You may be surprised to walk into your room one day and hear tiny squeaks. Peering into your hamster’s cage, you might discover that your female is the proud mother of several young pups. Hamsters reproduce quickly with a very short gestation period, so it’s easy to have an unexpected pregnancy if they’ve been around a male. Most hamster litters average between 4 and 6 pups, but some may contain as many as 12–20! So, if your hamster does have an unexpected litter and are wondering how many babies there should be, or you’re wanting to breed your hamster, read on to learn more about a hamster’s pregnancy.
What Determines the Size of a Litter?
The mother’s breed and age are the best determiners of litter size. Some breeds bear fewer offspring than others. Some hamsters may only have one pup at a time, but the average number of pups is 4 to 6! The mother may have a smaller litter if they’re nearing the end of their reproductive age as well.
Here’s a chart showing typical litter size according to breed:
|Average Litter Size
|4 – 12
|Chinese Dwarf Hamster
|4 – 6
|Roborovski Dwarf Hamster
|4 – 6
|Campbell Dwarf Hamster
|4 – 6
|Winter White Dwarf Russian Hamster
Syrian hamsters are the most likely breed to have a large litter, with 20 pups not being uncommon.
About the Female Hamster’s Reproductive Cycle
Female hamsters reach sexual maturity sometime between 4 and 12 weeks. The exact timeline depends on breed and the individual hamster, but it’s safe to say that you should separate male and female hamsters by the time they’re 4 weeks old to prevent accidental pregnancies. Spaying or neutering hamsters isn’t recommended. Surgery is usually avoided unless absolutely necessary due to their small, fragile bodies.
A female hamster cycles through estrus every 4 days during their season. This means she’s capable of becoming pregnant at least once a week!
How Long Is a Female Hamster Pregnant?
Once a female hamster becomes pregnant, the gestation period lasts between 16 and 21 days. During this time, she may display nesting behaviors and become easily irritable, especially if you try to pick her up. Make sure to take the male out of the cage before the babies are born. Females may return to heat within 24 hours after giving birth, so you definitely want to remove the male from the picture to protect her health. Plus, having a male hovering may stress her out since hamsters are typically solitary creatures, which in turn will make her more likely to eat the babies.
Welcoming baby hamsters in the world is a special task. Since they’re fragile animals, it’s important to know what to expect when a litter is born. Try not to disturb the new family for the first week, except for replenishing the food and water. Maintaining a stress-free environment helps the female hamster transition into motherhood, which in turn yields healthy pups.
Fun Facts About Hamster Pups
- The largest hamster litter on record contained 26 pups. One Louisiana family witnessed their hamster give birth to 26 hamsters on February 28, 1974. The hamster’s breed was unknown.
- Hamsters are born blind, deaf and without fur. Baby hamsters look like tiny wriggling pink pigs with no fur. They are extremely vulnerable and fragile and shouldn’t be handled by humans until they’re a week old.
- Around the time they’re 15 days old, they can see and hear. They may open their eyes as early as 8 days after birth.
- Pups should stay with mom until they’re a month old. Once they’ve opened their eyes, you can start presenting the pups with moistened pellets to encourage them to start weaning.
- Dwarf hamsters live in seclusion, except during mating and nursing stages. Be sure to place the baby hamsters in separate cages once they’re a month old. Dwarf breeds and Syrian hamsters in particular can become aggressive if housed together. Roborovski hamsters may live together in the same enclosure, but it’s generally not recommended.
Although most hamsters will have 4–6 hamsters in a single litter, some may have as few as 1 or as many as 20. Be sure to keep hamsters in separate enclosures by the time they’re 4 to 6 weeks old to avoid fights. With the exception of the Roborovski breed, hamsters are typically a solitary species who only come together to make more babies—which they do prolifically.
Featured Photo Credit: Alexander Ruiz Acevedo, Shutterstock