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How To Properly Dispose of A Dead Hamster

Last Updated on: 24th September 2023, 04:06 pm

Losing a hamster is a time of sadness and confusion. After all, what do you do with a dead hamster? While making a decision isn’t easy, you should deal with the body within 24 hours of death.

You can dispose of a dead hamster through burial or cremation. Depending on state law, you can bury a hamster in the backyard. If this is illegal where you live, arrange a cemetery burial.

A private cremation costs more than a mass cremation, but the hamster’s ashes will be returned to you.

While considering what to do, put the hamster’s body in the freezer to prevent decomposition. Always place it in a plastic bag away from any food you plan to eat.

How To Check Whether Your Hamster Is Dead

It’s natural to enter a state of panic when your hamster dies. Hamsters can die suddenly and without warning, causing many owners to wonder: is my hamster really dead?

Before deciding what to do with the body, check the hamster for signs of life. According to Biological Sciences, some hamsters go into torpor when cold.

While torpor is rare in captivity, hamsters reduce their resting metabolic rate and body temperature to prevent starvation. Hamsters in torpor can look dead, even though they’re still breathing very slowly.

It’s also not uncommon for hamsters to twitch after dying. These nerve spasms are normal, but it can appear as if the hamster’s still alive, especially to someone who’s never experienced this before.

Dead hamsters sometimes let out a sudden gasp of air when moved. Unfortunately, this isn’t a sign of life – the lungs are emptying themselves one final time.

Another misleading sign of life is that the bowels empty as the muscles relax. Unfortunately, this is an involuntary reflex that happens soon after death.

Therefore, ignore these signs and focus on whether your hamster’s alive by checking:

  • Breathing. The body should move up and down, even if these movements are slow or faint. You can also place a mirror near the nose to check for condensation.
  • Heartbeat. Place two fingers on the chest and check for a pulse.
  • Eyes. If the eyes are open and unresponsive with large black pupils, your hamster has died.

Once confident your hamster’s showing no signs of life, it’s time to decide what to do with the body.

Can I Bury A Hamster in My Backyard?

Backyard burials are popular as they enable owners to pay tribute and visit their deceased hamsters whenever they need comfort.

Choosing a backyard burial means you can plant a tree or shrub on the burial spot or place a bench nearby where you can be near the hamster.

However, you can only bury a hamster if you own the backyard. If you live in a rented house with a shared yard, seek permission from the owner before carrying out the burial.

You need to consider another disposal method if your hamster was euthanized or given drugs for a health condition before it died. The risk to other animals is too significant otherwise.

can i throw away my dead hamster?

How To Bury A Hamster

Once you’ve decided on a backyard burial, conduct it as soon as possible to prevent the body from decaying. Then, follow these steps:

Choose a Burial Plot

Before proceeding with the burial, check the environmental laws of your state to ensure you’re legally allowed to bury a hamster.

The rules vary between the states, and some are stricter than others regarding where you can bury dead animals. For example, most states don’t allow pet burials near a water source.

Choose a Casket

You can place the body directly into the grave, but you may prefer to put it in a casket or container first.

Ensure the container is made from a biodegradable material, such as wood or bamboo. Avoid plastic, as it won’t decompose like natural materials.

You may consider making a casket from a small cardboard box. Many owners take comfort in writing a personal message to their hamster while surrounding the body with its favorite toys and treats.

Dig the Grave

Dig a hole large enough for your casket using a spade or shovel. How deep you go depends on the state’s laws.

For example, Oregon, Texas, and Idaho require a burial plot of at least 3 feet underground, and it must be 4 feet deep in Maryland and 6 feet deep in Louisiana.

Otherwise, dig the hole deep enough to prevent foxes and other animals from digging up the hamster. 3 feet from the top of your hamster is the ideal minimum depth.

Bury The Hamster Safely

Place the hamster in the hole while wearing gloves, and cover it with the loose soil you dug up.

At this point, you can say a few words to remember your pet. Then, pack the soil down to prevent scavengers from digging up your hamster.

You can place slabs and rocks on the soil or mark the spot with a wooden cross or gravestone.

How To Dispose of A Dead Hamster

A backyard burial isn’t the only option for disposing of a dead hamster. The following disposal options are also available to you:

Plant Pot Burial

If you don’t have access to a backyard or want to take your hamster with you if you ever move house, you can bury it in a plant pot.

Ensure the pot’s large enough to accommodate the hamster and bury it deep enough to cover it with soil. It’ll also help to wrap your hamster in a biodegradable cloth.

Pet Cemetery

Burying your hamster at a pet cemetery is expensive, as you’ll need to pay for the following:

  • Burial plot
  • Casket
  • Gravedigging fee

Depending on the options, such as a headstone and keepsake, the average cost is $500-5,000.

Let a Vet Take Care of It

You can ask your vet to take care of your hamster’s body, even if it didn’t die at the animal hospital. Most veterinary practices have options depending on your budget and personal preferences.

You can also ask your vet to take a print of the hamster’s paw for you to cherish as a keepsake. Some owners like to turn this print into jewelry, keeping their hamsters close to them.

Do Vets Cremate Hamsters?

Vets offer two different types of cremations:

  • Mass cremation. The hamster will be cremated with other animals, with their ashes scattered on the vet’s property.
  • Private cremation. The vet will arrange for the hamster’s body to be cremated individually, with the ashes returned to the owner later.

A private cremation will be more expensive than a mass cremation, but it’s the only way to guarantee your pet’s ashes will be returned to you.

Can I Cremate My Hamster?

Cremation involves more work than putting the body on a fire.

You need extremely hot temperatures (around 1500 degrees F) to evaporate the fluids and return the body to its basic elements.

Once the cremation is over, small bone fragments will remain. Experienced cremators cool the bones and place them in a special machine to be turned into bone.

This is a complex process that’s difficult to replicate at home. Unless you have a large open space containing a large open flame, it’s too dangerous to cremate a hamster at home.

How Much Does It Cost To Cremate a Hamster?

As hamsters are small animals, the average cost of a communal cremation ranges from $50 to $100, depending on the hamster’s weight and size.

Private hamster cremations cost around $250, which includes having the ashes returned to you.

Can I Bury My Hamster in a Park?

You can’t bury your hamster in a park. You can bury your hamster on the grounds of your home or a rented yard with permission from the homeowner, but not in a public place.

You’ll likely be fined if caught burying a hamster in a public park.

Can I Put My Dead Hamster in the Bin?

While most owners prefer not to place their deceased hamsters in the bin, there are sometimes few other choices. This disposal method isn’t without risks, as a dead hamster will attract flies on hot days.

Before placing the hamster in the bin, wrap it in newspaper or put it in a cardboard box. You might also want to wait until the day your bin gets collected before placing your hamster in there.

Can I Freeze My Dead Hamster?

Freezing a dead hamster is a good idea until you decide what to do with it.

Animals start to decompose as soon as they die. Freezing the hamster will preserve the body by preventing decay and bad odors.

Wrap it in a plastic bag and keep it away from food to avoid contamination.

If you plan to have an autopsy on your pet, remember that freezing causes the cells to rupture and crystallize, making the process inaccurate. 

How Long Can You Keep a Dead Hamster?

You can keep a dead hamster in the freezer for as long as necessary. As mentioned, freezing stops the decaying process, giving you time to consider the disposal options.

Don’t keep a hamster outside the freezer for more than 24 hours. Rigor mortis sets in within 15-30 minutes. After this time, the body starts to smell and rot within a few hours, particularly during summer.

how long can you keep a dead hamster?

Can I Return My Dead Hamster to Petco?

Petco has a 30-day guarantee on all pets purchased in-store.

If your pet dies within that time, they’ll refund you the cost of the hamster. They may also pay for any veterinary treatment incurred, but you’ll need to provide proof of purchase.

You’ll need to provide the body to confirm your hamster’s death.

PetSmart has a similar initiative. However, you’re responsible for your hamster’s disposal once the 30 days have elapsed.

What To Do When a Hamster Dies

You may not want to get another hamster, but you’ll need to sanitize the cage and accessories.

This is a vital step if your hamster dies of a disease or bacterial infection. Hamsters also scent mark. If you plan to use the cage for another pet, you’ll need to clean it to remove the smell.

Remove all bedding and clean the enclosure with a hamster-safe antibacterial spray.

Wooden accessories are too difficult to clean, particularly as hamsters pee on them, so it’s best to throw them away and replace them. Plastic items are easier to salvage.

If you’re sure you don’t want to get another hamster, you could donate your cage and accessories to a rescue center. Selling them second-hand is another option.

Can I Get Sick from Handling a Dead Hamster?

Hamsters are low-risk pets that rarely transfer diseases to humans.

People panic after discovering their hamster has died, picking them up without gloves, which increases the risk of pathogens getting onto their skin.

According to the Health Protection Agency, Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency, and Public Health Wales, take these steps when handling a hamster that’s died of an infectious disease:

  1. Wear rubber or plastic gloves and a face mask.
  2. Spray the hamster with water to prevent particles from becoming airborne.
  3. Place the hamster into a plastic bag before spraying disinfectant into the bag.
  4. Place the dead hamster’s bedding into a separate plastic bag and dispose of it.
  5. Clean up any urine and feces the same way as above.
  6. Mop or spray hard floors with a disinfectant.

Wash your hands whenever handling a deceased hamster, even if you’re wearing gloves.

Losing a beloved pet isn’t easy, and making final choices requires careful consideration. Freeze the body to prevent decomposition because this gives you time to decide how to dispose of your dead hamster.