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New hamster owner in need of advice

2715 Views 9 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  Purple-Hops
Yesterday (Tues) I bought two male Winter White Russian dwarf hamsters. They came from PetSmart and are brothers from the same litter. I'm unsure of their age, though.

I have them in a 10 gallon fish tank instead of a cage (I just preferred this idea) so they have a lot of space. They have a large food bowl, 1 water bottle, and 1 wheel at the moment, and plenty of bedding to tunnel in, etc.

In the store, they seemed to get along well - no fighting or apparent aggressive behavior, though one was fussy from just having been woken up and he was squeaking a lot but otherwise didn't seem to be trying to bite, etc.

Soren, my personal favorite, is very easy-going. He has already climbed into my hand willingly on a couple of occasions and is settling in nicely. He nibbles a bit, but so far it hasn't hurt and he has never acted aggressive towards me. He has a few scars around his nose and eyes, though, and that has made me curious about what has happened to him in the past.

His brother Kier, however, is a serious drama queen. He hates being touched - it scares him and he starts squeaking like you're killing him. In fact, he's easily frightened in general and takes off running and fussing at the slightest thing. He's decided to make his nest underneath the water bottle, so any time Soren goes to take a drink, Kier flips out just because Soren is near him. Soren never threatens Kier, never starts fights, nothing. He just wants a bite of food or a drink of water, and Kier acts kind of crazy.

I separated them last night with a simple piece of cardboard in the tank - the squeaking was keeping me awake - but I removed the cardboard this morning. I was out of my room for maybe 20 minutes, and when I returned, Soren had a great deal of blood on his face and front paws. He was shaking and squinting a bit. I was worried at first, but after several hours Soren seems fine and is acting normally.

Kier is still overly dramatic and pissy, though at the moment they are both sleeping. They do not like to get near one another right now, mostly because Kier has a squeaking fit and Soren simply backs off. He never seems to instigate things, but Kier seems to think he will.

Kier seems to behave as the more submissive one - by the way he rolls on his back and puts his feet up, but the fact that he bit Soren so badly really bothers me and I would like some opinions on what to do.

PetSmart allows one to return an animal within 14 days for a full refund no matter what the problem (sickness, death, personality clash, etc), but I really want to keep both of them. I would also prefer to keep them in the same tank - I really don't have the space or money to deal with another tank.
I'd like to think that Kier's behavior is simply due to the stress of a new environment, but I don't know that for sure. Should I leave them together for now and see if Kier calms down and becomes more tame with time, or am I just risking Soren's health and life by doing so?
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My area lays within Syrians, but if there's blood, you should probably separate them. Now, I don't really know about dwarves. But a hamster is a hamster. They could be the best of friends, and then suddenly all after one another's blood. I saw a dwarf hamster in the pet store years ago who was MISSING AN EYE undoubtedly from a fight amongst his "friends". In fact, he was so frightened of his "brothers", that I think he was the one that chewed a hole through the pexiglass separating the tank of dwarves and the tank of Syrians. And then I watched him crawl through the hole and shudder in the corner of the Syrian tank. I know they *typically* get along and be social, but if your boys are drawing blood, you may need to separate them into individual cages.

Does he squeak every time Soren is near him? That's a very frightened, and unpredictable animal. That's the worst kind of pet to have; because they can do damage simply out of fear. It's not easy to soothe a fearful animal if their source of fear is around, and it seems like Kier's source of fear is Soren.

I relate Russian dwarves to a game of 50/50. I've heard some good about them, and some very bad. I've heard some are sweet and gentle, and just the best types of pets! But MY experience with one, and some of the other opinions I've heard, they are very nasty. The one dwarf I had(and I did NOT get her from a pet store, she was one offspring of my friend's neighbor's hamster that had a litter, but the mama was probably from a pet store), probably wasn't socialized - perhaps you were lied to and Kier and Soren aren't brothers at all - perhaps Soren came from a very socialized environment and Kier did not. I wouldn't be surprised if you were lied to, I don't trust Petsmart's honesty, ethics or integrity, I don't think they have any to be honest.

There WILL be stress from being in a new place, but it's possible their true colors are shining through, and that they just won't get along.
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Dwarf hamsters are very hit or miss as far as keeping them together. It's to the point where I don't normally recommend trying (better safe than sorry and they do fine alone).

However, I will say that a 10-gallon is too small for two hamsters. So if you want to try again, get a larger enclosure. It's also best to have two of everything to help avoid fights (two food dishes, two wheels, etc.).

As for taming them, try sitting in a bath tub. Just let them run around and get used to you. Once they're curious enough to approach, offer them treats and try gently petting them (unless they seem really nervous). Pet store hamsters are generally poorly socialized and the dwarf species are already more wild. My Russian was one of the sweetest hamsters I've ever had but it took a lot of work and I had to go slowly. Syrians are much easier to handle and tame in general.
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Thank you both for the advice.
I have chosen to return Kier back to PetSmart. He is still very nonsocial, squeaking and fussing with no provocation, and even pitches a fit when he gets near Soren's nest....and Soren is nowhere near his nest.
It looks like Kier may have attacked Soren again, though less viciously this time, but I'm just not willing to risk letting this continue or dealing with such a violent little guy.
Again, thanks for the info and advice. It helped my come to what I think is the best overall solution.
If you take the hamster back, the next owner could have the same problem, so make sure they know he MUST be left on his own!
Try upgrading them to AT LEAST a twenty gallon long though I prefer a bin cage. thats the min also they need two of everything if the fighting continues seperate them each into a cage at least 360 sq in length times width
Thank you for the concern, but a week ago I took the fighter back to PetSmart and warned them of his antisocial behavior.
Soren is perfectly happy in his 10 gallon tank by himself.
Now he's dealing with dermatitis, but otherwise seems to be doing well. The vet has him on a 4-day antibiotic regimen for the bacterial infection.
I guess it was just a classic game of Russian Roulette!
the ten gallon tank is still too small due to most recent research. It is recommended to provide at least 360 sq in this can be done with a 20 gal long aquarium, a 29 gal or a bin cage ( cheaper but not as clean looking)
Oh, yes. 10g is too small for a betta IMO. When I had Button he slept in his 3 tiered cage but he had free roam of my room at night. Then I moved and got a bunny. :/ He still got free release in the bathroom and living room and even my bed where I hid his supper morsels and he would find them :D
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