A pregnant hamster usually gives birth to a litter of 6-12 pups about 2-3 weeks after mating, although the litter size and gestation period may vary depending on the breed and environmental factors. As such, pregnant hamsters require special care before, during, and after giving birth to ensure their health and the survival of their babies.
Caring for Your Pregnant Hamster
This article provides a guide on how to care for a pregnant hamster and prepare for the birth of her litter, whether you have a pregnant teddy hamster or a pregnant robo-hamster.
Here are some summary steps:
- Make a conscious decision to breed. Hamster breeding should be taken seriously and done under the guidance of an experienced breeder.
- Know when your female hamster is in heat, and let her mate with a male hamster. Females hamsters reach sexual maturity at 4-6 weeks of age and usually enter heat every 4 days.
- Observe signs of pregnancy in the female hamster, such as a swollen belly, enlarged nipples, nest building, and restlessness.
- Feed your pregnant hamster with nutritious food and provide it with suitable bedding materials.
- Minimize handling to reduce stress, especially during the last week before giving birth.
- Prepare for the birth by providing extra bedding for the litter, separating the father or other males from the mother and the newborns, and ensuring that they have enough water and food.
Signs of Hamster Pregnancy
Hamster pregnancy usually starts with a deliberate decision to breed, although unexpected pregnancies can occur if the sex of baby hamsters is incorrectly identified or when pet owners do not realize how young females can get pregnant (as early as 4 weeks old).
Indicators of hamster pregnancy include changes in behavior, such as irritability, shyness, aggression towards other hamsters, lethargy, and nesting. A swollen belly and enlarged nipples are also telltale signs of pregnancy, although these can also be symptoms of illness.
Hamster Giving Birth
Hamsters prefer to give birth privately, usually inside their nests, about a day before delivery. You should prepare for the arrival of newborns by monitoring the mother’s behavior and providing extra bedding for the litter. Do not handle newborn hamsters for at least 2-3 weeks to avoid stressing the mother or causing her to reject or harm her babies.
Litter Size of Hamsters
Hamsters can have up to 20 pups per litter, although the average is around 7. The gestation period and litter size also vary among hamster breeds. Syrian hamsters have the shortest gestation period (16 days) and Chinese hamsters the longest (18-23 days), while dwarf hamsters have a gestation period of 18-21 days. Environmental factors, such as temperature and the presence of other hamsters, can also affect litter size.
After giving birth, you should provide extra care to the newborn hamsters, such as offering solid food and lowering catch pipes for them to reach. It’s crucial to separate the male babies from the females at four weeks old to avoid accidental pregnancies. Remember that hamsters can become pregnant again as early as a day after giving birth, so keep the mother away from other males. You may also consider separating all hamsters from each other and their mother when they are six weeks old.
To ensure the health and safety of your pregnant hamster and her litter, it’s critical to be well-informed and take the necessary precautions. If you have any concerns, consult a veterinarian or an experienced hamster breeder.
References and Further Reading
Here are some resources for further reading:
- Hirose & Ogura. The golden (Syrian) hamster as a model for reproductive biology research: past, present and future. Reproductive Medicine and Biology. 2018
- Shaw et al. Current knowledge of the etiology of human tubal ectopic pregnancy. Human reproduction update. 2010.
- Hufnagl et al. Seasonal constraints and reproductive performance in female hamsters. Mammalian Biology. 2011.
- Navara et al. Short day lengths distort prenatal sex ratios in male Siberian hamsters. Physiological and biochemical zoology. 2010.
- Olce. Circadian variation in mammalian parturition: A review. Molecular and cellular endocrinology. 2012.
- Monier Colini et al. Social stress and reproductive success in the female Syrian hamster: Endocrine and behavioral correlates. Physiology and behavior. 2011.