What Baby Hamsters Are Called & Other Fun Facts

What Baby Hamsters Are Called

When you picture a baby hamster in your mind, you may bring up the image of a tiny, fluffy hamster eating seeds and running around the cage. In this case, you would actually be picturing an adult hamster and not a baby. Baby hamsters are absolutely tiny, hairless, and inactive. The lives of these infant hamsters and their mothers are fascinating, and there is much to learn about them. Including their terminology.

What are baby hamsters called? During the first few weeks of their lives, baby hamsters are called pups. A group of baby hamsters is called a horde. Their mothers are called either does, or cows, and the sires are called either bucks or boars. 

Read on for more fascinating facts about these tiny “pups”.

Fun Facts About Baby Hamsters

Baby Hamsters Are Especially Vulnerable

Hamsters, in general, are a particularly vulnerable species, having little natural defenses and a wealth of natural predators – but hamster pups are especially so for the following reasons:

  • Baby hamsters are born naked – hamster pups are born completely naked and will not begin to grow fur until they are around 5 days old. While this doesn’t make them any more vulnerable to predators, it does make them more susceptible to their environment. Newly born pups must rely on their nest, their mother, and each other for warmth. 
  • Baby hamsters are immobile – some animals are born able to stand and move around within a few hours, such as horses and chickens. Hamsters are born significantly under-developed in comparison to many other animals, however, and will not begin moving around and exploring their environment until they are between 10 and 14 days of age.
  • Baby hamsters are born blind – hamsters have very poor eyesight as adults, and pups are born completely blind. They are born with their eyes closed, and they won’t open until they reach 14-17 days of age.
  • Baby hamsters are born deaf – in addition to being born blind, pups are also born completely deaf. Their ears don’t “pop open” until they are between 17 and 18 days of age. 
  • Baby hamsters are born smallincredibly small. There are almost 20 species of hamster, varying in size. The smallest hamster species is the Roborovski (Robo) dwarf hamster, a popular species kept as a pet. Robo hamster pups can weigh as little as one gram when they’re born. As a comparison, a metal paperclip weighs one gram. So does a single dollar bill. 

Baby Hamsters: Gestation and Pregnancy

If you keep a male and a female hamster together, you will have no shortage of hamster pups (assuming they don’t kill one another first – hamsters are extremely territorial). Female hamsters go into heat every four days, and during this time, they will be fertile for around 12 hours at a time.

During a hamster’s heat cycle, you may see a bit of vaginal discharge or some behavioral changes, but it may otherwise pass unnoticed. This means that if you leave your opposite-sex hamsters together for even a few days, you will likely end up with a pregnant female.

If you think that is remarkable, keep in mind that once a hamster gives birth to her young, she will be fertile again in as little as 24 hours. 

Once pregnant, your doe will not stay that way for long. The gestation period of a hamster is a mere 16-22 days, depending on the species – a Syrian hamster will have a shorter gestation than a female of one of the dwarf varieties. While the pregnancy can result in anywhere from one to twenty pups, the average litter size of a pet hamster is six to eight young. 

How can you tell if your hamster is pregnant? If you do notice any signs of pregnancy in your hamster, it may be an increase in the size of her midsection. This can be hard to see, considering that most hamsters are fairly round in shape as it is. For this reason, it is not uncommon for a hamster pregnancy to go completely unnoticed, with the first sign being the litter of pups discovered in the morning. 

Do Mother Hamsters Eat Their Babies?

It is not uncommon for a mother hamster to eat either all or some of her young. This really is more of an unfortunate fact than a “fun fact”, we know. But an interesting fact nonetheless. Pups are most vulnerable to being eaten by their mothers during the first seven to ten days of life. While we don’t know for certain why a doe may eat her young, there are several theories:

  • Stress – hamsters are highly susceptible to stress, and stress can lead to all sorts of odd behavior. Both the hormonal changes and the physical process of birth can be highly stressful experiences for a hamster, and this may lead to cannibalistic behavior.
  • Age – while hamsters may be fertile as young as 4 or 5 weeks of age, it is not advised that they be bred that early. If a hamster is very young, it will not only increase her risk of stillbirth, but may also lead to the eating of her young if she is not mature enough to raise a litter.
  • Scent – hamsters have very poor eyesight, and rely on their superior sense of smell to identify other individuals. If you handle her pups too early, she may simply not recognize them as her young and may eat them to eliminate what she perceives as a threat.
  • Health-Related Rejection – infant rejection is commonly seen among almost every animal species, particularly if there is something biologically “wrong” with the young. If a doe senses that there is something wrong with her pup, she will likely reject him or her. If the pup passes away or is seen as a threat to the rest of her young, she may eat them to absorb the nutrients herself and/or to keep the rest of the nest sanitary.

Baby Hamsters: Social Behavior

Hamster pups require the care of their mother to survive their first few weeks of life – if a doe rejects a pup, the chance of survival (even with human intervention) is slim. That said, the time between a caring mother doting on her pups to an irritated doe kicking her kids out of the nest is quite short.

Hamster pups only stay with their mother for around 4 weeks. In the wild, around this time, the doe will literally push her offspring out of the burrow, and from then on, each will live a solitary life. Hamsters in captivity are no more social than their wild ancestors, and so humans should take care to encourage and emulate this natural behavior. 

There are two reasons that hamsters should not be kept together after the first 28 days. The first is that hamsters are one of the few animal species that truly prefer to live alone. They are extremely territorial, and living together, even in captivity where there is no shortage of food, will cause undue stress.

Some veterinarians recommend keeping hamster pups with their same-sex siblings (the mother with the female pups, if she will tolerate them) for as long as 6 weeks. The reason behind this suggestion is that they will play and wrestle with one another, giving them the experience of pain. Pain is a sensation that we all must learn at some point in our lives and is important to our development.

The second reason hamsters should be separated at an early age is because they reach sexual maturity much earlier than one might expect. Syrian hamsters can reach sexual maturity in as little as 4 weeks of age. Dwarf hamsters tend to reach sexual maturity a few weeks later.

If you do not separate by sex at 4 weeks of age, you run the risk of having another unplanned litter (or multiple other unplanned litters) before you know it. This is a consideration that must be made for opposite-sex siblings, as well as young male pups with their mothers.

Because it is so challenging to accurately sex young hamsters – especially the dwarf species – it is recommended you separate each individually after 4 weeks of age. 

Baby Hamsters: Giving Them Their Best Start 

If your hamster doe is expecting, you may find yourself worrying about how to care for her and the pups. Like most mammals, female hamsters tend to make good mothers and will know naturally how to care for their young. To increase the probability that your doe will give mothering a solid try, make sure that you limit her stress as much as possible.

Prior to the expected birth, add plenty of soft nesting material to her enclosure. Building an adequate nest may make her feel prepared and safe from threats. After the pups are born, avoid the temptation to interact with them.

Try to stay away from the enclosure as much as possible for the first two weeks – only approaching (slowly and quietly) to refill her food and water.

This is not the time to handle your hamster and is definitely not the time to clean her cage. If you limit your activity around her, you will limit her stress. This should give you the best chance at successfully raising your new hamster family.

To learn more about owning and caring for hamsters, you can check out my recent articles below or go here.

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