How long can a hamster go without food? Generally, hamsters can survive for 3 to 4 days without food, but a number of factors will influence this. Including your hamster’s age, size, and overall health. If you’re going on vacation, it’s important to have a care plan in place for your hamster. And, if your hamster has escaped, it can be a good idea to leave out food in different rooms until you can recatch them, to ensure they aren’t going to starve.
Let’s take a closer look at hamster diets and how long a hamster can go without food. On top of this, we will 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 in the wild will minimize the amount of time they spend out of their burrow searching for food. But, hamsters with higher energy needs, such as lactating females, would spend longer on average foraging. This suggests that in the wild, hamsters will search for food as and when they need it, minimizing the risk of predators by spending as little time out of their burrows as possible.
Of course, our domestic hamsters don’t need to worry so much about this. Generally, 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 offering hamster-safe foods, and minimizing the amount of high-sugar foods your hamster is eating, like fruits. Remember, pellet food will have the correct balance of nutrients for your hamster, so any additional foods should only be an occasional, small treat. Don’t offer so many that your hamster stops eating their pellet food.
Hamsters also need constant access to fresh water. Most owners like to choose bottles that can hang at the sides of their hamster’s cage.
Do Hamsters Store Their Food?
Many hamsters will store food, particularly if you are giving them too much food throughout the day. You might not see where your hamster is storing their food – particularly if they are choosing to store it close to where they sleep. Hamsters can store pellet food as well as any fresh food you give them. Fresh food will mould and decay much faster than pellet food, so it’s important to monitor this in your hamster’s cage. Eating mouldy and decaying 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 around 3 – 4 days. So, if you’re going away on vacation, it’s important to have a care plan in place. Many owners experience no problems leaving their hamsters alone for a few days, as long as they provide plenty of food and fresh water in their hamster’s cage. However, it’s important to consider other risks to your hamster before resorting to this method. We will cover those in a moment.
If your hamster stores their food, they may have more in their cage than you think. But, you shouldn’t rely on this assumption. If your hamster doesn’t store their food, you may be leaving your hamster with much too little to eat.
How Long Can I Leave My Hamster Alone?
Even though many hamsters can live for 3 – 4 days without food, you should not leave them alone without a care plan in place. If your hamster is used to human contact, leaving them alone for too long can cause setbacks in this – such as increasing your hamster’s nerves and stress when you return and try to hold them again. If you are leaving your home for a weekend, or even a long weekend, many hamsters will be fine 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 much longer than this. If you are going on vacation for longer than this, try to arrange for a friend or neighbour to come and feed your hamster, as well as checking on their general wellbeing and health when you’re gone.
The Risks of Leaving Your Hamster for Too Long
We know that the answer to “how long can a hamster go without food” is 3 – 4 days. But, a lack of food is not the only concern when leaving your hamster alone. Other concerns include:
- Temperature in the room
- Disease or sickness
- Lack of water
- Disruptions in their cage (eg. fallen water bottles or wheels)
- Increased nerves when being handled
If you are away from home, you won’t realise anything has gone wrong until it is potentially too late. An injury or disease could prevent your hamster from getting enough food or water, despite you leaving plenty for them. Ideally, you should arrange for someone to come and check on your hamster when you aren’t home for a while. This way, they will be able to help by taking your hamster to the veterinarian if anything appears wrong, and will be able to monitor the room temperature and level of food and water.
How Long Can A Hamster Go Without Food – A Summary
So, most hamsters can cope 3 – 4 days without food. But, it’s not a good idea to leave your hamster without food at any point. If you’re going away on vacation, make sure you’re leaving plenty of food and water for your hamster to consume. If possible, arrange for someone to check on your little pet regularly, to ensure that nothing else goes wrong whilst you’re away.
What’s your hamster like when leaving them alone for a couple of days? Does your hamster like to store their food for eating later? Let us know 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’, The 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)