To Robo, or not to Robo – that’s the big/little question!
I receive about 10 enquiries a week for Roborovski and around half of those are declined by me or the prospective owner changes their mind just because Robos are not for everyone.
The Reality – Points to Consider
SPEED MACHINES! – I go on about this a lot but Roborovski evolved to sprint away from, mostly, aerial predators. They are very good at this. If you’ve ever seen one on a wheel you will know how fast they are. Not everyone is comfortable handling something that moves in quick bursts and if you aren’t comfortable then neither of you will enjoy your time together. Roborvski do slow down with time and age but your youngster needs to be handled over a box just in case
What is tame? – Again, another case of misunderstanding the concept of tameness. A tame and friendly Pekingnese dog looks very different to a tame and friendly Border Collie dog. A perfectly friendly Roborovski will be just as capable of rocketing off your hands, it will just be a tad bit slower than a feral Robo and definitely won’t bite you. My show Roborovski will sit on a judging a grid for the time needed to be judged but they won’t sit there for long. If they get spooked by something they will still run for it and this is why most dwarf judges use a tub for Roborovski. In short, if you are looking for cuddles then you will be best looking at Campbells, Winter Whites or Chinese. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to sell you a pup but there’s a reason I’ve only ever had one hamster returned and why rescues mostly get ex pet shop hamsters. It pays to be sure.
But I saw pictures! This site talks about Roborovski in general, there are always exceptions. As you’ll read in the next paragraph you also need to continue to work with your hamster when it comes home and a truly trusting relationship with any animal takes weeks, not days. A healthy Roborovski should always run on initial pick up before calming down.
Ongoing trust building – If you buy a puppy dog you still need to let it get to know you and the same can be said for hamsters. However much I handle them to get them off to a good start and no matter the temperament, you need to spend some time, in a small space, letting your hamster get to trust you and your smell.
They do not reliably stay together. They just don’t. You inevitably get one smaller, bullied sibling in the best case scenario and at their worst they can seriously injure each other. Again, there are exceptions but given pairing up opposite sex pairs is dangerous for this species you can see that having that spare cage for you to split them up is a good idea. Or just get one.
They don’t age gracefully. Roborovski don’t age gracefully. They tend to lose hair around their back end and end up with ‘chicken legs’ after a certain age. This age varies widely and is dependent on the hamster. Suffice to say, this could be a good point. As soon as you see those bare legs developing you know your hamster is becoming officially ‘old’.
Are There Any Good Points?
Yes of course. You won’t find a cuter hamster to look at for one! There are plenty of good points about this species of hamster that makes them among the rewarding pet you can have.
Roborovski are clownish, fun to watch, rarely bite and much more active than other species. As you can see in the photo, they will sit in your hand but notice that I’m not stroking him as well. Hand over hand is best and only stroke your Robo if you are prepared for them to zoom! If you understand those zooms then you will have a great relationship.
Males and females are very similar meaning your selection doesn’t have to be based on behaviour, looks or health.
Speed, not panic. A feral Roborovski will be much more panicked when you handle it, flying every which way. A tame Roborovski will just be fast, usually in a straight line and no matter how much you handle them they will not bite you. This enables you to ‘juggle’ them hand over hand and once they know you it won’t take long for them to stop, settle down for a groom or to take a treat. And that moment is true magic.
These tiny bundles of joy are cleaner than other species, barely causing any kind of smell (assuming you clean them out!) and are not nearly as destructive compared to their bigger cousins which means you can give them all kinds of small, more delicate, toys to play with. They are happy living alone but can spend their younger months with a litter mate.
Roborovski do well in, and even prefer, smaller cage sizes such as the Mini Duna up to an 80cm long cage. It takes a very confident Roborovski to handle massive cages without feeling stressed. This makes them ideal for most, average, pet owners. I’ve rehomed to both large and small cages and I can say, after these years, that hamsters in larger cages do take much longer to trust you. Use a smaller cage to transition a youngster up if you do want to them to go in a larger cage and still be handled.
Roborovski aren’t necessarily bad for children. Because they don’t nip and they are more active on and off through the day, they are more suited to kids seeing their hamster play. It takes an adult to help with handling but I’ve rehomed to many families with children and as long as the speed aspect is well understood then they isn’t a problem.
This species is incredibly robust, they don’t suffer from diabetes like their other dwarf cousins and they don’t seem to have any truly hereditary issues that you find in other small pets like cancer or tooth issues.
All in all, you can have a special and close relationship with your Robo. It won’t include cuddling but they are far from the look, don’t touch animal that they are sometimes portrayed as. As with choosing a breed of dog, what species of hamster suits you in something you really have to consider carefully. If your expectations match the species you want then you avoid being disappointed. Like any kind of animal you just need to understand what you are buying. If Roborovski are for you, you don’t ever go back. Be wary of the dreaded Roborovski addiction!