October 5, 2012

Do Hamsters Hibernate?

Filed under: Hamster Health,hamster hibernation,hamster nutrition — Dr. Amber Reed @ 12:20 pm

Imagine hibernation.

You might be thinking of a large mammal, like a bear, being drowsy and inactive in cold months to conserve its body fuel.

This is the definition of true hibernation.

But, when people talk about hamsters hibernating, they are actually describing a temporary state called “torpor.” When this happens, a hamster’s body temperature drops and it seems to lose consciousness. Some species of hamsters might fall into torpor if the animal becomes too cold (typically under 40 degrees Fahrenheit) or does not have enough food and water.

Hamsters hibernate for the same reason bears do—to conserve body fuel and survive hard times. But, bear hibernation is a cycle that happens every year.

Torpor in a hamster happens as a last resort under emergency conditions. If a hamster stays in the torpor state for too long, it may die of hypothermia or starvation.

What to Do if Your Hamster ‘Torpor’ Hibernates

If your pet hamster falls into a torpor state, it may look dead at first glance. Its body will be limp (but not stiff) and unresponsive. Its breathing may be very slow. However, the hamster’s whiskers may still twitch in response to a touch.

In most cases, if the hamster is still breathing, it can be safely brought back from torpor. The easiest way to help your hamster come back is with your hands. Warm the hamster with the heat of your hands, gently rubbing its fur for a few minutes, or up to an hour, until the hamster begins to come back.

Using your hands works, but results depend on your own hand warmth. If you’re a cooler-handed person, you might try a different way.

Place the hamster on a towel over a warm heating pad. Don’t make it too hot. Go for hand-warmth.

When the hamster first regains awareness, it may be trembling or attempt to walk unsteadily. Offer the hamster water to help rehydrate it. You might consider offering the hamster an electrolyte drink.

When the hamster has begun to recover, place it in the cage in a warm room with plenty of water and food. Check on the hamster frequently for a few hours, but let it recover on its own.

Most of the time, hamsters can recover from torpor within a few hours.

September 25, 2012

Are Hamsters Nocturnal?

Filed under: Hamster Health,hamster nutrition,nocturnal hamster — Dr. Amber Reed @ 10:20 am

Some of the most commonly asked questions about pet hamsters are about the hamster sleep cycle.

“Are hamsters nocturnal?”

“Will a hamster keep me up at night?”

“Do hamsters sleep only during the day?”

These are important questions to ask when thinking about buying a hamster.

Hamsters are Nocturnal

Nocturnal. Active at night.

Hamsters are indeed nocturnal creatures. In the wild, hamsters forage for food at night and sleep during the day.

They do this for better protection from predators. Although your pet hamster does not have to worry about predators (unless you own an ambitious cat), it will still follow its natural instincts and go about its hamster business all night.

Your hamster’s individual sleep cycle may vary, but most domestic hamsters have a brief active period during the day. Usually this happens right around mid-day. After that, most hamsters will sleep until the late evening.

Anyone who has placed a hamster cage too close to their own beds knows first-hand that night time is a pet hamster’s favorite time to eat, dig, and run on its wheel.

Take care to protect your own natural sleep cycle! Try not to put your hamster’s cage in the same room you sleep in. It’s tempting to put a hamster in a bedroom, but a better place would be somewhere uninhabited at night. For example, the living room or a spare room.

Can Hamsters Be Trained Out of Day Sleeping?

Some owners claim that they can train their hamsters out of their nocturnal ways. In reality, however, this goes against a hamster’s wild nature. It may be harmful to your hamster’s health.

Think about it this way. Human beings can shift their sleep cycles to be nocturnal. People who work consistent night shifts do this regularly. However, people also tend to suffer health concerns when they don’t see the sun for long periods. A person may suffer a vitamin D deficiency or depression.

People are built to be active during the day. Hamsters are built for the night.

Instead of trying to make a hamster sleep cycle conform to your own, hamster owners should take advantage of a hamster’s natural daytime wake periods for play and companionship.

This way, you still get to interact with your hamster, but you won’t be kept up all night.

January 21, 2010

What is a good diet for my hamster?

hamster dietLike caring for any pet, caring for your hamster requires a good diet. What to feed our pets is probably one of the most important questions a pet owner can ask and this is true no matter what kind of pet, large or small. Hamsters will thrive when given a healthy diet and many pet stores offer commercial brand hamster foods that are healthy and nutritious. In most cases, store bought hamster foods will have the correct balance of nutritional elements and will appeal to your hamster’s tastes. In addition to a nutritious diet, hamsters will also need plenty of water and should always have a fresh supply in their cages.

Should you choose to supplement your hamster’s diet with fresh fruits and vegetables it is important that you do your research first. Hamsters will eat almost any kind of fruit, vegetable, seed or nut but this doesn’t mean that all foods are safe for your hamster. For example, you should never feed your hamster almonds, apple seeds, citrus fruits, eggplant, garlic, red beans, mushrooms, onions, pickles, rhubarb, tomatoes, or human junk food. On the other hand, there are a wide range of foods that your hamster will enjoy.

Feeding a hamster various seeds and nuts make a great treat. Often included in commercial hamster foods, seeds and nuts have a high fat content and are enjoyed by hamsters. However, be careful when feeding seeds and nuts to dwarf hamster as too many in the diet can cause fur to fall out. One or two nuts on alternate days is more than enough for a dwarf hamster while average hamsters can probably eat twice as much. Hamsters also love to eat green vegetables like cucumber or lettuce. One of the side benefits of these foods is that they also provide your hamster with water. Still, too many green vegetables, especially lettuce, can cause liver problems; as such, you should only feed your hamster green vegetables every two or three days.

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Disclaimer: CritterCures is an educational resource, and all information herein is strictly for educational purposes. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure diseases, nor is it meant to replace the (prescribed) treatment or recommendations of your veterinarian or healthcare provider. Always inform your veterinarian or healthcare provider of any products that your pet are taking, including herbal remedies and supplements.