You’ve noticed your hamster acting out for sorts for a few days. The behavior is completely out of the ordinary, so you’ve begun asking yourself questions about what could be wrong. Maybe the hamster looks a little bit rounder than it has in the past. How can you tell if your hamster is pregnant? We’ve gathered some answers for you.
A pregnant hamster can be identified in a handful of different ways. You’ll need to get the answers to a few questions to know for sure if your hamster is pregnant.
- Is your hamster female?
- Has your hamster had contact with a male?
- How old is your hamster?
- Is your hamster making a nest?
- Is your hamster hoarding food?
- Is your hamster going pear-shaped?
- Has your hamster become aggressive?
Now that we’ve listed the most basic questions that need to be answered to tell if your hamster is pregnant, let’s go into more detail to find out why these things are important. Some of the answers will be more obvious than others, and we want to ensure the health of your furry friend. Remember, if ever in doubt and worried about your hamster’s health, take them to the vet immediately.
Is Your Hamster Female?
Finding out the sex of your hamster may seem like an obvious question to ask, but it is no less important than the others. Being able to identify if your hamster is male or female properly can mean an end to your research. If you aren’t already aware of the sex of your hamster, gently hold it by the scruff of its neck and view its underside. Males will have bulges around the tail, which are testicles, and females will generally have more prominent nipples. It’s important to note here that if you suspect the hamster is pregnant due to an extremely swollen belly, it is best not to touch your hamster at this time. We will discuss that in more depth below.
Need more details? We have a blog post for that. Read “How to Sex Hamsters” for more information.
Has Your Hamster had Contact with a Male?
Hamster pregnancies are incredibly brief. Dependent on the type of hamster you have, they might give birth less than 3 weeks after mating. It’s safe to say if your hamster had contact with a male more than 30 days ago, then your pet is not pregnant. Take a look at some approximate gestation periods for different species of hamsters:
- Dwarf (Roborovski) Hamster: 22 days
- Golden (Syrian) Hamster: 16-18 days
- Dwarf Winter White (Russian) Hamster: 21 days
- Campbell Russian Hamster: 18-20 days
As you can see, hamsters don’t stay pregnant for long!
How Old Is Your Hamster?
Female hamsters reach sexual maturity at around 6 weeks of age and will begin breeding at that time. They stay fertile until they are about 14-15 months old. The only way to rule out pregnancy due to age is if the hamster is extremely young or beyond sexual maturity.
Is Your Hamster Making a Nest?
Is your hamster collecting bedding material in a secluded part of the cage? Pregnant hamsters tend to gather up materials in their cages into an area they deem safe. You might have to look around if there are a lot of materials in the cage. Look behind hamster wheels, in tubes, or under/inside hamster houses. If you find a hidden nest, it is indicative of a pregnant hamster.
Is Your Hamster Hoarding Food?
If you found a hidden nest, check to see if your hamster has squirreled away any excessive amounts of food. Food hoarding is to ensure a constant supply to lactate and feed the babies properly. Additionally, if your hamster is eating more food, this is also indicative of pregnancy.
Is Your Hamster Going Pear-Shaped?
Sometimes it is difficult to tell if your hamster is just chubby or pregnant. An overall round appearance is likely just your hamster overeating. If the body shape is more like a pear (straight down to about the rib cage then flaring out), it is likely due to pregnancy. Take care if your hamster is in this shape, as she is easily stressed during this period.
If your hamster’s abdomen is lumpy or bumpy, please take them to the vet. This could be any of the numerous abdominal issues which could afflict your pet. Left unattended, these could be fatal.
Has Your Hamster Become More Aggressive?
Pregnant hamsters become more agitated, the closer they get to labor. If your hamster is restless, hissing, or trying to bite you when they are normally mild-mannered, they are likely pregnant. Do not try to hold, pet, or interact with your hamster at all during this time. If the hamster is unusually stressed, it could harm the babies once they are born. As tempting as it might be to stroke the hamster’s abdomen to try and “feel” the babies, resist the urge!
How Do You Take Care of a Pregnant Hamster?
So you’ve decided your hamster is definitely pregnant. Now you need to know how to take care of her and ensure the safety of her babies.
Do not touch your pregnant hamster.
We touched on this above, but it is imperative not to agitate your hamster during pregnancy. The closer she gets to delivery, the more frantic she will become. It has been found hamsters that feel unsafe after the babies are born will eat their young. This is something that happens quite frequently in nature but can be horrifying to us who would never do such a thing. If there’s any way to know, it is best to leave your hamster alone at about day 13 after mating. For reference, the pregnancy generally starts showing around day 10. To ensure safety, leave the pregnant hamster alone, even avoiding cleaning the cage during this time.
If you’ve realized your hamster is pregnant and have the time before birth, remove any tubing in which the pups might become lost. Remove the hamster wheel if possible, as mama hamster might become distracted from rearing her young. Make sure there is an excess of bedding available for your hamster to make her nest. If you have other hamsters in the cage, keep them separate for now.
Food and Water
Try your best to make sure your hamster has ample food and water at all times, potentially up to two weeks’ worth. Consider adding an extra water bottle to the cage. Make sure this second bottle is low enough for the babies to drink from once they are large enough. Ensure the food you are providing is high in protein, and you’re feeding your hamster fresh vegetables with a high water content to battle dehydration, but avoid any new foods at this time as they can cause stomach upset. If you’re keeping the cage well stocked, this gives you time after the pups are born to leave them all alone and keep disruptions to a minimum.
Keep the pups safe
Once the babies are born, hopefully, the cage is stocked for two weeks. Consider covering the cage with a light cloth, so your mama hamster feels safe and secure. Avoid disrupting the cage for anything other than an emergency. Avoid touching the pups for two weeks. If you touch a pup and accidentally transfer your scent to them, this can cause your hamster to attack her babies. Avoid contact, if at all possible. If you must reach into the cage, wear gloves to avoid transferring your scent. After 3 weeks, the pups should be weaned. After 4 weeks, it is time to start separating them into different cages because they will soon be mature enough to mate.
Baby hamsters are adorable. To see exactly how cute they can be, check out this post, “56 Adorable Baby Hamster Pictures That Will Melt Your Heart”.
To find out more about how to protect the hamster pups, read, “Why Do Hamsters Eat Their Babies (and How to Prevent That From Happening)?”.
How Many Babies Can A Hamster Have?
A hamster can have a litter of up to 20 pups! This number might seem shocking, but it is possible. Most hamsters on average, however, have litters of about 6-12 pups. That’s still a lot of hamsters.
It’s important to note that you should never purposefully try and breed hamsters unless you are a professional. With litters of a large size, breeding can be a costly venture, and accidental inbreeding can bring up many health concerns. Take into consideration a hamster can have 10-12 litters in a year, and you could potentially have hundreds of hamster babies on your hands.
If an accidental litter does occur, follow the appropriate precautions, and separate the babies as soon as they are old enough to eat on their own.
Knowing your hamster is pregnant is imperative to maintaining the health and safety of your fuzzy friend, as well and ensuring the lives of the pups aren’t in jeopardy. Pay close attention to your hamster’s temperament so you’ll always know when new habits arise. Keep hamsters in separate cages to avoid any accidental breeding until you know their sex. Above all, keep being the responsible pet owner we know you can be!