Expecting, are we? It can be unexpected but not surprising. Hamsters sexually mature quickly, and they can reproduce as early as 4 weeks of age. If you recently bought them or already have them as pets, it’s possible that the female hamsters were sharing a cage with the males.
How to Tell if Your Hamster is Pregnant?
You can tell that a hamster is pregnant if she appears to have gained weight. A noticeable bulge in her abdomen, just over her hips, can be seen days before the delivery. She may act restless and agitated, hoarding more food than usual and adding more bedding materials to the nest. Sometimes, it can be tricky not knowing when the mating took place, and before you know it, the pups are on their way, catching you unprepared.
When Will the Pups Come Out?
The gestation period varies from one breed to another. For example, Syrian hamsters remain pregnant for about 16 days, while Chinese and Russian Dwarf hamsters have a pregnancy that lasts about 18-21 days. Roborovski hamsters, on the other hand, take about 30 days.
Before the Pups’ Arrival
Caring for a baby hamster should start from caring for the mother during pregnancy. Make sure she has plenty of clean water and a good quality diet throughout the pregnancy until the babies are weaned. Increase her protein and fat intake by serving hard-boiled eggs, boiled chicken, and cereals, among others.
Now, get their home clean and ready. If you think you can go near the cage before the pups are born, go ahead and do so. Clean the cage and provide fresh nesting material like strips of toilet paper or facial tissues. Take out the wheel and other toys from the cage to prevent injury to the pups. Also, keep the temperature constant at around 18-24 degrees Celsius. Sit back and don’t disturb the cage or handle the mother unnecessarily.
The Pups Are Born
It is critical that you don’t handle the cage, the mother, and the babies at this point and for the next two weeks. When the mother smells your scent in the cage and on the babies, she will feel threatened and may eat her pups. This is her way of coping with an intruder.
The pups are born blind, deaf, hairless, and pink! They are delicate and can easily lose a limb. They are born singly and covered with a caul, a skin-like membrane. The caul is packed with nutrients and eaten by the mother as a way to recharge after the birthing process.
Litter sizes can vary from one to as much as twenty, and they will normally be scattered around the cage. When the mother has time to rest, she will gather them all up, bring them to the nest, and begin nursing.
By day 4, a dark covering of fur will become visible, and their ear canals start to open. Day 5 signals the time when their markings will show, and they will begin to crawl around the cage. Again, resist the urge to pick them up. The mother will retrieve them, or the pups themselves will crawl back into the nest. This is a good time to lower the water level so it is accessible.
Day 10 marks the start of them snacking on solid foods. You can put bits of cooked or grated vegetables. By the second week, their eyes will start to open. You can now clean the cage and put fresh toilet paper as bedding.
When the pups reach 21-28 days old, they are ready to leave their mother. Separate the sexes and place them in different cages to avoid fighting and breeding. Be gentle when handling baby hamsters; they can move quickly, so be careful.
Caring for a Baby Hamster Without a Mother
If you find yourself in a situation where the mother is unable to care for her babies, here are some things to note:
Food and Feeding Method
- Feed them with Lactol, a milk formula that serves as a replacement for mother’s milk.
- Use an eyedropper to give them milk every hour until they are 7-10 days old.
- Do not squirt the milk; instead, let a drop of milk hover on the dropper and let the pup suck or lick it.
- Two drops of milk are enough for one feeding.
Caring for baby hamsters may seem like a daunting task, but if you care and follow the necessary steps, there’s nothing to keep you away from raising healthy and happy hamsters.