Taking Care of your Pregnant HamsterDr. Bobby Ortiz M.V.B
Hamsters can fall pregnant when they are around 6-10 weeks old. Litters typically consist of 6-12 pups and gestation lasts 16-30 days on average, depending on their breed. A pregnant hamster requires plenty of special care to ensure she has a healthy, stress-free birth. Lots of food and water is extremely important for any hamsters carrying a litter.
It’s important to know what to expect from your pregnant hamster so you can ensure they are given the proper care and treatment. In this blog post, I’ll explain symptoms of pregnancy, how to look after your pregnant hamster, and what happens next.
Dr. Bobby Ortiz, M.V.B.
Dr Bobby Ortiz, aka 'Dogtor Bob', is a small animal and exotic veterinarian based in Dublin. He has a strong interest in Small Mammal (rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets) and Reptile medicine and surgery.
He grew up in a family of avid animal lovers, which led him to work as an Aquarist at the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific in California. It was there he decided he wanted to become a vet, and specialise in exotic animals, that needed the same care and medical attention that dogs and cats are given.
He lives with his wife and Brittany Spaniel Bodhi, and has dreams to build a new tropical marine fish tank in the near future!
Symptoms of a Hamster Pregnancy
If you suspect your hamster might be pregnant, there are a few signs to confirm, such as:
1. Change in Behaviour
You may find your hamster acting more aggressive or irritable than usual. They may also exhibit shyness, reclusiveness, or nervousness when pregnant. Watch out for lethargy and slow-moving too.
2. Contact with Male
If your intact female hamster has had the opportunity to be in close proximity (such as the same cage) as a male hamster after she reached the age of maturity, there is a high probability she has fallen pregnant.
3. Nest Building
Like rabbits, hamsters will begin to build nests when they are expecting. She may be gathering lots of bedding into one area or hoarding lots of food in preparation for the birth of her pups. This instinct to nest is quite prevalent in hamsters, so keep an eye on this behaviour as the pregnancy progresses.
4. Swollen Belly
If you suspect your hamster is pregnant, check to see if her belly has swollen; a pregnant hamster’s body shape often resembles a pear. Don’t attempt to feel the babies in her tummy as this could cause undue stress on your hamster. It’s important to take them to a vet to confirm the pregnancy as a swollen belly, if not pregnancy, may be a sign of something more serious such as tumours.
5. Increased Appetite
If you find you are refreshing her food bowls and water bottles more often than usual, this could be a sign your hamster is expecting. Her diet should consist of plenty of protein.
If you notice these symptoms, I recommend taking your hamster to your vet so they can confirm or deny the pregnancy and provide care advice going forward.
Caring For Your Pregnant Hamster
Some top tips for caring for a pregnant hamster:
- Ensure she is on a nutritious balanced diet.
- Separate her from other hamsters who may disturb her.
- Always ensure her cage is clean and uneaten food is thrown away
- Make sure there is 24/7 access to fresh, clean water
- Offer soft, easily tearable nesting materials, like tissues, toilet paper, shredded paper, paper towels, and extra bedding
- Avoid handling her during pregnancy and after she gives birth
The Birthing Process
Hamsters tend to give birth in private, and a few days before she is due, you may notice her retreating into her nest a lot of the time. Do not interfere with the birthing process, and let her give birth in a quiet, stress-free environment. Try and avoid being in the same room when she is giving birth to be completely safe.
Once she has delivered her babies, you may not see her for a few days as she retreats into her nest to nurse her pups.
It is important that you do not touch the babies or disturb the cage for the first 1-2 weeks. Mother hamsters are very protective of their young, and any disturbance with the cage or babies will frighten her and cause harm to the babies. Only reach into the cage to give the hamster food once a day.