Although hamsters have a short lifespan, sudden death on hamsters is not right. Hamsters can be fragile, their bones are not really that strong compared to other rodents, they often hurt themselves when spooked, and when stuck, they won’t second guess to chew their limb to get free.
We will discuss how do hamsters die, either from natural causes or from the sickness that you should watch out for. Regardless, there are many things you can do to make sure your hamster live a long, happy life with you.
HOW LONG DO HAMSTERS LIVE
Hamsters live between 2-3 years. Dwarf and Chinese hamsters have a lifespan of 2-2.5 years while Syrian hamsters can live up to 3-3.5 years – all if properly cared for.
SIGNS TO LOOK FOR
To make sure your hamster live a longer life, it’s vital that you keep your eyes open for signs of sickness or problems. In this way, you can do something and treat your hamster immediately before things get worse. Here are some signs to look for if your hamster is ill or need your help:
Lethargic/Tired/Sleeping all the time
Hamsters are very energetic animals. They love running around, burrowing, playing, and chewing on something. Before you can say your hamster is looking lethargic, you should know how they normally act when happy and energised.
Hamsters looking sluggish often move slower, don’t get excited with their favourite treats, sleeping a lot, and not using their toys than usual.
It’s sometimes hard to tell if your hamster is not eating if you are only observing their dry mix bowl. Because hamsters hoard food, they often consume their hidden food before going to the food bowl. This is why you should incorporate raw food and cooking for your hamster at least twice a week.
For example, if you would make scrambled white eggs and your hamster will come running, you will know something is wrong if you offer them these and won’t come for it.
Hamsters don’t make a lot of noise but when they do, you should pay attention closer. When a hamster is shaking or squeaking, you should take a moment and examine the reason for this. The common reasons why a hamster would squeak or shake is often related to health issues like having a respiratory problem.
Weight loss/Weight gain
If you have read our species of hamster article, then you know that Dwarf and Chinese hamsters should weigh about 25-35 g (.055 – .077 lbs) and Syrian 100 – 150 g (.22 – .33 lbs). If your hamster is now 10 g (.022 lbs) lighter or heavier, there might be something going on.
Weight loss and Weight gain can mean many things such as malnutrition or toys that keep your hamster active.
While fur loss or balding on hamster often mean ageing, if your hamster is not even two years old, they should not experience this. A sudden appearance of a bald spot can mean many things, usually, it’s a sign of malnutrition, allergy, or infection especially if the skin is reddish.
HOW DO HAMSTER DIE: CAUSES OF SUDDEN DEATH OF HAMSTER
Unfortunately, sudden death is super common in hamsters but usually, it’s because of neglect and hamster owners who didn’t educate themselves before committing to look after a hamster. On the other hand, even with such food care, hamsters might die early for other reasons. So, how do hamsters die? Below, we will discuss the reasons for hamster death.
Of course, it’s the circle of life. If your Dwarf or Chinese hamster is about 2.5 years old, you should expect that death will come at some point. Hamster age in humans is quite mind-blowing. For example, if your hamster is 1 month old, in human years, that’s equivalent to 14 years. So, if your hamster is 2 years old, that is 70 years old in human years.
With ageing, a hamster will start having a thinner coat, often greasy coat (because they are too tried to get to the sandbath or don’t really care that much anymore), thinner in body, teeth have fallen off, slower movement, lots of sleeping, and stopped running on their wheels to name a few.
This is the most common of sudden death in hamsters. While hamsters are above inbreeding, if a breeder (hello breeding mills), don’t pay enough attention and only see how much money they will make, they will produce hamsters that can develop dozen of health issues and a hamster that won’t live longer than six months.
This is why, if possible, you should stay away from major pet stores that sell hamsters like candies. It’s so common that hamsters that come from these pet shops are from hamster mills and these pets get sick at a young age and suddenly dies.
One more major reason for a hamster dying early is due to neglect. Often, it’s unintentional. New hamster owners make mistakes and usually, pet store staff gives lots of misinformation. Here at hamster care, we always recommend people to do lots of research, reach out to experienced hamster owners, before getting one to make sure you get the right information.
For example, walk in a pet store and tell them you want a hamster and you need a cage, food, bedding, toys, etc. They will offer you a super tiny critter cage, bedding that is made of unsafe wood, food that is not suitable for hamsters, and toys that can kill your hamster.
Not only you are now using the wrong supplies for hamsters but they will also not tell you how often you should clean your hamster’s cage and how to properly do so.
All of these in combination will result in neglect in hamsters, not providing the right care, they can make your hamster’s life significantly shorter.
Malnutrition and Obesity
Just like us humans, malnutrition in hamsters can be fatal. Dry mixes alone will not give enough balanced diet to hamsters while giving too many treats can lead to obesity. While this might not mean instant death, if not fixed as soon as possible, it could lead to a long and painful journey to death.
Hamsters are jumpy animals. They get stressed easily, frightened easily, and develop anxiety. You would too if you are their size living in such giant’s world. Due to being preys, hamster’s are always suspicious of many things around them – sudden moves and noise to name a few.
If you make a big change in their cages such as moving the sleeping area or hamster hideout they made on the other side, change or bedding or sandbath or dry mix type/brand, a new scent, moving the cage in a new room where it’s too bright or too noisy – can all lead to stress and anxiety.
And of course, sickness. Hamsters are prone to neurological issues (especially unethical bred hamsters), obesity, cancer/cyst, wet tail, bumblefoot, pneumonia, allergy, and other infections to name a few common hamster illnesses.
If an infection doesn’t get treated as soon as possible, it could be fatal. If you notice any balding, redness on the skin, eye infection, wet tail, and even cold – this should be addressed the right way. If it’s your first time having a hamster pet, it’s best to contact an exotic vet to help diagnose and treat your hamster.
HOW TO HELP YOUR HAMSTER LIVE A LONGER LIFE
Hamsters don’t have to die young. There are many things you can do to help your hamster have a long, happy life with you, here are our tips:
Get hamsters from respected breeders
We highly recommend you search for a breeder who is educated, certified, and put ethical breeding above all. Often, you might have to pay more or travel a bit further but the only way to stop pet shops breeding hamsters like crazy without care for their quality of life should not be supported by anyone.
The best way to find an ethical breeder is online. Respected Facebook groups and Subreddits are happy to recommend you one that is near your area.
A balanced diet for hamsters is high in protein, lots of greens, and low sugar. While you can get dry mixes from pet stores, it’s vital that you cook some food for your hamsters too. You can make an unseasoned scrambled white egg, boiled egg, boiled lean chicken, boiled vegetables, suitable fruits, and healthy treats.
One of the most crucial parts of a healthy lifestyle for hamsters is to stay active. In the wild, hamsters move a lot, which means all the food they eat are being burned whenever they are running, walking, burrowing, and digging.
Domesticated hamsters don’t have that much space even after you get them a big cage. This is why you must place enrichment toys like running wheels, tunnels, and chew toys. You should also provide deep bedding for burrowing.
Hamsters will likely overeat in a domestic environment but have less space to roam, hence, these toys will keep your hamster busy, active, and healthy.
Provide spacious cage
Like what I mentioned before, pet stores and one of the biggest misconceptions about hamster care is the size of their cage. Even though hamsters are tiny creatures, they are pumped with energy that needs to be burned.
To keep your hamster active, you must provide a big hamster cage where you can add many toys, add deep bedding, and have plenty of space for your hamster to run around and play in a safe environment. Here’s quick information about suitable hamster cages:
- Dwarf and Chinese hamsters is 80x50x50 cm (4000 cm2) or 31.5x20x20 in (620 square inches)
- Syrian hamster cage is 90x60x6o cm (35x20x30 in) and the female Syrian hamster cage is 100x60x60 cm (39x20x20 in)
Place cage in a cool room
With such a thick coat, hamsters will suffer in heat in warmer countries. You don’t need to place the cage in a room with AC, as long as the cage is well-ventilated, the room is cool yet dry, and with minimal noise and light – it should be comfortable enough.
However, when it’s really warm, you should put more effort into keeping the hamster cage cool during summer. The same goes for winter, make sure the room where the cage is warm enough yet not too warm.
No big sudden changes
Avoid any massive sudden changes. For example, don’t change the bedding type or brand out of nowhere, if you want to test a new one, make sure to mix it with the old/current bedding. The same goes for sandbath and dry mixes.
Hamsters rely on their sense of scent and they leave lots of their scent around the cage to help navigate and feel comfortable. Any massive change can make your hamster feel like it’s no longer their home which will send them into stress and a panic state.
Clean hands before holding your hamster
This goes without saying, but just like what you would do to a human baby or before eating or coming from outside, especially if you are sick – wash your hands first and dry them properly. Do not use scented soap as this can stress or generate an allergy to your hamster.
Every other day or twice a week, do a spot cleaning inside a hamster cage and every once in six weeks, do a deep cleaning. This is the proper way to clean a hamster’s cage without stressing them too much.
There is no good reason for hamsters to suddenly die. Either it’s due to old age, sickness, bad breeding, or neglect, hamsters should be able to live a long life if they are properly taken care of. They can be sensitive and fragile animals but they are also strong, energetic, sweet, independent, and loving pets.
I hope I was able to answer your question, how do hamsters die and how to help them have a long happy life.