It’s normal for a hamster’s fur to change color. Although it’s more common with winter whites than other hamster species, Syrians occasionally experience color changes.
Most hamster fur color changes are due to aging, becoming lighter, darker, or greyer as they get older. Scent glands or pee stains cause yellow fur, and wet tail can make fur around the tail black or yellow.
Also, winter whites turn white in the winter to camouflage themselves against the snow.
Color-changing fur is rarely concerning, but if your hamster also exhibits signs of sickness, you’ll need to investigate the cause, as the two could be related.
Why Do Hamsters Fur Change Color?
While hamsters’ fur doesn’t change color often, it’s not uncommon for certain hamster breeds to become a different color at some stage of their lives.
The reasons for this phenomenon are varied, so let’s explore why hamsters’ coat colors change:
Fur Turning White
Winter white hamsters have brown-grey fur with a dark stripe running down the back.
Their fur becomes white to provide camouflage against the snow during the winter. Biology Reviews explains that this adaptation helps color-changing animals survive.
The change doesn’t happen overnight, appearing in waves from head to toe, taking days to weeks for the fur to become white. Some winter white hamsters get all-white fur, while others only get faded patches.
Unless you’ve bought a winter white hamster from an ethical breeder, you likely won’t experience this in captivity. Even though pet stores sell their dwarf hamsters as winter whites, there’s no way to guarantee their bloodline, meaning they’re likely to have mixed genetics.
Fur Turning Grey
Some hamsters turn pale when they become elderly, developing grey patches of fur or a light grey tinge.
High and low temperatures as the seasons’ change are also responsible. For example, as black dwarf hamsters shed their summer coats, the fur often grows back more silvery than previously.
As the fur changes to grey, you may also notice the following:
- Poor quality fur
- Loss of appetite
- Slowness and lethargy
This is more common amongst winter white dwarf hamsters than any other species.
Fur Turning Brown
Black Syrian hamsters rust or turn brown as they get older. While it’s more common in older hamsters, this color change can occur at any age.
Black is a recessive gene color that fades over time, so it’s normal for black hamsters to become lighter without much warning. Their fur also appears a chocolate brown color during the summer.
We’ve discussed how winter white hamsters have brown fur outside of winter. When winter’s over, they lose their white coat and become brown.
Again, this is normal and to be expected from winter white hamsters.
Fur Turning Black
It’s not unusual for hamsters’ fur to darken over time, appearing as if it has become black. However, a hamster’s fur is more likely to get lighter than darker, so it’s uncommon for it to become black.
If the fur around the tail area appears black and feels wet and sticky, the black color could be from diarrhea. Wet tail causes repetitive diarrhea that dries and cakes around the anus, making it look black.
Alongside darker fur, symptoms of wet tail include:
- A wet behind
- Walking with a hunched back
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Increased thirst
Hamsters with wet tail die quickly, so you must get veterinary treatment.
Fur Turning Yellow
Fur can become stained with a yellow tinge around the scent glands, which is caused by an oily secretion that appears waxy.
According to Veterinary Practice News, scent glands are more prominent in males than females, meaning males are more likely to develop stained yellow fur around them.
Pee stains also cause yellow fur. Many hamsters pee where they sleep and bathe, unwittingly covering themselves in urine. The fur won’t look wholly yellow but will have a subtle tinge. Your hamster will also smell like ammonia.
Providing a sand bath can keep your hamster clean, but you’ll need to sift it to remove any pee.
Wet tail is a cause of yellow fur, albeit uncommon, depending on how your hamster’s diarrhea appears. Most hamster poop is dark brown or black, but it can become yellow and watery due to the bacteria.
Fur Getting Darker
A lack of sunlight will make a hamster’s fur appear darker. This is more noticeable in Syrian hamsters during winter, who are more prone to fur changes than other hamster species.
There’s no reason for it other than it being a normal process that occurs as part of aging. As long as your hamster appears healthy and maintains its appetite, there’s no need to be concerned.
Fur Getting Lighter
Age is of the most common reasons for fur becoming lighter.
While this may seem confusing as age also causes hair to become darker, as explained, hamsters respond differently depending on their original fur color and species.
Fur appears lighter as hamsters get older because their fur thins out. The change in fur tone shouldn’t be too dramatic, but it’ll be enough to notice a difference.
Light is also a factor. Depending on how much light reaches the hamster’s cage, sunlight can make a hamster’s fur appear lighter than usual.
This will be more noticeable during the summer months. However, this is rare, as hamsters only come out between sunrise and sunset. Hamsters aren’t often exposed to the sun, let alone direct sunlight.
Fur changes are rarely concerning unless you suspect your hamster has a wet tail or is living in unsanitary conditions. Color-changing fur is one of the more interesting aspects of aging, and for winter white hamsters, it’s a case of survival in the wild.