sapphire Winter White hamster are among the shades that you will find once you begin your search for a winter white dwarf.
The Pearl hammie is a gorgeous creamy white while the Sapphire hamster has a lovely grayish cast to its fur. In contrast to the Winter White’s unique fur, their ears are grayish and edged in black.
Winter White hamster behavior
All hamsters love to chew, chew, chew! This behavior is important to keep in mind when buying toys and cages, which we’ll address in just a bit.
Also keep in mind that the Winter White hamster is an active species that enjoys dashing about, so plan on giving them plenty of space to run and play in order to ensure their happiness
Do Winter Whites make good pets for children?
They are best for older kids since care must be taken in handling them due to their size. They frighten easily which means they may bite.
If your winter white squeaks or hisses at you when you try to pet it, this is a signal to give her some space. It can mean that she is scared or simply wants to be left alone right then and there.
In this case, honor your hamster’s wishes and give her a little “me” time. One thing to keep in mind is that hamsters don’t like loud noises, so talking in a soothing tone will help calm your bestie.
The good news is that with consistent handling from an early age your Winter White Hamster can become socialized, making it a friendly, curious, and self-assured pet.
Can Winter White hamsters live together?
Winter whites are not as territorial as some hamster breeds, so when they are socialized together they should remain amicable, although it’s always up to individual temperaments as to whether or not hamsters will happily cohabit. Still, many owners report that a mated pair are compatible, especially when caring for their offspring together.
Conversely, same-sex pairs and big groups may experience more friction. After all, this is not an arrangement that is natural in the wild. Due to perceived competition, fighting and upset can take place, even turning lethal.
One thing to keep in mind is that Winter Whites do not have a fixed breeding season. They can even become pregnant immediately after giving birth!
Winter White hamster care
When it comes to the care and feeding of your hamster, its needs are minimal but important.
Hamsters are omnivores. They require produce and meat in order to maintain a healthy diet and the correct nutritional ratios.
Among the fruit and veggies you can safely feed your Winter White are apples, kale, peas, cauliflower, cucumber, zucchini, and bananas. In addition, hammies love to crunch down on carrots, broccoli, and celery!
Good protein sources include small bites of chicken and fish, even boiled egg. Acceptable carbohydrates include occasional bits of cooked rice or pasta.
In regard to hamster food dishes, a ceramic bowl is preferable over a plastic dish.
Why is this? For one, a ceramic bowl is chew-proof! It’s also harder to tip over and ceramic is considered to be more hygienic than plastic.
You’ll probably want to buy a small food dish for your hamster in order to prevent it from overeating, and to free up floor space.
As we mentioned earlier, hamsters love to chew and gnaw. The absolute truth is that their teeth never stop growing!
Along with a well-balanced diet, be sure to provide your fur baby with lots of chewy treats and toys. Otherwise your little one will take to chewing his cage, bedding, etc. Just be sure to stay away from poorly made hamster toys and accessories.
Your little chewer will be hard on her possessions and there’s no need to sacrifice her safety when buying climbing apparatus, chew toys, and other fun hamster items.
Speaking of living spaces, your hamster will need a ventilated cage that includes a private place to hide out.
Within her living area it’s important to provide your hamster with an exercise wheel. Hammies are energetic creatures who need and enjoy plenty of exercise each and every day.
A recommended minimum size cage for one hamster is 450 square inches, and it should not be placed in direct sunlight. When it comes to cages there are three basic choices: glass, plastic, wire.
Lastly, your hamster’s living space requires hygienic and comfy bedding.
How do you know what constitutes a safe bedding choice for your little one? For starters, stay away from deodorized or dusty bedding. According to ASPCA these types are not preferable due to the chemicals used, and the possibility of lung irritation.
Winter White hamster health
All hammies are prone to tumors (both benign and malignant). Dehydration, constipation, and dental problems are not uncommon.
Thyroid and adrenal glands tumors are among the highest occurring in hamsters. Veterinarians are able to perform surgery to excise small external tumors but internal tumors remain difficult to diagnose and remove.
Among hamsters, diarrhea (colloquially known as “wet tail”) is the most serious intestinal disease that occurs. It is particularly common in young hammies and can be lethal.
In addition, hamsters are susceptible to bladder stones within the urinary tract. An experienced veterinarian can remove these.
Unfortunately the occurrence of cancer is high in domestic hamsters, and the risk increases with age. While this may or may not influence your buying decision, it’s important to know that the incidence of cancer is higher among females because of the multiplicity of cancers affecting the reproductive tract.
Mouth injuries are another health concern among hamsters. The risk of such injuries are high because hamster mouth tissue is delicate. Wounds to the cheek pouches are very common.
As a Winter White hamster owner you will want to be vigilant about your hammie’s mouth health. It is easy for her to become hurt simply by chewing on sharp foods and even some bedding materials.
Finally, cohabitating hamsters face a unique set of issues, mainly combat wounds! As we mentioned previously, there are circumstances in which hammies become irritated with each other and fight, especially if they were not properly socialized.
Even tiny hamster wounds can become infected resulting in painful abscesses that require medical attention. Keep an eye on your little guys!
Winter White hamster lifespan
How long can you expect your hammie to enjoy his life with you once you bring him home? On average the domesticated Winter White hamster lives for 2-3 years.
If that sounds like a relatively short time span, consider that when they are out in their wild habitat, these creatures may only live up to a year or less!
Should I buy a Winter White Hamster?
When compared to other hamster breeds, the Winter White hamster has a mild temperament, thrives in a domesticated environment, and makes for an entertaining pocket pet.
Winter White hamsters are easy to maintain and inexpensive to own. When they have been properly socialized, they enjoy interacting with their favorite human and being handled.
These busy little guys are more than able to keep themselves entertained as the day passes, so long as they have food and water, toys, and a safe place to hang out and call their own.
Because they are so small, it is sometimes easy to overlook a pocket pet’s day to day needs. Adequate, daily supplies of food and water are crucial. Without proper attention and feeding, it’s easy for such small creatures to become dehydrated, hungry, and/or ill.
Remember, hungry hamsters will eat whatever they can find in the environment, even bedding. And always be sure to check out their water bottles daily for any hidden clogs.
With your attentive care a Winter White hamster should thrive and provide you with tons of enjoyment and entertainment.
Do you have a Winter White hamster? If so we’d love to hear about your experiences with this petite, unique, chameleon-like animal!
Resources and Further Reading
- ASPCA, Hamster Care.
- RSPCA, Hamsters.
- Duncan, M.J. and Goldman, B.D. (1985). Physiological doses of prolactin stimulate pelage pigmentation in Djungarian hamster. American Journal of Physiology, 248.
- Heldmaier, G., Steinlechner, S. (1981). Seasonal control of energy requirements for thermoregulation in the djungarian hamster (Phodopus sungorus), living in natural photoperiod. Journal of Comparative Physiology, 142.
- Merck Veterinary Manual, Hamsters.
- Animal Hospitals – USA, Hamster Disease/General.