Hamsters are probably the best known caged pet. They're cute and cuddly, and they can be a great first pet. One of the characteristics of hamsters is their short lifespan. Yet that depends on the type of hamster and how well you take care of it. "Aging" hamsters also make good pets, but taking care of them may require more knowledge.
Hamsters are part of the rodent family. Like most rodents, they are nocturnal, meaning they are most active at night. They also have teeth that constantly grow, so it's important for them to gnaw on objects to keep their teeth worn.
Breeds and Lifespan
Different breeds of hamsters have different life expectancies. The more well-known Syrian hamster, affectionately called the teddy bear hamster, live the longest at around 1,000 days (close to three years). The "dwarf" hamster varieties like the Siberian are a bit smaller in size and they live only one to two years.
The healthier your pet, the longer it will live. First, educate yourself about common health problems, because hamsters can be prone to various conditions that decrease how long they live. Syrian hamsters are especially susceptible to "wet tail," a deadly intestinal illness that is characterized by diarrhea. Also, hamsters can catch the common cold from humans. Some typical signs of illness include diarrhea, runny nose and weight loss.
There are many things you can do to maximize your pet's life. When you get a hamster, make sure to locate a veterinarian who handles rodents. Be prepared to take your hamster to the vet for regular checkups and emergency care if you want your pet to live as long as possible.
To help your pet live longer, feed it a variety of fruits and vegetables. Your hamster's living environment is also key. Don't keep the cage near drafts, wash your hands before handling your pet and don't use scented bedding materials like pine or cedar because they are hazardous to their respiratory systems. If you're considering breeding your hamster, also be aware that females that have been bred live shorter than those who haven't.
Signs of Age
Aging hamsters can be a challenge. According to Hamster Central, most hamsters begin to deteriorate when they are around two years old. You'll notice that they seem less hungry, they'll have difficulty walking, they'll be less active, their fur will change color or they'll begin to lose their fur.
Keep your hamster active by playing with it and helping it exercise. It may also need assistance with keeping its teeth filed, and it might be helpful to make its cage easier to navigate. It's important to keep in mind that your pet's life is ending. At some point you may need to ask your veterinarian if it's time to euthanize your hamster.