How to Know if My Hamster is Pregnant
In recent decades hamsters have become an increasingly popular pet, as much loved by adults as by children. This is in part due to their easy adaptation to environments, relatively simple care needs and, of course, the fact that they are adorable. Their care needs include maintaining a clean cage, providing a suitable diet and ensuring they have an enriched environment for physical and mental stimulation.
Hamsters will not always live peaceably together, although this may depend on breed. However, if it is possible you may want to keep two hamsters together for companionship reasons. It is also not always easy to tell the gender of your hamster, again depending on the breed. This means you may inadvertently keep a male and female hamster together which can lead to possible pregnancy. Similarly, you have inherited a hamster or adopted them from somewhere, but are unsure if they might be pregnant. This is why AnimalWised is here to help you out, by showing you how to tell if your hamster is pregnant and what to do if the answer is yes.
How long is a hamster pregnancy?
The minimum gestation period of a hamster is around 16 days. This period, however, can vary depending on the breed of hamster and the physical condition of the mother. Golden hamsters usually birth their young after 16 days, but dwarf hamsters may take closer to 21 days. Chinese and Siberian (Roborovski) hamsters usually need a minimum pregnancy of about 23 days.
Something common to all hamster breeds is that, during pregnancy, the abdomen doesn't enlarge until the last 4 or 5 days of gestation. This means we can't rely on an enlarged belly alone to determine whether a hamster is pregnant. This is why we will take a look below at some signs of a pregnant hamster to help you determine if this is the case.
Symptoms of a pregnant hamster
If you are wondering what are the symptoms which indicate a pregnant hamster, then we are here to show you the most notable signs. We'll also provide a little info on what you will need to do to care for a pregnant hamster. These include:
- Weight and appetite: an increased appetite and a similarly sudden increase in weight are possible symptoms of pregnancy in hamsters. If your hamster is consuming more food and drink than usual, then it is important to pay attention. This is not simply if you want to know how to tell if your hamster is pregnant. It is also important in case your hamster has a disease or imbalance in their body. It is important if you notice drastic changed in mood or behavior of your hamster to take them to the vet. A pregnant hamster will need to eat and drink more to ensure their young get the nutrients they need as well as for the mother to have enough strength for the birth. The type of diet needed for a pregnant hamster is one with an increased amount of protein and healthy fat to maintain energy.
- Abdominal examination: although abdominal dilation in hamsters is towards the very end of the pregnancy, it is possible to look for other indications. For example, if their nipples are enlarged or have darkened, it means their body is preparing for breastfeeding. Also, if you suspect your hamster is pregnant, you can see if their belly changes at all as you may be able to feel movement towards the end. However, you should not squeeze or push their bellies for fear of damaging the unborn hamster pups. Hamsters will also become more territorial during a pregnancy. This is because they will feel vulnerable, but also because they want to protect their environment for the birth. It is recommended to interact with a pregnant hamster as little as possible. Hamsters can be prone to stress, so causing stress during this time can threaten the well-being of both mother and babies.
- Pregnant hamster bahavior: pregnant hamsters will begin to build a nest in their cage. They will use the materials available to them, which will likely include the hay, straw or wood chips used for bedding. When their nest is finished, you will see that they try to store food inside to prepare for the delivery. During this period, it is not recommended to clean the cage to avoid harming the nest. You may be able to clean around it, however. Pregnant hamsters may also change their behavior during this time. It is usually more aggressive with other hamsters, especially males. This is why it is important to separate pregnant hamsters from any other hamsters. This is not only to reduce stress during pregnancy, but to prevent fighting before and after the birth. They will need to sleep a lot more than usual, so they will spend a lot of time in their nest.
How many offspring can a hamster have?
How many pups a hamster will have depends on their breed. For Siberian hamsters, the litter size will be around 4 to 8 babies. However, for a golden hamster a litter can contain as many as 20 pups. The amount of babies a hamster will have also depends on the individual animal. It is recommend you go to the vet for an examination to ensure the pregnancy goes well.
What to do when a hamster gives birth
When your hamster gives birth one of the most important things you can do is nothing. Do not go into their cage unnecessarily and avoid touching the pups completely. Hamsters need isolation during pregnancy as well as when they are feeding after birth. This is especially so if they are a first time mother. Exposing a hamster to any outside stressors can be very damaging to both mother and baby hamsters. Importantly, if a human touches a baby hamster, it can lead to the mother eating them. This is believed to be because they consider the baby vulnerable and otherwise poorly trained to survive.
If you do observe a hamster eating its young, you should know that this is a natural phenomenon in this rodents. However, to do what you can to avoid this from happening, you can take preventative measures. These include providing an excellent diet, separating them from other hamsters as well as providing a calm and positive environment free from interference. It is also important to know that sometimes a mother will store their young in their mouth pouches, so it may look as if they are being eaten when they are not.
After around 15 to 20 days have passed, you will be able to clean the hamster's cage again. The pups will also start to play with each other and it should be safer for you to interact with them, even if they should remain as untouched as possible. Pups will need to be removed from both their mother and each other after a certain stage. This is for two reasons. Firstly, hamsters can reach sexual maturity as soon as a month after birth. This will depend on the breed, however, as Chinese hamsters will take longer than Syrian hamsters. The other reason is that mother hamsters may eat their young if left together for too long.
Is it necessary to separate a male hamster from the young?
As stipulated in the previous section, it is indeed important to separate a male hamster from a pregnant female as they may become aggressive and attack each other. However, it is absolutely imperative that the male be removed after the female gives birth. This is for two reasons, firstly so that it will prevent one or both of the parents eating their young. Secondly, a new pregnancy can occur almost as soon as the litter is born, approximately 24 hours after labor has concluded.
If you want to read similar articles to How to Know if My Hamster is Pregnant, we recommend you visit our Gestation category.