Hibernating Hamster – What You Need to Know (September 2019)

Even when in a domestic setting, hamsters can still go into hibernation. The process can be very scary and confusing if you don’t know what to look out for.

Unfortunately, hamsters can appear to be dead when they are actually just in hibernation mode.

To ensure your hamster isn’t mistaken for dead, educate yourself on the symptoms of hibernation, how long it lasts, and more.

The Symptoms of Hibernation in Hamsters

Hibernation symptoms are somewhat easy to miss, so you have to really know your hamster, her behavior, and pay attention to the smallest of changes.

Extra Helpings of Food

Before a hamster goes into hibernation, she will eat large amounts of food to help her survive while she’s asleep. You will notice a short period where she eats a lot more than she normally does, but don’t be alarmed by this.

If you do notice that she’s eating more than usual, you should be prepared for possible hibernation.

Drop in Body Temperature

This is probably the most alarming symptom, but a hamster’s heartbeat will slow and their body temperature will drop as a result. She will feel cold to the touch and frigid. This especially includes the nose, paws, and the ears.

Limp, But Not Lifeless, Body

This is the other scary symptom that can freak just about anyone out. A cold, limp body is usually what leads us to think a hamster is dead, but she may not be.

If you are unsure whether she’s hibernating or dead, gently move her limbs. If she’s dead, her limbs will be stiff due to rigor mortis. If you can move her limbs freely, she’s hibernating.

Breathing Will Slow Down

Her breathing will begin to slow down so much so that it may seem like she isn’t breathing at all. Look for some minor whisker and eye twitching on top of looking, or even feeling for, small, short breaths.

Why Do Hamsters Go Into Hibernation?

Hamsters can go into hibernation mode for a number of reasons, including the ones listed below:

  • Cold temperatures under 4.5 C and 40 F
  • Lack of adequate food and/or water
  • Not enough warm bedding to burrow in
  • Lack of proper body fat

Hibernation isn’t exactly a natural occurrence. It’s done because she is lacking something she needs, be it a healthy amount of body fat or being in cold temperatures with no way to warm up.

You need to identify what the cause is and correct it as soon as possible.

How Long Do Hamsters Hibernate For?

Hamsters will hibernate for as long as they need to, but it usually only lasts for 2 to 3 days.

Whatever the initial reason, raising your hamster’s body temperature will help wake her up.

You can use your own body heat, a blanket, and even try laying her on a heating pad.

A Cold Hamster Isn’t Always a Dead Hamster

Before you bury your beloved pet, please try to see if it’s hibernation. She may still be alive and require your help to get her back to her old self.

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