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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 3 HAMSTERS, YOU WILL NEED 3 SUITABLE HABITATS.

PLEASE DO NOT IGNORE THIS WARNING!

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 3 to 4 years, some even pushing to 5 years. However, since they have become such popular pets, many people & most pet shops continuing to ignore updated advice and, with bad breeding situations occurring at an alarming rate, that 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. As this trend continues,, we are already starting to celertate 18 months as a good lifespan! 

SPECIES

SPECIES OF HAMSTERS

SYRIAN HAMSTER
DWARF HAMSTER

SYRIAN HAMSTERS

The largest of the hamster species.

Often randomly referred to as Teddy Bear, Fancy, or Golden Hamsters, which is usually incorrect since those labels refer to specific genetics.

Pet shops & breeders will often give 'special' names to less common colourations & fur types to make a hamster seem rare and in order to charge a higher price. However, they all remain Syrian Hamsters and the more uncommon appearances are often simply borne of accidental pairings or, sadly, overbreeding a certain fur or colour in order to achieve the effect (usually detrimental to the life span and health of the offspring, unless properly done by an ethical breeder).     

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  • These are extremely solitary and territorial hamsters and must never, under ANY circumstances be housed together (nor any other species of hamster).

  • They make wonderful pets and are slower & more chilled compared to dwarfs, and rarely nip/bite once tamed.

  • Most do not like to be woken up during the day so may not be ideal for young children who go to bed early, since they only emerge after around 8pm.

  • 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.

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HYBRID DWARF HAMSTERS

The smallest of the hamster species available in SA.

Winter White & Russian Campbells dwarfs have been interbred and there are no longer any pure of either species, hence all dwarf hamsters in SA are now Hybrids. (Sometimes also called Djungarian Hamsters or Siberian Hamsters)

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 sometimes be compatible for pairing/grouping (and, even then, it does not always work out happily).

 PLEASE DO NOT ATTEMPT TO HOUSE OUR DWARF HAMSTERS TOGETHER!  

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  • These are usually very sociable, curious little hamsters and, while they are predominantly nocturnal, will readily appear during daytime when hearing their human nearby, and will be accepting of some 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 get more gentle and are 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. These little nips can sometimes put children off, and it needs to be explained to them. 

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ROBOROVSKI DWARF HAMSTERS

The smallest of all hamster species.

WE DO NOT GET THIS SPECIES IN SOUTH AFRICA

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CHINESE DWARF HAMSTERS

They have a longer mouse-like body with a short tail.

WE DO NOT GET THIS SPECIES IN SOUTH AFRICA

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If any shop or person tries to sell you a "Robo" or "Chinese", WALK AWAY ... they clearly have no clue about hamsters and will most likely give you incorrect information about everything else!

NEVER EVER INTRODUCE HAMSTERS TO EACH OTHER, NO MATTER WHAT SPECIES! They will NOT become friends and the fight will result in SERIOUS INJURIES OR DEATH!

ROBO & CHINESE HAMSTERS
breeding + pairing

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 & make some extra pocket money, or to breed extra hamsters so that your family and friends don't have to pay the "R80" at a pet shop or the "R150" 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!

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DO YOU THINK YOU'RE A BREEDER?

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 so it could take years before restoring genetics? 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 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. 

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

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 them 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 ensure that you have a legitimate permit to breed (via your municipality) and to sell animals. 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 these little animals.

 

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.

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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. If a pet shop says it's fine, WALK AWAY...they are clueless!

 

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 many cases, it still doesn’t work out happily. Please note that 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 often not 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 habitat also has to be extremely large and specifically set up 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.

  • As explained in the species section above, we only have HYBRID DWARFS in SA, which means they are not a pure species. 

  • Black Russian Campbells have appeared in SA over the last few years. Shockingly this colour was developed here by overbreeding ordinary RC dwarf hamsters until the dominant black gene emerged. Please be aware that these beautiful little hamsters are therefore genetically compromised. We are seeing cases of severe health issues arising in most of the black RC's from an early age, and sadly the lifespan is even shorter than most other hamsters. 

  • 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. 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.

  • Whichever way you look at it, hamsters are 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. Be warned that the fight for territory & solitude will be deadly.

  • 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 treatment of the injuries, and medication).

  • Another reason to separate ANY species of hamster at 4 weeks of age, is the problem of sexing them incorrectly, 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 inbred 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 over 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 your risky experiment.

FINAL NOTE

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 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.

  • Pease don't give your pregnant animals up for adoption. It's not fair to the new unsuspecting new hamster parent.

It is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to ensure timeous separation, or a 3 week pregnancy quarantine, before handing over a hamster to someone else. (see backyard breeding above).

  • 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 involvement with rescue centers.

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

We are always happy to help with any questions.

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