Hamsters cope poorly with low temperatures and can’t withstand being cold for long. Sudden temperature drops cause behavioral changes, with hamsters slowing down and sleeping more often.
As explained by Laboratory Animal Medicine, hamsters are most comfortable in temperatures from 68 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit, with 65 to 75 degrees being the optimum range.
Temperatures under 60 degrees Fahrenheit can cause a hamster’s body to shut down and enter torpor, with prolonged exposure to the cold resulting in severe health problems.
Can a Cold Room Kill a Hamster?
A hamster is unlikely to die if it’s only exposed to a short period of coldness.
However, permanently living in a cold room can be fatal. Extreme cold temperatures can kill a hamster through direct exposure or related health conditions.
Low temperatures can cause these health problems:
Temperatures under 65 degrees trigger colds. While colds rarely kill hamsters, they can become pneumonia or bronchitis if the environment remains too cold.
Hamsters with a cold display the following symptoms:
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
- Matted fur
- Excessive thirst
There’s no cure for a cold, but it’ll clear up in about seven days.
Temperatures under 50 degrees Fahrenheit can lead to a temporary hibernation called torpor.
The Royal Society describes how hamsters are facultative hibernators, which means they hibernate when environmental conditions become extreme.
Torpor is uncommon in captivity, but freezing temperatures trigger it.
The main problem with torpor is that hamsters don’t prepare themselves. As they’re ill-equipped to hibernate, they die from starvation, dehydration, and hypothermia.
Once hamsters enter torpor, they rarely awaken. Hamsters lose weight when it gets cold. So, if they enter torpor, they deplete their energy reserves. The main signs of torpor include:
- Sleeping more frequently
- Appetite loss
- Decreased thirst
- Weight loss
- A blue nose, feet, and ears
- Slow breathing
Exposure to prolonged cold conditions makes hamsters more likely to experience frequent bouts of torpor, should they survive it the first time.
Cold temperatures stress hamsters, especially when they lack enough bedding to stay warm.
Stress is dangerous for hamsters because it worsens existing health conditions. That’s because stress causes harmful bacteria to grow, triggering sicknesses like Tyzzer’s disease and wet tail.
Stress also encourages hamsters to exhibit unwanted stereotypies (repetitive movements) like bar biting and monkey barring, which are signs of poor mental well-being.
How Do I Know If My Hamster Is Too Cold?
The hamster will start to shiver and sleep more often to conserve any remaining energy.
Its body may feel warm to the touch, but its ears, nose, and feet will feel cold; they may even turn blue. Other signs your hamster is too cold include:
- Weight loss from a lack of appetite
- No interest in food or water
- Long periods of inactivity
Don’t ignore these symptoms, or your hamster may enter torpor.
How To Keep a Hamster Warm in the Winter
Sudden temperature drops are common in the winter, leaving hamsters vulnerable to cold-related sicknesses. So, warm up your hamster by doing the following:
Hamsters use bedding to stay warm. They burrow deep, digging to the bottom, creating nesting chambers to sleep in.
The more bedding you provide, the more warmth your hamster will be able to create for itself. There are two types of bedding that hamsters need:
- Floor bedding: This bedding sits on the enclosure floor, mainly absorbing moisture and urine. However, it also provides warmth. Recommended varieties include orchard hay and aspen.
- Nesting bedding: Paper-based substrate provide a safe and comfortable nest.
6 inches of bedding is a good minimum, but many hamsters don’t start burrowing until they have at least 10-12 inches of bedding at the highest point. Provide as much bedding as the enclosure allows.
One of the easiest ways to keep a hamster warm in winter is turning the heating up, ensuring its room is 65 and 75 degrees.
However, doing so will increase your heating bills. If you can’t afford to turn the heating up across the house, consider getting a small space heater to warm the hamster’s room.
Heat rises, so position the hamster’s cage off the ground, such as on a side table. However, don’t raise the temperature above 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and keep the cage away from direct sunlight.
Keep Out of Draughts
Draughts caused by windows and doors will make a hamster feel chilly, putting it at risk of a cold.
Check the room for any draughty spots and seal up any cracks and gaps you find on the windows and doors. This will make the room feel warmer by preventing cold air from circulating.
Windows and Doors Closed
Keep any windows and doors closed in winter. This may even alleviate the need to put the heating on, saving money and preventing the hamster’ from getting too cold’s temperature from dropping.
Towel Over The Cage
You can retain heat around a hamster’s cage by draping a towel or blanket around the outside of the enclosure. Focus on placing a chosen item around the hamster’s nest or sleeping area.
Be careful where you position your towel or blanket because if the hamster manages to get hold of it, it’ll pull it through its cage and chew it to shreds, using it as nesting material.
There’s a chance of accidental ingestion, so wrap the towel or blanket around the bottom, not the top.
Hot Water Bottle
Wrap a hot water bottle in a thick cloth or blanket and place it outside the cage in freezing temperatures.
This will warm the hamster’s cage at a steady pace, preventing it from getting too hot. You can also use a heat pad if that’s more convenient.
However, monitor the warmth of the cage with a room temperature gauge. This will help you control the heat and remove the hot water bottle when the cage becomes sufficiently warm.
Do Hamsters Need Heat Lamps?
While heat pads can safely warm your hamster’s enclosure, heat lamps are dangerous and unnecessary.
Due to the intense heat they emit, heat lamps risk making the environment around the hamster’s enclosure too hot, putting it at risk of overheating.
Hamsters shouldn’t be exposed to low temperatures because of the health risks, so placing a temperature gauge in the hamster’s room enables you to quickly identify and correct dangerous conditions.