Hamster pregnant care tips
Disclaimer: This is not a breeding guide. We strongly advises against breeding. Breeding without proper knowledge of the hamsters’ genetics can lead to ill health, disfigurement, or even death. If you can’t get enough of hamster cuteness and want to add to your fluffy family, take a look at our adoption gallery instead!
Is my hamster pregnant or just round?
This article will help you differentiate between a chubby and a pregnant hamster, as well as provide you tips on how to properly care for a pregnant hamster, pre-and post-birth.
Signs of possible hamster pregnancy:
- She had the opportunity to be in the same space as male hamsters after she reached the age of maturity (hamsters are able to conceive three to four weeks after birth. The younger the hamster, the riskier the pregnancy).
- She has an obvious swollen belly. Some would describe a pregnant hamster’s body shape as a pear.
- She has been building a nest and hoarding food more than usual.
- She will have visible nipples.
Ok, my hamster is definitely pregnant. Now what?
Pregnant hamsters are more likely to be highly guarded and aggressive. The more unsafe she feels, the greater the likelihood of her eating her own pups, so ensure that the mother’s living conditions pre-and post-birth living make her feel safe and comfortable.
Step-by-step guide to care for a pregnant hamster
Pre-birth: Preparing the cage
4 to 5 days before your hamster is due, clean and prepare the cage according to the instructions below. Syrian hamsters usually gestate for 16 days, while other species may take slightly up to 21 days. The time period differs from hamster to hamster, so it is best to err on the safe side and prepare the cage early!
Provide soft paper bedding of 8cm or more in height for the mother to nest, the softer the better. Other types of bedding are too prickly and hard for the fragile pups, and a large amount of bedding is required as the cage must not be cleaned for 2 weeks.
Replace your hamster’s regular hideout with a simple, visible one, so that you can spot the pups if they get hidden by the mother. A cardboard box or a transparent mug work best, and are easily available at Daiso for just $2. Remove the lid and you are good to go!
Provide two weeks worth of food in the cage. Before the birth, nourish the mother with foods that are high in protein (e.g. lab blocks, boiled eggs, cooked unseasoned chicken breasts) and also high in moisture (e.g. cucumber, cabbage)
Place two water bottles in the cage to ensure your hamster has enough water for 2 weeks.
Remove all potentially hazardous items:
Remove items such as sand baths, platforms, tubes, and wheels to protect the mother and pups. These are hazardous for the following reasons:
– Sand bath: Pups may inhale or suffocate in the sand.
– Elevated platforms: Pups may fall and injure themselves.
– Tubes: Pups may end up lost and hidden from their mother.
– The ever-enticing wheel: Distracts the mother from taking care of her pups.
Remove these items before the birth.
Birth: Leaving your hamster in peace
Prepare an emergency vet contact to call immediately if your hamster shows any indication of distress during labour. However, if labour is progressing well, simple step back and observe from a distance. It is very important to give the mother as much privacy and space as possible during this time. Only interact to intervene in a critical situation.
Post-birth: Ensuring a comfortable and stress-free space
Mother care: Stress-free recovery
Again, we strongly emphasise providing the mother and pups as much privacy and space as possible during this time. Leave them and the cage alone as much as possible.
For bin cages: Cover the cage with a cloth while ensuring that it is still well-ventilated.
For bar cages: Create a curtain to cover the cage using a long cloth, or weave cardboard strips between the bars so that the pup(s) have no way of fitting through the bars.
As you have provided the mother with ample food and water for 2 weeks, you can safely leave her alone during this time. The bottom line is to avoid interactions with the nursing mother as much as possible.
Baby care: Caring for the pups until they are weaned
Keep the cage slightly warmer than usual, as the pups have not yet grown a coat of fur to keep them warm. Stay away from the cage as much as you can, and wait for the pups to open their eyes before handling them with clean, fragrance free hands and gloves. This is to avoid getting your scent on the pups in any way, as the mother might abandon her pups, or even eat them, if she detects any change in their scent.
By Day 21, they will most likely be weaned. You can start putting accessories such as wheels and toys back into the cage. Watch out for any signs of fighting and separate any fighting hamsters immediately, mother included.
When the pups turn four weeks old, separate them into individual cages with the basic necessities.
Syrians must be separated by the 8th week. It is possible for same-sex Winter Whites and Roborovskis from the same litter to live together, but fights often break out nonetheless, which you must intervene in each time.
Young hamsters should be rehomed by the 8th week or earlier, whenever you deem it necessary for them to be separated.
Keep your eye out for any pups that seem to be receiving less attention from the mother than the others. These are known as the runts. They should be easy to spot as they tend to be separated from the rest of the litter.
Bring the runt(s) back to the litter by using a clean disposable spoon to gently lift it and carry it back while someone else distracts the mother with a treat or two. If the runt still is not being fed by the mother, hand-feeding is necessary. Dip a clean, thin paintbrush in kitten’s milk and let the pup suckle on it. We recommend PetAG KMR Kitten Milk, which is available at places like the Pet Lovers Centre.
Unfortunate circumstances: Managing expectations
It is only natural that every parent wishes for all the pups to survive their infancy. Unfortunately, reality is harsher than any ideal, and it is fairly common for pups to get eaten by their mothers.
This might be because the mother detects signs of weakness/poor health in her pups, or if she has fewer teats than pups in her litter. The consumed pups serve as a source of additional energy for the mother and for the remaining pups that she nurses.
Therefore, we strongly recommend taking some time to mentally prepare yourself for such a situation, as this is a natural phenomenon we cannot change. No matter how experienced a parent is at providing pregnancy care, these unfortunate situations will happen sooner or later. Take solace and pride in the fact that you prepared and provided the best care possible for the mother and her pups, and have courage and trust in nature to manage the rest.
Do not breed your hamsters on your own.
In the event that you brought home an already-pregnant hamster:
- Leave the mother and the pups alone and in peace, especially after birth.
- Create a clean, safe, and well-stocked environment for the mother to nurse her pups.
- Note that mothers may eat their own pups for various reasons.
If you want more helpful advice on looking after your hamster, including tips on food, toys, accessories and accommodation, add a comment below to let us know!
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