Why Do Hamsters Eat Their Babies? (And What You Can Do About It)

Hamsters are tiny balls of fur that are very adorable. This trait has made them popular even as first pets in many homes.

They will play in their cages, squeak delightedly, and have some character traits that are fascinating to watch. However, they have one trait that may not be all that adorable to witness and it’s the tendency of eating their babies.

You may have heard about it, witnessed it, or even found some newborn hamsters missing from the cage. It’s not a great occurrence but from the mother hammy’s perspective, there are good reasons behind why they do it.

Keep reading as we look more into their reasons and what you can do to prevent it from happening.

Why do hamsters eat their babies?

Hamsters eat their babies and it’s usually nothing serious but an instinctual nature of the mothers who do it for the best of their offspring. Hamsters will eat their babies if they are feeling stressed, have a small living area, are too hungry after giving birth, think the babies have a defect, when the young ones do not have her scent, if they are scared, or when they are too many for them to manage.

Hammy pregnancies

Hamsters are prolific breeders and they can give birth to a litter of up to 12 babies. Female hamsters get into heat every 4 days and if they mate their pregnancies take an average of 3 weeks.

Mother hamsters should be separated from male hamsters because they can fall pregnant again in 24 hours after giving birth.

They give birth after such a short period and it may pass you that your hamster is pregnant until you find a litter of puppies in the cage. To avoid being caught unaware, look out for signs like:

  • The tummy becomes bigger to accommodate the numerous babies growing inside.
  • Eat more than usual.
  • Do not exercise as much as before.
  • Become highly irritable.
  • May spend more time in one part of the cage where they will create a nest.
  • Begin nesting.
  • Can start storing some food in the nest or near it.

What to do if a hamster is pregnant

Hamsters require minimal maintenance but they will still need specialized care when they fall pregnant. If you notice that your pet is showing signs of pregnancy, you can help them prepare for giving birth by doing the following:

  • Separate them from other hamsters – they may become very irritable and aggressive towards fellow hamsters making separation important.
  • Put them in a large cage – a hamster gives birth to many puppies at once so ensure that they are in a large cage to accommodate them before they give birth.
  • Provide lots of bedding and hiding place places – your hammy will need a lot of soft bedding material to make a nest for them and their puppies. Hiding spaces give them somewhere to rest because they will rest often and need to have a safe place to begin nesting.
  • Offer a lot of food – hamsters will eat a lot when pregnant so make sure that you offer them a lot of food. Make it more than enough so that they can hide some in their nests if they feel it’s necessary.

Reasons why hamsters will eat their babies

Many animals eat their babies and some can even eat the whole litter. It’s not an unusual thing as animals will not have the same emotions as humans.

Whenever a mother hamster decides to eat her young, they will not do it just because they want to but because they feel that they have to.

The various reasons behind it include:

Stress

Hamsters get stressed easily and a mother hamster could get so stressed to the extent of eating her young. The stress could have been brought about by you checking on her a lot.

When your pet gives birth, you will be excited to see her and the very tiny babies. If your excitement gets the better of you and you keep checking up on them often, they may become threatened or pressured which can make them eat the helpless hammies.

Another stressor for hamsters and especially new mothers is if they feel like they are not capable of taking care of their babies. Giving birth and taking care of young babies is a lot of work.

If the mothers feel too overwhelmed to do it, they may decide that the best option is to eat them.

Birth defects

Sometimes a mother may see that her babies are sick or have a kind of birth defect. If they feel that it gives them no chance of surviving, then the mother will eat them.

This will prevent the newborns from later pain or challenges as they grow up. If it is an illness, the mother will eat them because they will still die anyway.

Small living space

Hamsters have large families because of the many babies that they give birth to. A mother may eat some of them if she feels that her space is too small for her big family.

This will be her way of making sure that her family can fit in the small space that she currently lives in.

Scent

Just like other animals, hamsters will groom their babies often. This ensures that the young ones are having their scent which is easy for them to recognize.

If you touch them, the babies are left with your scent which makes the mother unable to know them. She will kill the babies with the unfamiliar scent and eat them.

Hunger

A hamster will use up a lot of energy while giving birth which will leave them quite worn out. If you were not providing them with more food and they do not have any to feed on, they may eat their newborns instead.

They will do it to get back the calories they have lost and to have enough energy to care for the new puppies.

Fear

Hamsters are prey animals and they get scared very easily. If a mother hamster encounters something that scares her, for instance, spotting other large pets like dogs nearby or hearing loud noises, they may get scared.

This can make her eat her babies out of fear or as a way of trying to protect them.

Many babies

Hamsters usually give birth to an average of 6 babies. If a hamster feels like her litter is too big they may opt to reduce it.

They may eat some to be left with a fewer number of babies. This will be done so that they can take care of the rest of their babies better.

A hamster will always do what they feel will be the best for their offspring. If reducing her babies to be left with a manageable size is what they feel is best to do, then they will eat some.

How to prevent a hamster from eating her babies

Although sometimes a hamster will eat her babies due to reasons that are beyond your control, most times they will do it for reasons that you can do something about.

If you want to prevent your mother hamster from devouring her young ones, there are some measures that you can take like:

Quiet environment

You can prevent your hamster from eating her babies by keeping them in a quiet environment. Hamsters will generally prefer quiet spaces away from noises whether they are coming from a tv, a radio, or children playing.

Have the cage in a room that is far from a lot of activity. Keep them away from little children and other pets.

Do not touch the babies

To prevent the newborn hamsters from developing your scent, avoid touching them. No matter how hairless and cuddly they seem, try not to touch them.

Even when they are sleeping in a wrong position or one has died, use something else like tongs instead of your hands to pick them up. Avoid anything that can leave your scent on them even if it’s the necessary cage cleaning.

Offer them a lot of food

A mother may eat her children if they feel like they don’t get enough food for them and their litter. Provide your hamster with more food than they can eat to avoid that.

Scatter the food around the cage and under the bedding. This makes them feel like they are actually foraging to provide food for their young ones as they search for it.

Ensure that they have enough water too.

Do not linger around a lot

No matter how many pictures you are dying to get of your pets, or how much you want to keep staring at them, do not stay around for long.

Do what you need to do like offering food or changing water then leave them alone. Give the new family time-alone for the first week at least.

Make sure they have space

If your pet lives in a small cage, move them to a bigger cage. This will make her feel like she has enough space to live in with her little ones.

Conclusion

Hamsters give birth to many babies at once and they may decide to eat some. Their reasons for eating their young will vary.

They could be hungry, stressed, scared, have many babies, think their babies have defects, smell a different scent in them, or even feel like their cage is too small to fit all of them.

You can prevent your hamster from eating her babies by giving them a large cage, providing them with a lot of food, avoiding touching them, keeping them in a quiet area, and preventing yourself from checking up on them often.

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