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Breeding and Reproduction of Hamsters

By Katherine E. Quesenberry, DVM, MPH, DABVP (Avian) ; Kenneth R. Boschert, DVM, DACLAM, Associate Director, Division of Comparative Medicine, Washington University

The best time for hamsters to have offspring is when they are between 10 weeks and 15 months old. Breeders use pairs with 1 male and 1 female, as well as groups of hamsters with 1 male and multiple females. Breeding of hamsters is best left to experienced breeders, as hamsters (particularly females) can become aggressive during mating. Also, there are a number of genetic defects associated with various types of hamsters, so breeding hamsters without having knowledge of their genetic heritage is not recommended.

Pregnancies usually last from 16 to 22 days, depending on the type of hamster. (Syrian or golden hamster pregnancies tend to last 16 to17 days.) You may notice a slight increase in girth or a larger abdomen in a pregnant female a few days before she gives birth. As pregnant hamsters approach the time to deliver the litter, they may become restless and active and may have vaginal bleeding. When they are ready to give birth, provide them with nesting material. This helps them feel secure, and lowers the chance that new mothers will abandon or eat their offspring. Mothers and litters should not be disturbed for at least 7 days after the offspring are born, especially if the mother has never given birth before. Fostering abandoned offspring onto a different mother is rarely successful. Limit your activity around the cage to providing food and water as needed.

If Your Hamster is Pregnant

Do:

Do Not:

  • Provide extra bedding.

  • Take the hamster to the veterinarian for a prenatal checkup.

  • Be sure the mother has a good diet and plenty of water throughout her pregnancy.

  • Take the pups to the veterinarian for a check at about 1 month of age.

  • Do not stress the mother.

  • Do not disturb a new mother or her pups until a week after the birth.

  • Do not give solid food until the pups are about 10 days old.

Normal litters contain 6 to 8 pups, and offspring are weaned after about 21 to 28 days. The pups are hairless and their eyes and ears are closed; however, pups have their front teeth (incisors) at birth. In most cases, it is safe to slowly begin handling the pups when they are about 7 days old. Solid food moistened with water can be offered to pups starting at about 10 days of age. Food and water should be located close to the floor within easy reach.

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