Hamsters are now popular pets. Unfortunately, they have shorter lifespans than most animals. As such, a lot of hamster owners opt to breed their pets to guarantee the continuity of the species.
Luckily, breeding hamsters is easy, and they can give birth to many young ones in their lifetime. Baby hamsters are also cuddly, adorable and easy to care for. A baby hamster is known as a pup though some publications refer to it as a kitten.
Like most small mammals, hamsters will have several pups in one litter. On average, a hamster’s litter comprises 4-6 pups though some can include up to twenty pups. Hamster breeders recommend breeding female hamsters once or twice in their lifetimes.
This is because the animal is small and needs a long recovery period after delivery. The gestation period of a hamster depends on its species. For dwarf hamsters, the period is 18-21 days, 16 days for Syrian hamsters and for a Robovoski hamster, it is 30 days.
After the gestation period, the female hamster goes into labor lasting for 1-2 hours. The pups arrive every 15-30 minutes. You should give the birthing hamster privacy and space when it is in labor.
Failure to do this might cause the hamster to become stressed and eat its young. Irrespective of their species, newborn hamsters are pink and hairless. Though they have teeth, their eyes and ears are closed for about a week after birth.
Below is some information on what to expect through different weeks after the hamster’s birth and a few answers to the common questions when raising a pup.
During the first weeks, pups will not be so active. They will huddle in the nest most of the time as they try to get warmth from their mother while nursing.
Depending on its species, a hamster’s ears might open up as the first week draws to an end or this might happen in the second week of life. Fur might be visible during the first week, but in most cases, it is too light for you to notice it.
It is advisable not to interact with the hamsters during their first week. Even cleaning out the cage might stress the mother and cause it to attack or abandon its young ones. For the first week, the pups should be entirely taken care of by the mother.
Cannibalism is also a possibility among hamsters. While not common, a mother might eat one of its dead pups so that it keeps the cage clean for the other babies.
The mother might also eat a pup that has been handled by a human because it has a human scent. This scent causes the mother to become stressed and fearful.
Ensure the mother hamster has enough food with a balanced nutritional profile to provide enough milk for the nursing hamsters and support its recovery.
Remember to maintain the cage’s temperature at about 70 degrees Fahrenheit for the pups to slowly adapt to their new environment.
Pups are still generally defenseless in their second week of life. The mother hamster will largely care for them although they will have grown enough fur when the week ends to maintain their body temperature.
The bulk of a pup’s caloric needs are supplied by the mother when nursing in the second week. Most breeders will still not handle the hamsters in the second week, nor will they clean their cages. While it sounds strange, leaving the hamsters alone is the best option to guarantee their health and safety.
Based on your hamster’s species, the pups’ ears will be open, and the animals might be a bit mobile. The eyes are open as the second week draws to an end. The mother hamster might also start offering some solid foods to the pups when they are about ten days old.
She will spend some time outside the cage foraging for food to feed her pups. Therefore, it is best to leave some nutritious food around the hamster’s cage. The foods should have a high protein and fat content.
You can hand-feed the pups during the second week if the mother hamster dies or abandons them. Unfortunately, hand-feeding should be done round-the-clock, and it has pretty low success rates. If you choose this route, it is best to work with a vet to ensure the health of your pups.
At this stage, your pups are starting to resemble their parents. The fur is completely grown, and their eyes are open. Moreover, the pups are no longer fully dependent on their mothers for warmth, food and safety.
Most will learn how to drink from a water bottle and feed from their water bowls at this stage. They might, however, need some coaxing from their owners for them to get it right.
You can also handle your pup and clean the hamster’s cage three weeks after birth because abandonment is not a problem at this time. Moreover, some hamsters reach sexual maturity at this time and can start fighting for cage dominance when left with the mother.
Depending on the hamster species, you can separate the pup from the mother at this time. Dwarf hamsters, for example, might need an extra week with the mother. At three weeks, most professional breeders sell their pups since they can now grow independently.
At four weeks old, your pups should be separated from their mothers, irrespective of their species.
Different sexes should also have separate cages, because the pups will reach sexual maturity between week 4 and 6, and the females can get pregnant.
Even so, pregnancy at four weeks of age for a female hamster adversely affects its health and shortens its lifespan. Furthermore, the young female hamsters can get still-born pups or be too stressed with the care of their pups hence harming them.
Some hamster breeds, like the Syrian hamster, are territorial and will fight when kept in the same cages, hence the need for separate cages.
At four weeks, you can feed the pups on the same diet as adult hamsters since they have similar needs. Start playing with them at this time so that you foster a bond that allows them to be comfortable around you.
The playing will also allow your pups to be tamed. Though smaller than adults, pups that are more than three weeks old need no special care.
How Fast do Hamster Pups Grow?
Hamster pups grow pretty fast because they are sexually mature and independent by the time they turn five weeks old. They will reach the prime of their lives at eight months old, a way lower age than most animals.
When can I Touch a Baby Hamster?
You can touch a baby hamster when it turns three weeks. At this point, the mother has started encouraging the pup to lead an independent life and will thus not be agitated when you handle it.
Moreover, at three weeks old, the pups have enough fur to keep them warm when away from the mothers and are a good size to fit in your hands without dropping.
Nonetheless, kids shouldn’t handle the hamsters at this time because the animals are only getting used to being held. They thus might get startled and fall out of the child’s hand.
What do Baby Hamsters Eat?
In general, baby hamsters are well-fed by the mothers, but you can still offer some foods to help them along. You can start weaning them at ten days old by sprinkling some germ cereal and millet into the hamsters’ cage to boost their development.
When feeding pellets, soak them in water to make them soft for your baby hamster to take. Clean water is also a vital ingredient of a balanced hamster diet.
When do Hamsters Become Mature?
Hamsters will reach their full maturity at eight months of age. At this point, your hamster will be incredibly playful, energetic, sociable and confident.
The average hamster sizes at maturity are 120-125 g for teddy and Syrian hamsters, while dwarf hamsters weigh 40-60 g.
How Long do Hamsters Live?
Hamsters live for an average of 2-2.5 years. They head to senior age at about eighteen months at which point different health issues start creeping up.
Reduced activity, weight loss and prolonged sleeping are some of the typical signs of aging in hamsters.
At this stage, be in close contact with a vet who can adequately and quickly handle any issues that crop up, rather than let your hamster suffer.
Bringing up baby hamsters is not as hard as most people assume. Even so, it requires some expertise to handle well. The above guidelines and answers will hopefully go a long way in helping you handle your baby hamster.
If you are not as intent on a large hamster population, you need not stop your pets from breeding altogether.
You can still breed them then give away or sell some of the pups and remain with a few. This means some extra cash to buy some hamster treats for your pet.