A hamster can have 6-12 pups per litter, and newborn hamsters look vastly different from mature hamsters. Most notably, they’re hairless and sightless. While most baby animals open their eyes within 1-2 days of birth (or less), baby hamsters take an average of 2 weeks.
Hamster pups need 12-17 days to open their eyes, depending on their size, health, and living conditions. Once the hamster’s eyes open, they should function normally and easily open and shut.
A hamster pup may have a deformity or infection if it doesn’t open its eyes after 17 days. Also, if the eyes open and get stuck shut together, it may have conjunctivitis, sticky eye, or an eye injury.
Serious cases will be treated with antibiotics from a vet, while mild cases are easy to resolve at home using cotton swabs and warm water.
When Do Baby Hamsters Eyes Open?
Development differs for each individual, so don’t expect all the pups to open their eyes simultaneously. Some pups may gain sight earlier, and others may take several extra days to catch up.
As a benchmark, expect the babies to open their eyes at 12 days but no later than 17-18 days. At this point, you’ll also notice the baby hamster’s ears starting to pop open.
Between 10-14 days old, baby hamsters become voluntarily mobile. Between 3-4 weeks, they begin to resemble mature hamsters in all but size. They’ll gain better sight, hearing, smell, and function.
If no issues emerge after 4-5 weeks, they’re unlikely to.
Why Are Baby Hamsters Born Blind?
Baby hamsters aren’t born fully developed, entering the world without teeth, skin pigmentation, or fur. Although they have ears and eyes, these body parts are partly formed, so they can’t hear or see properly.
Hamster pups grow steadily in their mother’s nest on her milk, finalizing their features in the warmth and protection of her company.
So, the eyes remain tightly closed to protect the fragile tissue while they finish developing. Once the orbital nerves and tissue are properly formed, baby hamsters open their eyes.
While this blindness makes hamster pups more vulnerable to predation than adults, there are natural safeguards. Pups don’t leave the burrow before they’re weaned at 4-5 weeks.
Even if they can’t see predators, they’re well beneath the ground where predators can’t reach them.
Why Are My Baby Hamsters Eyes Not Opening?
If you’re raising baby hamsters, you may be concerned if their eyes don’t open after 12 days.
You may assume the pup is malformed or has an eye condition. In truth, some hamsters (based on their unique genetics and species) don’t open their eyes for 17 to 19 days.
If this time comes and goes, and the eyes still aren’t opened, examine the hamster.
The most common issue will be a deformity or developmental failure, and such abnormalities allow the eye to form but cause blindness or inhibited sight.
Examples of macular degeneration include:
- Infantile glaucoma
- Congenital cataracts
- Neuro-ophthalmic lesions
Outside interference can stop a baby hamster from opening its eyes, such as injuries to closed eyes, eye infections, or over-licking by the mother.
Will A Blind Baby Hamster Die?
Some eye conditions can’t be treated, meaning the damage is irreversible. That doesn’t mean the baby hamster will live a bad life.
In captivity, blind hamsters are protected from outside danger and are provided with food. This eliminates the danger of predation or starvation that a blind hamster would face in the wild.
Aside from that, even mature hamsters have poor vision, so blindness isn’t as severe as it is with other animals. Hamsters don’t rely on vision, leaning on their sense of smell and hearing.
The Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology stated that hamsters use pheromones to detect predators from a distance, so they can hide before the threat arrives.
According to the University of Toledo, hamsters hear at about 96 Hz to 46.5 kHz, which is better than human hearing ranges. This allows them to detect approaching animals.
So, a baby hamster should still be able to navigate its surroundings and enjoy playtime, even with a visual disability. It may require additional support, but it won’t suffer.
Baby Hamster Opened Its Eyes But Closed Them Again
A baby hamster shouldn’t open its eyes, close them, and refuse to open them again.
Some owners assume that the pup opened its eyes too early and closed them again to further develop. However, this is rarely the case.
The likely culprit is “sticky eye.” This occurs when hamsters produce eye discharge, which is common after birth. When this discharge hardens, it can stick the eyelids together.
It’s not immediately harmful and can be remedied, so take the following steps:
- Take a clean cotton swab and soak it in warm water.
- The temperature should be warm, but not hot.
- Rub the area around the eye.
- This should dissolve the crusty outer and behind to drain the goo underneath.
- Continue massaging the eye until the goo is removed.
- If the area appears clean, give the hamster pup a few minutes to open its eyes naturally.
- After this, inspect the area for irritation, cloudiness, and infection.
If the hamster’s eyes are also swollen, it keeps scratching its eyes, or the eyes are continuously weeping pus, this is a more severe condition, most likely conjunctivitis.
This is an uncomfortable but treatable issue, which can be remedied with antibiotics. Conjunctivitis is usually caused by the following:
- Improper bedding materials
- Unhygienic living conditions
- Injuries to the delicate skin around the eyes
A hamster can get conjunctivitis at any age, but if it has recurring bouts of conjunctivitis, check the cage to ensure there are no hygiene or safety issues.
For example, if a hamster is hoarding fresh foods, it could spread bacteria as they rot.
Likewise, the wrong bedding may cause eye and respiratory infections by irritating the face with dust, which is most common with wood shavings as bedding.
If you notice a hamster’s eyes are stuck, a veterinarian can narrow down the conditions, provide antibiotics, and make suggestions regarding the layout and contents of its cage.