How long can a hamster go without food? In general, hamsters can survive 3-4 days without food, but many factors affect this. Including your hamster’s age, size and general health. If you’re going on vacation, it’s important to have a care plan for your hamster. And if your hamster has escaped, it might be a good idea to leave food out of different rooms until you can get them back so they don’t starve.
Let’s take a closer look at hamster diets and how long a hamster can go without food. In addition, we look at the risks of leaving your hamster without food and help you plan the best ways to care for your little pet when you’re away from home.
How often do hamsters need food and water?
Studies have shown that hamsters living in the wild minimize the time they spend away from the nest looking for food. But hamsters with higher energy needs, such as lactating females, spend longer on average foraging. This suggests that in the wild, hamsters forage for food whenever and wherever they need it, minimizing the risk of predators by spending as little time as possible away from their burrows.
Of course, our home hamsters don’t have to worry about this so much. In general, hamsters need 1-2 teaspoons of pellet food per day, depending on their size. Some owners like to supplement this with fresh treats. But it’s important to make sure you’re feeding hamsters safe foods and minimizing the amount of high-sugar foods your hamster eats, such as fruit. Remember that pellet food has the right balance of nutrients for your hamster, so extra food should only be an occasional, small treat. Don’t offer so much that your hamster stops eating its pellet food.
Hamsters also need constant access to fresh water. Most owners prefer to choose bottles that can hang over the sides of the hamster’s cage.
Do hamsters store their food?
Many hamsters hoard food, especially if you feed them too much during the day. You may not see where your hamster keeps its food – especially if it likes to keep it close to where it sleeps. Hamsters can retain pelleted food as well as any fresh food you give them. Fresh food gets moldy and decomposes much faster than pellet food, so it is important to monitor this in the hamster’s cage. Eating moldy and perishable food can cause health problems.
How long can a hamster go without food?
The answer to the question “How long can a hamster go without food” is about 3-4 days. So if you’re going on vacation, it’s important to have a care plan. Many owners have no problem leaving their hamsters alone for a few days as long as they provide plenty of food and fresh water in the hamster’s cage. However, it is important to consider the other risks to the hamster before resorting to this method. We’ll get to them in a moment.
If your hamster is hoarding their food, they may have more in their cage than you think. But you should not rely on this assumption. If your hamster is not hoarding its food, you may be leaving it with too little to eat.
How long can I leave a hamster alone?
Although many hamsters can live 3-4 days without food, you should not leave them alone without a care plan. If your hamster is used to human contact, leaving it alone for too long can backfire – such as increasing the hamster’s nerves and stress when you return and try to hold it again. If you leave the house for a weekend or even a long weekend, many hamsters do well on their own. As long as you provide them with enough food and plenty of fresh water.
However, you should not leave your hamster alone for longer than this. If you’re on holiday for longer than this, try to arrange for a friend or neighbor to feed your hamster and check on his general well-being and health while you’re away.
The risks of leaving a hamster for too long
We know that the answer to the question “how long can a hamster go without food” is 3-4 days. However, lack of food is not the only concern when leaving a hamster alone. Other concerns include:
- Temperature in the room
- An illness or disease
- Lack of water
- Disturbances in the cage (e.g. dropped water bottles or wheels)
- Increased nerves when handling
If you’re away from home, you won’t realize anything has gone wrong until it’s potentially too late. Injury or illness can prevent your hamster from getting enough food or water, even if you leave enough food or water for them. Ideally, you should arrange for someone to check on your hamster when you are away for a while. This way, they can help by taking the hamster to the vet if something seems wrong, and can monitor the temperature of the room and the amount of food and water.
How long can a hamster go without food – summary
So most hamsters can survive 3-4 days without food. But it is not a good idea to leave your hamster without food at any time. If you are going on vacation, make sure you leave plenty of food and water for your hamster. If possible, arrange for someone to check on your small pet regularly to make sure nothing else goes wrong while you’re away.
How are your hamsters when you leave them alone for a couple of days? Does your hamster need to store food to eat later? Tell us your stories and experiences in the comments!
References and resources
- Borer, K. (et al.), “Physiological and Behavioral Responses to Starvation in the Golden Hamster”, American Journal of Physiology (1979)
- Mulder, G. ‘Management, Husbandry and Colony Health’, Laboratory Rabbit, Guinea Pig, Hamster and Other Rodents (2012)
- Larimer, S. (et al.), Foraging Behavior of Golden Hamsters (Mesocricetus Auratus) in the Wild, Journal of Ethology (2011)
- Day, D. & Bartness, T. “Effects of Foraging Effort on Body Fat and Food Hoarding in Siberian Hamsters”, Journal of Experimental Zoology (2001)
- Zhang, H. & Wang, Y. Differences in hoarding behavior between captive and wild sympatric rodent species, Current Zoology (2011)