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How Old Is My Hamster? (What to Expect at Each Stage of Development)

How Old Is My Hamster? (What to Expect at Each Stage of Development)

The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care.

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When you get a hamster from a pet store, there is no reliable way to tell how old it is. Normally pet stores sell hamsters that are 1 to 2 months old, but some individuals may live on the shelf for much longer. The best you can do is guess their age based on their behavior and how they look.

To guess the age of a baby hamster, look at their eyes, ears, and what they eat. Hamsters’ ears only open at 1 week old, and their eyes open after 2 weeks. They still suckle until about 3 weeks. For older hamsters, look at their fur. If the fur stays one length, it is probably around 1 year old.

Like many other small rodents, pet hamsters have relatively short lifespans of 1 to 3 years and grow very fast. This makes it quite difficult to determine a hamster’s exact age. Unless a hamster is young or very old, one can only really make an informed guess at how old they are.

The Life Cycle of Hamsters

Although there are different types of pet hamsters, they all develop in a similar way and at a similar rate when they are young. Different breeds show similar signs of ageing. Therefore, we can more easily deduce the age of baby hamsters and geriatric hamsters.

Let’s examine the various stages of a hamster’s life cycle and the behaviors and physical traits that characterize these stages:

Birth and Week 1

hamsters birth to 1 year

Hamsters gestate their young for 16 days, on average (ranges from 15 to 25 days, depending on the breed). When the pups are born, they are tiny, only weighing 2 or 3 grams.

They are hairless, their eyes are still shut, and their ears are still closed. Blind, deaf, toothless, and unable to regulate their own body temperature, they are completely helpless.

By the end of week one, their ears unfold and open, and they begin to grow teeth.

Week 2

During their second week of life, they grow a short coat of fur, and their teeth continue to develop. By the end of week 2, their eyes open, and they are able to move around on their own.

At the 2-week mark, you can begin very gently handling baby hamsters to socialize them to life with humans. However, there is a risk that the mother will stop caring for pups that you touch.

Week 3

At 3 weeks hamsters can drink water from a bottle

Because hamsters have quite a short lifespan, they grow extremely fast. After 3 weeks, baby hamsters are considered all grown up. They have a fur coat keeping them warm. They can drink from a water bottle and feed on solids.

Their mothers stop nursing and rearing them at 21 days old. At this stage, they look like miniature versions of their parents. They should be handled often.

After 4 weeks, it is important to separate the baby hamsters from the mother and to house them all separately. Naturally, hamsters are solitary, territorial creatures. In captivity, they fight when kept together.

Adolescence

Hamsters are sexually mature and able to reproduce at between 4 to 6 weeks old. However, it is a bad idea to let females have a litter of pups before they are at least 10 weeks old. Male hamsters can be mated from 14 weeks onwards.

Female hamsters that have pups before they are ready are sadly prone to more complications, like stillborn pups and infant cannibalism (yes, hamster mothers can eat their young).

It is important to play with hamsters often once they are 4 weeks old. This will create a bond between hamster and human

Prime

From the time a hamster is 3 months old to when it reaches about 8 months old, it’s the prime of its life. During this time, they are playful, energetic, confidant, and sociable.

On average, dwarf hamsters weigh 40 to 60 grams when mature, and Syrian hamsters weigh between 120 and 125 grams when fully grown.

Middle and Old Age

hamsters in old age need veterinary care

At around a year old, hamsters start feeling the effects of ageing. Female hamsters become infertile at between 12 and 14 months old.

During their golden years, hamsters’ fur begins to thin, they lose weight, become more lethargic, and suffer from health issues. Veterinary care is important for older hamsters.

There are cures for common problems that hamsters develop in old age. If treated correctly, they can happily live out their days with you.

Elderly hamsters tend to urinate in their bedding. They commonly have breathing-related issues and move more slowly due to arthritis.

What Is a Hamsters Lifespan?

Different breeds of hamsters have varying life expectancies:

  • Roborovski Hamsters are, on average, the longest-lived. They live for 3 to 3.5 years.
  • A Syrian Hamster typically lives for 2 to 2.5 years.
  • Campbell’s Dwarf Hamster can live for up to 2 years.
  • Chinese Hamsters live for 1.5 to 2 years.
  • Winter White Russian Dwarf Hamsters live for 1.5 to 2 years.

But What Is That in Hamster Years?

Most dog owners know that 1 year in our lifetime amounts to 7 “dog years”, and most cat-owners know that 1 human year is equal to 8 “cat years”. But what is the age correlation between humans and hamsters?

Scientists from the faculties of medicine, and biology and biomedical sciences at MAHSA University in Malaysia looked into this. They calculated that, given hamsters average lifespan of 3 years, 1 year in our life is equal to 13 days for a hamster.

  • A 2-week-old hamster is like a 1-year-old baby.
  • A 6-week-old hamster is like a 14-year-old teenager.
  • A 6-month-old hamster is like a 20-year-old person.
  • A 15-month-old hamster is like a 50-year-old person.
  • A 21-month-old hamster is like an 80-year-old person.

Final Thoughts

Hamsters live for between 1 and 3 years, so it can be tricky to tell the age of a hamster. When they are still very young, the eyes and ears are a good indicator of their age. At 1 week old, their ears open, and they begin to grow fur. By 2 weeks old, their eyes open, and they can move around.

As they get older, you can look at their fur and their behavior to guess at their age. Hamsters between 3 months and a year old have fur that stays a constant length. As they age, they lose weight, their fur thins, and they get lethargic.

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