Hibernation is a survival strategy that keeps animals alive when it is cold and when there is a scarcity of food and other resources. So, do Hamsters Hibernate?
The big burning question in most pet owners minds.
When animals hibernate, they become inactive and shut their systems down.
Their temperatures drop, and their heart rates and breathing becomes slower. There are two types of hibernation.
There is obligatory hibernation for the animals that fatten up during summer to create a safe space to hibernate during the winter.
The second one is permissive hibernation, where animals hibernate when extreme weather conditions force them to conserve energy.
Hamster owners never stop asking ‘do hamsters hibernate?’
Yes, hamsters do hibernate, and they fall into the second category of permissive hibernation.
However, whenever hamsters are hibernating, it could be life-threatening.
You have to know the difference between a sleeping hamster and a hibernating one, and also try figure out how long hamster sleep.
When do hamsters hibernate?
Most hamsters go into hibernation when it is extremely cold.
When the cold conditions continue for at least 24 hours or more, they go into a state of torpor.
It could take hamsters a month or even two of cold weather for them to start hibernating.
When the cold conditions persist, permissive hibernators like hamsters tend to lose weight rather than build up fat stores.
This is why it is life-threatening when hamsters hibernate.
Some hamsters will hibernate while others will not, depending on their species and individual characteristics.
When others hibernate, they do so unsuccessfully hence falling victims to hypothermia.
The Syrian and the golden hamsters hibernate better than the other breeds.
Because they originated from a desert climate and hibernate to survive the cold nights.
The dwarf and Russian hamsters, on the other hand, never hibernate because they originated from cold climates.
When temperatures drop suddenly and faster, the hamsters will not have enough time to prepare their bodies to go into torpor.
This then poses a real threat because they will succumb to fatal hypothermia.
Light will also play a part in hamster hibernation.
It is because hamsters living in cold and dark conditions will hibernate more than those exposed to light for up to 12 hours a day.
Is my hamster hibernating or sleeping?
As a responsible hamster owner, it is essential to differentiate when your hamster is sleeping and when it is in hibernation, so try figure out how long hamsters sleep.
When hamsters sleep, they are usually burrowed cozily into their bedding, and the sleep lasts between 6 to 8 hours a day.
This is because they are mostly nocturnal.
Hence, they will sleep during the day and become active when the sun starts to set.
Knowing your pet’s sleep pattern will make it easier to tell whether it is asleep or in hibernation.
When it starts to become less active later on in the day stays asleep for more than 12 hours a day, you should pay more attention to it.
Signs of hamster hibernation
It is impossible to control every aspect of your hamster’s life.
Therefore, you can only observe their signs and reactions to the surroundings to figure out if they are in hibernation.
It is vital to notice when your hamster hibernates at an earlier stage so that you may be able to remedy the conditions that have led to their hibernation.
This way, the situation will not get worse.
When your hamster is in hibernation, you will notice that at first, they are limp, then later become stiff when you pick them up.
They will also appear to be in a coma, and you will find it difficult to detect a heartbeat. In a hibernation state, you will observe either no respiration or a sporadic one.
In other words, you may think that your hamster is dead.
Is the hamster hibernating or dead?
Whenever hamsters go into a state of torpor, their systems will begin to shut down, and that will make them seem dead.
When they feel cold to the touch, you could conduct several checks to determine if they are dead, hibernate, or have succumbed to hypothermia.
You could hold a mirror or a spoon in front of your pet’s face, and if it forms a fog, then there could be respiration.
You could also stroke it gently and see if its whiskers twitch a little bit.
It would help if you tried to stretch out their limbs because even when they may feel stiff, they should be able to stretch out when pulled.
If their eyes are open, it does not necessarily mean that they are dead because hamsters can hibernate with their eyes open.
On the other hand, if you try to open up their limbs and remain stiff, then it means that your pet has died.
Another sign that will indicate death is when you turn up the temperatures, and the hamster does not wake up or show any signs of life.
Caring for a hibernating hamster
The type of care your hibernating hamster requires will depend on very many factors.
Firstly, you will have to figure out how long your pet has been in a state of torpor.
If the duration has been short or less than a day, then to remedy the situation, you will only need to turn up the temperatures.
If it has hypothermia, you will have to rewarm their enclosure for at least 12 hours and ensure that they have enough water and food.
It is also advisable to wrap them up with a warm cloth to warm them up.
You can also get their blood circulation moving again by giving them a gentle massage.
Taking your hamster out of torpor could take up to 3 hours.
You should be able to perform all these with utter care and skill.
Veterinarians do not approve of using artificial heating near the hamster or raising the temperature rapidly to force them out of hypothermia or hibernation.
Eventually, when your hamster is fully awake but you are still worried about something, then you could consult a veterinarian.
Care for extended hibernation
If your pet has been hibernating for more than 24 hours, body massage and rewarming of the room might not be enough.
Prolonged hibernation brings about critical health issues.
They could experience dehydration because hamsters do not drink water during hibernation.
They could also undergo malnutrition because they lose weight before going into hibernation.
After a period of hibernation, you should offer both food and water to the hamster with optimum restraint and skill.
This is because, after hibernation, the pet will not tolerate large quantities of either.