Your hamster has been lying in the same position for a long time now. His body looks a little stiff, and you’re not sure if he’s breathing.
You fear the worst…Maybe he’s…(Gulp)…
…Stop right there! He might just be hibernating!
But, do hamsters hibernate?
Some hamsters hibernate during the winter months. A domesticated hamster might enter into a state of torpor while conditions are unfavorable.
But when do hamsters hibernate, and how long do hamsters hibernate? And most importantly, what can you do to wake your little guy back up?
Coming up next, we’ve compiled a list of everything you need to know about hamster hibernation and how best to look after your hamster.
Table of Contents
Do Pet Hamsters Hibernate?
Phew! Panic over.
Your pet furball may not have gone up to hamster heaven just yet. He might be hibernating.
Yes, hamsters do hibernate in certain conditions. They may also enter torpor.
Hamsters can enter a state of torpor at any time of the year. Torpor can last for as little as a few hours or just a few days, and it ends when the conditions around your hamster improve.
True hamster hibernation, on the other hand, occurs during the winter months. The process helps the hamster to survive when conditions are not favorable.
So…when do hamsters hibernate?
Here are some of the conditions that might cause a hamster to hibernate or enter torpor.
- The temperature around the hamster’s cage drops below 20 degrees Celsius
- The hamster was in the dark for more than 12 hours a day
- He does not have enough to eat or drink
- He does not have enough bedding to burrow or sleep in
While your hamster is hibernating, his body temperature drops, and his breathing slows down. He might feel limp or stiff and will stop eliminating.
This might make it difficult for you to work out whether he is ill or has died.
Hibernation and torpor, while natural, might be a sign of an environmental issue for your pet hamster. Let’s take a look at the problems in a little more detail.
If the temperature drops in the hamster’s environment, he might begin to hibernate. They are not massive fans of cold temperatures.
Some hamsters can enter hibernation after just a couple of hours of cold weather, while others will not begin to hibernate unless suddenly exposed to months of cold weather. How long this takes depends on the breed of your hamster.
A hamster’s ideal temperature is between 20 and 22 degrees Celsius. Any cooler than 15 degrees, and the hamster may begin hibernating.
Could cold temperatures be dangerous for your hamster?
Yes, they could. If the low temperatures around your hamster do not rise in time, he could begin to suffer from hypothermic shock and die.
No one likes sitting in the dark all day, and neither does your hamster! You might find your hamster entering torpor if you leave him in a dark room for more than 12 hours per day.
Why does he do this?
He is imitating the behaviors his ancestors displayed in their natural desert habitat. These movements helped his family stay safe during harsh desert winters.
Could dark environments be dangerous for your hamster?
Yes, they could. If your hamster is not exposed to more sunlight, he will remain in a state of torpor and could end up suffering from dehydration.
Just like all of us, pet hamsters love chowing down on their favorite meals and snacks.
So, what happens if a hamster does not have enough food?
Without enough to eat, your hamster may enter permissive hibernation. This causes the hamster to fall into a deep sleep in order to conserve energy while food is scarce.
Could this be dangerous for your hamster?
Most certainly! Your hamster could begin to suffer from dehydration if he hibernates for too long.
Hamsters enjoy washing down all their meals with clean, fresh water.
Do hamsters hibernate if they don’t have enough to drink?
They do! Your hamster will hibernate if it does not find enough water in its cage.
Why is this of concern to hamster owners?
If your hamster enters a state of torpor due to a lack of water, he might dehydrate.
We all love cocooning ourselves into a cozy warm bed at the end of the night, and your pet hamsters love to do so too. Your hamster needs enough bedding to sleep on and also for burrowing into and making shelters.
So, what will happen if your hamster doesn’t have enough bedding?
Hamsters tend to hibernate when they do not have enough hay or nesting materials. They do this to maintain their body heat and conserve energy.
Could a lack of bedding be dangerous for your hamster?
Yes, it could, as your hamster will not come out of torpor if he does not have enough bedding. This could cause the hamster’s body temperature to deplete and lead to hypothermia.
How to Know If Your Hamster Is Hibernating
Now that was eventful.
You walk past your hamster’s cage and notice he’s been lying in the same position for longer than normal. He hasn’t touched his water or food, and you thought the worse.
But before proceeding with the funeral plans, you remember, he could just be hibernating! What a relief!
But now what? How can you be sure your hamster is actually hibernating and hasn’t…how can we put it…gone to the giant hamster wheel in the sky?
This list of typical hibernation behavior will help you check whether your hamster is hibernating or dead.
During hibernation, hamsters slow their breathing down. They may only breathe once every two minutes.
So what can you do to check your hamster is still breathing?
Monitor your hamster for several minutes. You may during this time be able to see sporadic, very shallow breathing.
When a hamster hibernates, it will be difficult for you to detect its heartbeat.
What can you do to check your hamster’s heart is still beating?
Gently press your fingers on your hamster’s chest. You may need to hold your fingers on him for more than a minute before you begin to feel the hamster’s heartbeat.
A hibernating hamster will display some characteristics that could appear concerning but are normal. Here are some of them.
- His body might appear stiff or limp
- He will not eat or drink
- He will not eliminate
- His body may feel cool to touch
Although these characteristics usually mean bad news, a hibernating hamster will display them for as long as their conditions are unfavorable. Knowing how to detect them and then prevent hibernation is important. (More about that in a jiffy)
How Long Do Hamsters Hibernate?
Is your hamster hibernating?
You miss the sound of your hamster running on its wheel and scuttering around its cage. Now, he’s just lying there.
Perhaps you wonder…
How long do hamsters hibernate?
If your hamster enters a state of torpor, he will hibernate until the conditions change. This could mean one of the following things needs to happen.
- The temperature in the hamster’s room needs to rise above 20 degrees Celsius
- The hamster needs exposure to daylight for more than 12 hours a day
- The hamster needs to have access to enough food and water
- He needs enough bedding and nesting materials
Once your hamster has access to everything he needs, he should slowly begin to wake up. He should be back to his normal self in no time.
But what about if your hamster has entered true hibernation?
If your hamster enters true hibernation, this could last until the winter months are over. But most domesticated hamsters live indoors and should not need to go through obligatory hibernation.
How to Wake a Hibernating Hamster
We’ve seen so far that a hamster will hibernate when its living conditions are not favorable. Now, let’s move on to preventing hamster hibernation and waking him up.
Turn Up the Temperature In His Room
Did the temperature in your hamster’s habitat fall below 20 degrees Celsius? Persistent cold conditions may cause the hamster to go into a state of torpor.
To wake him up, do the following.
- Move him into a warmer room or slowly raise the temperature in his room
- Ensure he has enough warm bedding
- Hold him in your hands. If you do, some of your body heat will transfer to him.
Pet hamsters thrive indoors and do not do well in extreme environments. He will do better in a slightly warmer environment inside than in a cage outside, especially during a cold season.
Expose Him to Daylight
You might find your hamsters hibernating if they do not get enough daylight. Do the following to wake up your furry friend.
- Make sure he gets at least 12 hours of sunlight each day
- Hamsters enjoy 10 to 15 minutes of outdoor time each day as long as the environmental temperature is not too low or too high
If your hamster is in a room with a window, keep the curtains open throughout the daytime. You should not, however, leave his cage in direct sunlight.
If the room where he lives does not have a window, move him to a different room.
Provide Him With Food and Water
Most hamsters will enter a state of torpor if they are not able to find sufficient food and water. They do this to save energy.
For a healthy, happy hamster, do the following.
- Make sure you top up his food supply. He needs to eat one tablespoon of food per day. This includes pellets, fresh fruits and vegetables, and hay.
- Ensure he has access to fresh, clean water every day
Give Him Enough Bedding
Hamsters may begin to display hibernation behavior if they do not have enough nesting materials inside their cage. They need these materials for burrowing in and for sleeping on.
To wake your hamster, do this.
- Provide your hamster with paper-based nesting material
- Give your hamster Timothy hay
- Change your hamster’s bedding once a week. If you have two hamsters in a cage, you will need to do this more often.
How Do Different Hamsters Hibernate?
Not all hamsters enter hibernation in the same way. Some fall into hibernation faster and for longer than others.
What about your hamster?
Take a look at the following information to find out more about how hibernation works for certain species of hamsters.
A Syrian hamster will not typically hibernate, but it will do if environmental conditions make it. Female hamsters tend to hibernate for shorter periods of time than male hamsters.
During hibernation, the Syrian hamster’s breathing and heart rate will slow down. The hamster’s paws and body may appear stiff.
Hibernation is not common in pet Dwarf hamsters because, unlike wild hamsters, they have a stable habitat and are not succumb to many temperature variations.
When exposed to the cold, your hamster’s body temperature might cool right down, and he might go into a state of torpor. He will usually spring back to life when temperatures get a bit warmer.
Not many of us like to be outside when the weather is inclement, and European hamsters are quite the same. They usually hibernate to survive the low temperatures throughout winter.
Some wild hamsters that live in a cold climate will hibernate for months during extremely cold weather. During this time, their body temperature plummets to preserve energy.
Hibernation and Your Pet Hamster
Finding your hamster hibernating for the first time is pretty daunting. How can you be sure whether he is hibernating or dead, and what can you do to wake him up?
Thanks to the help of this article, we’ve been able to see that hamsters do hibernate. However, if yours does, this could mean the conditions around his cage are not ideal for him.
We saw that raising the environmental temperature and increasing his daylight, food, water, and bedding might be all he needs to get back to his old self again.
Have you found the information in this article about hamster hibernation interesting? Well, at oddly cute pets we have plenty of informative articles about many animals just waiting for you to check out.
Thanks for reading!