Last Updated on: 24th September 2023, 05:38 pm
Captive hamsters rarely hibernate but may do so if the ambient temperature is too cold. This isn’t a true form of hibernation but a condition called torpor.
Hamsters are unlikely to wake up from torpor on their own, so owners must warm them by raising their body temperature.
Torpor can be fatal because hamsters significantly reduce their heart and breathing rates to preserve energy. Also, unexpected drops in temperature can lead to hypothermia.
Don’t confuse hibernation with a change of sleeping pattern. Hamsters sleep longer during the winter, so it’s not uncommon to see them emerge less often than usual.
Is It Possible To Wake Up a Hamster From Hibernation?
The Royal Society describes how hamsters are facultative hibernators.
They hibernate when exposed to extreme environmental conditions, such as freezing temperatures. In comparison, hibernation is a biological process vital to some animal species.
Furthermore, hamsters don’t enter a true form of hibernation. Whenever their environment gets too cold, they enter a state of reduced metabolism called torpor.
Hamsters lower their heart rate to three beats per minute and breathe only once every 1-2 minutes. This last-ditch survival attempt preserves their energy, helping them survive extreme conditions.
Because cold temperatures are responsible for torpor, it’s possible to awaken a hamster from hibernation by warming it up. However, avoid doing so too quickly.
A sudden temperature change will shock the system, causing the hamster to overheat. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t act fast, as torpor can be fatal.
Is It Bad To Wake A Hibernating Hamster?
While you may be tempted to let your hamster awaken naturally, torpor is a problem if left for too long. It’s not natural for hamsters to hibernate in captivity, so the environmental temperature is too low.
Waking a hamster from hibernation is recommended to prevent dehydration and starvation. While the lowered metabolic rate keeps the body working while the hamster is in torpor, it can’t remain that way.
If the hamster can’t awaken naturally, it’ll die. However, warm your hamster up gradually.
Hamsters rarely wake up easily. Most hamsters bury themselves into their burrows to protect themselves from predators and other dangers, but they can’t always dig themselves back out. Also, a sudden or unexpected drop in body temperature can cause hypothermia.
Stop your hamster from going into torpor by paying attention to the following signs:
- Building a bigger nest or burrowing deeper into the bedding.
- Eating and drinking less frequently.
- Uncontrollable shivers and shudders.
- Slow breathing and heart rate.
Gradually increase the room temperature to a suitable level to prevent the hamster from hibernating. Also, expose the hamster to natural daylight to emulate day-to-night conditions.
How To Wake a Hibernating Hamster
Many hamsters never wake up from hibernation, so you must intervene to keep them alive. Wake up your hibernating hamster with these steps:
1/ Determine if The Hamster Is Hibernating
Before waking a hamster up from hibernation, check if it’s still alive. It can be difficult to tell whether your hamster’s dead or hibernating, but there will be subtle clues. Check for the following:
- Breathing once every 1-2 minutes.
- A shallow heartbeat of around 3 beats per minute.
- Blue nose or feet, but a warm pouch.
- Subtle movements, like twitching or moving whiskers.
If you remain unsure, go through the following steps in case your hamster’s still alive.
2/ Increase the Ambient Temperature
Because hamsters only hibernate when it’s cold, you must warm up the room. The ideal temperature should be between 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid going into torpor.
Gradually increase the room temperature over a couple of hours to encourage the hamster to wake up naturally. Veterinary Practice explains how this usually takes a few hours to a few days.
Ensure the cage isn’t near any cold drafts or open windows to keep the hamster warm.
3/ Use Body Heat
Pick the hamster up from its hibernation spot and place it against your chest to use your body heat to warm it up. Keep it there for 30 minutes or until your hamster awakens.
Place your hamster on a heat pad at 90°F (32°C) for around an hour, ensuring it doesn’t get too hot.
If you don’t have a heat pad, drape a thick blanket over a radiator and place the hamster on there, being careful not to let it get too warm too quickly. The hamster will go into shock otherwise.
4/ Sugar Water Solution
If you’ve increased the room temperature and the hamster doesn’t emerge from torpor within 24 hours, create a sugar-water mix to help warm your hamster up from the inside, encouraging it to wake.
Follow these steps to make the solution:
- Combine ½ cup sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 cup of warm water, mixing the ingredients until they dissolve.
- Find your hamster in its bedding and pick it up, careful to uncurl it from its sleeping position.
- Scruff the back of your hamster’s neck to expose its tongue and support its body with your open hand. Rotate it sideways so that you have clear access to its mouth.
- Place a couple of drops of the sugar solution into the mouth, dropping it in from one side, allowing it to run across the tongue and out the other. Using a syringe or small spoon is the easiest method.
- Every 1-2 minutes, place a couple more drops onto the tongue.
- Let it warm in between by wrapping it in a soft blanket or towel.
Placing the warm sugar water solution on the tongue from this angle will absorb the heat, but the water won’t enter the lungs.
The hamster’s body will begin to warm up from the inside, and the simple sugars will provide much-needed energy to help your hamster wake.
After a while, the hamster should begin to wake up. It’ll appear dazed and confused at first, so move slowly and gently to prevent yourself from spooking it.
You can continue feeding the sugar solution for 10-20 more minutes.
What Happens if You Wake a Hamster from Hibernation?
Immediately after waking from hibernation, the hamster will appear sleep-deprived.
It may become disorientated as it adjusts to its surroundings and will also go back to sleep for longer than usual while its body recovers.
This is normal, but you’ll need to monitor the hamster to ensure it doesn’t slip back into torpor.
The hamster’s body will feel cold from the slow circulation. The feet and nose may also look blue, but they’ll soon return to normal once the body regulates the heart and breathing rate.
In the meantime, provide water and quality food to build the hamster’s energy levels.
Fresh fruits and vegetables will help it rehydrate, while protein sources, such as eggs, mealworms, and plain cooked chicken, replenish energy levels.
While waking a hibernating hamster is essential, don’t wake them if you see or hear it get up for food and water. Hamsters sleep more often during the winter, so you don’t want to disturb them while they rest.