Hamsters are wonderful pets, especially for older children. But, even if you give the best care for your little friend, a hamster’s lifespan is much shorter than other furry pets like a dog. In this article, we will answer the question ‘how long do hamsters live’ and what are the factors that impact their longevity.
The Life Cycle of Hamsters
To better understand the question of how long does a hamster live, you have to look into the aging process.
Hamsters are altricial, meaning, they are completely dependent on their parents for care and feeding. Litter size is normally between 5 to 9 pups.
In about 3 to 4 weeks, the pups are weaned from their mother.
The females become sexually mature at about 6 to 8 weeks. They have a short gestation period of 16 days. After giving birth, the female hamsters get into the estrous cycle again in about 2 to 18 days after weaning her pups. Thus, it is normal for a female hamster to give birth every two months.
You’d be surprised but yes, hamsters are at their prime age even before reaching their first birthday. At one year, your hamster is already entering the phase of old age. Upon entering this stage, a hamster’s lifespan is affected by health issues, most of these are not curable. This is because hamsters do not respond well to antibiotic treatment, thus, amyloidosis is the most common cause of hamster death.
They are also afflicted by other life-threatening diseases such as cancer and respiratory ailments.
Because of their small size, a hamster’s lifespan averages 2.5 years only in captivity.
In the wild, their lifespan is shorter because they are vulnerable to many factors such as prey to bigger animals.
How Long Does a Hamster Live by Species
There are about 19 species but only 5 hamster species are suitable as house pets. The rest of them are live in Europe and Asia. Regardless of species, a hamster’s lifespan is affected by care, habitat, and genetic predisposition.
Detailed below is a list of the common hamster species and how long they can live under your special care.
1. Syrian Hamster
This species is one of the favorites among hamster lovers. Not only the Syrians are large but they are also friendly and will form a special bond with their owners.
Even if you provide your Syrian hamster with everything it needs, its lifespan in captivity averages between 2 and 3 years, which is longer compared in the wild. Males are known to live longer than female Syrians.
Though this species can live longer than 3 years, it is rare to see them live that long.
2. Russian Hamster
The Russians have a shorter lifespan compared to the others. Compared to the teddy bear hamster lifespan (another way of calling a Syrian hamster), how long does a Russian hamster live? It is lesser by 5 to 6 months.
In the wild, the Russians can only survive to about 12 months. If it is cared for in captivity, the Russian’s lifespan can be extended between 1.5 to 2 years of age.
This hamster species is very active and this is why it requires a large cage to play, run, and dig around to stay healthy.
3. Chinese Hamster
Along with the Syrian hamster, this species is one of the favorites of hamster enthusiasts. They are small, averaging between 3 and 5 inches in length and can weigh up to 45 grams at adulthood.
As house pets, the Chinese hamsters are easy to care for. They are generally mild and easy to tame. Their life expectancy is from 2 to 3 years in captivity.
4. Roborovski Dwarf Hamster
The smallest hamster that only averages about 2 inches in length, it can outlast its bigger cousins in terms of life expectancy. It can live for more than 3 years but not more than 4 years.
This dwarf hamster does not enjoy being handled too much, thus, we do not recommend that you get it for younger kids. It also tends to bite if it is under stress.
5. Campbell Hamster
Keeping this species in captivity can extend its lifespan between 2 and 2.5 years.
In the wild, the breeding season differs in every location. For example, in Tuva, the breeding season for the Campbells begins by the middle of April while in Mongolia, it begins at the end of April. But, in captivity, there are no fixed breeding months, meaning, they propagate frequently all-year-round.
At 5 weeks of age, the Campbells are already sexually matured. They usually have a litter size of about 4 to 6 pups that are born after a short gestation period of 8 to 21 days.
Aside from the popular five (5) hamster species, other species are not as popular and these are three examples:
6. Turkish Hamster
Like the other species of hamsters, they are nocturnal and solitary animals. They are not suitable as pets because of their aggressiveness.
They are commonly live in dunes, farmlands, and desert steppes. Their lifespan in the wild reaches up to 2 years.
7. Chinese Striped Hamster
These little guys are not often bred for commercial purposes, thus, they are pretty difficult to find in pet stores. If you’re from California and interested to care for this hamster species, you would have to get a permit to own one.
As expected, being a small animal, its lifespan is also short, can live up to 3 years while in captivity.
They are timid and rarely bites. Small they may be, they need to live in a bigger aquarium because of their active nature.
8. European Hamster
A hamster that has a long lifespan of 8 years! Sometimes they can be found in pet shops but they are not kept as pets because of their solitary nature. In labs, this hamster’s lifespan is shorter by 3 years.
How long do hamsters live? As you’ve seen, their lifespan is not very long. If you are wondering how come they live such short lives, let’s discover the reasons behind this issue.
Why Is a Hamster’s Lifespan Short?
- Because nature made them small, their metabolism is much higher than their body mass. A hamster’s heart beats at the rate of 500 times every minute. To give you a clearer perspective, your average heart rate is only 60 to 90 beats for every minute. Thus, you could now see how quick their metabolism is which also means that their organs wear out faster making them age earlier.
- Survival of the species is the reason why hamsters go into the early phase of sexual maturation. They have to multiply earlier before they are eaten by their predators in the wild, lest, they’d become extinct. That said, specie-preservation plays a role as to why hamsters have short lives.
How Do You Know If Your Hamster Is Aging?
Due to a hamster’s short lifespan, the signs of aging manifest early. A hamster is considered old at the age of 2 years.
The first thing you’d notice is the shaggy fur, it becomes dull, and lighter in shade. And, with the lightening of the fur, you can also see visible signs of aging on its skin like age spots.
Then, an old hamster does not play as much anymore. Climbing and running are things of the past already. Oftentimes, you’d also see your pet sleeps longer.
Another way to know is that old hamster tends to drink more than the younger ones. It’s because some of them suffer from diabetes, kidney & bladder failure as a result of the weakening of the immune system.
The Factors That Affect a Hamster’s Lifespan
Now that you are aware of the short lifespan of your small pet, there are two contributing factors for its lifespan. The ones that you have no control over with and the ones that you have and hopefully, increase your hamster’s lifespan to the fullest.
1. The Factors That You Have No Control About a Hamster’s Lifespan:
The Hamster species
As you have seen earlier, the Roborovski hamster may be the smallest of them all but they are the ones with a longer lifespan. In other words, not all hamsters have the same lifespan. For the question of How long does a hamster live is species-related.
Genetic predispositions to illnesses
You have no control over the genetic problems of your hamster. Again, allow us to cite the Roborovski as an example. Yes, they live longer but its predisposition for developing diabetes can shorten its lifespan.
In the same manner that the Syrian hamster has a higher chance of getting the Wet-tail illness than the smaller hamster species.
Ultimately, the species and the genetic predisposition are beyond your control, so let us now focus our attention on what you can do to make your small pet happy and healthy.
2. The Factors That You Have Control and Can Influence Your Hamster’s Lifespan:
Let It Chew
Did you know that your hamster’s teeth keep on growing like your fingernails? This is why it needs something hard to chew on to maintain the length of those teeth. If not, your hamster will find it difficult to eat which would eventually cause health problems.
Let It Eat Well
Purchase only species-appropriate food so that you are sure that your pet receives the correct amount of nutrition. Its diet should include omega-3 polyunsaturated fats which it can get from fresh produce.
Fiber is also good for increasing a hamster’s lifespan.
Just always remember to be moderate when giving food to prevent issues like diarrhea.
Let It rest well
Your hamster needs an exciting place to play and rest well. Even if it is a small pet, it has to be accorded with the right size of the cage where it could move around comfortably. Fill its cage with enough toys to make it an exciting place to stay.
And, when it’s time to rest, be sure that the cage is in a quiet area. It is a nocturnal animal so not disturbing your small pet while asleep adds up to its longevity.
May we also emphasize that cleanliness goes a long way to your hamster’s lifespan? That said, take the time to keep its cage hygienic. Regularly change its beddings, wash the insides of its cage, together with the food and water bowls. By keeping everything nice & clean, you remove germs that could shorten the life of your hamster.
Let It Exercise
Just like you, hamster benefits from regular exercise. A running wheel is the best kind of exercise for your pet. This gives it the chance to run as far and as fast as it could. In the wild, hamsters are always running to stay alive. Provide that kind of environment so your pet stays active and healthy little fellow.
Of course, not to forget those climbing, tunnels, and hiding toys that can keep your hamster happy and hopefully, reaches its max lifespan.
To ask the question of how long does a hamster live is dependent on different factors. Yes, a hamster’s lifespan is short but if you will become aware of any changes in its physical appearance and behaviors, you might just save your small friend from an imminent health issue.
Veterinary care may prevent some problems. But, at the end of the day, no matter how much you care for your hamster, you have no control over quantity. Instead, what you can do is to give it a quality life and enjoy its company while it lasts.