There are many ways one can tell if a hamster is pregnant. From behavioral changes to physical transformations, keeping an eye on your female hamster will help you know when she is pregnant.
You will need to keep tabs on her interactions with a male hamster, sudden behavioral changes, noticeable abdominal changes, and changes in appetite.
In this article, we will have a look at how to tell if a hamster is pregnant, how to care for a pregnant hamster as well as a few frequently asked questions about hamster pregnancy.
If it’s your first time caring for a pregnant hamster, you should also note that sometimes hamsters eat their newborn babies for different reasons.
For more on that and how to prevent this from happening, read our previous article on reasons why hamsters eat their babies and learn ways to prevent it from happening.
How to tell if a hamster is pregnant
These are some of the ways to know if a hamster is pregnant. Please note that physical changes such as an enlarged abdomen do not necessarily mean your hamster is pregnant. You should look out for accompanying behavioral and physical changes to be absolutely sure.
1. Contact with male hamsters
This is the most basic consideration. If the female hamster had been housed with a male hamster within the last three to four weeks, there’s a high likelihood that a successful mating occurred.
A hamster’s pregnancy signs will become evident in the third trimester. That’s why you need to know if the female hamster has been around male hamsters for the last three to four weeks.
However, if the hamster hasn’t had any male company in more than four weeks, then she cannot be pregnant because the longest hamster gestation period is about four weeks (30 days).
That means any physical and behavioral changes you will notice could have a different underlying cause and you should have her examined by a veterinarian.
2. Enlargement of the belly
If you notice the female hamster’s tummy is growing and has had a chance to mate, then there’s a possibility she is pregnant. It is, however, worth noting that abdominal dilation usually becomes evident in the final third of the hamster’s gestation.
Since hamsters have a gestation period of between 15 to 30 days depending on the breed, the abdominal enlargement due to pregnancy means she has been pregnant for at least 10 days for a hamster whose gestation period is 15 days and about 21 days for a hamster whose gestation period is 30 days.
While the enlargement of the abdominal area could be a sign a hamster is pregnant, there’s also a possibility the hamster has a medical condition that’s making the abdomen enlarge.
If you suspect your hamster isn’t pregnant yet her abdomen is enlarged, you should take her to your local veterinary clinic for examination. A swollen abdomen can be an indication of:
- A womb infection such as pyometra
- Bowel issues due to improper digestion
- Heart problems that can lead to fluid accumulation in the belly
- Enlarged internal organs such as the spleen and liver (often due to cancer)
- Bladder stones and tumors
That’s why it’s imperative that you have her examined by your local veterinarian.
3. Enlarged and darkened nipples
Another way to tell if a hamster is pregnant is to examine her nipples. If she has enlarged nipples around the same time her belly swells then it’s highly likely you’re about to welcome a litter of hamster babies to your home.
Unfortunately, spotting enlarged nipples on small hamster breeds can be difficult. You should also avoid handling her during the third trimester of her pregnancy as this can easily upset her.
Hamsters are prone to stress so avoid touching her as much as possible.
4. Lookout for nesting behavior
Spotting the nesting behavior is an almost sure sign a hamster is pregnant. She will start gathering lots of bedding and placing them in one area to make a nest as she prepares to deliver her babies. The hamster can use materials such as hay, straw, or wood chips bedding for her nest.
It’s ideal to avoid cleaning the cage when the hamster is building her nest. However, you can still clean the area around the cage to keep its surroundings as neat as possible.
The nesting instinct is quite strong in hamsters, so make sure she has enough beddings in her cage to help her make a comfortable nest for her babies.
5. Displaying heightened aggression
A pregnant hamster will also display heightened aggressive behaviors towards other hamsters, especially males. It’s advisable to separate pregnant hamsters from other hamsters and pets for many reasons.
The separation will help reduce stress during pregnancy and prevent fighting before and after she gives birth. A pregnant hamster will also spend more time sleeping, so ensuring she can rest peacefully is important.
6. Having an increased appetite
Most hamsters, not all, will have increased appetite when pregnant. She will consume more food and drink more water than usual to ensure her unborn babies get enough nutrients throughout the pregnancy.
Eating more also ensures she remains strong, healthy, and ready for successful delivery. Ensure your hamster gets enough protein and healthy fat in her diet to keep her strong and energetic throughout her pregnancy.
In case you suspect your hamster is not pregnant but is displaying an increased appetite, it’s only ideal to have her examined by a vet.
7. She starts hoarding food
Apart from displaying an increased appetite for food, a pregnant hamster will also hide food away in her nest as she prepares for delivery.
While hoarding of food does not necessarily mean the hamster is pregnant, it will carry more weight if she was housed with a male hamster for more than three weeks, has swollen belly with enlarged & darkened nipples, and is displaying nesting behaviors.
Point to note: The age of the hamster will also determine if she’s pregnant or not. Hamsters start to breed when they are about six weeks old until they are about 14 to 15 months old. This means if the hamster is at least six weeks old and you notice all the signs noted above then she definitely is pregnant.
How to take care of a pregnant hamster
Once you identify that your female hamster is pregnant, how can you ensure she gets the best care she needs in preparation for delivery? Below we highlight ways to take care of a pregnant hamster.
1. Do not touch the mother’s belly
You might be tempted to touch the mother’s belly to try to feel the babies (as we humans do). Unfortunately, pregnant hamsters are extremely sensitive to disruption, including even the gentlest of touches.
Touching your hamster can cause stress, which can make them harm the babies after giving birth. Besides, there’s no need to touch her belly when you are absolutely sure she’s pregnant.
In a nutshell, avoid handling your pregnant hamster more than you have to.
2. Feed the mother a nutritious diet
You should also ensure the pregnant mother enjoys a nutritious diet to keep them healthy and ensure the health of the babies. Try to maintain a consistent diet she is familiar with as sudden changes could cause stomach upset.
Foods such as milk and cheese will provide calcium for the bone development of the litter and help the nursing mother in lactation once the babies are born.
Small amounts of hard-boiled egg, barley, nuts, and oats will provide the hamster with additional proteins. You can also add fruits and vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, grapes, bananas, strawberries, cucumber, and apples for vitamins and minerals.
You should, however, ensure you only feed them very small amounts of these vegetables to avoid gastrointestinal issues. The same applies to milk and cheese.
3. Place her cage in a quiet place
Pregnant hamsters like to be left alone when they are about to go into labor. You should choose a room or spot that’s less used with very few interruptions, enough daylight, and without loud noises.
Ensuring the hamster is kept in a commotion-free place with little noise will keep her calmer and healthier during her pregnancy. This will help avoid issues such as stress, which can be a really big problem for pregnant and nursing hamsters.
If you have other pets, ensure the cage is set somewhere they cannot get to. The place you choose should have a consistent, mild temperature with sufficient daylight but not direct sunlight.
During the third trimester of her pregnancy, avoid cleaning her cage as this can cause a disturbance, which will most likely leave your hamster stressed.
4. Separate her from other hamsters
You should separate the hamster from the others the moment you confirm she is pregnant. This will ensure she stays in a peaceful, spacious cage with little disturbance.
If a pregnant hamster is kept in the same cage with other hamsters, she will likely suffer from stress which could increase the possibility of her cannibalizing her litter as soon as they are born.
Male hamsters are also known to eat newborn baby hamsters. The best way to avoid this is by keeping the pregnant hamster in a separate cage all by herself.
Additionally, if a male hamster is kept in the same room as a pregnant female hamster, the female hamster can become pregnant 24 hours after giving birth to her newborns if they mate.
5. Provide plenty of clean nesting material
Ensure the hamster has plenty of clean materials she can use to make her nest. Preferably, choose soft, easily tearable materials such as paper towels, tissues, and toilet paper.
Ensure the papers you give the hamster do not have any ink on them because ink is toxic to hamsters. You should also ensure she has extra bedding because she’ll need them after giving birth.
6. Clean the hamster cage days before the due date
I believe by now you understand how hamsters are easily prone to stress. However, you still have to clean the hamster’s cage two or three days before she’s due to give birth.
Gently take the hamster and put her in a safe spot such as a playpen. Proceed to empty soiled bedding and clean the dirty parts of the cage. Be careful not to disturb the nest.
Replace the dirty bedding with enough fresh bedding once you’re done cleaning. Do a good job here because you probably won’t be able to clean the cage again for the next 3 weeks to avoid disturbing the nursing mother and her young babies.
7. Leave the hamster alone to give birth
Ensure your hamster is left in peace when she goes into labor. You might be tempted to help but hamsters prefer to have their babies in isolation.
You should leave her alone to give birth but ensure she has everything she needs including food and water.
How many babies can a hamster have?
The number of babies a hamster can have largely depend on the breed. Siberian hamsters can have 4 to 8 babies while a golden hamster can have as many as 20 babies. On average, hamsters can have six to 12 babies.
It’s advisable to take your pregnant hamster to the vet for a checkup to make sure the pregnancy goes well. Your vet will also advise you on the right diet and how to care for your pregnant hamster.
How long are hamsters pregnant for?
How long hamsters are pregnant for range from 15 to 30 days depending on the breed. Syrian hamsters are pregnant for 15 to 18 days, Chinese hamsters for 18 to 23 days, Winter White hamsters for 18 to 22 days, and Roborovski hamsters for 21 to 27 days.
If you know the hamster breed you keep then it will be easy to tell how long she will be pregnant as well as the expected delivery date.
How long are Syrian hamsters pregnant for?
Syrian hamsters are pregnant for between 15 to 18 days. During this period, and especially in the third trimester, you will notice signs such as nesting behavior, heightened aggression towards male hamsters, enlarged & darkened nipples, and increased appetite for food and water.
How many times can a hamster get pregnant?
Female hamsters can go into heat every three to four days depending on breed. Hamsters start to breed when they are about six weeks old until they are about 14 to 15 months old. A female hamster can also get pregnant 24 hours after giving birth, which necessitates keeping them separate from male hamsters.
We have highlighted how to tell if a hamster is pregnant along with ways to take care of a pregnant hamster. Look out for these signs to help you know if your female hamster is pregnant. In case you have doubts then it’s best to visit your local veterinary clinic for help.