Hamsters make popular pets for first-time pet owners or people who aren't able to commit to the needs of a dog or cat. They're not expensive to keep. They don't require a great deal of space and they're quite entertaining in their everyday actions. One of the newest pet species on the scene is the Roborovski, or Robo, dwarf hamster (Phodopus roborovskii). Their natural habitat is the semi arid and desert regions of Northern China, Mongolia and nearby territories. They are a sandy color with a white underside and white above their eyes.
The areas in which Robo dwarfs live receive minimal precipitation and support only short, shrubby vegetation. These small hamsters spend much of their time underground burrowing and tunneling. They're most active in the early morning or late evening. Their diet consists mainly of grains, seeds, plants, vegetables, fruits and some insects. Like other hamster species, they use their cheek pouches to temporarily store food.
Robo dwarfs as pets
As for pet value, this is not your uncle's storied pet hamster. In fact, Robo dwarfs were only just imported into the United States in 1998. The Robo is a lively and captivating character that's actually better left unhandled and best enjoyed from outside the enclosure. Robos can certainly be touched and held, but patience and care are needed to achieve success and avoid getting bitten. Typically, hamsters are a good choice for a first-time pet owner, but Robos are an exception.
These critters are very small and fast. Fully grown, they are barely two inches in length with an average weight between 25 and 30 grams. One mistake or sudden movement could have them on the floor and off to the races in seconds. If you're set on taming your Robo dwarf, it's best to start by letting it run around in a large, high-sided, empty container where you can add your hand, palm side up, and allow it walk over your hand the first several times out. Eventually, your hamster will learn your scent and let you lift him onto your hand. At some point, he'll become accustomed to holding and petting. This all takes time and requires a consistent, dedicated keeper.
Robo dwarf housing
Due to the Robo's size, there are limited options for choosing a living space. Glass aquariums work well as long as the cover offers good ventilation. The more floor space you can provide for your Robo, the better. Commercially sold hamster cages can work, but can also be expensive and harder to clean. One suitable and practical option for housing Robo dwarfs is simply a large, plastic, high-sided storage container.
There should be enough floor space in a Robo dwarf's habitat to place tubes, a few hiding places, toys, a food dish, a water bottle and most definitely a running wheel. In their natural habitat, Robos run the equivalent of 20 miles a night and will do nearly the same on a wheel. The bedding material in the cage should be fairly soft and allow for burrowing. Avoid cedar and pine shavings as they've been shown to cause respiratory illness and other health problems. Litter made from recycled paper is generally a safe choice and is offered in various textures and colors.
Commercially sold hamster food is fine for Robos though minimal additions of vegetables, fruit and meat may be supplemented. Robos live longer than any other hamster species; up to three and a half years. That's plenty of time for keepers to enjoy watching this little ball of energy do what comes naturally.