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Learning what to do with a dead hamster is never an easy thing. No matter what the cause of death it can be an unsettling time especially for kids. In this article, we’ll reveal what to do with a dead hamster and the best ways to deal with no longer having your cute friend around.
Related: 9 Best Hamster Cages Reviews
What To Do With A Dead Hamster?
Learning what to do with a dead hamster comes down to 2 main options. Usually, those options are:
1. Burial at home
It’s entirely up to you which one you prefer but most pet owners prefer to bury their hamster at home. This is usually in the garden or in a small pot in the ground.
Your hamster’s body should be gently wrapped up in cloth or a custom-made coffin (Cardboard boxing is ideal). You should never bury your hamster in any material that delays the decomposition of the body. i.e. plastic
It’s important that you take time and prepare the homemade coffin correctly. It should be stable enough to transport the hamster’s dead body without breaking or tearing. Sometimes children will want to be involved so it’s important you have everything for transportation, digging and maybe a tombstone of some sort.
This will help with the transition and make things more manageable when you are in the process of burying your dead hamster.
How Do You Dispose Of A Dead Hamster?
There are 2 safe and ethical ways to dispose of a dead hamster.
1 Burial at home
Once you have decided on which option to choose it’s time to start digging. Dig a deep enough hole for the cardboard box or home-made coffin to be easily covered with enough room above to add more soil. A good rule of thumb is to dig the hole twice the depth and width of the box. This will make putting the box in the ground and covering it up much more manageable.
It’s important you cover the burial site with rocks or stones as this will prevent other animals or birds trying to dig it up. This is also another reason to dig a deep hole as it will prevent unnecessary attention from other birds and animals.
Learning what to do with a dead hamster is not always easy. There are a few tips that we would recommend that make things a lot easier. One of the main ones are using a pot of some kind to bury your dead hamster inside of.
If you later decide to move house then it will be much easier to retrieve his body and create a new burial site at your new location. This will also make it easier if you have children and they ask about leaving their old pet behind.
It’s simple but it is very effective and can make the new experience of death for little ones much more understandable.
Some pet owners prefer to go down the cremation route. This is important if you don’t have a garden or an outdoor enclosure that you are comfortable using to bury your dead hamster in.
It is also advisable if you have an active garden and you can’t be sure that your own pet’s or your neighbour’s pets won’t continually investigate and disturb the burial site. Whatever the reason cremation is still a very good alternative.
Once you book in a slot at your local vet they will normally ask you to bring the body in. Once they have it they will begin the process of cremation which usually won’t take place for a few more days.
Sometimes vet surgery has cremation facilities on site but usually, they will have to wait for a crematory service to pick up the body and then bring it back in ashes once it’s going through the cremation process.
This can take a few days, but once this is complete you will get the ashes returned to you usually in a wooden casket. Once you have the ashes you can then decide what to do next. Depending on your preference you can keep it at home as a memorial or sprinkle in an appropriate place.
One benefit of going down the cremation route is you can still bury the ashes without the issue of worrying about it being disturbed. This is a big bonus.
However, crematory services can sometimes be a bit pricey so it’s important you have a budget in place to anticipate this extra cost.
Hamster Death Causes
Hamsters have notoriously short lifespans. Hamsters usually live for around 2 – 3 years. As they are a great pet for children it’s sometimes hard for children to handle when they die so suddenly and after being pets for such a short time.
Whether your hamsters have died of their environment, their health is poor or they are they generally getting older, it’s important to remember that it is never your fault and it is just apart of nature.
It’s important to remember that many hamsters could have a long term illness that most pet owners are unaware of for long periods. Hamsters are cute and cuddly but can also disguise illness very well. Unless you have a trained eye or they exhibit more serious health-related concerns it’s unlikely you’ll be able to notice the change until it’s too late.
What Are The Signs That A Hamster Is Dying?
Here are 7 common signs that a hamster is dying?
- Lethargy. This is when your hamster is less active. If it is a noticeable downgrade of activity then it’s likely they could be suffering from an illness especially if they are still in their prime.
- Oversleeping. If a younger hamster is increasingly sleeping for longer and longer periods then this could be a tell- tale sign that something is wrong
- unkempt or untidy coats
- Thinner of body and face due to decrease appetite or Anorexia
- Noticeable changes in poo or wee
- A noticeable change in breathing.
- Too much drinking and too much urination.
- Extreme Weight loss.
- Too much grooming (could be a sign of something deeper)
There are a wide variety of reasons a hamster would die. Some are very easy to tell and doesn’t need a second opinion. For example, if you’ve had your hamster fora few years and they have gone through extreme fatigue or weight loss and have been oversleeping days in a row, chances are coming to the end.
However, there are other occasions when a seemingly young and healthy hamster just dies this shock can leave new pet owners in the dark
Here are the 6 most common hamster death causes:
1. Old Age
As with all life old age is the main determining factor for death. Hamsters don’t live for very long so in most cases old age will be the primary reason for death in hamsters. If you picked up a hamster that was not a baby then this could happen much faster then you anticipate so it’s important you find out their exact age from the previous owner or purchase a hamster from birth.
This is not an illness but an overriding factor that can have fatal effects. Stress causes problems for the immune system and hamsters have very fragile immune systems. Usually, a heart attack or stroke can originate from being stressed or being in a stressful environment so make sure you take care of your hamster to keep them alive for as long as possible.
3. Heart disease
This is an actual condition and occurs in older hamsters that may already be predisposed to get the disease. Here the muscles around the heart become weaker and are unable to effectively pump blood around the body.
4. Wet tail
Wet tail is a common way to describe hamsters who have extreme diarrhoea. (sometimes referred to as proliferative ileitis, regional enteritis) It’s the most common disease that a hamster can get and is also fatal if left untreated. It’s relatively easy to diagnose and will also have the unwanted side effects of weight loss, messy coat and lethargy.
This infection that attacks the lungs is usually the second biggers killer amongst adult healthy hamsters.
6. Other Diseases
Hamsters can suffer from a variety of other diseases that are not as easy to diagnose. These include Cancer, Hamster Polyomavirus, Lymphocytic choriomeningitis Cirus, Kidney disease, Amyloidosis and Diabetes. It’s not always possible to tell which disease is the main problem as some disease are significant contributing factors that cause the spread of others.
The best way to keep your hamster illness free is to clean them regularly, provide fresh food and water daily, clean out cages and toys frequently and ensure their cages are kept in “draft-free” areas of the home.
Some hamster deaths can be avoided just by changing the environment they live in.
If in doubt always bring them in to see a trained specialist at your local vet’s.
Why Do Hamsters Die So Fast?
When a hamster dies very fast it’s usually down to developing a bacterial illness. Hamsters can get Diarrhoea when they come home for the first time. If this happens they will lose nutrients, fluids and importantly lose electrolytes. A veterinary procedure called a “necropsy” is the best way to determine the cause. (animal autopsy)
Once your hamster has the necropsy your vet will be able to tell you more of the reasons why they have died. It’s not always conclusive but it will help get to the borrow of the main reasons why it has happened and hopefully help you to manage the event.
For best results, you should bring your hamster to the vet within a day or two as the tissue needs to be fresh for accurate analysis.
Hamster Dying Gasping For Air, Why?
If you see your hamster gasping for air in a stretched out position then this can be an indicator that they are suffering from a severe respiratory infection. You need to take your hamster to the vet immediately. Your hamster may continue to collapse in exhaustion until you do.
This type of behaviour is more severe than being out of breath after moderate to extreme exercise. If they are sneezing every now and again then that’s also fine. But if you’ve got hamster dying gasping for air during normal everyday actives take them to the vet as soon as possible.
How Long Does It Take For A Dead Hamster To Decompose?
A Dead hamster will decompose faster outside of the fridge then they will inside the fridge. It will take 7 – 10 days for a dead hamster to decompose but only a few days if left out. If you freeze a dead hamster it could take months before they decompose.
Do Hamsters Close Their Eyes When They Die?
Hamsters will close their eyes when they die but that’s not to be mistaken with hibernation. Hamster can hibernate but it’s usually very rare. If it’s too cold or they aren’t getting enough food and water then they may hibernate.
You will know the difference between a dead hamster or a hibernating once by feeling their body. A hamster that has hibernated will remain in a limp position. A hamster that is dead will get very stiff without a few hours.
It’s never easy knowing what to do with a dead hamster but the most important thing is that you do what’s ethically and morally right. Most hamsters live an active happy life so try to remember this while preparing your hamster to lay to rest.
Hey, I’m Amy and I’m in love with my Pets! I have a diverse variety, including 2 cats, 1 dog, 3 rabbits, 2 guinea pigs, a rat and a beautiful macaw. I love writing about everything pet-related and spend as much time as I can sharing my personal experiences.