Home » What Is The Life Expectancy of Hamsters? [A Complete Guide]
average lifespan of hamsters in captivity
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What Is The Life Expectancy of Hamsters? [A Complete Guide]

Before getting a pet hamster, you’ll need to know how long hamsters live. Hamsters have short lifespans and are susceptible to many health conditions that shorten their life expectancy.

Hamsters live for 2-3 years in captivity. Roborovski hamsters live for 3-3.5 years, while hairless hamsters, which are Syrian hamsters without fur, live for 6-12 months.

Hamsters don’t live as long as other animals as their bodies can’t maintain their biological processes as well as larger mammals.

The cells, tissues, and organisms become less effective as hamsters age. You can increase your hamster’s longevity by giving it a healthy diet, providing physical and mental enrichment, and minimizing stress.

What Is the Lifespan of a Pet Hamster?

The average lifespan of hamsters in captivity varies depending on the species. Life expectancy also depends on the hamster’s overall health and its environment.

That’s because several factors, such as incorrect temperatures or stress, can result in early death. Wild hamsters live shorter lives because they have predators. They also have to find food, which isn’t always available to them.  

The average lifespan across all hamster species is 2 years. Some die younger, while others live longer. Similarly, some species surprise their owners by living beyond their average life expectations.

Hamsters live for 1 human year every 14 days. They age and deteriorate quickly, particularly later on in life. The lifespan expectations of each species are as follows:

Hamster SpeciesAverage LifespanShort, Average, or Long
Roborovski3 to 3.5 yearsLong
Chinese2 to 3 yearsLong
Syrian2 to 2.5 yearsAverage
Campbell’s Dwarf2 yearsAverage
Winter White Russian Dwarf1.5 to 2 yearsShort to average
Hairless6 months to 1 yearShort

How Long Do Syrian Hamsters Live?

Syrian hamsters are the most commonly kept hamster species in captivity. Their slightly larger size and quirky personalities make them popular pets, particularly with children and small families. The average life expectancy of Syrian hamsters is 2 to 2.5 years, although some can live up to 3 years with the right care.

Syrians reach maturity when they’re between 8-12 weeks old. After this point, they must be separated and kept alone. Syrians are territorial animals and will fight and kill each other in the same cage. Even though Syrian hamsters don’t live as long as other animals, they’re still a significant long-term commitment for the duration of their lives.

How Long Do Teddy Bear Hamsters Live?

“Teddy bear hamster” is a name used to describe Syrian hamsters. They get this name because they look like miniature teddy bears. As a result, their lifespan’s the same at 2 to 2.5 years. Some owners have their pets for as long as 3 years or more. However, they need several things to live long, happy lives, such as:

  • A large cage measuring at least 80 x 50 cm (31.5 x 19.5 inches)
  • Deep bedding that they can burrow into, with the highest section measuring 30 cm (12 inches)
  • Plenty of hideouts to feel safe and protected
  • Enrichment in the form of toys and chews
  • A healthy diet incorporating lab blocks, seeds, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and occasional insects

Providing your teddy bear, or Syrian hamster, with these things will maximize its lifespan.

How Long Do Golden Hamsters Live?

Golden hamsters are the same as Syrian hamsters. The former is another nickname, which comes from when Syrian hamsters used to have golden fur.

Thanks to extensive breeding programs, they now come in a kaleidoscope of colors – from grey and brown to black and white. Therefore, golden hamsters also have a lifespan of 2 to 2.5 years on average – the same as Syrians and teddy bear hamsters.

How Long Do Roborovski Hamsters Live?

Also known as desert hamsters or Robo dwarf hamsters, Roborovski hamsters live in captivity for approximately 3 to 3.5 years. This is slightly longer than their Syrian cousins. In fact, with the right care and conditions, they can live for 4 years or more. However, this is relatively uncommon.

Despite their impressive lifespans, Roborovskis are the smallest of the most commonly kept captive hamsters. They can also run up to 6 miles a night, which is why a large running wheel is so important. Robos need a more experienced owner than other hamsters because they’re tricky to look after. They also require a cage with space for sand.

Unlike Syrians, you can keep two Robos at once, as long as you introduce them from a young age. However, most owners prefer to separate them.

How Long Do Winter White Hamsters Live?

Winter whites have shorter lifespans than most other hamsters. However, they make sweet and loving pets for the short time they’re here. Winter white dwarf hamsters live between 1.5 to 2 years on average in captivity. They can even live up to 3 years if their owners are lucky. Wild winter whites fare slightly worse, living up to 1 year.

Unlike Robos, it’s relatively simple to keep winter whites as pets, as long as you have some basic care knowledge. Similarly, their shorter lifespans make better pets for children as they’re not as much of a commitment as other hamster species.

how to make hamsters live longer

How Long Do Chinese Hamsters Live?

Chinese hamsters live for 2 to 3 years on average, making them one of the longest living hamster species. They also live longer than other dwarf hamsters.

Chinese hamsters have a mouse-like appearance without the long tail. They’re small and slender, making them popular pets. That being said, they’re not as commonly kept as Russian dwarves.

How Long Do Campbell’s Dwarf Hamsters Live?

Campbell’s dwarf Russian hamsters are small hamsters that live for up to 2 years.

They get their name from Charles William Campbell, who was the first westerner to capture one in 1990. Though small, Campbell’s dwarf hamsters are speedy, so they can be difficult to hold. As a result, accidents can easily occur, especially when small, inexperienced children are involved. However, with a healthy, balanced diet, they can thrive as pets.

How Long Do Hairless Hamsters Live?

Hairless hamsters are Syrian hamsters with no fur or whiskers. They have much shorter lifespans than other hamsters and rarely live more than 6 months to a year.

Many breeders and owners are against breeding hairless hamsters because it’s unnatural. They can’t navigate tight spaces like ordinary Syrian hamsters, whose fur helps them slip through. Hamsters also rely on their fur as a sense of touch due to their poor eyesight.

How To Tell the Age of a Hamster

In most cases, all you can do is make a rough estimate and hope that you’re close. That being said, you can try to determine your hamster’s age by monitoring and observing the following appearance and personality traits:

Size

Syrian hamsters reach puberty when they’re between 6-8 weeks of age. Dwarf hamsters mature slightly later at 8-12 weeks. Before reaching adulthood, hamsters are significantly smaller and lighter, weighing close to 3 to 3½ oz to 1 oz respectively. If your hamster weighs the same or less than this, it’s likely to be only a few months old. A bigger, heavier hamster is older.

Ears

Young hamsters have pink ears that get noticeably darker as they get older. Similarly, if your hamster’s ears are shut, it’s less than a week old. However, this is unlikely, as hamsters aren’t ready to leave their mothers until they’re 21-28 days old.

Teeth

While not a definitive way to tell, shorter teeth tend to signify that your hamster’s young rather than old. PLoS One describes how rodent mandibular incisors, which hamsters have, grow continuously throughout a hamster’s lifetime.

As hamsters age, their teeth get longer, even if they have wooden toys to chew. This is natural, but make sure they don’t grow too long, as long teeth cause pain and discomfort.

Fur

Thick, healthy fur that remains a steady length indicates that the animal’s close to or less than a year old. This is considered middle-aged in the hamster world. Thinning hair signifies your hamster’s getting old. Similarly, if its fur appears greasy or unkempt, your pet’s likely aging and in the final stages of its life.

Eating Habits

Young and middle-aged hamsters should have healthy appetites to fuel their busy lifestyles. Older hamsters naturally lose their appetites – especially when they’re close to the end of their lives. This isn’t a sure-fire way to determine age, but appetite loss can help you tell if you’re dealing with an elderly hamster.  

Behavior

Active hamsters are more likely to be aged around a year or younger. Healthy hamsters run on their wheels, burrow, make tunnels, and forage for food, replicating their wild behaviors. Older hamsters spend most of their time sleeping, coming out periodically for food and water.

Why Do Hamsters Die So Young?

Smaller mammals, such as hamsters, age quicker than larger animals because their bodies are less effective at maintaining their biological processes.

Aging occurs when organisms, cells, and tissues inside the body become less efficient over time. This causes them to die much sooner than cats and dogs, for example.

Wild hamsters also have shorter lifespans because their bodily resources are allocated to reproduction, again meaning they’re unable to maintain their biological processes as effectively as larger animals.

Procreation is vital for hamsters because they live in high-risk environments where predation is a daily threat. Reproduction keeps their numbers stable.

what is the lifespan of a pet hamster?

How To Make Hamsters Live Longer

While you can’t prevent all diseases, you can keep your hamster healthy by providing it with the best care, ensuring its diet and environment are optimized.

Healthy Diet

Hamsters need a healthy, balanced diet to thrive. They’re omnivores, eating a mixture of plants and insects. Replicating their wild diet is the best way to ensure your hamsters lives a long life. The ideal diet for hamsters should include:

  • Commercial pellets – although not a muesli-style mix
  • A mixture of different seeds
  • Occasional fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Sprays, such as flax and millet
  • Occasional insects
  • Clean drinking water

You should also scatter feed your hamster instead of providing food in a dish, as this will provide enrichment and encourage natural behaviors.

Provide Physical Enrichment

Hamsters travel up to 5 miles a night in the wild while foraging for food and evading predators. While it’s tricky for captive hamsters to do the same, providing a large running wheel that’s at least 28 cm in diameter enables your pet to be active, keeping its body strong and healthy. It also offers mental enrichment. Other forms of enrichment include:

  • Cork logs
  • Tunnels
  • Plenty of bedding
  • Different substrates, such as sand, corn cob, and coco fiber

Minimize Stress

Hamsters die from stress and boredom. If they’re not given enough to do in captivity, they develop stereotypies, such as bar biting and monkey climbing.

According to Applied Animal Behavior Science, hamsters with 80 cm (approximately 31 inches) of bedding never exhibited stress-related behaviors. Replicating wild conditions is the best way to keep your hamster happy.

Monitor For Illnesses

Monitor your hamster for any physical or mental changes, as this can be a sign of sickness. If you notice any abnormalities, either with your hamster’s appearance or behavior, take it to the vet. 

While hamsters don’t live for very long, they bring joy into their owners’ lives for the short time they’re here.