After deciding to add a hamster to our pet family, I realized I had a lot to learn. I didn’t know anything about their breeding cycles, or even how long pregnancy lasts for hamsters. After doing my research, here’s what I found out.
So how long are hamsters pregnant for?
The gestation period for hamsters differ significantly by breed. A Syrian hamster’s pregnancy lasts for 16 days, a Chinese hamster’s for 18 to 21 days, and a Roborovski Hamster’s pregnancy lasts for 23 to 30 days.
Interestingly, the breed of the hamster influences different aspects of its breeding cycle, just like it does the gestation period. This is important to know, especially for those who plan on breeding their hamsters.
Your Hamster’s Pregnancy By Breed
Different breeds of hamsters can be characterized by size, distinct physical features, color and more. It’s important to keep in mind that your hamster may be just as different from other hamster breeds as it would be from other species within the rodent family.
Let’s take a closer look at the three most common hamster species and what separates their breeding cycles from each other.
Syrian hamsters are one of the largest hamster breeds we can keep as pets. Their size, as well as their docile temperament, also makes them one of the most popular and friendliest choices for children.
Syrian hamsters are characterized with having the shortest gestation period of all placental mammals, at 16 days. The gestation period has been known to last up to 20 days, although this usually indicates complications with the pregnancy and the animal should be closely monitored.
Although hamsters can reach sexual maturity at as early as four to five weeks old, it will take the average litter of Syrians about six to eight weeks. Once sexually mature, the female hamster will come into season every four days, this is called ‘estrus’.
Syrian hamsters have been known to produce up to 20 young, although the typical litter size ranges from eight to ten pups. Weaned hamsters can be safely removed from their mothers at as early as three weeks of age, though I should note that particularly small or under flourishing young should be kept with the mother for at least a week longer.
Chinese hamsters are characterized by their small and slender frames, reaching an adult size of only three to four inches long and weighing just 1.7 grams at birth. The Chinese hamster also has a hairless tail of about one inch in length.
The length of the gestation, or pregnancy, period for Chinese hamsters is 18 to 21 days – somewhat longer than that of the Syrian hamster. It’s also good to note that you can only start breeding Chinese hamsters between the age of eight and ten weeks old, even though they reach sexual maturity at four to five weeks of age.
Chinese hamsters typically have litters of four to five pups, and the pups stay with their mother for at least four to five weeks, about a week longer than those of the Syrian hamster.
Roborovski Dwarf hamsters are one of the smallest hamster breeds that exist. They are also known for their speed and found in desert like regions.
The typical gestation period for Roborovski hamsters lasts for 20 to 22 days, but has been known to last for up to 30 days. Like all hamsters, female Roborovski hamsters come into estrus every four days, usually at night.
Female Roborovski hamsters can start breeding when they reach the age of four months, while the males can start breeding at three months of age. Something else to keep in mind is that dwarf hamsters in general are known to be more difficult to breed than larger hamster species.
Roborovski hamsters’ litters are typically quite small, like that of the Chinese hamster, and rarely produce more than six pups per litter. It’s a good idea to separate the male and female pups by the age of three to four weeks, as sexual maturity in Roborovski hamsters is reached at around five weeks of age.
How do you know if your hamster is pregnant?
If you notice your hamster’s belly swelling and you know that she has had access to male hamsters recently, she is most likely pregnant.
Be sure to have a proper look though, identifying a lump instead of a growing belly for example. Other signs might include nest building and food hoarding, you will even notice her eating more than usual if she’s pregnant.
You will know that your hamster is ready to go into labor if she becomes more frantic or anxious, constantly alternating between grooming, nest building, eating etc.
What to do after your hamster gives birth
- The first thing to do is to make sure that your hamsters have a clean, comfortable space to stay.
- Try not to interfere and give them their privacy. You don’t want to unnecessarily stress out the mother.
- Do not handle the babies. This is a big one, because handling the babies will change their scent and make the mother frantic. This is also where hamsters have been known to kill their own young.
- When the babies reach the age of three to five weeks, depending on the breed, they’ll be ready to be weaned from the mother and you can also separate them by gender.
Finally, if you are unsure about any signs or behaviors displayed by your hamster, consult your vet to make sure you get an expert’s opinion on the subject.