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Hamster Babies Might Be The Ultimate Surprise
One of the biggest surprises for new dwarf hamster owners, during the first week or two after bringing home the little one, is the sudden and shocking discovery of a whole new litter of hamster puppies in the nest box. This can create an immediate crisis for some new owners who may have to hand raise baby hamsters if anything happens with the mother, leaving you with a litter of orphaned pups. Although it is unusual, the mother could die during the birthing process.
Since she likely mated at the pet store, it’s unclear which male, or species for that matter, happens to be the father. In some cases, if the male is a larger species, the female might have difficulty giving birth and die during the process. This horrible scenario suddenly creates a whole new set of alternatives, which is admittedly difficult, but not impossible, as new dwarf hamster puppies need to be fed hourly, 24 hours a day, for the first two weeks, and every 2 to 3 hours, approximately the clock for the third week. After that they will eat and drink on their own, but what a nightmare of a fire drill, assuming you are up to the challenge.
Also, pet store moms are probably very young and inexperienced, and therefore if they don’t decide to eat the puppies, they may simply choose to abandon the newborns. And, a less scary scenario is when the mother escapes from the cage before the little hamsters are weaned. Usually, retrieving the mother isn’t too much of a problem, either using a specialist, commercially available “live trap” or simply luring her in with food, so separation from her babies will be probably brief. But, if you are unable to locate and retrieve it, babies will need to be cared for, quickly and continuously until they are three weeks old.
Luckily, most dwarf hamster mothers are good parents, so enough about all the bad stuff and what-if scenarios. Dwarf hamster puppies will wean in about 21 days and be completely on their own, so there’s not much to do for the next two weeks except avoid the temptation to interfere. In other words, just leave everyone alone for that 10-14 day interval. Confidentiality is the best policy, especially with a brand new mom, who happens to be a brand new pet, and is probably nervous and unstable at first, so whatever you do, don’t scare her so that she does something unthinkable.
If you become aware of pregnancy, noticing the unusual swelling in her stomach, before the ultimate birth, there are a few things you can do to help her and yourself prepare for the coming event and isolation. ensuing temporary:
- Clean the cage, hamster toys, dishes, and anything removable with a mild solution of warm, soapy water, and let everything dry completely before reassembling. This may be your only chance to clean up for the next couple of weeks, so get it done quickly.
- Place 2 to 3 inches of safe substrate material on the bottom of the hamster cage. Be sure to use a top quality product that is free of toxic oils, aromas, inks, excessive dust and dyes. Paper and cellulose fiber materials are great alternatives, but can be a bit pricey. When using wood fiber or shavings, it is absolutely essential to avoid cedar and most pine, as they both contain substances that can irritate the skin, urinary tract and respiratory system.
- Make building a super soft nest for the mom-to-be easier by adding pieces of unscented toilet paper, white wrapping paper, or tissues to the cage. Sterile cotton can also work well as a bed liner for the newborn hamster puppies.
- As a precaution, it is good to have on hand a small bottle of unflavored “Pedialyte”, a dropper, a “KMR” type milk substitute, formula milk or at the very least a can of evaporated milk. hand feeding becomes necessary.
And now the most important question, “What am I going to do with all these babies when they grow up?” Most pet stores don’t need more baby dwarf hamsters, but it never hurts to check. Call your friends, classmates, work associates, parents, etc. and don’t forget to post plenty of free ads in the newspaper, Craigslist, or on bulletin boards at church, school, or local grocery stores.
If you can’t give away the baby hamsters, be prepared to separate them very quickly. Baby dwarf hamsters can be caged in same-sex groups unless fighting makes this impossible. This is extremely important, as some dwarf hamsters will start mating again the day after the young are born. And, another consideration, which adds to the urgency of sex separation, is that some female dwarf hamsters become sexually mature at just one month old. So don’t procrastinate.
In the case of baby Syrian hamsters, they will need to be separated into individual cages by the fifth or sixth week, as they are not social animals and are dangerous to each other when kept together.
For even more information and great resources, please visit Dwarf Hamster Care.
Copyright 2011 Walter Tekman. All rights reserved. Please feel free to share the full content of this article with your friends or post it on your site as long as it remains intact with all links unchanged, including this notice.
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