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How To Care For A Dying Hamster (In Its Last Few Hours)

Last Updated on: 25th September 2023, 10:09 am

Hamsters become a special part of the family. While watching your hamster die is hard, you must do all you can to ensure its remaining hours are comfortable and pain-free.

Keep your hamster’s living environment quiet and peaceful to minimize stress levels. Don’t let other pets, unfamiliar adults, and small children near the enclosure to prevent disturbances and distress.

How Do You Know If Your Hamster’s Dying?

Hamsters’ lives are short compared to other domesticated pets. Once hamsters reach two years old, they’re considered elderly and start to slow down and age quickly.

Hamsters’ small bodies can’t maintain their biological processes for very long, causing them to shut down after just 1-2 years. The signs a hamster is dying of old age include:

  • Loss of appetite.
  • Dehydration.
  • Swollen or discolored eyes.
  • Shivering as though trying to stay warm.
  • Blood in the urine or feces.
  • Seizures or tremors.
  • Unexplained noises.
  • Hair and skin changes, including greasy or matted fur.
  • An unpleasant smell from the inability to groom.

Once your hamster reaches this point, you can’t prolong its life. Hamsters aren’t biologically designed to live long lives, and vets can’t perform the same operations they can for larger animals.

If your hamster is suffering, your vet will recommend euthanasia. All hamsters must pass on at some point, but remember the good times and cherish any treasured memories.

how to help a dying hamster

How To Comfort A Dying Hamster

Hamsters are susceptible to many health conditions and succumb to old age quickly. When the inevitable happens, you’ll need to know how to comfort a hamster to ensure it passes without stress and pain.

Remember, you don’t have to go through this process alone. Don’t be afraid to ask family and friends for support when you need it. Then, follow these steps on how to help a dying hamster:

Quiet Environment

Dying hamsters rarely have the energy to do much other than sleep.

Your hamster will likely tuck itself within its burrow and sleep for up to 24 hours a day, periodically coming out for food and water if it still has an appetite.

Ensure your hamster feels as comfortable as possible by keeping its room dark and quiet. This involves doing the following:

  • Turning off the TV and radio too close to the enclosure.
  • Preventing through traffic in your hamster’s vicinity.
  • Keeping other pets and children out of the room.
  • Resisting the urge to deep clean your hamster’s cage.
  • Turning the lights off to emulate natural day-to-night conditions.

Too much noise and bright light will cause stress and anxiety, leading to more suffering or earlier death.

Comfortable Temperature

Hamsters don’t like fluctuating temperatures, nor do they like it too hot or cold.

They prefer temperatures between 65°F to 75°F degrees. Anything hotter or colder is uncomfortable for hamsters, causing them to feel uncomfortable in their final hours. To keep your hamster’s room warm:

  • Turn up the heat in the winter.
  • Turn off the air conditioning if it’s in use.
  • Provide an extra layer of bedding for your hamster to burrow into.
  • Move the enclosure out of the way of drafts or radiators.
  • Place a heat mat under the cage.

Take greater care if you have a glass enclosure. According to Popular Science, glass traps heat and can become intolerable in direct sunlight. If your hamster’s room’s too hot, cool it down by:

  • Turning down the central heating.
  • Finding a fan or air conditioning unit.
  • Removing excess bedding.
  • Moving the enclosure out of direct sunlight.

Sit with Your Hamster

Depending on how well you’ve bonded with your hamster, it may find comfort in hearing your voice.

Don’t speak to your hamster during the day when it’s sleeping, but spend 1-2 hours sitting with it at night when it’s more likely to be awake.

If your hamster can bear being touched, you can hold it for a while. Not only will this give you a chance to say your goodbyes, but Physiology explains how animals release a neurochemical called oxytocin.

The “love hormone” oxytocin lowers blood pressure and decreases cortisol, and this helps hamsters feel more relaxed and eases their pain.

Be mindful of your hamster’s mood. If it wants to be left alone, you should respect its wishes.

Favorite Foods

You don’t have to watch what your hamster eats in its final few days or hours. Hamsters are food-motivated and enjoy eating their favorite treats.

It’s better to feed your hamster something than nothing. Hamsters’ favorite treats include:

  • Apples.
  • Blueberries.
  • Banana.
  • Berries.
  • Cucumber.
  • Carrot.
  • Plain cooked pasta.
  • Seeds and nuts.
  • Scrambled egg.
  • Mealworms.

Pain Medication

Dying hamsters sometimes need pain meds to cope with their symptoms. Even old age can result in painful joints and ailments, which many hamsters struggle to cope with in their final days.

Look for the most obvious signs of discomfort, including:

  • Sudden weight loss.
  • Dehydration.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Increased vocalizations.
  • Prolonged periods of sleep.

Your vet can prescribe painkillers to ease different underlying issues.

Ignore Unwanted Behaviors

Even though hamsters live in captivity as pets, they have strong instincts as they’re not far removed from their wild cousins.

Therefore, some dying hamsters react in ways that aren’t easy to understand, reverting to their instincts. For example, your hamster may lash out and become unexpectedly aggressive.

While you may dislike this behavior, ignore it. Your hamster doesn’t mean any harm and is likely in pain. If this is the case, avoid handling your hamster and use a soft, gentle tone to communicate with it.

Should I Hold My Dying Hamster?

You’ll need to exercise caution if you wish to hold your hamster while it’s dying.

For hamsters dying of a painful illness or disease, being handled will cause too much pain and stress. Instead, you’ll need to interact with your hamster without touching it.

Also, hamsters are prey animals that have learned to hide when sick to avoid being eaten by larger predators. As a result, they’ll feel threatened if they’re handled too much, especially if they don’t have anywhere to retreat.

Hamsters dying of old age may be more receptive to being held. However, don’t handle your hamster for too long at a time because it’ll cause them to expend too much energy.

Don’t disturb your hamster’s sleep to pick it up. While it’s understandable that you’ll want to spend time with your dying pet hamster while still alive, it’ll need lots of rest.

If your hamster wants space, you must respect its wishes and leave it alone.

should I hold my dying hamster?

Should I Let My Hamster Die Naturally?

Choosing whether to let your hamster die naturally or not is one of the hardest decisions you’ll have to make. Unfortunately, there’s no right or wrong answer, as it depends on whether your hamster’s in pain.

Don’t let your hamster suffer, especially if it has no quality of life. Similarly, hamsters without an appetite will eventually starve to death. This is a slow and painful way to die, so you’ll want to consider whether it’s fair to let your hamster remain alive.

If your hamster appears to have some quality of life and has enough energy to eat, drink and periodically explore its cage, there’s no harm in letting it die naturally.

It’s not uncommon for owners to discover their hamsters in their forever sleep without prior warning. As mentioned, once they start to deteriorate, the process is quick.

If you’re unsure about your options and what’s right for your hamster, your vet can help you decide after a thorough examination.

How Long Does It Take for a Hamster To Die?

Some hamsters die suddenly overnight, while others deteriorate over a few days. How long it takes for a hamster to die depends on whether it has a serious health condition or is dying from old age.

Some illnesses, such as Cushing’s disease, kill hamsters over an extended period. Others, like wet tail, affect hamsters quickly and kill them within days without treatment.

It’s up to owners to monitor their hamsters’ health to ensure they don’t suffer. Maintaining good conditions for the duration of their lives will help keep hamsters healthy for longer.

How To Cope With the Loss of a Hamster

We all deal with death differently, so don’t let anyone make you feel bad or guilty for the emotions you’re feeling. Surround yourself with people who can help you through the grieving process.

You may find the following ideas and suggestions helpful:

  • Allow yourself time to grieve.
  • Remember that there’s nothing you could have done to prolong your hamster’s life.
  • Recall the good memories you had with your hamster.
  • Distract yourself from thinking about your hamster’s death by doing things you enjoy.
  • Find a way to bury or cremate your hamster’s body.
  • Have a ceremony to say your goodbyes.
  • Memorialize your hamster with pictures or a gravestone.
  • Write down your feelings or talk to someone with empathy who genuinely cares.

You might want to consider getting another hamster, but there’s no right or wrong time.

Some owners take comfort from having another hamster running around their enclosure, while others must wait a while before they’re ready. Take your time and trust your instincts.

Losing a hamster is a painful process, but it’s one that all owners must go through. If you monitor your hamster and act when it starts to suffer, the end should be quick and painless.