Keeping Chinese In Pairs

Unlike Syrian hamsters where they have to live on their own in adulthood, conflicting information exists about keeping Chinese Hamsters in pairs. When I first started keeping Chinese six years ago, I was told by a pet shop that as brothers, my Chinese would be perfectly happy living together and because I didn’t know otherwise, I believed what they said.

My boys lived together very well for many months, not a sign of a squabble in sight. Stitch was the more dominant one out of the two but Meat didn’t seem to care and he showed no signs of being bullied.

Then all of a sudden things changed. Out of the blue, they had a fight. Blood was drawn, I was glad that someone was at home with them because I genuinely believe that without that instant separation, one of them would have died. Part of me wonders if Meat had just had enough of being the submissive one and finally stood up for himself but regardless of the cause, Meat ended up worse off. He had a nasty eye injury and he would carry the scars for the rest of his days.

After I separated the boys, I was worried because Stitch was rather out of sorts but I knew that I could not risk Meat’s life further by putting them back together. Stitch did adjust within a week or so but I was a little disappointed that the pet shop were so certain that these two would be happy living together so I wrote and told them. I wasn’t expecting anything to come of it and I certainly wouldn’t have given up either of my boys but I wanted to give them the information so that they could track how often it was occurring so that they could review what they were telling customers. They actually gave me a voucher for the value of the second cage that I’d had to buy and I later found out that the branch in question would not be selling Chinese Hamsters any more.

This does mean that less people will experience the joy of owning Chinese Hamsters but also that those that do want one are having to source their pets from breeders who will have experience with them and will be better placed to advise prospective owners.

As a breeder myself, I do intentionally put my Chinese in a pair for mating but I do so knowing the risks. My former show team lead suffered nasty cuts from run ins with his first and third wives. I knew this could happen and this is why my males are often older and at the end of their show careers before they are mated. It’s because of my experiences, both with my early pet Chinese and from witnessing pairing for mating that I will not let my Chinese be rehomed in pairs to anyone that I don’t know personally and is not experienced in keeping the species.

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Jessie’s Caging Issues

For some time I’ve had to keep my Chinese in smaller cages as they’ve refused to settle in the larger ones and I actually became quite good at noticing the signs of a hamster that is unhappy in a larger cage. In light of this, I tend to start them small and with a hamster that has had trouble adjusting to being separated from his siblings, this has been the most effective method. Just recently though, we’ve had a few problems with the behaviour of Jessie Jaye, the cheeky little Dom Spot that arrived at Metallica just under a year ago. She’s a tiny bundle of mischief but is a generally a happy hamster.

To start with Jessie seemed to be more hyper than normal so I made sure she had enough to keep her occupied in her cage as well as ensuring I varied her playtimes. I also tested her for diabetes which can cause changes in behaviour. Thankfully she came back negative for diabetes so I thought that in a day or so, she’d settle down again. She didn’t…she got worse and began bar chewing. I checked her wheel, ensured that she had sufficient chews and that her teeth looked as they were supposed to. No change so I consulted a friend for advice and she gave me another tip to try but unfortunately Jessie’s behaviour began to take a dramatic turn for the worst. Instead of being just hyper, she was frantic. My poor little girl seemed stressed in her body language and was obsessively bar chewing so I decided that I’d put her in one of my larger bin cages. It  had very little potential for chewing, which would at least help to stop her from hurting herself. The transformation in Jessie was apparent almost straight away. She was no longer frantic and was happily running on her wheel and doing her housekeeping. I’m relieved that things have improved for her but I also think that it’s a reminder that every hamster is different in what they want out of their living environment and as responsible owners we have to pay attention to our hamsters behaviour and body language to ensure that we are providing them with the cage they need.