Hamsters have gained their popularity as pets for more than half a century. The common reason for its popularization is that hamsters are omnivorous animals，therefore, typical human food like nuts and fruit can feed them well. Besides, as typical rodents, hamsters breed astonishingly fast, so that they can perfectly meet the expanding need of the prosperous pet market without much increase in cost.
Since more and more people are gaining curiosity in keeping a hamster as a pet. In this article, I will thoroughly introduce knowledge about the life span of hamsters and instructions on prolonging their lives to make sure that you are fully prepared before you get your little friend.
How long can hamsters usually live?
The average life of hamsters is about 2 years. Some hamsters can make it up to 3 years, but most of them will die in 4 years.
As typical rodents, weight and fertility play a dominant role in deciding the creature’s life span. This is because the smaller weight with high fertility results in over metabolism, and a high metabolism rate produces extra free radicals contributing to rapid aging and all kinds of lethal or unlethal diseases, including cancer by attacking a healthy protein chain. Thus, rodents that weigh bigger and breed slower are more likely to live longer.
For example, squirrels are medium size rodents and breed two times a year. They can live for 5-10 years. Guinea pigs are large rodents that weigh up to 700 and 1200 grams in their adulthood while breeding only once a year. They can also live for 5-8 years.
According to this theory, it is less surprising that hamsters could hardly live through 4 years because hamsters are typical small-sized rodents with the weight of merely 100 grams and give 2-5 litters with up to 13 pups each after sexually mature in 4 or 5 weeks.
It is evident that in the long history of evolution, hamsters prefer fertility than longevity to guarantee the population, thus short life span has become an inevitable fact. This scientifically explains why the life span of hamsters is somewhat limited.
Would life span differ from different species?
That is true. The life span of hamsters varies from species to species in the range from 1 year to 4 years. There are 19 species classified into seven genera in total hamster family, and their genes have a significant difference.
- The most popular species of hamster kept as pets are the Syrian hamster (Mesocricetus auratus), which is also known as “golden hamster.” Their lifespan is basically between 2-3 years.
- Other hamsters commonly kept as pets are mainly three kinds of dwarf hamsters, Campbell’s dwarf hamster (Phodopus campbelli), the winter white dwarf hamster (Phodopus sungorus), which is also called Djungarian hamster, and the Roborovski hamster (Phodopus roborovskii). Among them, Russian hamsters, including Campbell’s dwarf hamster and winter white dwarf hamsters, live about two to four years, while the Roborovski hamsters usually live to three years.
- Chinese dwarf hamsters are another welcome species kept as pets, and they can live 2 to 3 years.
The difference may be slight in us human’s eyes, but in consideration of their short life, the difference is not negligible. Therefore, when you are thinking of keeping a lovely hamster as a pet and wish he or she could stay along your side longer, choosing the hamster species is of vital importance. Long living species like Campbell’s dwarf hamster and winter white dwarf hamster or their hybrids are good choices.
What can I do to prolong their longevity?
I also need to point out that these data above are collected under laboratory circumstances, which means these hamsters are in captivity. Regularly artificial feeding and breeding can obviously prolong the animals’ life span than those in the wild. However, things are different for hamsters. On the contrary, large quantities of researches have revealed that hamsters live much longer with better health conditions in the wild than in captivity. This exciting phenomenon suggests that when we are keeping hamsters as our pets, we should try out best to create an artificial realistic “wild” environment for them.
Below are several practical advice and tips on prolonging a hamsters’ life span and improving its health condition.
The spacious room is an essential factor of all.
Hamsters may seem cute, but they are actually aggressive creatures with a strong sense of defending their own territory. As a result, each hamster needs a cage with a bottom area for more than 0.5 square meters. The larger, the better.
Keeping more than one hamster in one cage is strongly not recommended, even if the cage is larger than the hamsters’ average need. Keeping hamsters together can obviously cause tension and psychological pressure for hamsters, and may also result in a fight or eating each other between hamsters.
I also have to point out that when choosing a cage, the bottom area is the primary condition to filtrate inappropriate cages. Some pet sellers may try to convince you that enough height can also create enough space for a hamster, but the truth is that with a brain smaller than a cranberry, hamsters can hardly understand the fancy cage’s complicated space structure. It is always the spacious bottom that guarantees their sense of security. Thus, it is easy to remember rule No.1: large cages.
An appropriate arrangement in the cage is also essential.
Soft, thick, and absorbent bedding is hamsters’ favorite because they have habits of digging holes. Holes make them feel secure, so it is suggested that there be 15 centimeters bedding in the hamster cage. Beddings are usually wood chips, but we still have to choose carefully to avoid cork-like pine wood, which is poisonous to hamsters.
Toys also play an important role in a hamster’s daily routine to keep them away from overweight. Chew toys, climbable toys, exercise wheels, cute houses, the more, the better. They can effectively keep the hamster active and enrich its life for a better mood. The better mood definitely has positive effects on longevity.
Controlling temperature carefully.
Most of our pet hamster origins from the first living pair of artificial fed and bred hamsters in Siberia, thus our pet hamsters carry a lot of same genes with their ancestors. They have reserve a lot of their natural instinct and preference, like they are usually active at night, need good ventilation, and need appropriate temperature like that in Siberia. 20-25 degrees is the best. A little bit colder will not harm anything, except that the hamster will tend to be less active, while too hot is relatively dangerous because high temperature is very likely to cause suffocation.
Good ventilation is also very important in avoiding suffocation, so glass fish tanks are inappropriate for keeping hamsters. A wire cage provides excellent ventilation, but the spacing must be carefully calculated in case of a hamster escaping.
Smart food choice contributes to the hamsters’ longevity.
Pet hamsters nowadays are usually heir or hybrids of Campbell’s hamster, which carry genes of diabetes. As a result, sugar in the diet should be strictly controlled. To truly care for the hamster, we should never offer them sweet snacks or fruit in order to lure them into our pals for hand taming.
Protein is also very important in its growth, but the quantity should also be restricted. Too much protein can significantly enhance the probability of nephritis according to much research.
When you are hesitating for what your hamster should eat, always remember the basic rule: eat what the wild hamsters eat.
How do I know my hamster is aging?
When hamsters are aging, there will be several signals. They will walk slower and eat slower. Their fur will fall off or tangle with whiskers growing longer. Their back will bend, and they would prefer sleeping rather than running in their wheels. They may also have serious symptoms like incontinence with a strong smell. Just do not blame or disgust them; they are just getting old.
Short lives may be another advantage: cherish their time with you.
Hamsters may not live long, but they are still cute and reliable pets. Under normal circumstances, all pet owners bless their own sweetheart with longevity, but the truth is, longevity can cause extra burden and anxiety for most pet owners. For example, big macaws are the perfect choice as pets because they are fairly clever with beautiful feathers. However, few people choose them as pets because they can live up to 70 even 80 years old, even longer than humans. Too much time of pets accompany leads to extremely intimate emotional bonds, and if something terrible happened, we are more likely to be overwhelmed by strong negative feelings of loss.
Since people tend to keep a pet for joy and happiness, hamsters are a perfect match for most people, especially those with kids. Keeping a hamster as a pet has a special educational purpose in a kid’s growth. In the whole process of aging, kids, and even adults will learn to love and care for the elder, feel the time flying away, understand and embrace the loss of their loving ones. All these profound outlooks originate from our tiny, fragile friend, the hamster, who has brought us all the happiness as he could.
In conclusion, the life span of a hamster is rather limited to an average of three years. Though they are small rodents, once we choose them as our pets, we should still try our best to guarantee their longevity. Large cages, appropriate arrangements, pleasant temperatures, and a healthy diet are what we can offer. I sincerely hope everyone enjoys your time with your tiny friend.