SPECIES, BREEDING, & HOUSING OF HAMSTERS AVAILABLE IN SA

WARNING! ALL SPECIES OF HAMSTERS AVAILABLE IN SA ARE NOT COMPATIBLE FOR PAIRING OR GROUPING.

THEY ARE SOLITARY & TERRITORIAL AS THEY APPROACH ADULTHOOD.

IF YOU WANT THREE HAMSTERS, YOU WILL NEED THREE SUITABLE HABITATS.

DO NOT IGNORE THIS WARNING!

Please also refer to our caution about breeding or allowing pregnancies, and the Life Stages of hamsters.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: The lifespan of hamsters is getting shorter and shorter. In the previous century and early 2000’s, hamsters were living to an average of 4, and even 5 years. However, since they have become such popular pets, many people and most pet shops continue to ignore updated advice and, with bad breeding situations occurring at an alarming rate, the lifespan reduced to 2-3 years over the course of the last decade in South Africa. Sadly, that statistic has further decreased lately and many are now not even making it to 2 years. If this trend continues for another 2 or 3 years, we will be celebrating 18 months as a good lifespan! Please refer to the Breeding and Pairing/Grouping topics below.

CLICK TO GO TO:    SPECIES OF HAMSTERS

                                   BREEDING AND PAIRING/GROUPING

                                   HOUSING HAMSTERS TOGETHER ALERT

                                   YOUR ACCOUNTABILITY and HAMSTERS SOUTH AFRICA STANCE

 
 
 
 
SPECIES OF HAMSTERS 

SYRIAN HAMSTERS (Often referred to as Teddy Bear Hamsters, Fancy Hamsters or Golden Hamsters, depending on the type of fur)

  • These are extremely solitary and territorial hamsters and must never, under ANY circumstances be housed together (nor any other species of hamster). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOCs_jz6Qlc.

  • They make wonderful pets and are particularly suited to younger children since they are slower and more chilled compared to dwarfs, and rarely nip/bite once tamed. However, they do not like to be awake during the day so, for very children who go to bed before 8pm, a Syrian hamster may not be ideal.

  • The bite is very sore but, once tamed, generally only happens if they are extremely frightened or in pain, or if you wake them up without warning.

  • You will need much larger equipment and accessories for a Syrian and, as mentioned,  these items are unfortunately still not always easy to find in SA, so do make sure that you have everything ready BEFORE the Syrian comes home with you.

 

 

 

HYBRID DWARF HAMSTERS - Winter White-Russian Campbell's crossed (sometimes also called Djungarian Hamsters or Siberian Hamsters)

***** It is important to note that, in South Africa, ALL OF OUR DWARFS ARE HYBRIDS (cross-bred Winter Whites with Campbells) *****

People often mistakenly think these dwarf hamsters can live together. Do not confuse our dwarf hamsters with Roborovski Dwarf hamsters, or other pure-bred dwarfs, that you may see on the internet, which can be compatible for pairing/grouping (and, even then, it does not always work out happily).

We do not get Robo's, nor pure-bred dwarfs in SA! 

 PLEASE DO NOT ATTEMPT TO HOUSE OUR HYBRID DWARF HAMSTERS TOGETHER!  

(SEE THE PAIRING/GROUPING TOPIC FURTHER DOWN)

  • These are usually very sociable, friendly little hamsters and, while they are predominantly nocturnal, will often appear during daytime when hearing their human nearby, and will be accepting of a cuddle and playtime once fully awake.

  • They are perhaps better for younger children who go to bed before 8pm (under 8 years old to be supervised by a parent).

  • However, many have the tendency to be a little nippy and can bite quite sore in moments of nervousness, particularly while being tamed, or startled while sleeping. Once they know their human, the nips are more gentle and usually a way of sending a message that "I want to go back to my habitat" or "I've had enough of being handled, let me run free for a bit", etc. This can sometimes put children off and needs to be explained to them. 

species-black dwarf.jpg

Tips on how to tell the dominance of Winter White or Russian Campbells: http://www.thepetsdialogue.com/....../winter-white-vs-campbell-dwarf-hamster.html

Roborovski and Chinese dwarf hamsters are NOT AVAILABLE in South Africa.

NEVER EVER INTRODUCE SEPARATED / UNFAMILIAR HAMSTERS TO EACH OTHER!

They will NOT become friends and the fight will result in SERIOUS INJURIES OR DEATH!

FURTHERMORE, NONE OF THE SPECIES AVAILABLE IN SA ARE COMPATIBLE FOR PAIRING OR GROUPING.

 

BREEDING & HOUSING HAMSTERS TOGETHER

Many people message and post that they are wanting to breed hamsters (and, ludicrously, even contacting some critter rescue centres to adopt and acquire a breeding pair). Others are adamant to attempt keeping their hamsters together in one enclosure, in spite of information and warnings that this should never be attempted with our species of hamsters in South Africa. This is a serious concern, so please pay attention.

While breeding/pairing/grouping may seem like a cute idea, or to breed extra hamsters so that your family and friends don't have to pay the R40 at a pet shop or the +-R100 adoption fee via a shelter, kindly be aware that you are playing a dangerous game!

You can go on as many international groups/pages/websites as you like and see that they are pairing/grouping/breeding, but

YOU NEED TO UNDERSTAND THE SITUATION HERE IN SOUTH AFRICA.

Don't be tempted to simply hear what you want to hear!

BREEDING ALERT

We cannot stress enough how much knowledge you need to do this properly, ethically, and responsibly.

 

Before you even consider doing this:

  • Your HAMSTER HUSBANDRY knowledge has to be incredibly sound (you should already know pretty much everything about good and bad products, enclosure sizes, correct diet, potential health issues, etc.), and you should definitely not, at the very least, still be asking questions about the basics that are explained in the rest of this website.

  • You NEED to have IN-DEPTH KNOWLEDGE OF HAMSTER GENETICS, as well as the lineage of each potential pair of hamsters that you intend to breed with. Such knowledge takes months of research and training, but it is incredibly important that you know what you are doing in order to avoid defective litters that will cause heartache for yourself or the people who acquire the offspring as pets.

  • DO YOU KNOW that, in South Africa, we no longer have any pure-bred species of dwarf hamster and they are all Hybrid Dwarfs? Do you know the different coat and skin types of Syrian Hamsters that will result in lethal genes and tragic deformities if bred together?

  • Do you have sufficient time and knowledge of hand-rearing a litter, and an incubator, in the event of the mother passing away before the pups have been weaned?

  • Sufficient SPACE & SEVERAL SAFE HABITATS (in correct housing sizes) are required for separation of breeding pairs, as well as for separating offspring that have not found homes by the correct age. You need to know when a female is at the right age and at the right moment to be mated, and the correct rest periods between litters in order to ensure the health of her and the litters. A female hamster should only produce 2 or 3 (maximum) litters in her entire life if you are breeding responsibly, and you will therefore require suitable space to house her as your own pet in-between litters and after she is no longer viable for further breeding. You cannot just leave any male and female together permanently from a young age to “do their thing” that will, aside from over-breeding and inbreeding, result in territorial conflict.

  • DO YOU ACTUALLY HAVE A MARKET in your area for the hamsters you want to breed, and do you care enough to ensure that they go to suitable homes, or are you just going to dump any “left-overs” at any old pet shop, or further overload a rescue centre because you didn’t plan properly or know enough?

  • There is VERY LITTLE PROFIT IN RESPONSIBLE BREEDING in terms of the amount that you will spend on housing, correct care, and time, for the duration of the hamsters’ lives while they are in your care. 

 

Good video to watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IbqwtQO-nnU&t=42s 

 

Besides  all of the above, there are currently TOO MANY HAMSTERS IN RESCUE CENTERS STILL WAITING FOR GOOD HOMES

and we at Hamsters South Africa cannot, in all good consciousness, see the need for intentional breeding at this point in time, be it responsibly or not.

BACKYARD BREEDING

  • “OOPSIE” litters, and hamsters bred without the necessary knowledge of basic breeding practices, are not considered properly bred hamsters.

  • Anyone purposefully breeding without the necessary research and setup is deemed to be a BACKYARD BREEDER, and we will not recommend getting a hamster from them.

  • And please don't give your pregnant animals up for adoption. It's not fair to the new owner, nor to the pregnant female who will be stressed by the change of environment. This is happening far too frequently and is making it more difficult for female hamsters to find homes.

  • - "I didn't know she was pregnant" is NOT an acceptable excuse. It is your responsibility to ensure that your baby hamsters were properly separated by the correct age (4 weeks), and if you are not 100% sure of the sexes, each hamster needs to be put into it's own enclosure.

  • - For more mature hamsters, if you realised too late that you weren't supposed to have two hamsters together, there should be a quarantine period of at least 3 weeks after separation before allowing them to go up for adoption, to ensure that you are not passing on a problem to the next person. This quarantine period is required for both hamsters since you probably don't know for sure if one or both are female

  • - In the event of you passing on a pregnant hamster to an unsuspecting person, the onus is on you to assist him/her (to whom you gave the hamster) with additional food/litter/cages if they cannot find homes before that litter needs to be separated, as well as helping to find suitable homes.

 

If you are STILL DETERMINED TO BREED, please take advisement from our Breeding & Genetics Advisor, Sarah Mesham. Only after her approval, will you be added to the Hamster Breeders Society of South Africa register (currently, we do not have any breeders that have bothered to meet the correct criteria to be considered ethical breeders).

  • Please be assured that it is not our intention to be pedantic or rain on your parade but, given the alarming status of so many issues affecting hamsters nowadays due to incorrect breeding, it is imperative that every attempt is made to ensure the future health and longevity of them.

  • Should you go ahead, regardless of advice, you will only be known as a BACKYARD BREEDER and will not be approved or recommended by HSA!

 

Please note the following:

  • Should you go ahead, regardless of advice, you will only be known as a BACKYARD BREEDER and will not be approved or recommended by HSA!

  • Any member or person suspected of purposeful breeding, or disregarding our advice about correct timing of separation, will not be assisted in finding homes for the resulting litter/s. We simply cannot continue to risk people suffering the expenses of veterinary bills and heartache due to complications because of incorrect breeding.

 

 
 

PAIRING/GROUPING ALERT (HOUSING HAMSTERS TOGETHER)

Before you even consider doing this, you need to be aware of the very pertinent reasons and why we so adamantly advise against this.

  • Regarding SYRIAN hamsters, it is world-wide knowledge that this is the most solitary and territorial species. Any good hamster group/page/website will tell you that they absolutely have to be housed alone (if they don’t, leave! and never take any further advice from them).

 

Now we get to the DWARF hamsters where many people get confused and misinformed about them living together:

  • In many cases, the confusion arises from videos of Roborovski dwarf hamsters living and playing together in groups or pairs. This species is well-known to be compatible like this but, in some cases, it still doesn’t work out happily. Please note that WE DO NOT GET ROBO’S IN SOUTH AFRICA. They are a completely different species to our dwarf hamsters!

  • You may also see a few people with Russian Campbells or Winter White dwarf hamsters living and playing together. While this is indeed not in any way highly recommended by most hamster gurus, the only way for grouping or pairing to be successful is for two (or groups of even numbers) of the same sex to be housed together from the same litter, from birth, and only if they are of the same PURE BRED SPECIES. The setup is also very specific in order to accommodate their territorial instincts.

 

However, due to backyard breeding and so many “oopsie” litters, THERE ARE NO LONGER ANY PURE BRED DWARFS IN SOUTH AFRICA and successful pairing/grouping is therefore EXTREMELY RARE and too risky to attempt.

  • Dwarf hamsters in South Africa are referred to as HYBRID DWARFS, which means they are not a pure species: Russian Campbells and Winter White species have been interbred (not ideal and somewhat risky if this was done irresponsibly…breeders would have to have known about genetics, etc. in order to do this without risking the life of the mother). Black Russian Campbells have appeared in SA over the last year or two after someone obviously imported a breeding pair, and the earliest litters of those may or MAY NOT be a pure species (we cannot be sure of the genetics of “pair-zero”). Furthermore, it is only a matter of time before they are also interbred with some of the hybrids and the pureness of the species is diluted and intermingled, and these will then be Hybrid Dwarfs too.

  • Why do we not support pairing or grouping of Hybrid dwarfs? Because it is almost impossible to tell the dominance of the genetics in a litter of Hybrids. As mentioned, it has to be a pure-bred species for pairing/grouping and different species cannot be housed together. Therefore, if you have one dwarf that is predominantly WW and the other more RC, you will be mixing two different species, and asking for trouble.

  • Another reason to avoid mixing even a pure-bred WW or RC dwarfs together is that these two species also have the tendency to be solitary and territorial by nature as they approach adulthood. On the very rare occasion, there may be two that have the same mild temperaments, and similar genetics, as each other and may live happily together. However, you simply cannot tell when they are young whether one will develop into a more dominant PERSONALITY over the other that could be too submissive, or both will be too dominant. Sometimes these traits appear at a really early age, whereas others will turn on each other within an instant when they are 6 – 9 months old even after having lived together seemingly compatibly for all that time.

  • Early warning signs of incompatibility are: bullying by one or more in the litter, one or more rolling over and cowering from the other hamster/s, bickering/nipping, squeaking, squealing, relentless chasing. Often, they will all/both seem to be happy sleeping huddled up together, but the waking hours tell a different story, and you need to understand that this will be causing stress and misery to both/all (and stress leads to health issues, as well as trust issues that can result in taming difficulties).

  • Even if there aren’t any immediate or highly concerning red flags while they are still young, many people have arrived home to find that their 7-month old dwarf has killed the other, or they are both very badly injured (have we mentioned that exotics vets are not cheap? …you will most likely need to seek urgent consultation for the injuries and probably medicines too).

  • Another reason to separate ANY species of hamster at 4 weeks of age, is the problem of sexing them correctly, resulting in additional unwanted and inbred litters (parents mating with their off-spring, brothers with sisters, grandchildren with grandparents, etc.) Sexing is NOT an easy task and, sometimes, even the most accomplished exotics vet can get it wrong! Certainly, many pet shops and owners of oopsie litters fail horribly at this, if they even bother to try. Breeding can get out of hand very quickly and, instead of two hamsters, you could have 20 hamsters within a matter of 6 weeks, and triple that within another 4 weeks. The longevity and long-term health of these litters does not bode well and it is really unfair to adopt them out, or for a shop to sell them, to unsuspecting people who will be heartbroken when the hamster develops the health side-effects and/or the hamster dies after a matter of months (particularly traumatic when it is a child’s beloved pet).

Please be assured that our hamsters actually prefer to live alone. They do not need a companion, other than yourself!

And certainly, NEVER PUT A STRANGE HAMSTER IN WITH YOUR CURRENT HAMSTER, and do not bring them together even for play sessions!

You can only breathe a sigh of relief and consider yourself to be lucky enough to have a rare sweet little pair if they have been together for a year without any of the red flags, but THE RISK IS TOO GREAT, AND THE CHANCES ARE TOO SLIM, to try and get there!

 

 

If you are STILL DETERMINED TO PAIR OR GROUP YOUR HAMSTERS IN ONE ENCLOSURE:

  • Kindly do not expect any sympathy from us when it goes wrong. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED OF THE REASONS AND CONSEQUENCES and we cannot support your disregard for sound advice.

  • Photos (on the FB group) of hamsters living together over the age of 4 weeks will be deleted, as we cannot appear to be condoning the risk and experiment.

 
 

YOUR ACCOUNTABILITY and HSA STANCE

  • ONLY ONE “OOPSIE” LITTER WILL BE TOLERATED BY A NEW MEMBER via the HSA group because we will give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they did not know any better before joining us.

  • We will no longer allow subsequent litters to be put up for adoption via HSA without a warning that the breeding took place without sufficient knowledge, since they will likely be too inbred and/or unhealthy. We simply cannot continue to risk people suffering the expenses of veterinary bills and heartache due to complications because of incorrect breeding or careless housing.

  • And please don't give your pregnant animals up for adoption. It's not fair to the new owner, nor to the pregnant female who will be stressed by the change of environment. This is happening far too frequently and is making it more difficult for female hamsters to find homes.

- "I didn't know she was pregnant" is NOT an acceptable excuse. It is your responsibility to ensure that your baby hamsters were properly separated by the correct age (4 weeks), and if you are not 100% sure of the sexes, each hamster needs to be put into it's own enclosure.

- For more mature hamsters, if you realised too late that you weren't supposed to have two hamsters together, there should be a quarantine period of at least 3 weeks after separation before allowing them to go up for adoption, to ensure that you are not passing on a problem to the next person. This quarantine period is required for both hamsters since you probably don't know for sure if one or both are female

- In the event of you passing on a pregnant hamster to an unsuspecting person, the onus is on you to assist him/her (to whom you gave the hamster) with additional food/litter/cages if they cannot find homes before that litter needs to be separated, as well as helping to find suitable homes.

  • On our Facebook group, photos of hamsters living together over the age of 4 weeks will be deleted, as we cannot appear to be condoning the risk of breeding or grouping/pairing.

Our Admins have vast experience, research, and contact with rescue centres.

Without prejudice or arrogance, please do not ignore our advice. Thank you.