Hamster Cheek Pouch – An Overview

by Hamster Care
hamster-cheeks

If you’ve ever watched your hamster after you’ve topped up their food bowl, you’ve probably seen them stuffing their cheeks like a kid at an all-you-can-eat buffet! The sheer amount of food that these “cheeky” small rodents can fit into their cheek pouches is astounding.

Did you know that Syrian hamsters can store up to 20% of their body weight in food by storing it inside their cheeks? No? Then keep reading to learn everything you need to know about hamster cheek pouches and how to keep them healthy.

What exactly is a hamster cheek pouch?

Every hamster is born with cheek pouches. These are large, flexible pockets on either side of your hamster’s mouth. They do not have salivary glands and can stretch all the way back to the front of your hamster’s shoulders.

Hamsters do not eat to fill their stomachs because they are hungry; they eat to survive. In fact, hamsters require frequent feedings in order to function normally. However, foraging for food in the wild would frequently make them easy prey. Instead, these nocturnal animals gather their food at night and snack on what they don’t store.

Cheek pouches are an excellent hiding place for keeping things safe and dry, and female hamsters frequently use them to transport their young.

Even a contortionist would be impressed by a hamster’s extreme physical flexibility when stuffing its cheeks. It not only allows them to store items in their cheek pouches, but it also allows them to snack at the same time! Mind-blowing.

How do hamster cheeks work?

Pouches on the cheeks of hamsters resemble two small deflated balloons. If you pay close attention to your hamster, you will notice that once food is placed inside its mouth, it rotates it around these pockets to make it easier to slide back.

When the snack is properly positioned, the pouch expands and the retractor muscles squeeze it, pulling the food back with it.

How much can a hamster store in its cheeks?

It is thought that hamsters can store up to 20% of their total body weight in their cheek pouches. This can include whole grapes, an entire shelled peanut, large chunks of cucumber, and even bedding.

Can hamsters put their babies in their mouth?

Many different types of animals can carry their young inside their pouches to keep them safe and out of sight. When threatened or anxious, wild hamsters may place their babies inside their cheek pouches.

Pet hamsters generally do not do this if you leave them alone to perform their mothering duties. If she does not do so, she may abandon her babies or even cannibalize them.

Do hamsters choke?

Because hamsters can choke, it is important to keep anything remotely dangerous, including cables and wires, out of their reach.

Hamsters can occasionally choke while chewing and storing their bedding. If they put them in their cheek pouches and they get them caught on their teeth, it can lead to a serious blockage. Furthermore, they may end up swallowing it.

To keep your hamster from choking on their bedding, avoid using bedding floss or cotton, which are difficult to digest.

Hamster cheek diseases

Hamster cheeks, like all organs and muscles, are susceptible to potential health issues. So, in order to keep your hamster smiling from “cheek to cheek,” you must be aware of the hamster cheek diseases listed below.

  1. Cheek pouch abscesses

These are most likely the most common hamster cheek diseases. An abscess is a small pus-like lump caused by an infection. These are common when your hamster’s teeth become overgrown as a result of putting something sharp inside their mouth or catching their cheek on something external within their cage.

A minor nick, tear, or puncture can lead to serious complications, especially if the infection spreads and enters their bloodstream.

If caught early enough, cheek pouch abscesses are easily treated with antibiotics. If you notice your hamster is in pain or having difficulty eating, you should have them checked out by a veterinarian.

  1. Cheek pouch tumors

Cheek pouch tumors are another common occurrence in hamsters. Tumors typically affect only one pouch; however, once established, they can cover the entire cheek from mouth to shoulder. Unlike abscesses, cheek pouch tumors are firm to the touch and more serious.

Unfortunately, tumors are frequently cancerous and difficult to operate on by veterinary surgeons.

  1. Cheek pouch eversion

This is a much less common occurrence, but it does occur in some hamsters. Eversion occurs when the cheek pouch flips outside the mouth, exposing a pink bulge. As a result, your hamster will struggle to eat and drink and may experience pain.

Depending on the severity of the cheek pouch eversion, most veterinarians will be able to reintroduce the pouch. If this does not hold it in place, a few stitches may be necessary.

  1. Cheek pouch impactions

Cheek pouch impaction is another uncommon condition. This occurs when large pieces of food or bedding are shoved into the mouth and become stuck! When food begins to decompose, it can lead to infections and abscesses.

Most hamsters can cup their cheeks to push their food out, but if something becomes lodged, take them to the vet right away. When your hamster’s cheeks remain full for an extended period of time, there is a swollen head and neck, excess saliva, or your hamster stops eating.

What to do if a hamster can’t get food out of its cheeks?

Most hamsters will efficiently empty their cheek pouches with their front paws. If you notice that it has been impacted and they are unable to clear their pockets, you may need to intervene.

First and foremost, we recommend massaging the cheek to dislodge and break up the blockage. If that doesn’t work, you may have to remove it on your hamster’s behalf. The least stressful method is to flush the debris out with a small eyedropper. Fill it halfway with warm salt water and gently squeeze it into your hamster’s mouth.

If your hamster’s cheek remains impacted, you should seek veterinary care.

How do you keep your hamster’s cheeks healthy?

Although you can’t stop your hamster from stuffing its cheeks or catching them on the corner of its cage, you can take some precautions to encourage a healthier lifestyle. Here are our top recommendations:

  1. Do not give your hamster sharp, scratchy, or sticky food substances.
  2. Observe your hamster’s behavior and eating habits.
  3. Check for swollen cheek pouches and bad breath.
  4. Make sure that there are no sharp edges or objects inside the cage.
  5. Know your local vets’ number – just in case.

Conclusion

Your hamster’s chubby cheeks may be their cutest feature, but you may be unaware of the diseases that they may be harboring inside their mouth. Failure to dislodge the food, damage to their cheek pockets, and dangerous lumps and bumps could cause serious problems for your cheeky hammy.

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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By HamsterCareTip.Com.

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