Syrian hamsters are typically bred for their coloration, not lifespan. Because of this the average lifespan of a domestic Syrian hamster has gone from 48 months (4 years) to 18-24 months (1-2 years) over the last 30 years.
Beanie turned 18 months old this month, which means she’s a senior hamster. Just like with humans, hamsters show signs of aging, and may need some changes made in their lifestyle to make them more comfortable. I am going to share my research and experience with caring for my senior Syrian hamster, Beanie.
Do I Need To Do Anything?
You want to provide a comfortable lifestyle for your hamster. If your hamster is still a hyper little bean you probably don’t need to do anything, but if they’re slowing down you may want to make a few changes.
A misconception when it comes to elderly hamsters is that they need less space. You don’t want to downgrade your hamster. You do want to put all the essentials (wheel, water source, food, hideouts) near their nest if they are having difficulty getting around. Continue to provide plenty of substrate (6+ inches) for burrowing.
Most hamsters will be able to use a water bottle as they age, but if they have a hard time reaching it you might want to offer a bowl as well. Personally I offer both, because Beanie uses both. If you have a water bowl available make sure to keep it full so your hamster can reach the water comfortably.
Aging hamsters may need extra protein or have their food specially prepared so they can eat.
A hamster’s primary source of nutrients is their seed mix, which should consist of nuts, seeds, proteins and some dehydrated fruits and veggies. These components are obviously quite crunchy, and some hamsters may have trouble chewing these foods when they’re older. The best thing to do is add water to the mix and soak it for a few minutes before feeding. Don’t use too much water, just enough that when it’s all absorbed the ingredients (particularly the ‘cookies’) are squishy/chewy instead of hard/crunchy. Feed them the same as you always would (amount, brand, etc…), just prepare their food a few minutes in advance.
You want to be providing a few protein supplements, especially if your hamster is losing some weight. Hard boiled egg white, baby food, nuts, and mealworms are all good options. Unseasoned cooked chicken, turkey, and beef are also very healthy treats. Before feeding baby food make sure there’s no onions, garlic in it. If you feel unsure about an ingredient it doesn’t take long to do a Google search and find out if it’s okay. Only feed one or two protein treats every other day.
Your Hamster’s Hygiene
Some elderly hamsters will experience the inability to properly groom. Elderly Syrian hamsters have been known to contract Wet Tail if they cannot keep themselves clean, so you may want to assist them.
If you notice built up discharge from your hamster’s eyes, ears and/or nose get a thin, soft towel damp in lukewarm water and gently clean their face. You may have to do the same for their rear-end. If you suspect something other than the inability to clean themselves or are uncomfortable cleaning them consult your exotic veterinarian.
Keeping your hamster’s fur untangled is also very important. The best way to keep their fur clean and organized is providing a sand bath (not dust or calcium sand) and brushing their fur. The easiest way to brush your hamster’s fur is with a toothbrush, and you can get one for a few dollars at Walmart or Dollarama. It may take a few tries to get them fully combed.
Many hamsters’ fur will thin during their senior months. If your hamster isn’t losing chunks of fur and/or they don’t have completely hairless patches you don’t need to worry.
Providing extra nesting material around the cage can be nice for hamsters with thinner fur.
It is also not unusual for hamsters to lose some weight when they get into their senior months. Once they reach 18 months it is a good idea to weigh your hamster weekly, just to see if they have any drastic weight gain/loss. Every hamster is a different weight, so as long as they’re staying around the same weight you shouldn’t be too concerned. Consult your exotic vet if your hamster is losing/gaining lots of weight. Use grams when weighing; they provide more precise readings.
Your hamster aging isn’t something you should lose sleep over. So long as you are providing the best and most comfortable conditions for your hamster’s specific needs you’re doing a great job.
If you have concerns or questions your exotic vet and/or online hamster forums are always eager to assist troubled hamster owners!
I hope this post was informative and assuring! If you’re interested in more hamster-related content be sure to like this post and follow the blog, and I’ll be back on Tuesday with more small pet care, DIYs, recipes, cage setups, stories and more, have a ham-tastic day!
- Everything Diet
- Wet Tail (Proliferative Ileitus)
- Water Bottles vs Bowls
- Setting Up My Senior Hamster’s Cage