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How Long Can a Hamster Go Without Food & Water? Vet Reviewed Facts & Alternatives

Adam Mann

By Adam Mann

Campbell's dwarf hamster

Vet approved

Dr. Lauren Demos  Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lauren Demos

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Even small pets like hamsters are a big commitment and if you have a sudden trip away you may be wondering how long you can leave your hamster without food and water.

The short answer is that hamsters should never be left without access to drinking water, or they will quickly become dehydrated. Generally they can survive around 3 days without being fed, as long as they were offered extra food prior to being left. Hamsters instinctively hoard excess food around their cage and can eat it at a later time.

With that in mind, we’ve gone over a few ideas for caring for your hamster while you’re away and highlighted an ideal hamster diet for you below!


How Long Can a Hamster Go Without Food & Water?

While you should always give your hamster fresh food and water each day, how long can they actually go without either?

Hamsters should not be left for any period of time without access to drinking water. They will start to get dehydrated within 24 hours of not drinking. Although it will take longer for them to die of dehydration (which will depend on other environmental and health factors),  this is not something to test out.

However, if offered excess food, hamsters will carry it in their cheek pouches and store it around their cage. So if they are given some extra, non-perishable food before a period of non feeding they will usually be ok for 2-3 days without being fed.

It’s not ideal to rely on this though and you should ensure your hamster has constant access to food as well as water each day.

close up of hamster
Image Credit: emin kuliyev, Shutterstock


Options for Keeping Your Hamster Cared for While You’re Away

If you’re trying to figure out how long your hamster can go without food or water, it’s likely because you plan to be away for a few days. If that’s the case, there are a few options you have to ensure your hamster is well cared for while you’re gone.

1. Get a Sitter

By far, the best thing you can do for your hamster if you’re going to be away for more than a day is to hire a sitter. The sitter can stop by and ensure your hamster has everything they need, including fresh food and water and make sure they are well.

Hamsters are also pretty easy to move, so if the sitter can’t stop by your home, you should be able to take them to someone so they can care for them there. Not only will this make it easier for the sitter, but it’ll also give the hamster more time with human interaction.

2. Stock Up on Food & Water for an Overnight Trip

You should only use this method as an option for a very short trip of 2-3 days maximum and as a last resort.

It’s essential that they have plenty of drinking water and you must make sure the water bottles are functioning well. Offer them extra dry pellets or other non-perishable foods before you go. Hamsters will hoard excess food and hide it in their cage,so just because you see them stuffing it in their cheeks right away doesn’t mean they’re eating it all in the moment

Campbell's dwarf hamster
Image Credit: Vinicius R. Souza, Shutterstock

3. How Much Water Should a Hamster Drink?

The exact amount of water your hamster should drink depends on their size, but according to PetMD, a hamster should drink 10 milliliters of water each day per 100 grams of body weight.

This might be hard for you to track, but if you are keeping an eye on things and you start to see significant fluctuations from the 10 milliliters per 100 grams of body weight, we recommend taking your hamster to a vet to figure out what’s going on.


What Should You Feed Your Hamster?

Now that you know a little more about how long your hamster can go without food and water, it’s time to learn a little more about what you should feed your hamster. There is a lot of conflicting advice out there, but PetMD does a great job of breaking down the basics.

When trying to determine the exact amounts to feed your hamster, we highly recommend reaching out to a local vet who can help you come up with a plan specifically for your hamster.

1. Pellets

Commercial hamster pellets are carefully balanced and should make up the majority of your hamster’s diet. Most require around a tablespoon a day, depending on their size. Avoid muesli style food mixes as hamsters are inclined to pick out the bits they like best which are often higher in sugar. Also, keep in mind that hamsters are nocturnal and mostly eat at night, so just because you don’t see them chowing down on their food right away doesn’t mean they aren’t eating! They also put extra food into their cheek pouches and store it around their cage to eat at a later time.

Young Syrian hamster eating peanuts
Image Credit: PhotoKristyna, Shutterstock

2. Vegetables

Small amounts of fresh food can supplement their pellets but should not be a diet staple. Safe vegetables for your hamster include greens, carrots, and cucumbers. Just ensure you thoroughly wash them before feeding them to your hamster and remove any non eaten food items as they can quickly rot.

3. Fruits

Just like you can feed your hamster the occasional vegetable as a treat, there’s nothing wrong with giving them a few fruits from time to time. Safe fruits to feed your hamster include apples, pears, and blueberries. However, thoroughly wash them before feeding them to your hamster.


Final Thoughts

Hamsters will start to get dehydrated even after short periods without water and your hamster should never be left for any period of time without access to fresh water. Hamsters hoard excess food and store it around their cage,so if you offer them some extra food before you go away, they are usually okay to be left overnight. For longer periods you need to find someone to look after your pet while you are away. When you brought a hamster home, you took over the responsibility of caring for them, so do it right!

See also:

Featured Image Credit: Vinicius R. Souza, Shutterstock

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