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Chinese Hamsters


Chinese hamsters

Erik and Ernie - Chinese Hamsters

Photo reprinted with permission


Cricetus griseus

Other Names: Striped Hamster or Chinese Striped Hamster. Chinese hamsters are not a true dwarf hamster, but are of a similar size as the other dwarf hamsters.

Expected Life Span:

2.5 - 3 years.


A small slender hamster that reaches an adult size of about 4 inches (10 cm). This means they are small enough to squeeze through the bars on many hamster cages so an aquarium is a safer choice for housing.

Behavior and Temperament:

Chinese hamsters are nocturnal but may be active for short times during the day too. They are somewhat timid but are generally quite good-natured and rarely nip. Because they are so small and quick they can be a real challenge to handle, though, especially for kids. They are very active and require a large cage to prevent boredom.

Social Characteristics:

There is some disagreement among experts on this point. As they mature, Chinese hamsters, especially females, may become quite aggressive with others and may need to be separated. However, other owners have managed to keep them in pairs or groupings, which requires a fair amount of space (and only if introduced at a young age). To be on the safe side, plan on housing Chinese hamsters separately, only keeping them together if they show no signs of aggression.


The natural coloration of Chinese hamsters is agouti (hairs are banded with light and dark colors), with a dark brown color on their backs, a black dorsal line (along their spine), and ivory colored bellies. The only other pattern seen is a Dominant Spot (white coat with patches or spots of color). Chinese hamsters have a tail, about an inch long and hairless. Sometimes these are called rat-like or mouse-like hamsters due to their slender appearance and the fact that they have a tail.

Notes about Care:

Basic care is like that of other hamsters. As mentioned above, a wire hamster cage may not be escape proof so an aquarium or other solid sided cage with a secure top is preferable, the larger the better. Avoid cedar or pine wood shavings, and keep cages well cleaned though to prevent ammonia build-up from accumulated urine as ventilation is diminished with solid sided housing. Feed a good quality hamster food supplemented with small amounts of fresh foods. See Hamster Care for more detail.

Additional Notes:

Chinese hamsters are not very commonly bred and can be hard to find. They are also restricted in some places, such as the state of California where a permit is required to keep them.

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