Friendly, cute and engaging, hamsters are popular family pets. But before you bring one home, it’s important to know about certain characteristics of this critter, such as its lifespan. Such information is vital to giving your hamster the best care possible and to setting realistic expectations in your household.
Pet hamsters live an average of two to three years, and males tend to live longer than females. Of the five common domesticated hamster species, Syrian hamsters (also known as golden hamsters) usually live the longest.
Let’s explore more about these adorable furry creatures and the details of their lives!
How Long Do Syrian Hamsters Live?
One of the first domesticated hamsters, the Syrian hamster is now considered a threatened species in the wild. On average, Syrian hamsters live two to three years, provided they’re given ideal living conditions.
These hamsters need to be kept in a solitary living environment. They can be quite territorial and aggressive if they encounter one another.
How Long Do Dwarf Hamsters Live?
Of the five common domesticated hamsters, four of them are dwarf species. These cuties are all smaller than the Syrian hamsters and tend to live shorter lives.
Roborovski dwarf hamsters are the smallest of all the pet hamsters. They live nearly as long as Syrian hamsters do, living up to around 3 years of age.
Russian winter white hamsters (also known as Djungarian or Siberian hamsters) live five to six months less than Syrian hamsters, averaging a two-year lifespan.
Campbell dwarf hamsters live to around 2 years old.
Chinese hamsters live between 2 and 3 years of age.
Why Do Hamsters Have a Short Lifespan?
A lot of little critters live shorter lives; it’s not something only common in hamsters. One reason for this is their metabolism rate. Metabolism is a number of chemical processes that a living animal needs in order to remain alive — processes like digestion and storing energy.
A higher metabolism rate leads to earlier aging. Hamsters’ hearts can beat up to 500 beats per minute!
Hamster species have evolved to expect short lifespans. They have the ability to reproduce early in life, becoming sexually mature by the time they’re 6 to 8 weeks old. Females will have two or four litters per year, with each litter around six pups strong.
How Long Do Hamsters Live in the Wild?
Pet hamsters tend to live longer than wild hamsters. However, many wild species could live much longer — if they could only make it to old age!
Wild hamsters’ lifespans are significantly reduced because predators will usually do them in before they can reach — in the case of the European hamster — the ripe old age of 8 years old.
Hamsters have many natural predators. These include but are not limited to snakes, kites, owls, eagles, crows, herons, foxes, badgers and humans.
What Are the Signs a Hamster is Aging?
A hamster’s life is considered at its peak when it’s between 1 and 1.5 years old. As your pet ages past that point, you might notice some of these symptoms:
- Loss of appetite
- Lethargy (becoming less active)
- Fur becomes shaggier, duller and lighter
- Emaciation (extreme thinness)
- Stiff movements
- Crooked or twisted posture
These are all indications of normal aging in your pet. As hamsters get older, they’ll become more susceptible to illness. It becomes increasingly important for their owners to take good care of them.
How to Help Your Hamster Live Its Longest and Happiest Life
Just like every pet, hamsters need the right love and care in order to thrive. Here are a few things you can do to be a better owner to your hamster.
Wash your hands before handling your hamster. Hamsters can easily catch colds. Wash your hands before you hold them, even if you are healthy.
Keep its cage clean and water fresh. A clean environment is vital for every pet’s wellbeing.
Avoid using wood shavings for bedding. They can disorient your hamster and irritate its lungs, eyes and skin. Instead, opt for unscented paper bedding.
Feed your hamster a balanced and varietal diet. Hamsters living in captivity need at least 16% protein and 5% fat in their diet. Along with their staple of pellets, give them a good assortment of fresh vegetables.
Keep long hair trimmed, and only use a wheel with a solid surface. That way, your hamster won’t get caught anywhere in its cage.
Let your hamster sleep. Hamsters are nocturnal. It’s normal and healthy for them to sleep during the day.
Time Well Spent
Even though hamsters don’t live long, taking good care of your pet will increase the chances of spending quality time together. Pay attention to its needs and you’ll have a fulfilling friendship in return!