By the time a human toddler is well on its way to being potty trained, a hamster will have lived its entire life. They weren’t kidding when they say a hamster is here and gone in the blink of an eye!
The Average Lifespan Of A Hamster
Most prospective hamster parents give little thought to a hamster’s life expectancy. However, when getting a hamster as a pet for children, it helps to know hamsters don’t live long. Many broken-hearted children lack the understanding of why Fluffy or Snowball isn’t alive anymore.
It’s important to let children know their hamster lives for a very short time with an average of 1 ½ to 2 years. The trauma of losing one of these little pets comes a bit softer if they know this before getting a hamster.
For us “bigger kids,” it helps to know that the hamster we’ve grown to dearly love lives much shorter lives compared to dogs, cats, birds, and other animals. We have outlined how long you can expect a certain species of hamster to live.
Hamster Lifespan By Species
The fact sheet of “AnAge Entry For Mesocricetus auratus” (hamster) notes that the maximum lifespan of a hamster is about 3.9 years.
We’ve had some readers ask, “Can hamsters live for 5 years?” and “What is the oldest hamster on record?” The Guinness Book of World Records has 4 ½ years on record as the longest lifespan of a hamster. So, no, a hamster even being raised in the best conditions most likely won’t reach five years.
The different species of hamsters have varying lifespans. A hamster’s lifespan is determined by genetics, sex, origin, environment, diet, and predisposition to any medical conditions. Other factors may also affect longevity for domestic hamsters.
Injuries may occur (that may be fatal) as a result of jumping out of our hands. Sometimes a hamster may get loose and chew on dangerous things such as electrical cords or other things that are lethal. Other pets in the vicinity, such as dogs or cats, see a hamster as prey and won’t hesitate to kill one.
Syrian (Golden, Teddybear)
Syrian hamsters are one of the hardier species of hamsters. The Syrian (Teddy Bear) hamster lifespan is one of the longer living species. So, how long do Syrian hamsters live for? These little guys can live anywhere from 18 months to three years.
A published article by “Biology and Diseases of Hamsters” mentions the average lifespan of Syrian hamsters is 2-3 years. Females live longer than males (who live 18-24 months.)
Dwarf hamster species are much smaller than the Syrian, and because of their size, they are rather delicate. Sometimes, small children may not understand or remember that a dwarf hamster requires special handling.
Not only are their little bodies more susceptible to injury, but they are notorious jumpers who won’t hesitate to vacate a pair of cupped hands as fast as possible. Falls from jumping can easily hurt or kill a dwarf hamster. Just how long do dwarf hamsters live?
- Roborovski dwarfs lifespan: 19-40 months
- Winter White hamster lifespan: 1-2 years
- Campbell hamster lifespan: 1-3 years
- Djungarian hamster lifespan: 1-2 years
The Chinese dwarf hamster is a species independent of other dwarfs. The Chinese dwarf is a hardy species living as long as three years (as noted by “Biology and Diseases of Hamsters.”)
How Can You Tell If Your Hamster Is Dying?
Hibernating hamsters are often assumed dead because of their lifeless appearance. To determine if a hamster is, in fact, hibernating, look to see if their whiskers twitch when lightly touched. Be careful not to startle a sleeping or hibernating hamster because they are known to bite.
Dying hamsters exhibit certain signs when dying.
- Lethargic, not active
- No longer grooming itself
- No appetite
- Wet tail (caused by bacteria and can be fatal if not treated)
- Matted, opaque–looking eyes
- Redness or swollen areas
- Labored breathing
- Weight loss, appearing to be much thinner
- Blood coming from any openings on the body (eyes, mouth, ears, anus)
- Biting if touched or handled (when they are generally friendly)
Sometimes there’s nothing we can do to stop the process of dying, especially when it occurs from old age. However, if you suspect your hamster is in pain, the humane thing to do is take it to your local veterinarian, where it can be medically treated or euthanized. Euthanization is one of the most difficult decisions pet owners must make. The last thing we want is for any animal to suffer.
Short-Lived, But Full Of Life
As much as we’d love to keep our hamsters around for more than a few years, we can’t. In their short lifespans, they radiate an abundant zest for life. As hamster parents, we ensure that every day of our hammie’s life is the best it can be; after all, they are a part of the family.