Life span: Average 2 years, however many Campbell’s are affected by diabetes, which considerably shortens their life span.
Sexual maturity: Average 5 weeks
Gestation period: 18 days is the norm, but occasionally they can delay the pregnancy, thus gestation can be as much as 25 days
Average litter size: 4 babies, but they can potentially have up to 10 babies although in these larger litters not all may survive
Campbells as pets: Campbell’s originate from Russia & Northern China
In the wild Campbell’s live in family groups/colony’s, and indeed in captivity this species can cohabit with their own kind, however owners should be aware that squabbles can occur, as in the confinements of a cage the animals are unable to get away from any cage mate they fall out with. Where squabbles turn into serious fighting the hamsters will need to be separated before serious injuries occur.
Campbell’s are available in three main colours:
Normal shaded browns with black eyes, this is the original/normal wild colouration.
Argente orange/sandy top coat with grey undercoat and red eyes.
Albino white hamster with red eyes.
There are a number of new/non standard colours now widely available including: Dove, Beige, Black, Blue Fawn, Black Eyed White etc.
Campbell’s are also available in two types of pattern: Mottled patterned Campbell’s have random patches/blotches of white hair on their coloured coats, and Platinum patterned Campbell’s have white hairs intermingled with their coloured hairs giving a “silvering” appearance to their coats.
Campbell’s are also occasionally available in two “fancy” coat types: Satin coated Campbell’s have a shiny, but greasy appearance to their coats and Rex Campbell’s have a textured coat with curly whiskers.
It should be noted that Rex Campbell’s tend to have very sparse coats when young.
Cage Requirements: Baby, juvenile and small adult Campbell’s can potentially squeeze through the bars of a standard Syrian cage, therefore either a narrow barred “mouse cage” should be used (although these can be small in size) or plastic enclosed cages can be used: for example: Ferplast Duna’s or Savic Rody cages. Alternatively glass tanks can be used. The cage/tank size should reflect the number of hamsters housed in it. A cage can never be too big! But often too small.
Bedding: Shredded paper nesting material is available in pet shops. It is strongly recommended that you don’t use “cotton wool” type beddings as these can impact in the hamsters gut if accidentally swallowed.
Diet: Good quality dry hamster mix consisting of a variety of nuts & seeds. Hamsters are omnivores and therefore enjoy a varied diet. Small portions of fruit & vegetables can be fed including: carrot, cucumber, sweetcorn, apple& broccoli. As omnivores hamsters enjoy some meat in their diets, for example cooked chicken can be fed. A hard dog biscuit can be given, knawing on this will keep the hamsters continually growing teeth in trim, and they enjoy the taste too. Hamsters will also enjoy pasta, egg, potato& rice (all cooked).
Hamsters very much enjoy “milky” foods, for example: porridge made with cows milk or rice pudding.
Milky foods are practically good for nursing mums, weaning babies and older hamsters.
You must NOT feed your hamster anything sticky like human chocolate or toffee and please avoid strong tasting foods like onions, lemons, limes etc.
Handling: Hamsters purchased from a good reputable breeder should be fairly well hand tame when you purchase them, however they may still be a little fast to handle at first.
Commercially bred hamsters often have received little or no handling and therefore can take a little longer to become confident with their owner. I personally find the best way for your hamster of any species to become confident with you is to hand feed them tasty treats, they soon realise that you are someone good and they learn to trust you.
Your hamster may be nervous when you first retrieve it from the cage, always wait until your hamster is fully awake before picking them up.
The best way to pick up your hamster is to cup you hands underneath them.
Until your hamster is confident with you I would recommend you handle your hamster either over its cage, or sitting on the floor or on the settee for example, that way if your hamster leaps suddenly from your hands they only fall a short distance rather then plummeting to the floor.
Exercise: Hamsters of all species very much enjoy wheels, and Campbell’s are no exception.
Hamsters can run on their wheels for many hours each night, which is good exercise for these active creatures.
Toys: Dwarf hamsters very much enjoy having places to hide and explore in their cages.
A number of plastic toys are available in pet shops, but you can also provide many “free” toys, for example toilet roll tubes make good tunnels and tissue boxes or “cup a soup” boxes make good hiding places and can also be used as a sleeping box.
Health: Hamsters can suffer from many of the health conditions that we humans do. Occasionally an older hamster may suffer a stroke or a tumour.
Campbell’s, as all rodents have continually growing teeth, and these should be checked on a regular basis to make sure they don’t become overgrown, thus preventing the hamster from eating properly.
The nails on Dwarf hamster’s feet can grow very fast and these will need to be trimmed on a regular basis.
Campbell’s are very prone to diabetes, a condition that is hereditary and affects a large percentage of this species. The symptoms of this condition are the same as in humans: affected hamsters urinate more frequently than normal and have excessive thirst, drinking large quantities of water.
The urine of an affected Campbell will often have a “sickly sweet” smell to it.
Many contributory reasons can bring on this condition including stress, pregnancy, heat and the hereditary factor. There is NO cure for this condition. Affected hamsters should never be allowed to run out of water or become too hot. This condition will considerably shorten the Campbell’s life span, ultimately the affected animal will loose weight, become tatty in appearance, have a noticeable “waist” and in the final stages become cold and groggy looking, the animal will then go into a diabetic coma.
Responsible breeders will test their animals for this condition, but sadly often the first a pet owner realises their hamster has this condition is when they find them dead, unexpectedly young.
Often even Vets don’t recognise or realise this condition is very common in this species.
Campbell’s can also suffer from glaucoma, a condition where the hamster’s eye/s fill with fluid and bulge. Again there is no cure for this, the condition is painful and some Vets recommend removal of an eye if just one is affected.
Important Note: Russian Dwarf Campbell’s are one of two very similar species, the other being the Russian Dwarf Winter White. To the novice owner these species can look so similar that they are unable to tell them apart, however it is very important that these two species are not cross species bred resulting in hybrid offspring whom can inherit health problems.
Article by Wendy Barry for the Southern Hamster Club