If you own or are thinking of getting a hamster, what its relative lifespan will be is probably one of the first things on your mind. Before you get a pet its important to have an idea of how long it might live, since you will be responsible for your pet for its entire life.
The life of a hamster is not very long by human standards, coming out to an average of 2-3 years. However, many hamsters unfortunately do not reach these numbers. Due to a falling quality of breeding for pet store hamsters as well as improper care many owners will not get to see their hamster reach its full expected species lifespan. Armed with good knowledge from this article and a great deal of care and compassion will give your hamster its best chance of living a long full life. With this good care your bundle of furr can have a joyful life.
The factors affecting how long a hamster lives are varied but include things such as good nutrition, proper cage care, safe handling and of course the genetics of both your hamsters species and their own individual genetic qualities.
Lifespan by species of hamster
- Roborovski hamster: These are amongst the longest living breed of hamster, living as long as 3.5 years. They originally come from china and the gobi desert. They have white underbellies with golden fur on their backs.
- Chinese hamster: Sometimes called the rat hamster due to their long sleek build being one of the longer breeds of hamster. Their lifespan clocks in at 2-3 years. their fur tends towards greyish brown with a long dark stripe. They originally resided in mongolia and northern china.
- cambell’s russian dwarf hamster: known as well as the russian dwarf, their average lifespan varies between 1.5 and 3 years. Their fur can be wavy and satin. Originating from northeast china.
- winter white russian dwarf: Also reffered to as the djungarian hamster, these hamsters live up to 2 years. Their fur which in the summer is a brownish to blueish grey molts and turns a beautiful white during the winter. Kazahkstan, russia and mongolia is their native homeland.
- Syrian hamster: Often reffered to as golden hamsters due to their golden fur color. This is the most common breed of domesticated hamster and is what people usually picture in their minds when they think of hamsters. They on average live between 2 and 3 years.
What can you control to help your hamster live a full life
While things like genetics and many other factors beyond your control affect the lifespan of your furry friend, there are still yet many things that you as the hamster owner can do to ensure the healthiest life for your small buddy. These include
- Food and nutrition
- Proper bedding and cage care
- safe handling of your bundle of fur
- Social management
- regular vet care
Hamster Food and nutrition
Your safest bet when it comes to your hamsters food, is a good high quality store bought food mix made specifically for hamsters. When feeding your hamster you should shoot for a food or food mix that hits a protein rating of 17-19% protein, 4-7 percent fat and 6-15 percent fat. Of course hitting these numbers exactly all the time could be very difficult so as the pet owner just try to give it your best.
When it comes to store bought food you generally have a choice between pelleted food or a loose seed mix. The pelleted food helps ensure that your hamster has a full nutritious diet but they can be rather monotonous for the little guy and some hamsters will rebel on eating it. Its somewhat like a human subsisting on only crackers their whole life (but crackers with the full nutritional requirements). So while pellet food meets most of a hamsters nutritional needs, getting them to eat it can be quite the battle.
A loose seed mix will generally be better liked but you have to make sure that they eat all of it, because otherwise they may only eat their favorite type of seeds leaving the rest which will cause them to have an unbalanced diet. One strategy is to try not to refill their bowl until they have eaten the entire mix, of course you have to be careful that this doesn’t turn into not feeding your hamster. Especially since hamster food like any food will go bad in which case it wouldn’t be good for your hamster to eat it.
A good compromise solution is to buy both a high quality seed mix as well as pelleted food and mix them together. That way your hamster gets the advantages of both nutrition and variety. We recommend a mix consisting of 50% of higgens sunburst and 50% of the mazuri rat and mouse diet. Along with a small supplement of vegetables.
Higgens sunburst link
mazuri rat and mouse diet link
link to what your hamster can eat.
Good bedding and cage care
Hamsters can catch human colds and other diseases from the environment so it is very important to wash your hands before handling them or doing something with their cage, also wash your hands afterwards as well for your own sanitation
For bedding it is best to go with an unscented paper based bedding as opposed to pine and cedar wood chips or something scented. Wood chips can cause skin irritation for your hamster friend as well as upper respiratory problems, also hamsters have poor eyesight so therefore depend mostly upon their sense of smell so a scented bedding can be disorienting for them.
Learn more about a hamsters cage.
Learn more about hamster bedding.
Its important that your hamster gets plenty of excercise with a hamster wheel as well as lots of good items to chew on for the oral health. Make sure the hamster wheel has a solid surface as wire mesh wheels can be dangerious and have been known to sometime break a hamsters legs. For items to chew on soft wood blocks can be a good bet as well as various specially made hamster chew toys.
Safe handling and social management
Hamsters can not see very well, and so therefore a have a poor sense of height. This can make them prone to make great leaps into the unknown, so when handling them try not to startle them and perhaps be sitting down on a couch or a low surface just in case they jump out of your hand.
Despite there cuddly looks hamster can be quite aggressive towards other hamsters, especially the golden hamster which will engage violently with another hamster. For this reason your hamster should be kept by him or her’s self and should not live with another hamster to protect against a violent confrontation. An exception for this can be had sometimes with dwarf hamsters when they have been raised together, but still you must keep a close eye on them and separate them immediately if you see signs of fighting.
Your hamster should have a regular veterinary care schedule and you should follow all the advise given to you by your vet. We recommending a veterinary that specializes in exotic pets. A good idea to help make sure you can afford a vet when your hamster needs one is to set aside a few dollars from time to time for a vet fund. Hamsters are not toys and are real living creatures. If your hamster is sick please don’t just let them sit their being miserable, take them to the vet.
While in life there are not guarantees following these items should help give your hamster the best chance at a long fulfilling life.