Why Do Hamsters Eat Their Babies? | 5 Tips To Stop Hamsters Eating Babies
Today we’re going to explain why do mother hamsters ingest their babies and the reasons behind mothers kill and eat them. Whether it happens to you or a friend it’s important to know what causes this occurrence so that we can understand it and, possibly, prevent it from happening.
If you have hamsters it’s important to know the reason behind this seemingly dreadful act, so that you can explain it to your children who will struggle to understand.
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 it.
Why Do Hamsters Eat Their Babies? 5 Main Reasons
It’s normal for a hamster to eat their babies. According to Reference.com, this is triggered “in first-time mothers, stress and fear associated with rearing babies” which in the wrong environment is too much to handle.
Mothers don’t just kill their young for no reason. Often this happens as a shear instinctive response which is usually triggered by one of the following reasons.
Sacrifice for the greater good
When mother hamsters don’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.
Simply put, since mother hamsters see themselves 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 and this increases the likelihood of them eating their babies.
The litter can be numerous and demanding and the female in charge can simply feel she cannot handle all them
As for the fear and stress caused by the excited pet owners, now, this can be prevented by giving mother hamsters 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.
Cages 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.
These small pets are very very cute! Being hairless for the first few weeks after the mother gave birth makes them an ideal target for people to hold, pat and touch. People even try to 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 baby will be disturbed by any unfamiliar or confusing scent on the weaklings.
Mothers might get confused and think that there’s something wrong with the babies and reject them or kill just because they smell different.
Stay away and do not touch the babies. There’s plenty of time to play with them and admire them once they grow up.
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 an instinctive sacrifice of a few newborns so that the others can survive. Try 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.
5. Limited Space
One important reason why a hamster may consume their babies is limited space in the cage. Make sure your hamster cage is a minimum of 24 inches by 12 inches. It should also be around 12 inches tall. However, for a nursing hamster, you need to have a bigger cage as this will help her to feel safe and secure in the knowledge that her babies have room to grow.
Remember, if your cage is smaller than an A3 sheet of paper it is very likely that you will be contributing towards dead babies.
How To Prevent Hamsters From Eating Their Babies
- Step 1: Separate the male hamster as his company will increase the levels of stress the mother feels.
- Step 2: Try not to spend too much time around the cage for the first few days
- Step 3: Never touch the pups for the first 2 weeks after they have been born
- Step 4: Provide the mother with lots of food and water to feed her new family.
- Step 5: The hamster cage should be big enough to house every hamster within it comfortably
Here are a few advanced tips on how to prevent a hamster eating its babies.
Tip 1: Keep Your House Quiet!
Keep your hamster cage away from any loud or noisy areas. Baby hamsters will nurse better by taking care of their young in a private area away from view. This can sometimes be a bit difficult in smaller houses or if you want to show your friends your new baby hamsters. Resist the temptation to parade your new animal friend as you could be making it worse. Instead, keep children away and other pets restrained, at least for a few weeks.
Tip 2: Check on the Hamster babies (without touching)
You should do a visual check on the babies to make sure there are any obvious anomalies, but try not to handle them too much. It’s important you don’t move them either. Mother will sense danger and if she doesn’t feel safe in her current setup she may try to move her babies which could damage them.
Tip 3: Keep a fresh supply of food and water
Remember the best and the safest thing you can do to help the mother hamster is to keep their food and water supply coming in. Your hamster will do their best to take care of babies and very soon they’ll be running around ready for petting. For now, make sure you keep mummy well feed and well-watered. By ding this you will be giving them all the best chance to thrive.
Do hamsters eat their babies if humans touch them?
If you decide to touch the babies you will always leave your scent on them. This will disorientate and confuse any mother and she may not recognise the babies as one of hers. This may lead to her rejecting or worse still killing her own babies. Never touch or hold a baby hamster when they are born.
Why do hamsters eat their babies if you touch them?
If you touch a baby hamster it will change their smell. This will confuse the mother who will not identify the baby as hers. Give enough water and food to support your hamster. If a mother hamster starts to feel worried about food levels they may kill one of their own litter to save the 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.