Hamsters come from dry desert regions, which means they can withstand warm temperatures. However, captive hamsters haven’t adapted to extreme temperatures and are at risk of overheating.
Hamsters should be kept in temperatures of 65-75 degrees. Temperatures above 80 degrees are too hot, resulting in heatstroke, dehydration, stress, and organ failure.
Hamsters can’t cool down by sweating or panting, so move them to the coldest part of the house and provide a cool pad.
Temperatures can fluctuate in the summer months, so owners should monitor the heat levels to prevent their hamsters from overheating, getting sick, and dying.
How Hot Is Too Hot for Hamsters?
Hamsters have a hard time cooling and warming their bodies themselves.
Laboratory Animal Medicine explains how hamsters are best suited to mild temperatures between 68 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit, although most owners agree that anything between 65 to 75 degrees is safe.
Hamsters don’t cope well with extreme temperatures. Direct sunlight and the warm summer months can have a disastrous effect on your hamster if you don’t regulate the temperature.
How Hot Can Hamsters Tolerate?
As mentioned, temperatures higher than 80 degrees Fahrenheit are far too warm for hamsters to handle, causing serious health conditions.
Some enclosures can be adapted to maintain a cool temperature by using cooling devices and wood-based substrates that are more comfortable for hamsters than paper-based bedding.
However, owners must use a temperature gauge to ensure conditions don’t become too hot.
Can Hamsters Die From Heat?
Hamsters die if they’re exposed to high temperatures for too long. As mentioned, hamsters are vulnerable to extreme temperatures, and heat can be fatal.
Hamsters living in warm environments are at risk of the following conditions:
Heatstroke is one of the most common side effects of heat exposure. Heatstroke severely affects hamsters because they’re not always able to escape the heat, leaving them vulnerable to heat exhaustion.
According to UC Davis Veterinary Medicine, hamsters don’t have sweat glands, meaning they can’t pant to cool down. This leaves them vulnerable to heatstroke or sleep disease, as it’s also known. Hamsters with heatstroke tremble when touched and appear limp and lifeless.
Hamsters with heatstroke need emergency veterinary care to prevent organ damage. Unfortunately, hamsters exposed to high temperatures for too long often experience irreversible organ damage.
Dehydration is caused by excessive water loss through prolonged heat exposure.
Because hamsters can’t sweat, they lose water through their saliva, vomit, urine, and diarrhea. Diarrhea is a serious condition that kills hamsters in a matter of hours in hot temperatures.
The most common symptoms of dehydration include:
- Increased thirst
- Sunken eyes
- Tight, dry skin
- Lack of energy (lethargy)
- Weight loss
- Poor fur quality
- Lack of grooming ability
Provide your hamster with water and feed it watery fruits and vegetables, such as lettuce and cucumber, to help it rehydrate. Again, you must act fast to prevent irreversible organ damage.
Temperatures above 75 degrees cause the blood to thicken, preventing air from circulating the organs. Once this happens, it doesn’t take long for organ failure to occur, killing the hamster.
When temperatures reach around 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, hamsters become stressed. Stress is a serious problem for hamsters because it worsens existing health conditions.
That’s because stress precipitates disease-causing bacteria, triggering illnesses such as Tyzzer’s disease. It also causes mental health issues, leading to unwanted behaviors like bar biting and monkey barring.
How Do I Know If My Hamster Is Too Hot?
You’ll know if your hamster is too hot because it’ll look and behave differently to normal, becoming noticeable sick in a short space of time. For starters, your hamster will feel physically warm to the touch. It may also remain in its burrows for longer where it’s cooler.
Other hamster overheating symptoms include:
- Panting or quicker-than-normal breathing
- Slobbering or wetness around the nose and mouth
- A bright red tongue
- Lethargy and weakness
- Difficulty walking
- Wet, greasy coat
- Weight loss
- A constant thirst that doesn’t seem to get quenched
You may also notice that your hamster suddenly develops white teeth. Diarrhea is also a common side effect, which, as mentioned, also leads to dehydration.
Hot hamsters will become agitated as they struggle to cope with the temperature. Even the tamest and temperate hamsters may bite their owners due to the stress from overheating.
Don’t attempt to handle your hamster until it cools down and can regulate its temperature.
How To Keep a Hamster Cool in Hot Weather
If your home becomes warmer than 75 degrees Fahrenheit, you’ll need to ensure your hamster stays cool.
You can use an air conditioning unit to bring the temperature down, but be sure to do this slowly. As we’ve explained, sudden temperature changes are dangerous and kill hamsters. However, as most homes don’t have air conditioning, manual help is required.
Monitor your hamster during the summer for any symptoms of heatstroke and follow these steps:
Move to a Cooler Spot
The first step is to move your hamster’s cage to the coolest room in the house. Walk through your house during the middle of the day to see where this is. However, you must ensure that the room you choose is quiet enough for your hamster to get enough sleep during the day.
Because heat rises, you’ll also want to place your hamster somewhere low down, such as a basement. A tiled room is another good spot, as it’s likely to be cooler than a room with carpets.
Another way to keep your hamster cool is to keep your hamster’s environment well ventilated. You can achieve this by opening windows or using a fan to circulate air around the room.
There are two things to bear in mind, though:
- You mustn’t place your hamster’s cage in a draughty location, and
- You mustn’t place the fan directly at the cage
Even though hot temperatures are dangerous for hamsters, being cold is just as bad as hamsters can develop hypothermia. They can also go into torpor.
According to the Royal Society, this is a temporary hibernation when hamsters are exposed to sudden cold temperature drops.
You’ll also need to ensure your hamster’s cage is well ventilated. Barred enclosures already provide plenty of air circulation, but glass and acrylic tanks need a mesh lid to maintain adequate airflow.
Keep Away From Direct Sunlight
You’ll also need to position your hamster out of direct sunlight to keep it cool.
Direct light causes heatstroke and dehydration – both of which kill in a matter of hours on a hot day. Use a net curtain or blinds to filter out the sun, ensuring your hamster still has access to light to maintain its day-to-night sleeping pattern.
Similarly, keep your hamster away from radiators, heaters, and lit fireplaces to prevent heat exhaustion.
Limit Your Hamster’s Activity Levels
While hamsters benefit from out-of-cage exercise time, you should avoid playing with your hamster too often when it’s hot, and your hamster is more likely to overheat during exercise.
However, some hamsters become stressed if they don’t get daily access to the wider environment. In that case, wait until the late evening when it gets cool.
Drape a Frozen Towel Over the Cage
During the summer, you can drape a frozen towel or blanket over your hamster’s cage. However, be careful not to restrict your enclosure’s airflow and remove the towel once it starts to drip.
Supply Fresh Water
Providing clean water is essential all year round, but it’s more important in the warm summer months.
Your hamster is more likely to drink more when it’s hot, so frequently refresh the water so that it doesn’t become warm and stale. Similarly, if you use a water bottle, check it throughout the day to ensure it doesn’t become blocked, leak, or stop working.
You can even provide a frozen water bottle to give your hamster something to cool itself against. Fill an empty bottle halfway with water and put it in the freezer until the water becomes solid. Wrap it in a towel and place it in your hamster’s cage. An ice pack works just as well.
Provide a Cool Pad
Cool pads are another great way to keep your hamster cool. Made from ceramic or terracotta, hamsters will lay on them when they feel too hot, cooling their body temperature from underneath.
You can even put your cool pad in the fridge immediately before your hamster wakes.
Give Frozen Treats
You can help your hamster cool off by freezing its favorite treats, giving it something to lick on to reduce its body temperature. Once the treats thaw, your hamster will happily eat the food.
Maintaining a comfortable temperature is essential throughout the year, especially in the warmer months. Allowing the temperature to get too hot can be fatal, particularly if you’re not around to help with cooling an overheated hamster down.