Did you know that about 11 million households have hamsters as pets? This is a large number, and while most people are quite familiar with fully grown hamsters, they’re often less familiar with baby hamsters. After all, when you buy a hamster it’s usually already grown quite a bit. Unless you breed them yourself, most people will never see a baby hamster.
Today, we’re putting these adorable little creatures in the spotlight. To do this, we’ll go over the top x baby hamster facts!
1. Baby hamsters are called pups
When people hear the word “pup” they often think of dogs, but the young of many animals are called pups, including baby hamsters!
By the way, the babies of all hamster breeds are called pups. So, baby dwarf hamsters and baby Syrian hamsters do not have distinct names – both are pups!
2. They are born naked and blind
All hamsters enter this world completely naked and blind. They do not stay blind their entire life, they open their eyes after about two weeks. However, even though they do eventually gain the ability to see, they never really get great eyesight. Even a fully grown hamster has poor eyesight because they’re nearsighted and colorblind.
3. They are incredibly tiny at birth
Hamsters are small animals even when they’re fully grown, but baby hamsters are especially small. Of course, the size of the pup depends on the breed, with Syrians being larger than Dwarf hamsters. Nevertheless, all hamster pups are very tiny.
4. Hamsters can have many pups in a single litter
A group of pups is called a litter, and hamsters can have many pups in a single litter! The average litter size of a Syrian hamster is between 8 and 10 pups but it’s possible for them to have large litters of 20 or more young.
5. The pups grow very fast
Hamster pups start out small and defenseless but they grow incredibly fast.
When hamsters are born they’re hairless, but after a week they’ll have enough hair to maintain their body temperature.
After two weeks, their ears and eyes start to open and they start to really take in the world. This is also when they start eating solid food, given to them by their mother.
After three weeks the pups will gain a distinct hamster-like appearance. They will start resembling their parents more closely and will start finding their own food. Their dependence on their mother starts decreasing.
At 4 to 6 weeks the hamsters are completely mature and can take care of themselves. This is also when they say goodbye to their parents and get adopted into a new home.
6. The gestation period is only 15 to 22 days
The gestation period, meaning how long it takes from conception until the pup is born is between 15 to 22 days. The length period varies from breed to breed. interestingly enough, the gestation period for Syrian hamsters is shorter than that of dwarf hamsters, even though dwarf hamsters are much smaller.
Compared to the 9 month gestation period in humans, a gestation period of 15 to 22 days might seem short. However, if you account for the fact that humans have a much longer lifespan there’s actually not that big of a difference. I did the math, and a 15 day gestation period in a hamster with a lifespan of 3 years is 1.36% of its life. In humans, a gestation period of 9 months is also about 1% of an 80-year-long human life!
7. Hamsters are fully grown after about 6 months
While hamsters can take care of themselves after 4 to 6 weeks, they don’t reach their fully grown size until after about 6 months.
8. They can reproduce from an age of 10 weeks
You might think that because hamsters reach their fully grown size at about 6 months that this is when they can start reproducing, but that’s not the case. The best time for hamsters to have offspring of their own is at an age between 10 weeks and 15 months, according to Merck Vet Manual.
9. Baby hamsters drink milk
Like other mammals, baby hamsters drink milk from their mother when they’re born. This is their primary source of nutrition until they’re weaned at about 3 weeks of age. At that point in time, they will start eating what their mother brings them. Good foods for them to eat after weaning include wheat germ cereal and millet seeds.
10. You can touch a baby hamster at 14 days of age
While it might be tempting to touch them as soon as they’re born, you should not touch a hamster’s pups until they’re around 14 days of age. Touching them too early can alter their smell and can confuse the mother.
11. Hamsters will sometimes eat their babies
It’s unfortunate, but it’s true; hamsters sometimes eat their babies. Luckily, this behavior does not occur too frequently and it’s possible to prevent it. Hamsters eat their babies out of stress. If they’re under too much stress they can feel like they’re incapable of raising the babies in that situation and might end up eating them. To avoid this, make sure that you give your hamster a stress-free environment. Some ways to do this include:
- Wait at least 14 days until handling the babies
- Feed the mom a well-balanced, nutritious diet
- Keep an eye out of strange behavior
- Seperate the mom and babies from any other hamsters that you might have
12. The pups will need to be separated
According to Patricia Bartlett, the author of The Hamster Handbook, baby dwarf hamsters need to be separated into same-sex groups at 21 to 28 days of age. The reason for this is not only to prevent fighting but also to prevent them from breeding with one another. However, it is important that you do not separate them earlier than that as the mom teaches the pups many important life skills such as burrowing, nesting, playing, and communication.
Baby Syrian hamsters, on the other hand, need to be separated completely at 6 weeks. They can not be in same-sex groups because they’re very territorial and can not share their cage with anyone. If you do not separate them, this will lead to aggression and fights.
So, there you have it, the 12 baby hamster facts that you should know! Now, you’re a true expert on the subject. Hopefully, you learned something new!
To end the topic, I’d like to leave you with a video timeline of hamster pups growing from 1 to 30 days old. It really gives a great overview of the changes that they go through and how fast they grow:
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