The Roborovski hamster is the smallest member of the hamster family, with a mature length typically less than 2 inches (5 cm). An incredibly fast hamster, the Roborovski is one of the few types that can comfortably share a cage with a companion without fear of severe conflict. The breed was first discovered in the late 19th century in areas throughout the northern part of China and into Mongolia, where it can easily survive in tough desert climates.
Considered a dwarf hamster, the Roborovski hamster typically has a limited color pattern. The most commonly seen color is called agouti, which is a white underside and a fawn and gray back. Some have a white underbelly that extends up the neck and over the face, giving the accurate name of white-faced. More rare is a pale version of the agouti coloring or an almost completely white body. Unlike albinos, these white hamsters still retain black eyes.
The Roborovski hamster is a high-strung creature, and combined with its agility and quickness it can be difficult to handle. Escape can be a common problem, making it extremely important to use an appropriately secure cage; a fish tank will be a more secure home than a wire cage. Social creatures, pairs of the same gender will generally do well together, but a careful eye should be kept on pairs since play fighting may occasionally turn violent. Successful pairings are often siblings.
Some individuals have been known to live up to four years, and the breed of hamster is generally a healthy one. These hamsters are susceptible to some of the diseases and illnesses common among larger breeds, such as wet tail and mites, but since these conditions are generally caught when coming in contact with an infected hamster, those kept with healthy companions in a clean environment are usually healthy. The Roborovski hamster is one of the cleanest breeds, and will constantly groom itself and companions; it will usually take regular baths if provided with a box of dust. Meticulous about keeping a clean cage as well, it will usually arrange a bathroom corner and a separate place to sleep and store food. The fur and droppings release no dander, so those who have allergies often find them a suitable pet.
Easily bred in captivity, the Roborovski hamster female usually has litters of anywhere up to nine babies. The babies mature quickly and can be weaned from the mother when they are only about three weeks old. Males and females should be separated, as allowing inbreeding can lead to genetic defects and health problems. Pairs of the same gender can often be kept together for life.