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There is no secret as to why hamsters are among the most popular pets nowadays. They are adorable, cute, easy to care for and busybodies that will bring so much joy into the lives of their owners. Nature is ingenious.
Since hamsters are small, they are quite vulnerable in the wild. As such, they are fertile at young ages and can produce several litters to guarantee the survival of their species.
The females reach their reproductive age at 6-8 weeks and the males at 8-9 weeks. While the litter size of a hamster will vary according to its breed, it generally produces 4-12 pups twice or thrice annually.
You thus can have a small population in a short time if you choose to breed them. Even so, as a pet owner, you should have some guidelines on the lifespan of a hamster, so you know what to expect.
The following tidbits are designed to help answer many of the questions pet owners have on a hamster’s lifespan.
Lifespan of Pet Hamster
Compared to other pets such as dogs, cats or birds, hamsters have a very short lifespan. On average, in optimal conditions, a pet hamster will live around 2 years. You can increase the life expectancy of your hamster by a few months if you take good care: regular cage maintenance, high-quality and high variety of food, fresh water and lack of stress.
Genetics also plays a big role in the lifespan of your hamster, so always get your pet from a reputed breeder or a pet shop.
Lifespan of a Wild Hamster
In the wild, hamsters often inhabit sparse rocky and desert areas. These places have wide temperature variations and can change from scorching hot to frigidly cold in a short time.
These fluctuations in some areas inform the burrowing of hamsters underground and the growth of dense fur. Other than climatic conditions, hamsters in the wild have to adapt to variations in food volumes.
To counter this, hamsters have “cheek pouches” within which they can stash away food for later. Even so, the primary determinant of the lifespan of a wild hamster is its species. Here are guidelines on the average lifespan of different hamster species.
- Russian dwarf hamsters: 15 months to 2 years
- Roborovski dwarf hamsters: 3-3.5 years
- Syrian hamsters: 2-3 years
- Chinese dwarf hamsters: 2-3 years
- Siberian dwarf hamsters: 18months -2 years
- Campbell’s dwarf hamster: 2 years
Oldest Living Hamster
Currently, the oldest living hamsters as per the Guinness Book of World Records is one that lived to the grand age of seven years. You can stretch out your hamsters’ life as much as possible by giving it optimal care. In so doing, maybe the hamster can break this record.
How to Improve Your Hamster’s Longevity?
The question for anyone who owns a hamster is often what elements they should focus on to prolong their hamster’s life. You, after all, form an emotional connection with the pet and a short lifespan will be devastating.
The following are some elements you should concentrate your efforts on to extend a hamster’s life expectancy past its prime:
– Hamster’s genetics
You should set out to know as much as possible on your hamster’s parentage. This will help you pick out any genetic predispositions in your pet. There is now plenty of data on the potential genetic issues for different hamsters based on their hair color and other breed-specific elements.
Though genetic issues might be beyond your control, knowing them can help you act promptly in case of anything to protect your hamster.
– Feeding quality food
Scientists now advocate for the feeding of young hamsters on not less than 16% proteins and 5% fats to maximize their lifespan. Omega-3-rich food helps in the development of a healthy cardiovascular system in your hamster.
For this, you should include fruits, vegetables, lean meat and eggs in the diet. You can also add fiber and oats to give the healthiest possible diet to your pet.
You can read my other article, in which I go into details on what hamsters can eat and what are the best food to feed them.
– Reduce stress
Hamsters are prey for several animals in the wild. As such, they are naturally quick to react to danger and will have high stress levels in captivity without the right mechanisms in place.
In general, things like loud noises, strange stimuli, and sudden movements might stress your hamster. Increased stress for the hamster will reduce its longevity. Compulsive behavior, aggressiveness, hair loss, hypersalivation, escape attempts, tremors and muscle rigidity are typical signs of stress in your pet.
– Health conditions
Hamsters will thrive in clean and well-ventilated environments that minimize their risk of diseases. Clean the beddings of your hamster regularly and include several stimuli for exercise like tunnels and wheels.
It would help if you also placed the hamster’s enclosure in the right environment for its needs. Some hamster species, for instance, feel cold easily and should thus be kept away from draughts and cold spots.
Which Lives Longer – Male or Female Hamster?
There has not been much research into which among the female and male hamster lives longer. The few studies available nonetheless point to the male outliving the female.
This might be probably because some male hamster species are less aggressive compared to the females and the female bodies are usually worn out by birthing.
Do Hamsters Live Longer When Kept Alone?
Though keeping hamsters together is not unusual, this is not the best idea. Most species are very territorial and prefer to live alone. Moreover, stress increases in hamsters that are kept in pairs, and one can bully the other.
Chinese and Syrian dwarfs, for example, can fight to death if another creature is kept in their cages, be it a rabbit or another hamster. The best approach when you have several hamsters is to keep them in separate cages.
In most cases, a hamster will slow down as it ages. It might spend less time on its spinning wheel or become less inclined to run around and play. Its sight and hearing might also deteriorate.
These are, however, normal events and should not make you sad. Though the hamster has a short lifespan, cherish the time you spend with it to reap the highest benefits from having it as a pet.Hamsters