Why Do Hamsters Eat Their Babies – Understanding this Strange Behavior
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Why do hamsters eat their babies?
Today we’re going to try to explain why hamster mothers sometimes kill and eat their babies. It may not happen to your pets, but it might happen to a friend who has hamsters so it’s good to know what causes this occurrence so that we can understand it and, possibly, prevent it from happening.
This topic is sometimes really difficult for us to understand but, if you have hamsters as pets, it’s important for you to know the reason behind this infrequent, but seemingly dreadful, act so that you can explain it to your children who will probably take this very hard.
In our kids young minds, this unpleasant sight of seeing their pet hamster devouring one or more of her newborns will cause shock, fear, sadness and that’s why you simply need to know how to explain to your kids what’s happening and why.
A mommy hamster doesn’t just kill, but often moves on to eating her babies as a shear instinctive response triggered by one of the following reasons.
Sacrifice for the greater good
If a female hamster doesn’t feel that she is able to provide enough care and attention for the entire litter, she’s going to be driven by instinctive litter-preservation impulse. She will sometimes kill, and possibly eat some of the weaklings in order to maximize chances of survival for the other babies.
This sacrifice is not elaborately planned, or logically thought of and deliberately put into action. It’s simply in most animals’ nature to use their instinct for self-preservation and survival of their offspring.
Simply put, since mommy hamster sees herself as solely responsible for managing the entire litter, she may recognize that she won’t manage a brood large in number. She will instinctively thin the litter until she feels she has a number of babies she can look after successfully and bring them up into happy and healthy hamsters.
Anything we can do to change their natural instincts? Not likely…
Fear or stress
Most likely in first-time mothers, fear and stress come to play with having babies becoming a bit too much to handle for hamster moms. The litter can be numerous and demanding and the fem
ale in charge can simply feel she cannot handle all the babies.
As for the fear and stress caused by the excited pet owners, now, this can be prevented by giving the hamster mom the needed space and peace to look after the babies. Just leave her alone with the litter so she can do the nursing in peace and quiet.
Don’t spend too much time around the cage, excitedly admiring the newborns and taking photos with your mobile using flash and cheering for the new babies. Do the regular feeding and checking up on your pets but otherwise stay away for at least one or two weeks.
Cage too small or not adequate will frustrate them, therefore be sure to pick a good one. This review of best cages for hamsters should help you make the right choice.
This will certainly diminish the chances of YOU becoming the reason for the mother acting frightened and stressed out so much to the point of feeling she cannot handle so many babies and killing some of them to make it easier on herself.
Baby hamsters being so cute are hairless for the time being, you or the kids might be so delighted with the cuties to the point of deciding to pat them or take them out of the cage for an up close photo shoot. Do not do this! Ever!
Hamsters are shortsighted, they rely on their sense of smell immensely and the relationship with the mother and the babies will be disturbed by any unfamiliar or confusing scent on the weaklings.
Mother hamster might get confused and think that there’s something wrong with the babies and reject them or kill just because they smell different. If you touch them, you will leave your scent on the little ones and sometimes you may carry a smell of food so the mother might be confuse a baby with a tasty snack. Once again, stay away and do not touch the babies: there’s plenty of time to play with them and admire them once they grow up.
What does this really mean? It’s very simple: the female hamster might feel that there isn’t enough food or water for all the babies and herself. She might then be instinctively pushed to the point of figuring out that the only way most of her babies will have enough food to survive is if she kills a few of them.
This reason is similar to the first one: this is also instinctive sacrifice of a few newborns so that the others can survive.
Is this possible cause preventable? Yes, by all means! You can do your best to supply plenty of fresh water and food so the mother gets positive reinforcement and a sense that safety and wellbeing of her babies are not at risk. If she feels that she can sustain the whole litter, she will feel more confident and look after the babies in a normal way.
A few afterthoughts
Now, let’s go back to the part where we encouraged you to do your best to prevent babies getting killed and eaten. So, let’s say you did your best. You gave them space, privacy, you didn’t touch them and you provided sufficient supplies of food and water but in spite of your efforts, it still happened. What then? Are you to blame? Absolutely not!
All you need to say to yourself and your kids is: “Hey, that’s nature…we’ve done all we could.” After all, hamsters are known to be aggressive through biting anyway!
Strange things will happen in the fight for survival and preservation of life. Sometimes we can help, sometimes we’re helpless. But understanding the whys and the hows gives us an edge and the very interest in strange occurrences, such as hamsters eating their babies, makes us more knowledgeable, less judging and more humane.
Carol is a head content developer for ultimatepethub.com and mother of 2 adorable chocolate labs(and one child). Growing up on a farm, she has handled all kinds of animals and pets. When Carol isn’t taking her two labs to the park, you can find her researching products and topics to keep you updated with the latest info for your pets!