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What Are Winter White Hamsters?

Anna Harrison
Anna Harrison

Winter white hamsters are small nocturnal rodents belonging to the Phodopu genus of the Cricetinae family. They are much smaller than most other hamster species and have unusual markings. With their mellow temperaments and small size, they have become popular pets, but are also prone to several different medical conditions. This type of hamster is also known as the djungarian hamster, Russian winter white hamster, or dwarf hamster.

Hamsters in this genus are about half the size of other hamsters, just 3-1/2 to 4 inches (8 to 10 cm) long, and have the unique ability to change color during different seasons. Winter white hamsters are usually gray for most of the year with a black stripe down their backs and furry feet. While the standard gray type turns to white in winter, two mutations also exist. One variety, know as winter white pearl, stays white all year with a permanent black stripe, grey ears, and black eyes. The other is called sapphire, which has a light gray coat with a trace of blue.

A Winter White hamster.
A Winter White hamster.

A typical hamster cage is unacceptable for winter white hamsters; because they are so tiny, they can slip between the wires and escape. To ensure their safety, they should be kept in an aquarium. They are not the best pets for young children even though they are among the friendliest hamster varieties. With their very small size and quick movements, they can easily wiggle out of a small child’s hand.

These types of hamsters do not require a great deal of care, so they are a good first pet for older children. They can be fed seeds, vegetables, and grains in addition to commercial hamster food. Fresh water should always be available, and their bedding should be changed frequently to avoid odors. Cedar or pine wood shavings should never be used for bedding material because they can splinter and injure the hamsters' feet. Cedar also reacts with urine to create toxic fumes.

Like other hamster species, the female winter white hamster comes into heat every few days. After a very short gestation period of just 16 days, she usually give birth to at least eight pups. The female will mate again as soon as one day after giving birth.

Winter white hamsters can suffer from several different medical problems. Genetic disorders due to inbreeding and hybridizing present the biggest problems for these little rodents. They are also prone to poor eyesight, allergies, infections, and diabetes. Even healthy hamsters are short lived however, and usually survive no more than 2 to 3 years.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Winter White hamster?

A Winter White hamster, also known as the Djungarian hamster, is a small rodent native to parts of northwest China, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia. They are known for their ability to change fur color to white during winter months, which is a camouflage adaptation to blend in with snowy environments.

How do Winter White hamsters change color?

Winter White hamsters undergo a process called 'photoperiodic response.' As daylight hours decrease, their fur begins to lighten, eventually turning white. This change is triggered by the pineal gland, which responds to the length of daylight, signaling the hamster's coat to change color to adapt to snowy landscapes.

What is the lifespan of a Winter White hamster?

Winter White hamsters typically live for 1.5 to 2 years in the wild, but in captivity, with proper care, they can live up to 3 years. Their lifespan can be influenced by factors such as diet, exercise, and genetics. Providing a stress-free environment can also contribute to a longer, healthier life.

What are the ideal living conditions for a Winter White hamster?

Winter White hamsters thrive in a spacious cage with plenty of bedding for burrowing. They require a temperature range of 65-75°F (18-24°C) and a consistent light-dark cycle to maintain their natural behaviors. Enrichment items like wheels, tunnels, and chew toys are essential for their physical and mental well-being.

Can Winter White hamsters be kept with other hamsters?

While Winter White hamsters can be sociable, they are best kept alone or in same-sex pairs if introduced at a young age. Cohabitation can lead to stress and aggression, especially in small enclosures. It's crucial to monitor their interactions and provide separate habitats if signs of conflict arise.

What should I feed my Winter White hamster?

A balanced diet for a Winter White hamster includes a high-quality hamster pellet mix, fresh vegetables, and occasional fruits. Protein sources like boiled eggs or mealworms can be offered sparingly. Always provide fresh water and avoid sugary or high-fat treats to prevent obesity and health issues.

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    • A Winter White hamster.
      By: Stefan Andronache
      A Winter White hamster.