Baby Hamsters – A-to-Z Guide From Pregnancy To After Birth

Hamsters have an exceptionally early sexual maturity which is usually at about one month after birth. Though it may differ from one breed to another, it is still pretty early compared to other usual pet animals. 

That is why some new pet owners get surprised if they just bought their hamsters and then get a new litter just two weeks after.

It can be quite hard to differentiate the sexes of hamsters. That’s maybe why in some pet stores, they often mix the male with the female hamsters.

 This usually results in rapid breeding and a surprise to hamster owners. To reduce the fret, here’s a guide on how to care for a pregnant hamster and their babies.

happily smiling hamster
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Abdominal Examination

If you notice that your hamster has put on some weight and an increase in its appetite, it might be the time to examine its abdomen. A pregnant hamster may show its bump typically 5 days prior to giving birth. A hamster’s nipples may be visible as well and will begin to show on its abdomen a week before birth.

Ensure that it is really pregnant and that the lump is not an illness such as a tumor, infection or bowel issues. You could ask for help from your veterinarian to verify the pregnancy. This will make sure that it is not sick and may diagnose any problems early, if ever.

Accompanied by physical changes, pregnant hamsters are usually aggressive especially with other hamsters or with male species specifically. It is at this time that they should be separated to avoid fights. Other behavioral changes include hoarding of food and building a nest using any materials available to them.

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Breeding

You have to be aware that breeding of hamsters is not easy and should be left to experienced breeders instead. If by any chance, you had an idea of starting a hamster breeding business because of your pregnant hamster, give yourself more time to think about it.

It has been known that there is a high possibility of genetic defects between various types of hamsters. It would be difficult to avoid these abnormalities and eventual deaths without knowledge of a hamster’s lineage prior to breeding. This is not recommended by animal experts.

You don’t want to be labeled as a reckless breeder and it would be heartless to take a risk in the lives of the hamsters and the pups. If you are serious about it, you have to learn a lot and ask yourself a lot of questions.

It is also not easy to sell hamsters to pet shops or online shops if you’re a private breeder. You should also be aware of the laws on selling hamsters in your state.

Three cute hamster pups

Caring for the Mother

Initially, provide extra tissue paper to the pregnant hamster to be used in their nest. This is advisable as it is soft enough to nestle the newborn babies. It will also not be entangled with the pups that may cause accidental death. Aside from tissue paper, you may also offer unprinted paper or toilet paper for the nest.

Avoid holding the pregnant hamster during pregnancy and especially after giving birth. As mentioned, females are very aggressive and may bite you if you try to touch them or just be near their nest. This could also pose a threat to the future newborns.

Try to provide a calm environment by using dim light or covering a part of its cage with a blanket. This will help her think that it is safe and will reduce its stress levels.

Pregnant hamsters still need their exercise so providing a wheel may help. Enough cage space is also essential for them to walk around to help their body systems during pregnancy.

Diet

A pregnant hamster would need more nutrients than normal, just like any other pregnant animals, to support the babies inside their womb. Primarily, pregnant hamsters need a high energy diet to support the litter development and for breastfeeding.

Increasing its protein and fat intake is recommended like mealworms or cricket, says Dr. David Elbeze of PetCoach. Extra portions from other sources of protein are boiled eggs, boiled chicken, cereals, nuts such as walnuts and almonds, beans, corn or wheat. Just be aware of food that is easily spoiled because you need to remove it from the cage before they eat it.

If you were already feeding them pellet food, then a bit of an increase in their daily intake wouldn’t hurt. It will provide the energy they need to maintain their activeness. Maintain their food bowl at least half full daily.

The typical fruits and vegetables good for hamsters are also recommended to help their immune system. This will also increase the vitamins and minerals in the body that the fetuses also need for development.

A small amount of broccoli, cauliflower, endive, apples, and bananas may be given in moderation. Remember to remove the seeds or the skin prior to giving it to your mommy-to-be hamsters.

Just like in humans, calcium is also important for pregnant hamsters. You can provide it by serving them lean cheese or milk for bone development.

Assure that there is an adequate supply of fresh water in their cages daily. Most pregnant hamsters tend to be more thirsty than normal.

Using the “ad libitum” feeding system to your female hamster is important for a successful birth and a high rate of alive pups. This system will both nourish the females and help them hoard food for their future birth.

Expecting

When expecting a litter, it is important to clean the cage prior to the hamster giving birth. This is to help reduce their stress and that they will be able to give birth in a clean cage. This will also help reduce possible microorganisms inside the cage that may affect the newborn pups.

Since it is not ideal to be near the mother during pregnancy, your hands should not be inside the cage at least 3 days before they give birth. It is better to clean the cage immediately before that and leave it until the big day. Do take into consideration that you are not to clean their cage even after 2 weeks of giving birth.

The reason for this is to avoid having your scent on the nest and on the pups. Once a mother hamster smells a different scent on her babies, she might kill them for the litter’s overall safety.

Next thing to consider is removing the toys and the hamster wheel to prevent injuries that might happen to the babies. You also have to remove the sand bath and provide more beddings for comfort.

Father

At this point, it is better that the father hamster is removed from the cage. Once you are sure the female hamsters are pregnant, isolate them from other hamsters and start preparing their needs.

Gestation Period

This is the time interval from when the fetus develops and ends when the hamsters give birth. The gestation period differs for every breed but it is 16 – 22 days on the average. To have an idea per breed, see below:

  • Syrian Hamster: 16 days
  • Winter White Hamster: 18 – 21 days
  • Chinese Hamster: 18 – 21 days
  • Russian Dwarf Hamster: 18 – 21 days
  • Roborovski Hamster: 30 days

It is during this time that the mother hamster experiences many physiological, hormonal, and behavioral changes. It is best to reduce stress in their environment as much as possible by giving them space and avoid approaching their cages unnecessarily.

As the delivery closely approaches, the mother may be restless and may have vaginal bleeding so don’t be scared when you see red spots in the cage.

Homes

If the pregnancy was unplanned and a surprise, you have to consider if you will take care of the extra hamsters. If not, it is best to plan ahead how you will provide them new homes.

Interval Period during Birth

Expect the pups to be hairless, pink in color, blind, and deaf after birth. They will be depending their lives entirely to their mother hamster to survive since they are very fragile.

A litter size on the average is between 4 and 6 babies per birth, but it still largely depends on the hamster breed.

  • Syrian Hamster: 4 – 12 babies
  • Winter White Hamster: 4 – 6 babies
  • Chinese Hamster: 4 – 5 babies
  • Russian Dwarf Hamster: 7 – 8 babies
  • Roborovski Hamster: 3 – 5 babies

Hamster labor usually lasts for 1 – 2 hours and has an interval period of 15 to 30 minutes in between pups. You’ll be able to see the female standing as the babies are being born. They will also be able to cut their umbilical cord. They usually take naps in between labors or may actively organize its pups in their nest.

The mother will clean her pups by eating the placenta that envelops the youngsters inside their womb. After giving birth, there will be blood spots due to the placenta so this is normal and not a source of worry. But if you observe severe bleeding, this should be considered as an emergency.

This is where the hoarding and the supply of food are critical. The mother hamster will be very tired and hungry after birth so make sure that she has enough food and water inside the cage. If she finds that there is not enough to feed her and the babies, she will resort to killing her babies than let them die thru starvation.

Just Leave Them Be

Make sure that you do not interrupt nor approach the cage right after birth. It is essential that you restrain from touching the babies for the next two weeks. The mother hamster may misinterpret the scent as a threat and may abandon its pups; or worse kill them. This defensive mechanism behavior is known as kronismus.

The baby hamsters are very small and even smaller for the dwarf hamster breed at around 1 inch long. They are very restless from day one and are just in a pile inside their nest.

Even if you see the newborn babies scattered in the cage, do not give in to the urge to care for them. Their mother will have the instinct to bring them back to their nest.

Keeping the Room Temperature

The room should be kept at a constant temperature, neither too hot nor too cold. Hamsters are usually comfortable at a temperature between 18 to 24o Celsius (65 – 75o Fahrenheit).

Little Hamster Diet

Check the cage if it has enough food at least twice a day without interrupting the mother and her babies. Do it as silently as you could. The mother will be nursing her babies for the first week so there’s no need to worry about them.

After a week, you may start sprinkling food around the cage because at this time, the babies will start to explore on their own.

Wheat germ cereal is advisable for baby hamsters so you may scatter it where the babies usually go. Millets are also good for pups even for those less than 10 days old.

Also put extra water bottles and lower them down in case the pups are old enough to drink from them. Avoid using water bowls as the babies may drown while drinking. If you think they’re not getting enough water in their system, add in celery and cucumber in their diet.

Mortality

A 10-day old hamster baby has a high chance of surviving, so it is critical that you only let the mother take over the pups for the first two weeks. There is a high mortality rate of pups when you touch the nest or the babies themselves.

Nursing Abandoned or Orphaned Pups

Sadly, it is possible that mother hamster may be killed after giving birth due to complications. If this happens, you would have to nurse the pups yourselves. This is pretty tricky and requires a lot of time and attention from you.

If the pups are 12 – 14 days old, the chance of surviving is higher with your care and nourishment. Clean the cage by this time and ensure that there is enough bedding to keep them warm. You may also use a heating pad under the cage to manage the temperature. It is important that a well-balanced diet is provided for their early years especially without their mom.

Some enthusiasts suggest a surrogate mother for 8-day old hamsters and below. The regretful side in this option is that it is rarely successful. If the surrogate mother finds out that there is something wrong, she will dispose of them.

If there are no other options left but for you to feed them, you will be needing a milk replacer. You have to feed them using a dropper but not forcefully. It is a good sign once they are able to survive until they are able to eat solid foods. A good milk replacement would be Kitten Milk Replacer (KMR) powder. If this is not available, you may opt to use baby formula or diluted evaporated milk.

Overall Cleaning

If the pups are more than two weeks old, this is the best time for you to clean their cages once again. It will be at this time that the mother wouldn’t care less anymore if your hand is inside their cage. Don’t forget to put in an extra set of bedding again for the mother and her pups.

Petting the Baby Hamsters

At two weeks and above, you may now be able to hold the baby hamsters without putting them at risk. It would be good to start it early for them to be familiar with humans and socialize early on. It is still safe to be wary of the mother when you try to hold the pups. Those which are not well-socialized may not take it easy.

Be careful in handling baby hamsters as they can startle you by squeaking suddenly then jumping off. This could potentially hurt them. They are very quick albeit their size.

Quiet Environment

The first month for the mother and her pups is critical so it is safe to still put them in a quiet and calm environment. Sudden, loud noises may induce a panic attack on the mother hamster, which in turn, might kill her young.

Maintain the stress-reduced place from pregnancy to ensure the safety of the litter. The mother goes back to her normal behavior only after weaning the babies.

Raising the Baby Hamsters

Baby hamsters grow very rapidly. In a span of 4 – 6 weeks, they can usually reach their sexual maturity. Imagine the pups during their development stage:

  • Day 1 to 3 – they will be born naked and pink. You can usually see the milk in their stomachs while they’re feeding on their mothers. They are quite the transparent creatures at birth.
  • Day 4 to 5 – a dark covering of fur will start to appear especially for the breed with darker varieties. The ears will also start to open up by this time. Some markings will also start to show by the fifth day.
  • Day 6 to 8 – most pups will start to explore in the cage. This is also the time where they would look like real hamsters already. It is also during this time that they’ll start to take interest in solid food.
  • Day 13 to 15 – their eyes will now start to open. After opening, they will be able to explore more so the cage should be cleaned before weaning. They will also be able to drink water on their own from the sippers during this time.
  • Day 16 to 21 – the mothers will be able to nurse the pups up until this week. They will also be able to eat food properly at this age.
  • Day 21 to 28 – the mothers would already have lost interest in them since the babies can already take care of themselves. Though some breeds may tolerate them a bit longer, it would be better to make them ready to leave their mothers.

Sexing

In order to determine the sex of the hamster babies, hold one firmly and lift it upright with their backend visible to your eyes. Look at the genital area and observe the proximity of the anus and genital opening. Females have a closer distance between the anus and genital opening. Male hamsters would be the opposite and would be separated by a distance equal to your forefinger.

If you try to check their gender at five weeks of age, the male testes will naturally fall down and form two distinct lumps on each side of the anus.

Territorial Creatures

Hamsters are solitary creatures by nature. They are very territorial so it would be good to separate them as early as possible to prevent violence. It is very common for hamsters to attack one another when kept in one cage.

Understanding their Personalities

It would be good to have an idea about the personality of some hamster breeds before weaning. The Syrian hamsters, by any means, should be separated as early as 4 weeks of age and should be placed in individual cages. This is because they tend to hurt or eventually kill another hamster in one cage. They are more territorial compared to other breeds.

Some say that dwarf hamsters can be paired, but it is recommended that they are introduced to one another at a young age. If that’s not the case, it would be better to also separate them from one another.  Even if they are more social than Syrian hamsters, it is still better to be safe than force a living condition that could result in injuries.

Vet Check-up

The best time to get your new litter for a veterinary check-up would be 1 month or more after birth. At this time, the mother is already stable and you can now freely handle the new babies. This is especially applicable if you observe something strange from one of the pups or even the mother herself.

Weaning

Weaning is the process of gradually introducing other food aside from the mother’s milk. For the hamsters, this is also the good time to separate them to avoid fighting.

It is important that during weaning you also separate the males from the females. They can reproduce at a fast rate due to their early puberty that starts at 2-18 days after weaning. You should always be aware of the reproductive system of your hamsters as responsible pet owners.

Observe the pups if they are ready to be weaned from their mother. If you think that some are still weak to be away from their mother, you may leave them for another week. But you have to keep an eye on them as much as possible.

It is advisable that you are able to adopt them out when they reach their 7th week. Ensure that the new home they’re going would be the best for them and that they don’t end up as abandoned pets.

Extra Wheels and Water Bottles

If you’re planning to take in all the newborn, prepare your place to have additional running wheels, water sippers, food bowls, more toys, toilet paper rolls, and proper cages. A proper cage should be a minimum of 24 inches long and 12 inches wide, especially for aquarium-type cages according to The Humane Society of the United States. Review the different types of cages that are proper to the breed that you own.

You have to be ready before the weaning period. This is also applicable to your food inventory since you have more mouths to feed.

Young Mothers

If you’re planning to take in all the newborn, prepare your place to have additional running wheels, water sippers, food bowls, more toys, toilet paper rolls, and proper cages. A proper cage should be a minimum of 24 inches long and 12 inches wide, especially for aquarium-type cages according to The Humane Society of the United States. Review the different types of cages that are proper to the breed that you own.

You have to be ready before the weaning period. This is also applicable to your food inventory since you have more mouths to feed.

Young Mothers

More often than not, if a hamster becomes a mother at a young age, it usually results to an abandoned litter. This is because it is too young and inexperienced to even care for itself. That is why the environment is crucial to pregnant hamsters specifically for first-timers.

Zealousness

Prepare to be devoted once again to the new members of your family. Take care of the young hamsters like you do with the adult hamsters. Living with more family members under one roof will encourage fun and relieve your stress as long as precautions are taken seriously. They are such the adorable, little creatures which will amaze you as they grow further.

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Author Bio

Carlye Yancey

Carlye Yancey

Between internships, volunteering, and paid jobs over the last 4 years, I have pretty much-gained experience with domesticated animals. Currently being in school for my veterinary technology degree, I spend my leisure time with 3 critters that I own.

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