Saying that hamsters are among the most popular pets in the world might be an understatement. Many parents choose them as first pets for their kids, since these little rodents are known for being rather low-maintenance and happy pets, and start looking for nice hamster houses for the new addition to the family.
However, these little guys are not known for their long life expectancy since a hamster’s normal life-span is of around two years. Moreover, many times they can be victims of their environment or various elements in it, which makes their mortality rate a rather high one.
This is why, if you do choose to get a hamster, you need to make sure that you create the right conditions for him or her, from choosing a good and safe cage to getting high-quality food and creating a balanced diet. With this being said, let’s see what some of the main death causes are and, more importantly, if they can be prevented.
What do hamsters die from?
Unfortunately, many times hamsters die from injuries that could actually be prevented, such as being dropped or falling from the top of a cage that might be too tall. It’s known that these little guys love climbing onto things and that they are very active, which is why you need to make sure their environment is safe, and that you handle them with care every time.
Things such as chains that might be added to toys can lead to serious injuries as well since a hamster’s foot can get caught in them. The result might be a broken leg or worse if this happens when you are not around. Since we’re talking about toys, it’s important to mention that you should check any new addition to their environment for nails or sharp bits.
Ladders pose the same problem if the gaps between steps can lead to a foot getting caught. One way to approach this is to always make sure that the toys you buy are specially made for hamsters. You can also add an extra layer of bedding to cushion any potential falls, while if the cage is a very tall one, an entirely new level should be added, instead of just shelves.
When it comes to handling a hamster, especially one that is still a baby or not very used to human touch, you want to make sure that you hold him or her close to the ground, or that there are some cushions on the floor. Similarly, if you choose a hamster ball to house the little fellow as you are cleaning the cage, make sure it’s placed in a safe area where it cannot be kicked.
Stress is another factor that can significantly lower the life quality of a hamster, which is why it’s crucial for the environment to be a safe and comfortable one, from temperature to noises. The same goes for the quality of food provided and for any changes within the diet.
Digestive issues can become very serious for rodents in general, so you need to make sure that any transition is done gradually. This principle applies in the case of any pet, for that matter, but even more so when it comes to hamsters. Never introduce new food all at once, and any new ingredient, such as a new type of fruit or vegetable, should be given in small amounts at first.
What about old age?
With a lifespan of 18 months to three years, old age can definitely be a cause of death for hamsters. A two and a half years old individual is already considered to be very old. Moreover, just like in the case of humans, hamsters can face health issues related to their age, such as organ failure, various diseases, or tumors.
Arthritis, toothaches, or difficulty eating are also included in their second part of life. In case you notice that your hamster stopped eating, you need to check and see if the teeth are overgrown as a first step. If that’s the case, a vet can trim them and then you should make sure that the hamster has many things he or she can chew on to get this done naturally.
However, toothaches can lead to difficulty eating, which means that a hamster might not chew on toys or food long enough, which in turn leads to overgrown teeth. In this case, it’s best to talk to a veterinarian and see what the appropriate solution is.
Of course, there are other health issues that can appear throughout the life of your pet, so keeping close to a vet who knows his or her history is the way to go. When old age catches up with hamsters, they usually pass away peacefully in their home.
If a health condition is present as well, food or water might need to be moved closer to them, so that they can keep some of their independence. In some cases, old hamsters can remain quite active but are not able to safely climb onto things anymore due to stiff back legs. In these cases, you need to make sure that any temptation that might lead to a fall is removed.
A few words about hibernation
This might be a new thing to you, especially if you’ve never owned a hamster before, but these rodents can actually go into hibernation. This is why there are many cases of pet parents that thought they lost their little friend, only to find out that he or she is still alive when moving it around.
Therefore, if you come home and find the little guy not moving in the cage, there might still be some hope and you should check carefully and see if you notice any type of body movement or breathing.
Hibernation is, as you probably know, the process through which animals protect themselves and remain alive during cold seasons when resources are scarce and maintaining a normal level of activity would mean consuming too much energy. In the wild, this process is of crucial significance since it can make the difference between life and death for an animal.
Going back to hamsters, you might wonder what could make them go into hibernation within your home. The main cause is a pretty simple one, namely the average room temperature. The rule of thumb says that the temperature should drop below 40°F for this to happen.
However, since nature doesn’t tend to be this precise every time, there were many instances in which hamsters were found hibernating when it shouldn’t have been the case. If this happens, then you should never try to “wake” the little fellow, because animals are very sensitive when they hibernate. Their vital signs are reduced and they cannot protect themselves.
Instead, what you can do is to gradually warm up the room the hamster is in and see if this does the trick. It might take them a while to snap out of it and if you have any questions, it’s always a good idea to talk to a vet. An expert opinion can help you understand what is going on and how you can keep your hamster safe in these circumstances.