How Long Do Hamsters Live? A Guide To Hamster Life Span

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how long do hamsters live

Welcome to our complete guide to hamster life span! Letting you know the answer to that all important question – how long do hamsters live?

When you have pets, you want to make sure that they stay with you for as long as possible. So let’s find out how long hamsters live and how to help them live longer.

If you have a hamster, you’re surely delighted by his cute little features – that little nose, those puffed-up cheek pouches, his tiny tail.

You love watching him play with cardboard tubes, creating a nest, running on his wheel for hours every night.

You don’t want it to end! Your hamster gives you much joy, and you’d like him to last as long as possible.

So how long does a hamster live? And how can you make sure yours lives as long as possible?

Aging and the average lifespan of a hamster

To understand the answer to the question how long do hamsters live, we need to look at the ageing process.

how long do hamsters live - a guide to hamster life span

Aging is often caused by the failure of of biological processes in an animal. Cells, tissues, and organisms inside the body become less efficient with time.

In smaller mammals, maintenance of these biological processes is less effective than with larger ones.

That’s because their bodily resources must be allocated to reproduction, which means less of those resources are devoted to maintenance.

The life expectancy of a hamster is short, in part because they live in high-risk environments where procreation is very important to a species’ survival.

Most hamsters do not live more than a few years.

Hamster life cycle

Hamster infants are altricial. This means they are born in an undeveloped state and require care and feeding from their parents.

There are usually 4-12 hamsters in a litter, depending on which breed they are.

Infants remain pale and pink until about 2-3 days old, then become darker in pigmentation. The eyes open at two weeks. Infant hamsters are weaned at about 3-4 weeks.

Female hamsters become sexually mature at 6-8 weeks of age, although Chinese hamsters may become sexually mature as late as 14 weeks. Male hamsters become sexually mature at 8-9 weeks.

Female hamsters have been known to cannibalize their young when disturbed. They have also been known to move their young by storing infants in their cheek pouches.

Once hamsters are sexually mature, you can tell which is which by looking at their rear ends while the hamsters are vertically held with head facing up.

Males have a pointed outline due to the descended testes, which you can see in the upright position. Females have a more rounded rear end.

When hamsters get older, they will slow down their levels of activity. One way of gauging this is by noting how many turns hamsters make on their wheel.

Scientists consider hamsters elderly when the number of turns drops below 10 percent of what they ran as young adults. This usually happens after about 15 months of their life cycle, but of course it varies.

How to tell if your hamster is old

If you didn’t get your hamster as a baby, you might not know how old he is.

But there are a few ways to tell when he is aging.

Your hamster will become less active.

He may also stop showing interest in treats.

His weight and food intake will fluctuate and be less consistent.

You may see that he is losing vision, hearing, and hair. His teeth may also work less well.

If you encounter these symptoms, make sure to move his food, water, and other items closer to where he sleeps. You may wish to remove ramps if they are too steep.

Try to keep his environment quiet, and try not to surprise him when you go to handle him. Dilute pellet food with water to make it less solid.

Factors influencing hamster life span

When calculating how long do hamsters live, we can look at factors influencing their lifespan.

The lifespan of any creature depends on a number of variables. These include the genes they inherit from their parents, environmental factors, chance, and lifestyle.

Some of these factors are out of your control. You may not know the genetic background of your hamster, for example.

But you can do things which help them stay healthier and increase their lifespans.

How to help increase the lifespan of a hamster through nutrition

A change in your hamsters’ diet may help increase his lifespan.

Scientists have found that hamsters fed either low levels of both fat and protein OR high levels of both fat and protein early in life lived longest.

After the first six weeks of life, an increase in fat helped hamsters live longer. This is unusual in animals, but may be because hamsters have a foregut that modifies fat before it is absorbed in the gut. Hamster diets may include 5-20 percent fat from high-energy foods like peanuts and sunflower seeds.

Restricted food access has also helped hamsters live longer.

Additionally, research shows that increased intake of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Hamsters can get omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids from fruits, grains, vegetables, lean cuts of meat, and eggs.

You may also wish to ensure that your hamster is getting enough dietary fiber.

Fiber has been shown to help regulate lipids in hamsters, lowering their chances of heart disease. Fiber also helps reduce inflammation, controls the metabolism, and modulates levels of angiogenic proteins that stabilize the proliferation of new blood cells.

Hamsters get dietary fiber from fruits, vegetables, and oats.

So, make sure your hamsters get fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids. Try for at least five percent dietary fat and 15 percent protein.

Buy a high quality hamster food to make sure that they have a complete diet.

This is the food that Squeaks and Nibbles’ resident hamster loves to munch on:

At Squeaks and Nibbles HQ we feed our hamster on Tiny Friends Farm Hamster Food.

Restrict their intake of food. You’ll be doing what you can to extend their lifespans!

However, high levels of calcium, vitamin D, and protein (above 20 percent) have led to organ injuries in hamsters. So, balance is needed.

Other ways to help increase the lifespan of hamsters

You can extend the lifespan of your hamster by giving it excellent care, housing it properly, and doing what you can to avoid sickness.

Try to provide your hamsters with stress-free living conditions. This reduces the risk that they will become ill.

Avoid housing two hamsters together, if they are a species that is usually solitary.

Visit a veterinarian regularly.

Allow them to have different ways of exercising. Give them enough space to move freely.

And be mindful of their safety. Avoid plastic toys.

Make sure their enclosures are clean. Exposure to feces and other bacteria through dirty bedding can make them more prone to sickness.

Don’t disrupt their internal clocks!

One more thing. Do not disrupt your hamsters’ circadian clocks. Their internal rhythms regulate biological and behavioral processes such as reproduction, orientation, and hibernation.

Changes in their circadian rhythms can indicate aging and illness. Studies have shown that proper regulation of circadian rhythms is a contributing factor in longevity.

Hamsters are mostly crepuscular or nocturnal in captivity. If they are crepuscular, they are most active at dawn and dusk. Nocturnal hamsters are active at night.

Because of that, you might be tempted to change their light-dark cycles to more closely match your schedule. Don’t!

How long do dwarf hamsters live?

As we have mentioned, hamster lifespans depend on several variables. In general, however, they do not live more than three years.

The answer to the question how long do hamsters live, differs between the breeds.

Dwarf hamsters have an even shorter lifespan.

On average, Siberian dwarf hamsters live between 18 months-2 years in captivity.

Here is lifespan information for specific hamster species.

How long do Russian dwarf hamsters live?

There are two types of Russian dwarf hamster – Campbell’s Russian Dwarf Hamster and Russian Winter White Dwarf Hamster.

The Russian dwarf hamster lifespan is roughly 16 months – 2 years.

How long do robo hamsters live?

Roborovski hamsters are also known as Robo dwarf hamsters or Roborovski dwarf hamsters.

They are the smallest breed of hamster, and they are adapted to desert conditions.

The Roborovski dwarf hamster lifespan is 3-3.5 years.

How long do Chinese dwarf hamsters live?

Chinese dwarf hamsters are also known as striped hamsters, Chinese tried hamsters, striped dwarf hamsters, or Chinese hamsters.

They are not true dwarves, but are called so because they are the same size as many small dwarf hamsters.

The Chinese dwarf hamster lifespan is 2-3 years.

How long do Syrian hamsters live?

Syrian hamsters are also known as golden hamsters or teddy bear hamsters.

The Syrian hamster lifespan is about 2-3 years. Unusually in the animal world, males seem to outlive females on average.

The longest-living scientifically documented Syrian hamster lived 3.9 years.

What was the longest living hamster?

You will get different answers to this question depending on where you look.

The Guinness Book of World Records claims that a hamster in the U.K. lived for 4.5 years. There is no mention of what kind of hamster it is.

However, data scientifically gathered from zoo collections puts the maximum lifespan of a striped dwarf hamster at 5.3 years.

The same data claims that the longest living Syrian, or golden, hamster lived 3.9 years.

If you do an Internet search, you will find anecdotes from many people claiming their hamsters are living longer than the research shows. Some claim that the oldest Syrian hamster on record actually lived to 6.5 years.

This non-methodical evidence may show that some hamsters can become older than expected, but their owners are not officially reporting it.

Hamster lifespan summary

The bad news is, you will mostly likely have the company of your hamster for just a few short years.

The good news is, you can help extend your hamster’s life expectancy way past their prime if you provide them a good quality of care and meet their dietary and environmental needs.

Do you have a very old hamster at home? When did he start slowing down? How old is he now?

We’d love to hear about your adorable elderly hamsters. Tell us about them in the comments below!

Sources

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  • Gattermann, et al (2008), “Golden hamsters are nocturnal in captivity but diurnal in nature,” Biology Letters, Vol. 4 (3).
    Girling, S. J. (2013), “Basic Small Mammal Anatomy and Physiology,” Veterinary Nursing of Exotic Pets, 2nd Edition. John Wiley & Sons.
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    Hung, S., et al (2009), “Dietary fiber improves lipid homeostasis and modulates adipocytokines in hamsters,” Journal of Diabetes, Vol. 1.
    Hurd, M. W. and Ralph, M. R. (1998), “The significance of circadian organization for longevity in the golden hamster,” Journal of Biological Rhythms, Vol. 13 (5).
    Kirkman, H and Yau, P. K. S.(1972), “Longevity of male and female, intact and gonadectomized, untreated and hormone-treated, neoplastic and non-neoplastic syrian hamsters,” Developmental Dynamics, Vol. 135 (2).
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