Expecting, are we? It can be unexpected but not surprising.
Hamsters sexually mature quickly. They can reproduce as early as 4 weeks of age. If you bought them at a pet store recently or already have them as pets, it could be that the female hamsters were sharing a cage with the male ones.
How To Tell if Your Hamster is Pregnant?
You can tell that a hamster is pregnant if she appears to have gain weight. A noticeable bulge in her abdomen just over her hips can be seen days before the delivery.
She acts restless and agitated. She hoards more food than usual and begins to add more bedding materials to the nest.
It can be a bit tricky not knowing when the mating took place. Before you know it, the pups are on their way and you are totally unprepared.
When Will the Pups Come Out?
The gestation period (from the moment of conception until the babies are born) varies from one breed to another.
Syrian hamsters, for example, will remain pregnant for about 16 days. The pregnancy for both the Chinese and Russian Dwarf hamsters lasts about 18-21 days. A Roborovski hamster would take about 30 days.
Before the Pups Arrival
Caring for a baby hamster should start from caring for the mother during pregnancy. A pregnant hamster needs plenty of clean water and a good quality diet throughout the pregnancy until the babies are weaned.
Critter Chaws suggests increasing its protein and fat intake by serving hard-boiled eggs, boiled chicken, cereals, among others.
Make sure that their home is clean and ready. If you think you can go near the cage before you expect the pups to be born, do so.
- Clean the cage and provide lots of fresh nesting material like strips of toilet paper or facial tissues.
- Take out the wheel and other toys from the cage to prevent injury to pups
- Keep the temperature constant at around 18-24 degrees Celsius
Now sit back and don’t disturb the cage or handle the mother unnecessarily.
The Pups are Born
It is critical that you don’t handle the cage, the mother, and the babies at this point and for the next two weeks. When the mother smells your scent in the cage and on the babies, she will feel threatened and eat her pups. This is her way of coping with an intruder.
The pups are born blind, deaf, hairless, and pink! They are so delicate that they can easily lose a limb.
They are born singly and covered with a caul; a skin-like membrane. The caul is packed with nutrients and eaten by the mother as a way to recharge after the birthing process.
Litter sizes can vary from one to as much as twenty and they will normally be scattered around the cage. When the mother had time to rest, she will gather them all up, bring them to the nest, and begin nursing.
By day 4, a dark covering of fur will become visible and their ear canals start to open. Day 5 signals the time their markings will show. They will begin to crawl around the cage.
Again, resist the urge to pick them up. The mother will retrieve them or the pups themselves will crawl back into the nest. This is a good time to lower the water level so it is accessible.
Day 10 marks the start of them snacking on solid foods. You can put bits of cooked or grated vegetables.
By the second week, their eyes will start to open. You can now clean the cage by this time and put fresh toilet paper as bedding.
When the pups reach 21-28 days old, they are ready to leave their mother. The sexes should be separated and placed in different cages to avoid fighting and breeding.
Be gentle when handling baby hamsters; they can move quickly so be careful.
Caring for a Baby Hamster Without a Mother
Here are things to note if you find yourself in a situation where the mother is unable to care for her babies:
Food and Feeding Method
- Feed them with Lactol; a milk formula as a replacement for mother’s milk.
- Milk is to be given every hour until they are 7-10 days old using an eyedropper.
- Do not squirt the milk but instead, let a drop of milk hover on the dropper and let the pup suck or lick it.
- Two drops of milk are enough for one feeding
Hamster care can be a daunting task but if you care and follow the necessary steps, then there’s nothing to keep you away from raising healthy and happy hamsters.
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