Having a hamster give birth to babies is very exciting. The pet owner will have prepared the cage and put in fresh bedding for the delivery. A suitably secluded space for the mother hamster to have her babies seems to be the final provision for the birth.
Unfortunately, birthing babies does not always go smoothly. The pet owner may be left with some tiny little hamster babies that must be fed to survive.
Baby hamsters with no mother need to be hand-reared using a kitten milk replacement formula. A dropper or syringe should be used to ensure that tiny quantities are delivered to the baby hamster’s mouth. Positioning while feeding and hygiene are critical for the babies’ survival.
Sadly, complications in birthing can arise, and the mother hamster may die, leaving the babies without her care and a source of milk.
Although hamsters are generally good mothers, they may reject babies for several reasons. Stress, being too young when mated, inadequate diet, or an unknown reason can cause hamsters to abandon their babies.
What Should I Feed Orphaned Baby Hamsters?
Baby hamsters are called pups, and they are born without hair, are blind, deaf, and unable to move much at all. In this first stage, they are commonly known as ‘pinkies’ due to their pink skin.
Newborn hamster pups are incredibly delicate, and it takes an enormous amount of dedication and skill to raise them.
The most important consideration is choosing a biologically similar milk supplement to their mother’s milk. Unfortunately, no milk supplement is produced for hamsters or any other pet rodents.
Studies have shown that the most similar milk to most rodent mother’s milk is a kitten milk formula. Kitten milk formula is easily found in pet shops, agricultural suppliers, and some pharmacies.
It is critical to follow the mixing directions on the formula container when mixing the milk. Adding too much water makes the liquid too thin, which can cause the hamster pup to choke. It will also have insufficient nutrients if the formula is diluted.
Adding too little water to the kitten formula will result in the baby hamsters becoming dehydrated and constipated.
It is essential to boil and cool any water used to mix the milk formula. The hamster pups are vulnerable without their mother’s colostrum and could easily pick up diseases.
Should I Warm the Milk Before Feeding Baby Hamsters?
Milk from the mother hamster would be supplied to the babies at body heat – 97 to 102.3° F (36.1 to 38.9° C). Persuading the babies to drink cold milk will be difficult.
It is advisable to warm the milk by mixing previously boiled, cooled water with a few drops of boiling water. Test the water by dropping a little on the inside of your wrist. The water should not feel cooler or hotter than your wrist.
Once you have the correct water temperature, mix it into the powdered milk supplement. It is important not to add boiling water to the supplement. The heat will denature the proteins essential for the babies’ growth, making them indigestible.
If you have multiple hamster babies to feed, the milk will cool while you are busy feeding the first one. Take a container of boiling water with you. Check the heat of the milk regularly and if it feels cool, put the container of mixed milk supplement into the boiling water to warm up a little. Monitor the heat as it must not get too hot.
Feeding the baby hamsters warmed milk helps to keep their body temperatures up. Cold milk consumption will result in cold hamster pups.
Should I Use a Bottle to Feed Hamster Babies?
Hamster babies are tiny, weighing only two to three grams or less than an ounce. There are no teats on the market small enough to feed such a tiny mouth.
The best method of feeding neonatal hamster pups is with a pipette or dropper. These are sometimes called eye droppers. You can find them at most pharmacies. Choose smaller droppers as you need to deliver small amounts of milk.
Pipettes can be found at science supply shops. Sometimes art shops may stock pipettes.
You should continue to use the dropper or pipette for the entire time you feed the baby hamsters. There will be no need to move on to bottle feeding at any stage.
Some people use a syringe to feed baby hamsters, but this has some problems. Droppers are more easily controlled in producing only a drop of milk at a time. Syringes rely on the operator having enough skill to release only one drop.
Generally, the pet owner presses the plunger on the syringe too much. The baby hamster is drowned by too much milk entering its mouth. The milk can be inhaled into the lungs.
How Much Should I Feed a Baby Hamster?
Most people are surprised by the small amount baby hamsters eat in the first few days. The hamster pups can only take in one to two drops of milk at each feed. Trying to force them to take in more results in painful stomach cramps. The stomach becomes too large and could interfere with breathing. Overfeeding also causes diarrhea.
Drop a single drop of milk onto the hamster babies’ lips and wait while it takes the liquid in. initially, this may take several minutes. Feeding two drops of milk could take as long as ten minutes.
As the hamster babies get older, they may grasp the dropper or pipette with their front paws and hold it. They may even try to suck the mill out of the dropper end. These hamster pups are doing well, and you should feel encouraged if you see this behavior.
How Often Should I Feed My Hamster Babies?
Hamster pups should be fed once an hour for the first three to four days. It is intensive work for the pet owner. It would be advisable to get a friend or family member to help you for the initial days. You can organize shifts so that you can get some sleep.
After day four, you can slowly start increasing the time between feeds. It is vital to note that, as with any baby animal, hamsters will still need multiple (eight to nine) feeds a day until they are eating solids.
Hygiene When Feeding Baby Hamsters Is Critical
Milk products are prone to becoming spoiled very rapidly. It is essential to thoroughly clean and sterilize all the equipment used.
Once you have fed the hamsters, clean the pipette or dropper by repeatedly drawing up and squeezing out warm water with added dishwasher.
Rinse it thoroughly using the same procedure. Sterilize the dropper or pipette by putting it into a sterilization solution used for human babies’ bottles or pacifiers.
How Should I Hold a Hamster Baby When Feeding?
Many people make the mistake of holding baby animals on their backs and feeding them in the position you would feed a human baby. This is incorrect and can lead to milk inhalation and aspiration pneumonia which leads to the death of the baby hamster.
The best way to hold a baby hamster is in an upright position. Place the baby in the palm of your hand with the head situated on your thumb side. You can use your thumb to gently secure the baby in your palm.
Keep your hand mostly upright with a slight tilt if needed. This allows the baby to take in the milk slowly and prevents it from having more milk in its mouth than it can handle.
Should I Wear Gloves When Handling Newborn Hamsters?
Orphaned hamster babies are very vulnerable to disease. It is best to use a pair of examination gloves when handling newborn hamster pups. We carry bacteria on our skin that could infect the pups, putting their lives at risk.
You should keep up the use of examination gloves until the hamster babies have acquired fur. Their fur starts to grow at around five days but will only be noticeable at seven days.
When Can I Introduce My Hamster Baby to Solid Foods?
Hamster babies usually nurse from their mothers for ten to fourteen days before starting solids. You should try to approximate this timeline with your orphaned hamster babies.
You will notice that there will probably be some of the babies in the hamster litter that are bigger and better eaters than others. Try introducing solids to these babies first from about ten days.
Use tiny grain or crushed pieces of grain. Wheat germ cereal and small millet seeds are ideal choices. As the babies grow, you can add different types of grain, vegetables, and hamster pellets to their diet.
It is essential to add new foods in minute quantities first, increasing them slowly. The baby hamster’s gastrointestinal tract must develop the enzymes necessary to deal with each food type.
Flooding it with large amounts of new food results in a mass of undigestible, fermenting food in the pup’s stomach. Add only one novel food item at a time to prevent overloading the hamster pup’s gut.
How Do I Introduce Solids to Baby Hamsters?
At ten days, the hamster pup is still blind. Their eyes are only open at approximately fourteen days. They, therefore, cannot see the food you are offering.
Hold a piece of solid food near the hamster baby’s mouth and nose. The pup will hopefully smell the food and try to eat it. You may have to attempt this on several consecutive days before you succeed.
Provide Safe Water for Baby Hamsters
When your baby hamster begins eating solids, it will need to start drinking water. Avoid bowls where the babies would drown. Use a sipper bottle or a very shallow container lid for water.
Stimulating Excretion in Orphaned Baby Hamsters
If you have ever seen mother cats, dogs, or hamsters with their babies, you will notice a common behavior. All these mothers lick their babies all over the stomachs and around their anus and genitals.
The mother’s licks stimulate the gastrointestinal tract and bladder so that the baby can defecate and urinate. This is absolutely critical for baby hamsters to survive. If they do not get rid of waste material, toxic substances will build up, and they will die.
You can imitate this behavior with a piece of cotton wool, or a cotton bud dipped in warm water. Rub or wipe it gently over the stomach, anus, and genitals. It is quite common to have an immediate response, and the baby will defecate or urinate.
If there is no immediate response, do not panic. Just repeat the wiping next time you feed. Some baby hamsters may have a delayed response and defecate or urinate in their bedding.
Weighing Baby Hamsters Is Important
Hand-rearing baby animals provokes a lot of anxiety and is tiring. It is useful to weigh baby hamsters when you first start rearing them. Note this down and try to mark each baby so that you can get individual weights.
Weigh the baby every day at approximately the same time. You can do this either before or after feeding the hamster baby. It is often best to before feeding as then you do not get the weight of the milk.
Use a kitchen scale as these are the most accurate for small quantities and something that most people have at home. There are more accurate scales for measuring tiny amounts, but these can be hard to come by.
Warmth Is Critical for Hamster Babies
It is crucial to keep orphaned hamster babies warm. Cold babies will not drink and become almost non-responsive.
Make a nest of shredded toilet paper or kitchen toweling paper. Avoid materials with small fibers such as cotton wool which can get wrapped around tiny legs or stuck in the hamster pup’s mouth.
Use a heater, heat lamp, or wheat bag to keep the hamster babies warm. The area should be kept at 70° F (21° C).
Raising orphaned hamster pups is a time-consuming, stressful job. It can be done, and the reward will be several baby hamsters that thrived under their owner’s care. Ensuring the milk supplement meets the hamster babies’ needs is vital. Warmth and correct functioning of the excretory system facilitate survival.
Hand-rearing hamster babies is not always successful, but compassion drives pet owners to at least attempt it. If you are raising hamster babies, we wish you the best of luck and commend you for your efforts.