How to Take Care of Baby Hamsters

Once you realize your hamster is pregnant, you might get nervous worrying about how to keep her healthy and safe and what you must do to prepare for birth.

That aside, you should also learn to take care of baby hamsters well in advance to be ready when the pups come along.

There are also a few precautionary measures you should take when handling a pregnant hamster and the babies.

In this article, we will highlight how to prepare for a hamster giving birth and how to care for baby hamsters right from the time they are born to when it is time to separate them from the mother.

How to Take Care of Baby Hamsters

How to prepare for a hamster giving birth

Preparing your hamster for birth means you already know and are sure she’s pregnant. Notable signs a hamster is pregnant include enlarged and darkened nipples, nesting behavior, hoarding of food, enlargement of the belly, and increased appetite. So, how do you prepare yourself for when your hamster gives birth?

a). Clean the hamster’s cage

Your hamster needs a clean environment to deliver her babies. It’s advisable to clean a hamster’s cage about 7 days before she’s due. It’s important to know how long your hamster’s gestation period is in order to be sure about the right time to clean the cage.

The gestation period for Syrian hamsters is 16 days, that of dwarf hamsters is 18-21 days, while Roborovski hamsters can gestate for up to 30 days.

Keep in mind that hamsters do not like to be disturbed as their delivery date draws closer. Cleaning the cage a few days before she gives birth can unsettle her to an extent that she rejects her newborn babies.

If you’re not sure for how long your hamster has been pregnant, you should clean the cage immediately and not wait any longer. Do not clean the cage again until 14 days after birth.

b). Change your hamster’s diet

A pregnant hamster needs a protein and fat-rich diet. Provide your hamster with food that contains 18-20% protein and 7-9% fat. Your hamster will also need additional calcium, so foods such as milk and Organix porridge will be ideal.

You should also provide your hamster with nutritious foods such as nuts, carrots, cheese, hard-boiled eggs, and greens. You can also put more food in her cage because a pregnant hamster has an increased appetite and will hoard food in preparation for birthing.

Make sure not to put foods that easily go bad in the cage. If your hamster stockpiles these foods and they go bad before or soon after giving birth, they could go moldy and cause health issues to her and the newborns.

WARNING: Do not go overboard when making changes to your hamster’s diet. Some food can cause stomach upset or make the fetuses grow too large, which in turn complicates things when it is time to give birth.

c). Remove toys from the cage

You should remove the hamster wheel and other toys from the cage for several reasons. Your hamster will start to prepare for birthing and will need extra space to hoard food and make a nest for her pups.

Too many toys and items within the cage can also increase the chances of accidental injuries, something you should aim to avoid at all costs. You need your hamster to be healthy and strong as it approaches the delivery date.

Toys and objects with sharp edges can easily cause injuries to newborn hamsters, which will drastically reduce their chances of surviving. Newborn hamsters are not able to see for the first 14-18 days, and it is during this stage that accidental injuries can happen as they move around the cage.

Make sure to also pup-proof around the edges of the cage to prevent the young hamsters from crawling out.

d). Provide soft bedding for your hamster

One of the natural instincts of a pregnant hamster is to prepare a spot for giving birth. She will make a nest and it’s best if you provide soft materials such as dry and clean toilet paper or facial tissues.

The hamster will tear these soft materials into smaller pieces and use them in her nest. You should, however, avoid heavy materials to prevent baby hamsters from getting tangled or smothered.

e). Remove other hamsters from the cage

You should also remove any other hamster from the cage, including male hamsters. This is because pregnant hamsters can at times become aggressive toward males, which can easily lead to cage fights and unintended injuries.

However, there is a common belief among pet owners that male dwarf hamsters are quite helpful in raising a litter. In such a scenario, we recommend seeking professional advice from your veterinarian or pet hamster specialist.

What happens during birth

The birthing process takes about one to two hours and the pup births happen in intervals of 15-30 mins. A hamster can give birth to as many as 20 pups at a single birth and she should not be disturbed during this time.

The birthing process should be as solitary as possible. Keep off the hamster’s cage and make sure other family members do the same. The challenge is when you have kids who will definitely be eager to watch the events unfold.

It’s also important to note that crowding the hamster’s cage will most likely lead to stress, and one of the consequences is a mother hamster eating her babies.

How to take care of baby hamsters (First 2 weeks)

Hamster pups are blind, deaf, and without body hair when they are born. They grow fast and will start to crawl around the cage within a week or so. It takes baby hamsters about 14-18 days to open their eyes and become very active.

If your hamster is about to give birth but you do not have a clue about how to take care of baby hamsters, this guide will help you understand what you need to do and the things you should avoid. First, let’s focus on the first two weeks from birth.

a). Do not disturb the nest

A mother hamster can easily become agitated and aggressive when disturbed or touched. This happens as she tries to protect her nest from what she perceives as threats or intrusions. The risk of disturbing a mother hamster is that she might abandon her babies or even kill them.

b). Avoid handling the pups

You should not handle the baby hamsters for at least two weeks from birth. When you touch a baby hamster, you leave your scent on them and since mother hamsters use the baby’s natural scent to identify them, she will smell a different scent. When this happens, the mother hamster will either abandon her babies or kill them.

A mother hamster might also attack anyone who tries to touch her pups. In case of an emergency and you need to move the babies, you should use a spoon so that you do not leave your scent on them.

c). Do not clean the cage

You should also avoid cleaning the hamster’s cage for the first two weeks. You do not want to disturb the mother hamster soon after birth or even interfere with her nest. In case there is an excessively wet spot in the cage, only clean that spot and make sure not to touch the nest or the pups.

d). Provide plenty of food and water

Always make sure your hamster and her pups do not run out of food and clean water to drink. You should check the cage at least twice a day and put more emphasis on a diet high in protein and fat.

It’s recommended to use a shallow dish instead of a water bowl because the baby hamsters can easily down if they fall into the bowl. You should also ensure the sipper bottle is low enough for the young hamsters to reach and drink the water.

After about a week or so, start scattering the food along the edges of the cage. This will train the baby hamsters to get used to feeding themselves without having to rely on their mother.

How to take care of baby hamsters (After 2 weeks)

How to Care for Baby Hamsters

Once the baby hamsters are two weeks old, there are a few things you should do differently, such as cleaning the cage, weaning them, and separating the males from females. So, let’s have a look at how you should take care of baby hamsters once they turn two weeks old.

a). Clean the cage

The mother hamster will become less protective once her pups are about two weeks old. This allows you to thoroughly clean the cage and ensure your hamsters have a conducive environment to call home.

You should also put a few pieces of clean toilet paper in the cage after you’re done with the cleaning. Sometimes a mother hamster wants to build a new nest for her babies.

b). Handle the babies occasionally

Mother hamster is no longer as protective with her pups and will be comfortable with you handling and leaving your scent on them. This also helps the babies to get used to human touch.

However, keep in mind that baby hamsters are still a bit fragile at this stage, so be gentle when handling them. Be careful too because they can move quickly and can easily injure themselves in the process.

c). Wean the baby hamsters

Baby hamsters typically feed from their mother until they are about three-and-a-half weeks. They should be weaned from their mom after about 26 days. Make sure to provide a quality, balanced diet.

d). Separate the babies from the mother

The next phase is separating the baby hamsters from their mother. This should happen when they are about 4 weeks old. It is at this stage that you start to notice the mother hamster becoming more impatient with the babies.

There are instances when mother hamsters become very aggressive with their pups when they feel they are old enough to live on their own and fend for themselves. Make sure it doesn’t get to this, so you might want to separate them as soon as you notice even the slightest signs of aggression.

e). Separate males and females

Next is to separate the males from the females and put them in separate cages. Keep in mind that hamsters can mate and reproduce once they are about 40 days old, so separating the males and females should happen before then, or you might wake up one day only to realize that the hamsters have already mated.

The type of hamster also determines when and whether they should be put in separate cages. For instance, Syrian hamsters are solitary animals and quite territorial. They often become very aggressive when they are about 6-7 weeks old. This will definitely call for individual cages for each of them.

When it comes to Dwarf hamsters, they can live in same-sex colonies fairly peacefully until they are about 12 weeks old. That’s when you will start to notice aggressive behaviors and actual fights, and that’s the right moment to separate and keep them in separate cages.

f). Handle them as adults

At around 5 weeks old, the baby hamsters are no longer babies but adults. This means the type of food and activities they can engage in needs to change. You should also provide toys to keep them physically and mentally stimulated.

How to take care of orphaned baby hamsters

There are instances when the unfortunate happens and baby hamsters have to grow up without a mother. It can be a challenge for anyone experiencing this for the first time. However, there are a few things you can do to give the little pups a good chance of surviving and growing up strong and healthy. The tough part is if the orphaned baby hamsters are just a few days old.

a). Find a surrogate mother for the pups

You should consider finding a surrogate mother for orphaned baby hamsters if they are 12 days or younger.

Since hamster mothers are sensitive to their babies’ scent, you should wipe all of the residues from the nest and/or the birthing process off the orphaned hamsters.

This reduces the chances of the surrogate mother recognizing them as belonging to another litter. It is recommended to wear dust-free latex gloves when handling baby hamsters.

After you have cleaned the baby hamsters, take nesting material from the surrogate mother’s nest and wrap it around the babies. The goal is to make the orphaned baby hamsters smell like surrogate mom’s babies.

Once you’re ready to put them in the surrogate mother’s cage, you can distract the mother with a few treats while you slide the orphaned babies into the nest where the other baby hamsters are.

Try to keep the surrogate mother from the nest for as long as possible as the orphaned hamsters mix with the other babies. This helps them to soak in the scent from the nest and other baby hamsters, which makes it hard for the surrogate mother to differentiate them from her biological babies.

Keep in mind that if the surrogate mother senses any of the orphaned baby hamsters aren’t hers, she may kill them. That’s why you should take some time to observe her initial reactions after putting the orphaned babies in the nest.

You can do the following if the orphaned baby hamsters are older than 12 days:

b). Make a warm, soft nest for them

The baby hamsters will need a warm and soft spot to sleep. Make them a nest using dry, clean toilet paper. Keep in mind that newborn hamsters are born without any hair on their bodies. This means they should be sleeping on a soft spot with enough warmth.

c). Get rid of anything sharp in the cage

As mentioned, baby hamsters cannot see. You should make sure there are no sharp or abrasive objects in the cage to avoid any injuries. Skin injuries can lead to infections such as abscesses, which can lead to death if left untreated.

d). Keep the cage warm at all times

Orphaned baby hamsters will lack the warmth provided by a mother’s body. To address this, place a heating pad under the cage. Make sure the heating pad is set on the lowest setting to prevent overheating. Too much heat can easily kill young hamsters.

e). Provide adequate food and water

Make sure the baby hamsters have enough food and water at all times. You can use Lactol to nurse the pups. It is an animal milk replacement and you can find it in most pet stores. An alternative would be to use powdered baby formula. Put the milk in a dropper and let the baby hamster suckle and lick it out.

f). Regulate the temperature in the cage

Keep in mind that newborn hamsters cannot regulate their body temperature. You can help by maintaining the room temperature at 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21.1 degrees Celcius).

Final thoughts

I hope that this article has given you in-depth knowledge about taking good care of baby hamsters. Now you know the kind of food they should be eating as well as what you need to do in case the mother dies and the newborn babies are left all alone.

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