Hamster Lifespan: How Long Do Hamsters Live?

Written by August Buck
Published: January 2, 2022
Image Credit tanya_morozz/Shutterstock.com
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A popular pet for children of all ages, the hamster is a type of rodent known for its small size and chubby cheeks. Given that this little animal is usually purchased as a pet, how long do hamsters live for, on average?

You may also be curious to learn more about the life cycle of hamsters and what you can do to extend the life of your family pet for as long as possible. If this is the case, here’s all you need to know about the lives of hamsters.

How Long Do Hamsters Live?

How Long Do Hamsters Live?
The hamster is a type of rodent known for its small size and chubby cheeks.

iStock.com/Olga Skred

Hamsters live for 2-4 years on average while in captivity. This lifespan remains consistent across different hamster breeds, such as dwarf hamsters and teddy bear hamsters. Their small size means that their life may be shorter than that of other house pets.

A hamster’s life span greatly depends on its care and the individual health of the hamster. Hamsters are capable of catching colds from humans, and can even suffer from respiratory issues caused by wood shavings or other environmental factors.

However, just because your hamster may only live 5 years or less, it doesn’t mean your pet is any less a member of your family. And it doesn’t make the hamster life cycle any less interesting. Let’s learn more about that now.

The Average Hamster Life Cycle

How long Do hamsters live?
Hamsters live for 2-4 years on average while in captivity.

iStock.com/Michel VIARD

Even if the overall hamster life cycle is short, there is a lot to learn about this little rodent. Here’s how a typical hamster lifestyle goes, no matter the gender or breed of hamster.

Newborns

Like most animals, a baby hamster is completely reliant on its mother when it is first born. It can’t move around easily and is blind for roughly two weeks before it begins to see and move around on its own.

Newborn hamsters, also known as pups, are born completely hairless. Thankfully, their coat comes in after the first week, and their teeth begin to grow at this time as well. Pups should be handled while they are young, starting at around two weeks when they have more of their senses.

By their fifth week of life, baby hamsters need to be removed from the cage that their mother is in. Most hamsters don’t get along with each other, and hamster mothers can eat their young!

How long do hamsters live?
Newborn hamsters are called pups, and they are born completely hairless.

iStock.com/Manatchon

Adulthood

Going straight from newborn into adulthood may seem like a big jump, but most hamsters reach sexual maturity at around 6 weeks old. This surprising fact makes sense when you consider that their overall life span is only two to four years.

Adult hamsters are active, curious, and wonderful pets if they have been properly socialized at a young age. They love to run, burrow, and create food caches. This is why having a unique and well-sized hamster cage is important for adult hamsters.

Many mother hamsters are capable of giving birth at 10 weeks or older, and their litter size varies depending on the breed and overall health of the hamster. The average litter size is around six hamsters, and it takes less than a month for a pregnant hamster to give birth.

Seniors

Technically speaking, hamsters are in their senior life cycle by the time they reach over one year in age. Many mother hamsters are at risk should they give birth at a year and a half or older, as the needs of childbirth can put strain on their hips and body.

However, senior hamsters are still active and curious rodents, though they may not run in their wheel quite as often as they once did. It is important that senior hamsters have ample bedding and comfortable places to rest during this time, as sleeping will be their primary activity.

Tips for Giving Your Hamster a Long Life

How Long Do Hamsters Live?
Adult hamsters are active, curious, and wonderful pets if they have been properly socialized at a young age.

Mary Swift/Shutterstock.com

While hamsters don’t have a particularly long life in the grand scheme of things, you can give your hamster a longer life by taking care of it properly. Some tips for increasing your hamster’s life include:

  • Start off with a secure and safe cage. Many hamsters can suffer injuries from wire bottomed cages and any cages with sharp edges. Get your hamster a cage with a plastic bottom, or a cage that is glass and smooth. It is easy for a hamster’s feet to get caught, and they can easily break their legs!
  • Give them a healthy diet. There are many things that you can feed your pet hamster, including hamster pellets from a pet store. But did you know that you should also feed your hamster a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables? Their diet is key to a long and healthy life.
  • Make sure they exercise. Not only are hamsters more active at night and more likely to keep you awake, they require ample exercise in order to live long and healthy lives. You can solve both of these issues by installing a safe hamster wheel inside of your hamster cage. They will run and enjoy their night while you can get some good sleep.
  • Clean your hamster’s cage regularly. You should strive to clean your hamster’s cage at least once per week. Give them fresh bedding, food, water, and clean up any waste you might find. Hamsters can be very sensitive to their surroundings, which is why it is important to clean them regularly and efficiently.
  • Clean your hands regularly. Anytime you handle your hamster, take the time to wash your hands first. Hamsters can catch human colds and are weak to many different types of bacterial infections and diseases. Take the time to clean your hands before holding your beloved pet!

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About the Author

I am a non-binary freelance writer working full-time in Oregon. Graduating Southern Oregon University with a BFA in Theatre and a specialization in creative writing, I have an invested interest in a variety of topics, particularly Pacific Northwest history. When I'm not writing personally or professionally, you can find me camping along the Oregon coast with my high school sweetheart and Chihuahua mix, or in my home kitchen, perfecting recipes in a gleaming cast iron skillet.