How long do Hamsters Live? (and How to Prolong It)

People who want to get a pet are oftentimes interested in their life expectancy. It can be very sad to get attached to a pet only to see it die a short while later. On the other hand, considering that any pet relies on you completely to take care of it, you might not be ready for a decades-long commitment. 

Keep in mind that these questions are normal, regardless of the pet you want to get. That said, it’s natural to wonder how long hamsters live, especially if you want to buy one for your child. We’ll tackle the answer to this question with all its implications in the article below.

The Hamster Life Expectancy

As is the case for all living beings, there is no way of knowing exactly how long a hamster will sniff around this Earth for.

There is a wide array of factors that influence your hamster’s lifespan, but the average amount of time is around 2.5 years. But why do hamsters live so little compared to humans? Short answer: species survival.

Ageing happens when the cells, tissues and organs start to deteriorate. All our biological functions and processes start to fail too, along with them. The bodies of smaller mammals, like hamsters, have a harder time to keep these biological functions up and running.

The reason is that hamsters allocate a lot of their resources to reproduction instead of maintenance. As such, their litters comprise a lot of tiny hamsters, but none of their offsprings lives for very long either.

With that in mind, the lifespan of a hamster is shorter than that of other domesticated critters. Considering that the average hamster lifespan is 2.5 years, a hamster that’s 1.5 years old is already considered a senior citizen. Still, as is the case for humans, it’s important if your hamster shows its age or not. A hamster that’s filled with energy and with a bubbly personality will feel and act younger, even if it’s approaching old age.

It’s also important to consider that the 2.5 years average is just that: an average. Your hamster can live more than that or, unfortunately, can die sooner. There are plenty of things you can do, though, if you want to offer it a long, fulfilled life, which will definitely make a difference for both of you.

Issues that Influence Your Hamster’s Lifespan

Among the things that influence how long your hamster is going to enjoy life are: 

  • Diet 
  • Environment
  • Exercise
  • Genetic factors species
  • History of illnesses
  • Species
  • Received care

Some hamster species live longer than others, but just by around a year. Apart from that, genes are important to determine their lifespan too. Some hamsters will inherit longevity genes that allow them to roam and sniff around for longer, while others inherit the genes for a shorter life. Apart from that, your hamster might have a frail, sickly constitution, so they can be predisposed to certain genetic illnesses.

A well-fed hamster that gets plenty of exercise and lives in a happy, clean environment, with an affectionate owner can also live longer. Otherwise, a stressful, unclean environment leads to a decrease in lifespan.

What can You do to Help Your Hamster Live Longer?

As you can gather, there’s not much you can do about species and genetics, but you can certainly work on the factors above:

Hand Washing

The most important thing to remember when taking care of your hamster is that you need to wash your hands constantly. A little unknown fact is that, if you’re cold and haven’t washed your hands, your hamster can get it from you. And what’s easy for us to bear, like the sniffles, might get your hamster a respiratory infection.

Even if you’re not cold, it’s still important to wash your hands before playing with your hamster. Hamsters can get infections from all sorts of bacteria that can’t harm people.

Cage Safety

Injuries are among the top factors that shorten the lives of hamsters. Their cages are supposed to be safe and secure, but they harbour real hidden dangers.

For instance, wire wheels aren’t safe at all and hamsters can actually break their limbs when exercising on them. That’s why you need to make sure the wheels inside your hamster’s cage are manufactured from a solid surface that stops them from tripping while in full motion.

Another thing to consider is getting the right chew toys, so your hamsters don’t chew the cage bars or wheels. There are specially manufactured hamster toys you can consider, or you can simply add some soft wood blocks.

Metal or wire areas are risky for longhaired hamsters because their coat can get caught there. If they pull to get out, the hamsters can get really hurt.

Bedding Material

Bedding should be safe for hamsters, so opt for odour-free paper-based materials. Cedar or pine shavings are quite risky for small rodents because they irritate their eyes, skins and lungs. It’s important to choose unscented materials as to not confuse the hamster.

Petting Rules

Hamsters rely mostly on their sense of smell to orient themselves, considering they can only see a few centimetres in front. This means they can’t appreciate height correctly, so they tend to jump right out of your hand when you’re petting them.

That’s why it’s a good idea to sit down on a sofa or bed when you’re petting your hamster. Otherwise, they can jump from a height that’s too much for them and get seriously injured. And it’s not that they’re scared of you, but they get excited quickly, and they can’t handle strong emotions really well.

Speaking of which, it’s important not to overstimulate your hamster, and refrain showing your love for too much time. This can lead to stress-related diseases like hamster enteritis, also known as wet-tail because diarrhoea is one of the main symptoms. 

Cohabitation 

The best thing for your hamster is to be kept just one per cage. For instance, the Syrian hamster lifespan can drastically be reduced if you place more of them together because adults are extremely violent. 

Other species of hamsters can get violent too. Campbell’s, Roborovski and Siberian pregnant females tend to fight to the death.

Plus, remember: just like us, hamsters have moods, too.

Tips to Remember:
  • Give them healthy stuff to eat, with plenty of dietary fibres and omega-3 fatty acids
  • Buy them a cage that encourages activity and that is safe
  • Clean their cage regularly, to get rid of bacteria 
  • Keep an eye on them for any symptoms of illness
  • Treat health issues promptly
  • Spend time with them so they feel loved and happy

All these things might not make up for genetic problems and might not prolong your hamster’s life very much, but it certainly means that your hamster will live a rich, happy life.

Hamster Species Life Expectancies

Some species of hamsters outlive others, so you must be curious which ones live longer. The average lifespan of a hamster is 2.5 years, but some might live 1.5 years, while others can get to 3.5 years. 

Syrian Hamsters

These hamsters are the biggest of the batch, reaching up to 16-17 cm. They get to live 2 – 2.5 years but remember that they like to live alone. Another thing to consider is that they’re the long-haired type, which is why they’re known as the teddy bears of hamsters, so keep them away from wiry areas.

Campbell’s Hamsters

Campbell’s are dwarf, grey hamsters that live just about 1 – 1.5 years. You can put them together with other hamsters, though they can be left just one per cage without stressing them out. The true issue lies in their small size, which makes them prone to accidents.

Siberian Hamsters

Siberian Hamsters are also dwarf hamsters, which are easily recognized by the dark stripe of fur running along their backside. They also live to about 1.5 – 2 years, but they prefer to live alone.

Roborovski Hamsters

These small hamsters are quick and curious. So while curiosity might kill a cat, it certainly adds years to these hamsters’ lives, which have a life expectancy of 3 – 3.5 years. They can be placed with their families in the same cage, or they can be left on their own. The real issue is that they’re so tiny and swift, so they can easily jump from your hands and get injured.

Chinese Hamsters

Chinese hamsters can live to 2.5 – 3 years, and they don’t need to be placed in a cage with other members of their extended families. These hamsters are very gentle, so they’re not easily startled, but you still need to give them plenty of love and healthy food.

Remember: All these are just averages. A Campbell’s dwarf hamster life expectancy is around 1.5 years, but they can live for months after that. Similarly, even if a Syrian hamster is expected to live for as long as 2 years, some might die well before then. It all boils down to genetics and how well you take care of them, which leads us to:

Do You Have an Old Hamster?

Your hamster might show ageing signs well before the end of its life expectancy. Besides, if you’re not getting a baby hamster, the salesperson can give you an elderly one. So how can you tell whether your hamster is old?

One sign is a lack of activity because your hamster doesn’t have the energy to play or run around anymore. Conserving its energy means more sleeping or lying around the cage.

Another sign is that your hamster might not be interested in getting extra treats. With no disposition for play and a decrease in activity, your hamster’s appetite might drop down completely.

This leads to a fluctuating weight – not necessarily weight loss. With a decreased metabolism, your hamster might eat less but put more weight on.

Old age leads to a decrease in the overall wellbeing of your hamster, which manifests through vision or auditory problems, tooth decay and hair loss.

What can You do when Your Hamster is Getting Older?

Your primary goal should be to help your hamster cope with all these changes while keeping him comfortable and safe for the remainder of his life. That’s why you should:

  • Move its food and water closer to its sleeping area. Otherwise, your hamster might avoid eating and drinking altogether, if it means it has to walk around too much for that.
  • Remove any steep ramps or stairs. Considering that its balance and eyesight are diminishing, your hamster might fall down more easily and get injured.
  • Keep things quiet and handle it carefully. Too much stress increases the hamsters’ heart rates, which hurries their demise.
  • Feed them softer foods. Very old hamsters make an increasing effort to eat, but food helps them keep their strength up, so add water to pellet food.
In Conclusion

Hamsters might not live a lot for you, but it’s certainly what their bodies are programmed to do. So the question isn’t about how long do hamsters live, but how well they spend their lives. And in this regard, there are plenty of things you can help them with. Caring for a hamster might be just a small part of your life, but remember you’re literally its whole life.

That said, what hamster(s) do you have and how are you planning to give him the best possible life?

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