Don’t you wish you could knit a cute little scarf and sweater to keep your hamster warm?
Well, since that’s a bit unrealistic, we need to figure out how to keep hamsters warm. That’s why we have to settle for alternative (and admittedly more practical) tactics.
Read on to learn why hamsters are particularly susceptible to cold and what you can do to help them survive the winter!
Yes, hamsters are likely to feel cold during the winter, whether they’re wild or domestic. Sure, they have seemingly dense coats, but fur can only do so much when the temperature really drops.
If you look at hamsters’ history, you’ll be able to see why they’re not the most cold-tolerant species out there.
Those fuzzy pets come from a lot of areas around the world, including Syria, Belgium, Greece, Romania, and northern China.
The natural habitats vary depending on the species. Yet, one thing you can count on is that hamsters originated from warm and dry regions before they became popular pets in the US.
So, it’s no wonder they catch the sniffles when a harsh winter rolls in!
Hamsters prefer to live in an ambient temperature of 65–80°F. However, they can still survive the cold months, provided that their owner takes some precautionary measures.
Don’t worry; we’ll get to those in a minute!
Before we get to what you can do to keep your pet warm, let’s first check what a hamster’s own body does to help him survive the winter.
Yes, we’re talking about hibernation. It’s more of a torpor (temporary hibernation) in this case, though.
Suppose the temperature drops below 65°F. In a day, the hamster could enter a state of torpor in a desperate attempt to preserve energy.
Once the conditions perk up again, the little fellow should wake up from the torpor. Meanwhile, other hamsters can take on the cold for 1–2 months on end before hibernating.
The catch here is that hibernation and torpor aren’t always safe.
Hamsters might not be well-prepared for hibernation, and as a result, they could end up suffering from:
Yes, it’s possible for a hamster to freeze to death if left long enough in the cold.
The good news is that some cases are treatable. In fact, one study showed that golden hamsters managed to survive after being frozen for 50 whole minutes!
The tricky part is that hibernating hamsters might look dead at first glance; their bodies go limp, and their heart rate drops.
So, pet parents could give up hope too soon.
To be honest, it’s hard to tell if a hamster froze to death or is still alive if you don’t know how to feel for a pulse. Even the hamster’s body temperature won’t be a good enough indicator.
Your best bet would be to try to warm the poor fellow slowly by hand cupping to transfer body heat. While you do that, ask someone to contact a vet.
So, it’s possible to save a hamster that’s been nearly frozen, but take our word for it; that’s not an experience you want to go through at all.
Instead, you can pick up some preventative tips and tricks to keep your pet as warm as possible.
Here are our favorite ten hamster-warming tactics:
Before you go all out, let’s start with the simple preventive measures.
Consider relocating your hamster cage if it’s:
- Exposed to cold drafts
- In direct contact with the floor
- Next to a wall
All of these positions could bring the temperature inside the cage down, putting your hamster at a higher risk. Instead, aim to keep the cage elevated off the ground and in a draft-free yet well-ventilated spot.
Odds are, you have 1–2 inches of bedding in the cage right now. Adding a bit more substrate can boost the insulation and give the hamster room to burrow and nest.
You don’t even have to splurge; just use any paper-based bedding. Even toilet paper will do in a pinch, but the odor control won’t be top-notch.
Whatever you do, don’t use any sort of fluffy substrate. Those seem warm but can be dangerous!
Although your hamster can create a hiding spot, you might want to go the extra mile and get a store-bought house to add to the cage. This should provide more shelter from drafts.
If you have some wood, glue, and free time on your hands, you can opt for a DIY project and make the house yourself.
Some people treat their fuzzy pets to snuggle pouches with dense lining, too.
We’d recommend hanging a thermometer in the room where you keep the hamster cage. Once you see the temperature getting dangerously low, crank up the heat.
It’s also possible to use a portable space heater, provided that you watch out for the fire risks and never leave it unattended.
To boost the heater’s effect, keep the hamster in a small room with the windows closed. You can open those windows for ventilation when it’s sunny outside.
Suppose you have the cage next to a wall, and you can’t relocate it at the moment. In this case, it would be helpful to drape some blankets between the cage and the wall.
It’s definitely not the most effective method on the list, but it might save you in a pinch.
If you decide to cover the cage with a blanket, make sure you leave enough space for ventilation. You’ll also want to make sure that the hamster can’t pull shreds of the blanket and use it for nesting.
Grab a heating rodent/reptile heating pad from your local pet store. Those are electric mats that usually go under the bedding, but it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations to avoid fire hazards.
Just try to keep the heating pad on only one side of the cage. This way, the hamster will have the freedom to either go to a warmer part if he’s cold or move to the unheated area if the temperature gets too high for his liking.
Heating pads are fairly inexpensive, but it’s still possible to craft one yourself.
Don’t fret if you can’t get a space heater or a heating pad; there’s a nifty trick that requires nothing more than a water bottle, a towel, and some hot water.
- Fill up the water with hot (but not boiling!) water.
- Wrap it up in a towel.
- Put it outside the cage to radiate heat without burning the hamster.
You know people tend to feel snacking during the winter? Apply the same principle to your hammie.
Make sure your pet is well-fed to push through the cold. After all, hamsters hibernate in an attempt to save energy, and you want to avoid that at all costs.
So, don’t go under the recommended ⅛–⅓ cup of pellets daily, and remember to add some fatty treats, like hard-boiled eggs and nuts.
Plus, you can use some hot and hearty meals every now and then. Plain, cooked chicken and meat are good options to consider.
Some people choose to give their pet rodents some outdoor time. Usually, there’s nothing wrong with letting your hamster roam supervised for 10–15 minutes.
However, during the colder months, you’d be better off skipping outdoor time altogether. It’s hard enough trying to keep your hamster warm when he’s in the comfort of a heated room!
Just because you won’t take your hamster outside doesn’t mean he can’t get some exercise.
Make sure he has access to toys, balls, and wheels inside the case. This way, he’ll get moving and warm up his body a bit.
If your hamster doesn’t seem enthusiastic about using a wheel, you’ll want to check that the wheel isn’t too small, squeaky, or meshy.
Yes, too much heat can be just as harmful to hamsters as cold exposure. So, if you overdo the warming tactics, you might put your pet rodent at risk of heatstroke.
The main warning signs to watch out for are:
- General lethargy
If you can already spot signs of overheating, you’ll want to stop all your warming tactics to let the hamster’s body cool down gradually.
To avoid the risk in the first place, consider these tips:
- Don’t use heating lamps over the hamster’s cage.
- Avoid spreading multiple heating pads to cover the full cage area.
- Monitor the thermostat and make sure it doesn’t go over 75°F or 80°F.
- Warm hamsters in torpor/hibernation gradually to avoid shock.
In a nutshell, hamsters don’t do well in temperatures below 65°F. They get lethargic and might go into a state of torpor.
While it’s possible to bring the hamster back from torpor, it’s always better to avoid this unpleasant situation from the get-go.
To do that, get the cage away from drafts and put it in a heated room. If that doesn’t cut it, consider using heating pads, space heaters, extra substrate, and snuggle pouches.
Remember to check with a vet immediately if you see your pet rodent’s body limp!
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.