While it may be difficult to come to terms with, our time with our pets is limited.
Before their time comes, it is important to be prepared. In this article we will be specifically discussing hamsters, and what to do with them when they have passed.
There are really only a couple of compassionate options for dealing with your dead hamster.
If you are at home on your own, the best option is to bury the pet.
If you are at a vet's office, you have the option of cremation to send off your hamster. But there are a few things you should do when your hamster passes:
- Ensure clean and safe removal of the hamster from its cage.
- Safely send off your friend.
- Clean the cage and hamsters toys, as well as disinfect anything it has come into contact with.
It may be hard to say goodbye when your pet passes, but you can still send them off in a positive way and take proper care of both their remains and yourself when your hamster dies.
We encourage you to continue reading to learn more about how to send off your hamster safely, what their normal lifespan is, and what signs to look for in their decline.
What To Do With A Dead Hamster
Let's take a closer look at what to do when your hamster passes.
Safely Remove The Hamster From Its Cage
Before touching the hamster or any part of its cage, you should put on a pair of waterproof or latex gloves. This will keep your hands clean when handling the animal's body.
It is possible that the hamster was sick, and handling those bacteria can be a health hazard.
Safely Send Off Your Friend
If you are at home on your own, place your hamster in sealable bags, wrap it in cloth, or make a homemade box for it.
There is a debate about whether plastic bags should or should not be used, but in the end, the choice is up to you.
At home, the best option for your hamster is a burial. Leave it inside of the bags, and bury it at least three feet down and away from anything else.
Now is a good time to have a funeral for your pet and say your last goodbyes.
If you want better for your friend than some bags, there are hamster caskets available to keep your pet comfortable.
Click here to see this biodegradable pet casket on Amazon.
If you notice your hamster is sick or has been in pain a while and take it to the vet, there are additional options.
Euthanasia is an incredibly difficult decision but is a painless end to the suffering of your pet.
You can then still take your hamster home and give it a proper burial, or have it cremated at the vet's office.
Cremation removes the personal responsibility of disposing of your pet's body, and some vets offer to allow you to take a small urn home in the memorial of your pet.
The Cleanup Afterwards
Dispose of any gloves you used to handle your hamster.
Take disinfectant and completely clean out the hamster's cage, as well as clean any of their toys, dens, bowls, or other items that were in contact with the dead hamster. Throw away any of the straw and hamster bedding inside of the cage.
Thoroughly disinfect and clean out the cage. Use plenty of hot water and soap.
If you want to go further, you can use bleach or vinegar to get a better clean on the cage and accessories.
If you are going to reuse the accessories with another hamster, be sure that they are completely dry. The cleaning chemicals can make any new hamsters in the cage sick.
Check out this cage cleaner on Amazon.
What Is The Lifespan Of A Hamster?
Hamsters have a much shorter lifespan than most other animals we keep as pets. While they can live up to three years, usually any hamster over a year and a half is considered an old one.
One thing you can do to expand this lifespan is to frequently wash your hands. Hamsters can catch a cold from their owners and their being sick can be bad news.
Keeping hazards out of their cage is also helpful in keeping your hamsters from being injured.
Long hair can catch on wires. On wire and mesh hamster wheels, it is common for hamsters to break a leg because their foot slips through.
Keeping your hamster from being able to injure itself can help keep it from passing on early.
On the same note as removing hazards to avoid injury, keep in mind that hamsters will fight.
Hamsters are territorial creatures by nature. If you have more than one hamster in a single cage, keep an eye on them. They may fight to establish dominance, but it is on you to know the warning signs that their fight is getting more serious.
If their fighting does go farther, it can result in serious injury or death of one of the hamsters.
For more information about hamsters fighting and their territorial behavior check out Are Hamsters Territorial? [What Owners Need To Know].
Should You Hold Your Dying Hamster?
It is okay to hold your hamster when they are dying, but you should give them space if they are wanting it. If they are trying to escape or are biting at you, leave them alone.
Because hamsters can form bonds with their owners, they may want attention and affection leading up to their last days.
Be aware that handling them could be painful for them depending on the issues they are dealing with. Handling can also cause undue stress on the animal.
Basically, if the hamster is wanting your attention, give it to them. Be aware, however, that they may not wish to be held and be respectful of this.
What Do Hamsters Do Before They Die?
Leading up to their deaths, hamsters will change their behavior and exhibit fairly obvious signs. The hamster's fur can start to become much thinner or their eyes will go dull.
They may have a much lower energy level or a much lower appetite. Hamsters can also show abnormal behaviors like going to the bathroom in their nest.
If you see them start to get lethargic or exhibit abnormal behaviors, it can be a sign that it is near the end of their time.
For more information on how to care for an aging hamster check out How To Care For An Old Hamster.
Can Hamsters Play Dead?
Hamsters can and will play dead. This is an instinctual behavior resulting from high amounts of stress or anxiety. Hamsters will naturally try to hide when they are frightened or anxious, but if no hiding spots are available, then they may just play dead.
This act can be very convincing as well. There are some examples of hamsters that have been taught to play dead by owners, but this is the exception.
If you notice your hamster playing dead, you should immediately figure out what has caused this behavior and remove it from the equation.
How Long Does It Take For A Dead Hamster To Start Smelling?
How long it takes for a hamster to start smelling really depends on the temperature of the habitat. In their natural habitat in the desert, they may start to smell in as little as ten hours.
Inside your home, hamsters are likely to smell terrible within three days. You must pay close attention to your hamsters.
As stated before, hamsters can play dead. A large amount of time playing dead is not healthy for your hamster.
If your hamster is not reacting to any stimuli over an extended time period, they may not just be playing dead.
If you are unsure if your hamster is dead or playing dead, there are a few things you should do.
Try warming them up. Make sure you don't overheat the hamster, but using something like a heat lamp to warm them up can break them out of their state.
Click here to see this heat lamp on Amazon.
Check around their cage and the room they are in for anything that may be causing them stress. This could range from an injury to something that scared them like another pet or animal.
Remove the other pet from the room and give them some time. If they do not end up going back to normal, you may need to accept that they aren't just playing dead.
It is always difficult to say goodbye to a friend.
When the time comes to decide what to do with the remains of your hamster, the most compassionate options are either burial or cremation.
How you do either of these is up to you.
Be sure to take the time you need to grieve and be aware of the warning signs that your hamster is nearing the end.
You can make them as comfortable as possible, even if the decisions you may need to make are difficult.
My hamster has been under my kitchen cupboard and now their is a bad smell, it is definitely dead and smells bad. I can’t reach it as there is a gap in the floor board and I think it got inside/under I have tried my best to find it but can’t, can u advise me what to do.
I have an 11 month old Syrian hamster. 4 days ago she suddenly started acting “off.” Lethargic and stumbling around a little. I thought we were going to lose her because she was acting like every other hamster I’ve had right before they pass. All she wanted to do was sleep in my sweater. She was still open to eating though. The next two days she seemed a little better, just more tired than normal. Then she went back to being very lethargic again. She also started getting runny eyes with a brownish/red thick fluid. So I gently wiped that away with a tissue. She was clicking her teeth so I could tell she was stressed and upset.
I took her in yesterday to the local exotic vet. They did a physical exam on her. She was alert because she had been transported in a box and brought to a new environment. Once she was left alone in the exam room, she curled up and was trying to go back to sleep…not trying to escape at all. She was not aggressive at all and didn’t mind being handled and turned on her back. The doctor checked her lungs, they were clear. No heart murmur but they thought she was a little dehydrated. They offered to give her some IV fluids which I agreed to because I haven’t been able to get her to drink from her bottle. They really couldn’t tell what was wrong with her so they said we should try some antibiotics. They offered to keep her overnight for observation and more tests like blood and kidney function, plus an X-ray. I simply didn’t have the $600 they were going to charge for that. If I had that I would definitely have spent it on her….she deserves it. I got a prescription of Enrofloxacin and I made an appointment for next week for a follow-up.
This morning, she’s still in rough shape. She’s sleeping on me curled up in my sweater. Her fur is dirty looking and unkempt. It looks like she drooled at some point over night. She has no appetite. I’ve offered her a little bit of a banana and she didn’t want it. I’m so worried about her. I don’t know what to do. I hate seeing her like this. Does anyone have any suggestions or have you been through something similar? She’s not even a year old. When I hold her, she’s completely limp but still breathing. She doesn’t share a cage with any other hamsters and her bedding is recycled paper bits that you can buy in the rodent section at the pet store. She has always been very healthy up until now. I’ve had several hamsters over the years and I’ve never run into an illness like this before.
@Alyssa, if she’s limp she’s in the mood for hibernating.
Everything you said is exactly what I just went through with my hamster Rocket, turns out she got “wet-tail”from to much stress on a long drive we took for vacation. She was between 22-23 months old, and wasn’t used to being in the smaller cage to transport her in while away from home.
This is true, if I lost my hamster I would not eat a thing and I wont sleep.