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Gerbils & Hamsters/winter white hamster question


Hello,I bought a winter white hybrid female hamster two days ago and I have put her in a 100cm (3ft)long tank style cage which is a Zoozone 2.
I am planning to leave her alone for five days to settle in except for when I change her water bottle.She was in her food dish when I changed her water today and screetched at me which sounded like a rattle snake..why did she do this?

She is in my bedroom along with my roborovski who also has a 100cm long Zoozone 2 cage because the bedroom is the quietest place away from the television and stereo etc.
Do you think a 100cm long cage is too big for a lone Winter White hamster..should I downgrade her straight away or see how she settles in over a three month period and then if she is still spending a lot of time hidden away in her nest box which she is doing now even at nightime,then move her into a cage around 70cm long?She only ventures out for a drink and food and then goes back to her sleeping house,but this is only the second day I've had her so its early days yet.Is it best to leave her completely alone for about five days except for changing her water bottle or start to intereact with her sooner even though she is very vocal and screetches at me.

When I do start to interact with her what is the best way to start?should I take her out the cage and put her in a playbox and start by offering her a sunflower seed to see if she'll take it from me and then go onto trying to scoop her up..should I wear gloves at first as i'm afraid of these little hamsters nibbling or biting,which I know they do do..unlike my roborovski who has never,ever bitten or nipped.

She is most likely a hybrid winter white hamster cause of buying her from a petstore,but we don't have a breeder by where I live and I have no transport to get to a breeder anyway.
How can I get over my fear of getting nipped also as people said you shouldn't wear gloves to handle a hamster,but ever since in the past when I owned a Syrian and got a painful bite from her i'd always wear gloves now for handling these Russian winter whites.I don't need to with roborovskis cause they don't seem to bite or nip but both winter white and campbells always seem to nibble or bite hard,and no doubt it could hurt like a Syrian hamster bite does.

Hope you can advise me on all the above questions,and sorry there are so many questions...I look forward to hearing from you asap.

Hi Hazel

Thanks for your question.

100cm cage is large for a dwarf, but she might be OK if you fill it with lots of things to do and places to sleep/hide.  Dwarf hamsters do like to sleep in different locations so it is a good idea to make sure there are plenty of places for her - tunnels, tubes, etc.  If you think she would be better off in a smaller tank then it might be good to move her now so that she can get settled in that and then upgrade in the future if necessary.

Her behaviour is fairly typical of a dwarf hamster.  Campbells are known to be temperamental and can nip although in my experience Winter Whites usually calm down a bit and are easier to handle.

Hamsters don't like walking on skin, therefore if you want to try and handle her initially it might be a good idea to wear some gloves. The danger is that if these are too thick you won't be able to feel her through them.  

The best way I have found to tame any hamster is firstly to talk to them a lot.  Every time you go near her cage I suggest you speak to her so that she knows your voice and doesn't get scared when you approach.  If you go to handle her, rub some of her bedding into your hands so that her scent is on you.  Hamsters are preyed upon a lot in the wild and they are also very shortsighted so they rely heavily on their sense of smell and hearing.  When you approach her you might just be spooking her.

When picking up a dwarf hamster I always 'grab' them from above.  I never let them walk onto my hand nor put my hand out for them to sniff as I am likely to get bitten.  Immediately after picking them up I put them on clothing.  They seem to feel more comfortable on this rather than skin.  Do be careful if you are going to try and handle her so that if she jumps from you she won't hurt herself or run off and get lost (they can get in tiny spaces and are very fast if they are out in the open).  I tend to find an area of the room that is reasonably secure and put cushions on the floor around me or some other barrier and sit in the middle with a hamster so that if they do jump off they haven't got far to fall and they aren't going to get too far. Often I sit in the hall with them and block any gaps under doors etc. with towels so there is no where for them to hide.

Don't worry if it takes time to gain her confidence - sometimes it can take a while, but the important thing is that every day she starts to get used to you more.  You may find that she will never be totally confident but with some perseverance you should be able to get her to feel more comfortable with you.

I hope you get on OK.


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Sheila Adby


Syrian hamsters are my specialty, however, I have kept Campbells,Winter Whites and gerbils in the past. I can advise on most subjects associated with hamsters, including housing, bedding, feeding, handling, new borns and catching escapees. I have had some experience of various health problems with hamsters and can offer my opinion and advice on basic health issues, however I am not a qualified vet and therefore cannot recommend drugs etc. My website is


I have been keeping hamsters and other small animals for more than 12 years. My favourites are Syrian hamsters and I foster litters and 'difficult' hamsters for a rescue centre. My job is to tame hamsters ready for re-homing, which is extremely rewarding. I also enjoy looking after new litters and raising the pups. I have co-written a book on hamsters with my local vet and have a website:

Hamsters in Sickness and in Health - Sheila Adby and Dan O'Neill ISBN186163218-5 (Capall Bann Publishing)

Educated to A Level standard in the UK.

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