Hamsters and Hibernation: Signs, Precautions & Care

Animal experts, zoologists, and vets are divided in their opinions on whether hamsters hibernate in the same ways as bears, snakes, ground hogs or gophers do. It is an established fact that brown and black bears have mastered the art of hibernation as they’re extremely efficient hibernators. However, with respect to hamsters whose way of life is similar to other rodents like gophers, ground hogs, and guinea pigs, don’t hibernate in the same way as bears or ground squirrels do.

Hamsters are not very perfect at hibernating and this is not because of any physical incapability. Rather, it has more to do with their natural habitats-deserts-that tend to be very hot at daytime but can get overly cold during night. Hamsters are habituated to deal with temperature variations in the range of 15-26˚c (60˚-78˚F). When the temperature fluctuation is in the region of 40˚F/4˚C or below, the hamster starts to show symptoms of hibernation.

Does a hamster hibernate?

do hamsters hibernateAs far as hibernation is concerned, some species of hamsters that hibernate adept at it while others seem to struggle. For instance, the Syrian breed of hamster finds the going tough when temperatures subside below 4˚C or 65˚F.  Heart rate plummets owing to chilling conditions and the hamster goes all out to conserve energy. In the worst case scenario, the rodent might die from dehydration caused by exposure to freezing temperatures.

On the other hand, Campbell Siberian or Russian breeds of hamsters that are better acclimatized to subzero temperature conditions can do without hibernating. If you’ve domesticated a Syrian hamster, you should take steps to create the requisite environment so that she feels comfortable even when the weather is very cold.

Hamsters in hibernation: How will you understand as a pet owner?

How can you tell whether your hamster is hibernating or not? It usually goes into a state of torpor or in a slumbering position where it’ll cuddle up in order to keep itself warm. She’ll fall into a deep-sleep mode and it might appear to you that she is lifeless or dead.

However, you can pick up her carefully and place her in your palm only to see its whiskers twitching. Moreover, on closer inspection, you’ll see the hamster breathing very slowly while she’s in torpor. This she needs to do for conservation of energy and in the long run, she runs the risk of getting dehydrated and becoming emaciated due to starvation.

Hamsters hibernating what to do?

In case you find your pet lapsing into hibernation, you should take immediate measures to prevent her from the same. This you can do by keeping her warm, making her drink sufficient water, and trying to keep her awake as much as possible. Also, shift her to another room if you see the room in which you’ve kept her cage is extremely cold.

Alternatively, you can make it sit on a thick towel underneath which you can place a hot pad to keep her warm. Massage her limbs and fur gently and try to feed her droplets of water using a dropper or syringe to keep her from getting dehydrated. If all your attempts to pull her out of hibernation fail, take her to a vet without delay.

Aftercare That You Should Provide to Prevent Relapse

Once the hamster revives and starts to move about slowly, make all attempts to keep her cage and bedding warm. Also, see to it that her living environment is calm and quiet and that she has easy access to nutritious food items and clean water so that she can fully recuperate on her own.

Common FAQs

Do hamsters hibernate in the winter?

These creatures have a remarkable ability to stand a huge fluctuating temperature. However, some of them tend to hibernate during winters when temperatures fall below 0˚C.

Do hamsters hibernate in the wild?

Yes they hibernate in regions where the temperatures are sub-zero.

Do hamsters hibernate as pets?

In case you live in a cold climate and hamsters feel cold they can go into hibernation as pets.

Do hamsters hibernate with their eyes open?

No they do not hibernate with their eyes open.

Do hamsters hibernate in summer?

No they don’t.

What temperature do hamsters hibernate at?

Sub Zero Temperatures.

When hamsters hibernate are they stiff?

Yes they tend to become stiff during hibernation.

How long do hamsters hibernate for?

When hamsters are left alone, they would usually hibernate for 2 to 3 days, however, if the temperatures remain very low, they may be in the hibernation mode for about a week.

When hamsters hibernate do they breathe?

Yes while in hibernation mode, a hamster breathes very slowly.


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