Russian Winter White hamster

How To Keep A Winter White Dwarf Hamster – Complete Care Guide

The Winter White dwarf hamster is one of the most popular hamster breeds out there and makes a perfect first pet. They are very closely related to the Campbell’s dwarf hamster and are often confused with this species but there are a few small differences that we will touch on.

Keeping a Winter White hamster is pretty simple and just requires a little bit of knowledge. This article is your one-stop resource for Winter White care and should set you up to become a very successful hamster keeper!

All the Winter White hamster info you’d ever need is detailed below, if you’d like to learn more about other hamster species feel free to read our hamster species guide.

The Winter White Dwarf Hamster - Appearance, Colors and Key Info

The Winter White is a common pet store hamster, along with Campbell’s and the larger Syrians. Not all pet stores name their hamsters correctly, so you may need to use your detective skills to distinguish between the different breeds.

Scientific name

Phodopus sungorus

Other names

Siberian dwarf hamster

Siberian hamster

Sometimes referred to as the Djungarian hamster (though this name is more commonly associate with the Campbell’s dwarf hamster).


1.5 – 2 years


3.5 – 4 inches (8 – 10cm)

Winter Whites are about half the size of a Syrian hamster which means they can sometimes fit between the metal wires on a traditional hamster cage. Always buy an escape-proof hamster cage for Winter Whites!

Winter White Hamster Appearance And Colors

dwarf hamster in bedding

So what does a Winter White hamster look like? They have a very similar appearance to Campbell’s hamsters with a few small differences. One Winter White characteristic that sets them apart is their furry feet!

Winter Whites are usually a dark grey color with a solid black dorsal stripe on their back. Of course, other colors are available (including much lighter variations) but here are the most common colors:

  • Black and grey
  • Sapphire
  • Pearl

Winter White hamsters actually have an incredible ability to change their fur color. A Winter White hamster will often get lighter and lighter as winter approaches, hence the name! They may not become completely white in captivity but it’s still a very interesting change to watch. Here are some other ways to distinguish a Winter White:

  • Fur covered legs and feet
  • Very soft, smooth coat
  • Rounder, oval-like body shape
  • Romanesque nose profile

How Long Does A Winter White Hamster Live For?

As mentioned, the average lifespan for a Winter White dwarf hamster is 1.5-2 years. Hamsters have fairly short lifespans in general and Winter Whites have one of the shortest lifespans of the hamster family.

That being said, a shorter lifespan can sometimes be ideal for new pet owners or children. There’s no need for a 10+ year commitment like you’d need with a dog or even some species of fish!

Where Does The Winter White Hamster Come From?

Winter White hamsters originate from Asia. You’ll find these hamsters inhabiting China, Kazakhstan and Mongolia. The natural habitat of a Winter White hamster is usually covered with snow which is why they have adapted the ability to change fur color as winter approaches.

Despite this camouflage, Winter Whites rarely live past 12 months of age in the wild and are lucky to get past their 6-month birthday. Your pet will certainly be grateful for a warm, safe and loving home!

Winter Whites will often dig burrows in the wild for a safe place to sleep. This is also where they choose to breed and hide from predators. These burrows will often have lots of connecting tunnels and the hamster will use any material it can find to build a comfortable nesting area. This is why Winter Whites enjoy having tunnels in their cage at home.

Are Winter White Dwarf Hamsters Good Pets?

Absolutely! Winter White hamsters make rewarding little pets and they’re incredibly cheap to look after. Whether you’re a first-time pet owner or just looking for a fun animal to tame and look after, it doesn’t get much better than a dwarf hamster.

Winter Whites are usually easier to tame when compared to their Roborovski and Syrian cousins. Another key benefit of the Winter White is that you can keep one hamster by itself or opt for a group of Winter Whites in a larger cage – it’s up to you!

Remember, Winter Whites are nocturnal animals so they will be most active in the evening and at night. They will still show their face now and again during the day, but not very often. There’s still plenty of time for bonding during the evening which is when most people arrive home from work anyway.

Winter White Vs. Campbells Vs. Hybrid Hamsters

There are three types of hamster which are very closely related. These are Campbell’s, Winter Whites and hybrids.

If Winter White and Campbell’s hamsters are bred together, their offspring is called a ‘hybrid’. These hamsters can be quite controversial in the pet industry. Unfortunately hybrids often develop health issues and other problems later in life. In short, Campbell’s and Winter Whites shouldn’t really be bred together.

Of course, there are some hybrids that have absolutely no problems and make good pets too but it’s always best to buy a purebred. This is particularly true as the breeding process between a Winter White and Campbell’s hamster isn’t always pleasant.

Both Campbells and Winter White dwarf hamsters make perfect pets for the home. They are very similar in appearance and very similar to care for, just with a few slight differences. Whatever your personal preference, both these animals will make loving companions and prove very rewarding to look after.

Do I Have a Campbells or Winter White Hamster?

Not sure if you have a Campbell’s or Winter White hamster? The easiest way to tell the difference is to look where the body color of your hamster meets its whiter underside. If there is a cream color between the transition of body color to belly color then you likely have a Campbell’s dwarf.

A more sudden transition between the two colors with no cream or beige would indicate you have a Winter White

Here are some other quick checks you can make:

  • Winter Whites usually have a thicker and darker dorsal stripe
  • Winter Whites have a rounder body (Campbell’s hamsters are leaner)
  • Winter Whites gradually turn whiter in color as winter approaches

How To Take Care Of A Winter White Hamster

Winter White hamster carrying bedding

Winter White dwarf hamster care is pretty straightforward. Just make sure you provide a large enough cage that your pet can’t escape from (tips on that later) and feed your hamster a balanced diet with daily fresh water.

You also need to provide forms of enrichment in hamster toys and exercise wheels. If you’re keeping multiple Winter Whites consider purchasing multiple toys to reduce aggression and territorial behaviour. A good hamster wheel is essential as these animals love to run!

Winter Whites aren’t as prone to diabetes as their Campbell’s cousins but it’s always best to stay on the safe side so always feed a balanced diet. Also provide your hamster with chewy foods and toys to help grind down their teeth – a hamster’s teeth never stop growing!

Provide a clean and dust-free bedding material (more info on this here) for your hamster to live in and always keep a safe hiding place in the cage for your hammie. Hamster houses are perfect for this.

A ceramic hamster bowl is also a must. The only other thing to remember is weekly cage cleaning! A weekly clean and bedding changeover is all that’s needed to maintain cleanliness in your cage. Try to avoid placing your hamster cage in direct sunlight and you’re good to go.

How much does it cost to look after a Winter White hamster?

Once you’ve purchased all the supplies, the ongoing expenses are only food, bedding, treats and the odd toy for your pet. Here’s a quick breakdown of everything you’ll need to buy:

  • Hamster cage – $30
  • Hamster wheel – $10
  • Toys – $15
  • Hamster house (hiding area) – $5
  • Substrate/bedding – $10
  • Food bowl and water dispenser – $10
  • Food mix – $10
  • Winter White hamster – $10

Approx. cost = $100

Winter White Dwarf Hamster Behaviour and Temperament

Winter Whites are generally placid animals that can be tamed with little trouble. Once you’ve tamed your pet you’ll be able to pick up your Winter White and stroke him/her whenever you’d like!

They’re a relatively active species which is why purchasing plenty of toys and a good exercise wheel is essential. Be sure to pick a cage that has plenty of room to run and explore. These are nocturnal animals but they do become active for short periods during daylight hours.

Are Winter White Hamsters Safe For Children?

Winter Whites are great pets for kids! They’re probably best for older children as dwarf hamsters are quite delicate and can’t be dropped from any real height. Also, these hamsters are quicker than Syrians which can make handling a bit more challenging.

As long as you monitor any children interacting with the hamster then you shouldn’t have any real problems. Kids love to watch hamsters run across their bedroom floor in a hamster ball!

Do Winter White Hamsters Bite?

Yes, hamsters can bite – just like most animals! That doesn’t mean a hamster will bite you. It all depends on the taming and handling skill of the owner. Slowly start taming your pet hamster after around 3-4 days of purchasing. Slow progress is lasting progress.

If your Winter White squeaks or hisses when attempting to handle, this is a sign to give it some space. Handling a hamster when it’s uncomfortable will often result in a bite. Hamster bites can hurt but it’s not extremely painful and will heal quickly. Hamsters only bite as a last resort so understand the body language of your pet to avoid any issues.

Winter White Dwarf Hamster Minimum Cage Size

Bigger is always better when it comes to hamster cages so purchase the largest cage you can afford. The minimum is usually considered as 24 inches long and 12 inches wide. A 20-gallon aquarium is the equivalent of these measurements.

What’s The Best Cage For A Winter White Hamster?

Be careful when purchasing a traditional wire-top (metal bar) cage. These are sometimes purpose-built for Syrians and the wire spacing is too wide. Dwarf hamsters will squeeze their way out of just about anywhere so always choose a cage with very small bar spacing.

The alternative is a glass aquarium for your Winter White. This is just as good as a wire-top cage and can make a great home for your pet. Just be sure to provide enough ventilation for the hamster inside.

We have a more in-depth article on the best hamster cages here.

The Savic Hamster Heaven - Our Favourite Hamster Cage

Savic hamster heaven review

This is by far the best hamster cage you can buy today. It provides plenty of room for your hamster to explore and is capable of holding two or three Winter Whites. Lots of accessories are included with the set while being easy to assemble and clean – click here for more details on the Savic cage.

Click here to check the current price.

20 Gallon Glass Aquarium - A Blank Canvas

20 gallon fish tank

A cheaper option is the classic 20 gallon aquarium. This is a blank canvas and allows you to create any enclosure design you wish. No wires mean your hamster isn’t going to find a way out of this anytime soon!

Click here to see the current price.

Best Toys For A Winter White Hamster (Enrichment Guide)

You’ll need to provide plenty of toys to keep you Winter White happy and fulfilled in captivity. Toys that encourage exercise are perfect as these are active little animals that love to run and explore! A hamster wheel is a must but you might also like to use climbing frames, hamster swings and other types of toys. It’s all down to personal preference!

Best Hamster Wheel For A Winter White

Kaytee hamster wheel

A good hamster wheel is an absolute must for your cage. That’s why Kaytee silent spinner is the perfect option. At the time of writing, it’s available for only $12.99 (see latest price here) and has the added bonus of being silent. You don’t want to be waking up every night to an annoying squeaking sound coming from your hamster cage – trust me!

Always go for a silent hamster wheel, it will be very beneficial for the long run. Most cages come equipped with a standard wheel that squeaks non-stop when in use.

Climbing Frame Hamster Toy

hamster climbing frame toy

A good climbing frame for your hamster can improve quality of life and provide a new challenge for your pet. The natural living tunnel toy encourages natural behaviours in your pet while, providing an all-new activity for your pet. It’s really fun watching a dwarf hamster navigate the toy, exploring all the different areas. Click here for latest price.

Sturdy Hamster Exercise Ball

The Kaytee Run-About hamster ball is another must-buy for your pet. This allows you to keep a Winter White occupied while you carry out weekly cage cleaning duties. Some hamster balls easily break open when in use, resulting in an escaped hamster to look for! That’s why it’s better to go for quality in this department. Click here to check the latest price.

Hamster balls are also perfect for kids. You can allow children to enjoy and interact with their dwarf hamster without the need for handling.

How To Handle And Tame A Winter White Dwarf Hamster

Taming a dwarf hamster can be easily achieved (most of the time) and all it takes is regular handling sessions. Once your Winter White is tame, you’ll be able to handle it whenever you’d like and your pet will start to enjoy your touch.

When handling a dwarf hamster, never approach directly from above. You should scoop your hamster from below as grabbing from above is something your hamster will associate with predators. Just be slow and gentle when handling and you should be fine. With the right care (and some time), your hamsters will become very easy to handle.

To tame your dwarf hamster, here’s the best strategy:

  • Give your hamster some space for a few days after purchasing
  • Softly talk to your hamster and offer it treats, this will get it used to your scent and voice
  • Carefully stroke your hamster whenever possible and offer treats as a reward
  • After some time, start putting your hand flat on the bottom of the cage and allow your hamster to climb on and explore
  • Gently scoop your hamster from underneath and handle your pet
  • Slowly increase height over the next few days to build trust

Winter White Hamster Feeding Guide

Creating a balanced diet is probably the most important part of hamster care. A Winter White will need plenty of nutrients and energy to expend throughout the day. Like all hamsters, Winter Whites eat fruit, veg, seeds, nuts and insects. A combination of all these foods is your best bet.

Here’s a more detailed guide on feeding a dwarf hamster.

Pick up a good hamster food mix and feed this to your Winter White daily. Then supplement this food mix with fresh fruits, treats and insects – if you dare! Winter Whites love eating insects, this is a common food they would find in the wild. Dried or fresh mealworms are the perfect treat for your hamster, perhaps as a reward after handling sessions.

Tiny Friends Farm Hazel Hamster Mix

Tiny friends dwarf hamster food mix

The Tiny Friends food mix is perfect for a picky dwarf hamster. It’s a great tasting mix of seeds, mealworms and other healthy treats. This food mix can also be used for Syrians, making it a much more versatile option for pet keepers. Click here to see the latest price of this food mix.

Key Benefits:

  • A great tasting food mix
  • The best food mix for fussy hamsters
  • Nutritionally balanced
  • Suitable for all hamster breeds
  • Added vitamins and includes mealworms
  • Promotes natural foraging

How Much Should You Feed A Winter White Hamster?

You’ll want to feed a Winter White one spoonful of food mix per hamster per day. You can then supplement this with fresh fruit (here’s a list of hamster-safe fruits) and other dwarf hamster treats. Try to avoid giving your pet too many treats as dwarf hamsters can be vulnerable to diabetes.

Can Winter White Hamsters Live Together?

Winter Whites love company! They aren’t as territorial when compared to other hamster breeds which means you can usually keep multiple hamsters in the same cage. Just monitor everything closely to ensure no fighting or bullying is going on.

While same sex groups often work fine, many owners report that a mated pair are compatible too. A mated couple can often work well when they are tending to their offspring. Try to avoid housing one female with multiple males, otherwise you’ll be asking for trouble!

Winter White Hamster Fighting

Hamster fighting does happen and sometimes it’s needed to establish a natural hierarchy. Hamsters will sometimes play fight with each other, I once had a two males who did this often! Play fighting is very different from actual violence. If you ever notice blood or any kind of injury then separate the Winter Whites immediately.

To reduce aggression in your hamster cage you’ll need to avoid territorial behaviours. To achieve this you should provide multiple food bowls, water dispensers and toys so none of your Winter Whites get protective over a particular area.

How To Breed A Winter White Dwarf Hamster

Female Winter Whites can reproduce at as young as 3-4 weeks! Pet stores sometimes missell pregnant hamsters so always do your research before purchasing and ask the pet store employee to double check.

Winter Whites are more likely to breed during the warmer months but can still produce smaller litters during winter. A pair of Winter Whites will usually attempt to breed every four days as this is how often the female will give off a unique ‘heat’ scent for the male.

Once a Winter White is pregnant, they will carry the young for 18-25 days. Winter Whites even have the ability to extend their pregnancy if feeling threatened in their current environment! It’s best practice to remove the male from the cage when you are close to the birth date. This is because females can become impregnated minutes after giving birth and this isn’t a healthy practice.

You can expect 4-6 healthy dwarf hamsters once the pregnancy is complete! It’s not hard to encourage Winter Whites to mate, just pair a male and female together and you should be okay! You may need to change the male if no progress is made for considerable time

A Summary

Hopefully this Winter White hamster guide has been useful! Overall, Winter Whites are amazing little pets that are a pleasure to care for. They are cheap to provide for and can provide hours of entertainment! Enjoy your dwarf hamsters and be sure to check out the blog for all the hamster advice and info you could ever need.