Are you looking for a hassle-free pet? Hamsters might work for you.
A hamster seems like the best start pet for many children and adults. This little animal doesn’t require much attention, and usually keeps itself occupied and physically stimulated by running in its cage.
It’s also cuddly, cute, and pleasant to hold.
So, if you’ve decided to get a hamster, read this article to learn more about the hamster life cycle, how long it’s expected to live, and how to provide it with the best home.
The Hamster Life Cycle
Compared to other bigger pets, hamsters are considered short-lived pets.
While this might be a bit sad because you don’t get to spend time with your little animal, you’ll enjoy a lot of quality time together.
At the same time, if you’re getting your hamster as the first pet for your kids, this short life will teach them a lot about the facts of life and death.
Understanding the hamster’s life cycle allows you, as a pet owner, to provide this adorable animal with the best home.
A hamster’s life cycle can be broken into five stages.
- Adulthood and sexual maturity
- Old age
We’ll discuss each one of them in detail.
Newborn hamsters are born blind and deaf. So, they won’t be able to survive without their mother as they depend on her for protection and food.
They can be as helpless as human babies, so you should avoid handling them roughly. They can also be too sensitive, so you need to avoid making loud noises because they will get terrified.
Hamster babies or pups grow fast. After five days of their birth, the pigmentation on their skin begins to show.
By the time they’re one week old, their teeth emerge, and they start growing hair on their bodies.
At about the age of two weeks, they start to move. They feed on their mother’s milk, but they might start to experiment with different kinds of food in the cage.
At the two-week mark, the pups begin to act curious, moving more around the cage. Yet, it’s still too early to remove them from the cage as they still need to be next to their mother.
After 17 days, their eyes begin to open. However, their vision never becomes too strong, and they remain color-blind throughout their lives.
Their ears also start to pop up, and they might continue to nurse. Dwarf hamsters are usually weaned before Syrian hamsters that typically continue to feed on their mother’s milk until they’re almost one month old.
The little hamsters might start to climb and run in the cage. This is the best time for you to bond with a baby hamster.
By the age of one month, baby hamsters look very much like miniature adults. They can eat adults’ food and engage in play.
At this age, you can start to teach your hamster tricks, like learning how to run in circles, stand, and jump. Hamsters are intelligent, even at this young age, and using food for positive reinforcement will make your job easier.
Teaching your hamster tricks takes time and patience, and working with an older hamster will definitely be better. Yet, you can still teach a baby hamster a trick or two during infancy.
Hamsters reach adolescence earlier than humans do, as they might become adolescents between the ages of two and four weeks.
During this life stage your hamsters will be more curious and adventurous. Their physical traits also start to change, so they begin to lose their baby fur and grow adult fur.
Their teeth also start to grow, so they are able to eat all types of solid food.
After one month, you should separate hamsters from their mother, keeping each sex in a separate cage to prevent aggression. Hamsters can start attacking one another in the cage if they’re kept together for too long.
If you’re planning to buy a hamster, this is the right age to look for.
Some pet shops sell hamsters that are as young as four or five weeks old. However, most shops sell hamsters that are almost two months old.
Getting a younger hamster is dangerous because before the age of four weeks and it’s fully weaned, the pup won’t be able to survive without the mother.
During this stage, hamsters won’t be startled by humans, and you can introduce them to other pets. Nevertheless, if you have younger children, you should never leave them unsupervised with a hamster.
An enthusiastic child can greatly harm this little and fragile creature.
Adulthood and Sexual Maturity
Male hamsters reach sexual maturity before females, which typically reach sexual maturity by nine weeks. Male hamsters can reach sexual maturity by the time they’re six weeks old, although they haven’t reached their full adult size yet.
When hamsters reach adulthood, they become more active. By the time they’re three to six months old, you can get your pet out of the cage under your supervision.
If you’ve been bonding with your fluffy friend since the beginning, it will be sociable and friendly.
It’s important to keep a chew toy in the cage, so your pet can chew on it. Also, because hamsters’ teeth keep growing throughout their lives, they need to sharpen their teeth to keep them of an adequate length.
The average weight of domesticated hamsters is between 0.8 and 5.3 ounces, depending on the species. Therefore, you should keep that in mind while deciding on the size of the cage.
The cage should have at least 450 square inches of floor space. Since hamsters are territorial, it’s essential to keep one hamster per cage to avoid aggression.
Unless you want male and female hamsters to mate, you need to keep them separated.
Successful mating starts by setting the scene.
First, you should put the cage of the male and the female next to one another. This will get them used to each other’s scent without starting any aggression.
After a week or so, the two hamsters will be familiar with one another. Some breeders recommend that you transfer both of them into a third cage, which will be neutral territory.
It’s best to introduce the hamsters in the evening because they’re nocturnal animals.
If you try this, you need to put the male first in the cage, and then after it calms down, you can introduce the female. If you notice any aggression, you should separate them immediately.
The female will freeze in a receptive position, and the mating will happen on the spot. However, in some cases, they might start fighting, so you need to remove the female immediately.
You should give the couple about 20 minutes and then separate them, or they’ll start fighting. If the mating attempt doesn’t succeed, you can try the next night.
While the female is pregnant, you can prepare a nesting box with plenty of bedding material like cotton cloth and newspaper sheets. You should also offer her more protein-rich food and fruits.
The gestation period is quite short and lasts between 18 and 22 days.
You’ll notice that the female hamster is getting bigger by the 10th day of gestation. After this, it’s best to leave the female and not try to clean the cage because she will be very stressed.
You can expect the mother to give birth to a litter of six to eight pups.
With proper care, a hamster can live up to three years. Some even live longer than this.
Once the hamster is two years old, you’ll notice several signs of aging, like hair thinning, hearing loss, poor vision, limited activity, and a change in food preferences.
For example, you’ll start noticing that your hamster isn’t playing and running the way it usually does. It will also prefer softer food because it’s easier to chew.
It’s possible to adopt an old hamster from the pet store, and you can still train it to do some tricks. However, you need to understand that this can be a little challenging.
It’s important to take your hamster to the vet and have it checked. It might suffer from some illnesses, but they can be treated if detected early.
What Factors Can Affect the Hamster’s Quality of Life?
Syrian hamsters can live up to three years, while Campbell’s dwarf hamsters can live between 1.5 and 2.5 years.
However, several illnesses can affect your hamster’s life span. Some of these conditions are treatable, especially if discovered early.
- Providing your hamster with improper food can cause diarrhea or wet tail, which leads to dehydration.
- Digestive bacterial infections like Tyzzer disease can happen when the hamster eats contaminated feces. This disease leads to loss of appetite.
- Tapeworms aren’t fatal until they grow too big to cause a blockage in the intestines. In this case, they might kill your hamster.
- Without proper toys to chew on, hamsters’ teeth can grow to be too long. If they don’t grind them down, the long teeth can lead to the formation of abscesses.
- Diabetes is common in older hamsters. Hamsters suffer from this condition when their bodies are unable to create enough insulin.
- At old age, hamsters are prone to congestive heart failure. Although this issue isn’t treatable, the vet can suggest ways to manage it.
A hamster is a short-lived pet with an interesting life cycle.
The good thing about having a hamster is that you can have a cute and cuddly pet that doesn’t need much attention. However, it’s important to understand the stages it passes through to give your pet the best life it can have.
I have a bachelor’s degree in Film/Video/Media Studies, as well as an associates degree in Communications. I began producing videos and musical recordings nearly 15 years ago. I am a guitarist and bassist in Southwest MI and have been in a few different bands since 2009, and in 2012 I began building custom guitars and basses in my home workshop as well. When I’m home, I love spending time with my three pets (a dog, cat, and snake) and gardening in my backyard. I also like photographing wild birds, especially birds of prey.