Roborovskis (Phodopus roborovskii) or desert hamster are the smallest of all hamsters, averaging under an inch (2 cm) at birth, and (rarely) three inches (7.5 cm) during adulthood. Distinguishing characteristics of the Roborovskis are eyebrow-like white spots, and the lack of any dorsal stripe (found on the other members of the Phodopus genus). The average lifespan for the Roborovski hamster is three years, though this is dependent on living conditions (extremes being four years in captivity and two in the wild). Although claimed to be hypoallergenic, Roborovski hamsters have been associated with the development of asthma in previously asymptomatic owners.
Roborovski hamsters live in and around the Gobi Desert, throughout Mongolia's desert steppe and the adjacent territories of Kazakhstan, Russia (Tuva) and Northern China. Their efficient use of water makes them particularly suited to the steppe and desert regions they inhabit. Also they make very interesting house pets. They dig and live in burrows with steep tunnels that are as far as six (6) feet underground. In the wild, Roborovski hamsters are crepuscular, most active at dawn and dusk.They are omnivorous, they primarily eat grains, vegetables, fruit, and plants but they will also eat meat and insects in small quantities. Roborovski hamsters remain underground in winter and survive in the season by stockpiling some food in warmer weather and storing it in special food chambers within their burrow system. They do not particularly take to eating the pellets found in most common retail hamster foods.
Currently there are 3 confirmed variations of Roborovski hamsters; the agouti (a natural grayish-brown with white underside and "eyebrows"), a mutation producing a white-faced hamster also known as the "husky" and they also found a white spotted variation.
The gender of a roborovski is determined as such: Female openings are very close together and may even look like just one opening, while male openings are further apart. Males usually have a visible scent gland near the navel, above the two openings appearing as a yellow stain.Roborovski hamsters may reach sexual maturity as early as 5 weeks but usually do not breed until the year after they were born, usually early spring. It is advised when keeping them as pets that females should not be mated until they are closer to 4 months of age, males usually reach sexual maturity at 3 months. The gestation period of Roborovski hamsters is usually 20-22 days but can be up to 30 according to some sources. As the birth day grows closer the female will become more aggressive towards the male and often banish him from the nest till after the birth. It has been known that the female roborovski hamster can bite an owner if she is handled when she is heavily pregnant. Litters are usually small, being typically of 4-6 pups, though larger litters have been reported of up to 10. If the male is still around the female shortly after her birth he will attempt to mate with her again.
Roborovski hamsters, being fast, agile, and naturally timid or shy, are generally recommended as "look but don't touch" pets. Loud noises may agitate the hamster. As they rarely bite, Roborovski hamsters may make good pets for owners who enjoy interactive play (in which the hamster explores his or her owner). This may also provide time for taming the Roborovski. Roborovski hamsters, being very sociable, are fun to watch. As light may sometimes disturb them, it is recommended that red lights be used to allow an owner to view the hamsters without disturbing them due to the fact that Roborovski hamsters are unable to see red light.Roborovski hamsters are not known to be climbers, unlike other hamsters. Instead, they prefer to tunnel and run. Roborovski hamsters are known to sleep in their wheels, especially in wheels with banked edges.