A somewhat common occurrence amongst hamsters and families that keep these animals as pets is that of the mother hamster killing and eating their babies. While this may feel instinctively horrifying to regular people, there is a plausible scientific rationale behind this.
Mother hamsters, like most other nesting animals, are driven foremost by the instinct to protect their young offspring. Consequently, if they consider their offspring to be in grave danger from larger predators or due to a shortage of food and water, they will act to protect their babies from the perceived threat.
In extreme cases, the mother hamster may suffer from severe stress due to the danger she foresees for her babies. She may then try to circumvent that possibility by devouring her children, which in her mind ensures that her babies will not suffer extremely or for too long.
Apart from this, there are a variety of other factors, which can lead to a mother hamster eating her babies. These include the following scenarios:
- In case the offspring is born with any disabilities, the mother might eat it to ensure the continued survival of the rest of the litter.
- If caring for a large litter of baby hamsters is stressing out the mother, she may try to eliminate a couple of them to better protect the rest.
- The presence of a male hamster can cause the mother to feel threatened and stressed, leading her to eat her baby.
- In case the furless baby’s scent gets botched due to other people touching it, the mother may no longer recognize it and mistakenly perceive it to be just another source of food.
How to prevent hamsters from eating their babies?
One way to prevent your hamster from eating their babies is to make them feel safe and protected in their surroundings. The root cause of them eating their offspring is stress caused by the fear of attacks or starvation. So, removing any chance of that happening can go a long way in preventing such ghastly outcomes.
Some steps that hamster owners can take to further prevent hamsters from eating their babies are:
- Relocate the father to a different cage as soon as the babies are born.
- Let the mother bond with her babies in a peaceful and quiet environment.
- Only go near the cage to provide food and nourishment.
- Do not try to pet the newborns until they are at least 14 days old in order to not confuse the mother about the scent of her babies.
- Provide as much protein in the mother’s diet as possible in the form of eggs and fish liver oil and also ensure ample food is left to her at all times.
If a mother has eaten their babies before are they more likely to do it again?
Eating babies is not a habit mother hamsters develop for pleasure; rather one she takes recourse to only due to necessity. As such, if a mother has eaten her offspring before, then that was probably due to any of the reasons listed out in the previous sections. If you remove the causes of her stress and make her feel secure, she will no more be likely to harm her own children.
Do male hamsters eat their babies?
Males from the dwarf hamster breed do tend to eat their offspring. This is due to them perceiving their young ones as a future threat. Thus, it is best that you only keep male and female dwarf hamsters in the same cage for mating purposes and no longer. When mother hamsters give birth, males should definitely be removed from the cage.
Male Russian hamsters, on the other hand, never eat their offspring and even help their female counterparts in raising the babies. You just need to remove them from the cage for two days after the mother has birthed to ensure that the mother has a bonding period with her newborns. The males can then be relocated back into their cage with no danger caused to the babies.
Should You Separate The Babies From The Mother At Birth?
Hamster babies should not be separated from their mothers at birth. Mother hamsters will instinctively care for their babies when they are young, provided they know that enough resources are available to ensure the comfortable survival of the entire litter as well as themselves.
Though they will need to be separated from their mother after a period of 21-28 days as then they become adults. Once the litter gets older, the mother may begin to perceive them as a threat and rival for food and resources. As hamsters are very territorial animals fighting hard to ensure their own survival, this may lead to the mother and her babies getting into fights.
Thus, it is clear that there are several misconceptions regarding hamsters and their mothering instincts and understandably so. But as this article depicts, there are several easy ways to prevent these situations and provide for your pet’s litters to ensure their survival.