I am looking at my hamster’s empty food bowl and it got me thinking. How long can a hamster go without food? While I feed her every night, what would happen if I wasn’t able to feed her for a short while?
How long can a hamster go without food? They will last 3 – 4 days without food. Hamsters are hoarders and will have a stash of food hidden away somewhere, probably in their bed. However, it’s best not to leave them much longer than 2 days without food unless you have an automatic hamster feeder. And even then, it’s always best to have someone look in at your hamster to see all is well.
Why are hamsters’ hoarders?
Hamsters are naturally desert animals and in those harsh surroundings it might be hard to find food at times. So, in order to survive, hamsters hoard food, so they can overcome situations like these.
And while your pet hamster does not face these challenges as you will be feeding it every day, the instinct of hoarding is still present and therefore your hamster is likely to be hoarding food in his cage. Probably in its bed.
What are hamsters eating habits?
Hamsters like to store their food in different places, so they have a reserve in case there are times when there is less food around. Of course, this is not relevant to your hamster pet, but your hamster doesn’t know that. After all hamsters have been wild animals much longer than they have been pets and this instinct is still very much present in our hamsters at home.
The fact that they are hoarding food is of course no reason to skip meals for your hamster. It’s just insurance as far as your hamster is concerned. So please don’t use it to skip meals or to save on food. Its best to just assume your hamster needs more food when their food bowl is empty, completely ignoring a possible stash somewhere hidden. Unless the store is massive and your hamster is putting on weight, in that case reduce the food you give daily or remove the store.
What do hamsters like to eat?
Hamsters are quite easy to feed. Many people think hamsters are herbivores and only eat plant-based foods. This is understandable as most of the hamster food you buy in the shop are pellets and look like they are plant-based.
In the wild however, hamsters eat lizards, frogs, insects and other small animals. This makes them omnivorous.
The main part of your hamster’s diet should be store-bought, good quality pelleted food designed for hamsters. There are many different brands who create food specifically for hamsters and its best to choose one of those, rather than cat food, Guinea pig food or anything else for that matter. The pelleted hamster food is balanced and will cater for all the nutritional needs of your hamster pet. And where the food is mixed in the pellets, your hamster can’t pick out their favorite seeds or fruit which sometimes happens with loose mixes. This can lead to malnourishment.
However, just eating the same pellets every day seems rather dull and boring so many of us want to add to our hamster diet and of course give it treats.
You should make sure these treats are suitable for your pet and healthy too. You do need to be careful with fruit and limit the offerings as it can give your hamster diarrhea.
You also want to check that your hamster doesn’t store the fresh fruit as this will go moldy quickly and this can make your hamster ill.
Some things you can feed your hamster are:
Seeds like pumpkins or sunflower seeds.
Grains like cooked pasta or rice or whole grain bread or cereal
Nuts all but almonds and always unsalted
Mealworms and crickets
Greens like kale, dandelion, spinach or Lettice.
Hard boiled eggs and cooked potatoes
Foods to avoid:
peanut butter as it can get stuck in their cheeks and throats.
Apple seeds and citrus fruits
Raw potatoes and beans
Junk food including chocolate, sugary or salty foods
Onions, garlic, celery, potato peals
Rhubarb leaves and tomato leaves
Unwashed fruits and vegetables
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What if my hamster can’t be looked after for a while?
I was thinking how long my hamster could go without food when I take a trip, however short this would be.
Imagine this scenario, you’re going away for a little while and you’ve asked your sister to feed your hamster while you’re away. No problem, right? But what if your sister is a teenager and got an offer to go to this festival and completely forgets about your hammy?
Or you ask your Neighbor who accidentally leaves the key inside your house and locks herself out of your home, with no possibility to feed your hammy until you come back with a key?
Amazon: automatic hamster feeder
This way your hamster will have food for a period of time and all you must do is ask someone to keep an eye out for your little furry friend.
And while you’re at it, you will also want to buy a hamster water bottle, which in my opinion is a must at all times. This is a water bottle which hangs outside the cage and has enough water in to last forever, sort of.
As its super easy to forget to fill up the water bowl, and because hamsters have a habit of making a mess and end up with a dirty water bowl easily, a water bottle is something I would not live without. Or at least my hamster wouldn’t.
While I use a hamster feeder when I know I will be away for a bit, I don’t leave it on the cage when I’m at home. Hamsters only need a tiny bit of food every day and they love hoarding too so hamster feeders are best used for short periods of time.
Other things to consider
While you can make your hamster comfortable with water bottles and self-feeders, there are still other things to consider. After all you are leaving your pet unsupervised for a period of time which is significantly longer than normal.
- What if the water bottle breaks? Make sure you hang up a second bottle
- What if the food falls off or the food dispenser breaks? – have good quality one
- What if your pet escapes?
- What if it hurts itself?
- What about the mess in the cage?
In an ideal world you wouldn’t leave your hamster for longer than a long weekend. 2-3 days maximum 4. and if you plan to be away longer, then it’s advisable that you have someone look in at your hamster just to make sure all is still good. Every two days is recommended.
What do I do when my hamster is weak from lack of food?
Should you have left your hamster for too long and its weak then direct action is needed.
First and foremost, make sure that your hamster gets a drink. Without water there is no hope of saving your pet.
Carefully give it to him as you don’t want to force any water down. Take your time and wait for your pet to swallow before you offer more.
It’s unlikely your hamster is going to accept food if it’s weak.
There are special products you can buy if your hamster is suffering from poor nutritional status. This is normally due to illness or surgery but can also happen when left too long without (proper) food.
Oxbow animal health has a product called ‘critical care-Herbivore’ which is suitable for hamsters.
It’s a powder which you dilute with water. It is easy to feed your hamster through a syringe if it’s too weak to eat.
While this is not suitable for daily feeding of your hamster, it’s very good for a weak hamster or when you think your hamster is ill as it gives lots of added nutrients.
I normally keep a pack at home to make sure I have supplementary food for my hammy should she need it for whatever reason.
If your hamster doesn’t drink or take the oxbow critical care food, then you will want to contact your vet who can give you further advice.
Best is to try to avoid this situation altogether. However, should you find yourself in this situation, act quickly so your hamster has the best chance of getting back to his normal happy self.
Can a hamster go a day without food?
Yes, a hamster can go without food for a day, but you are taking a chance on your pet. Weakness can lead to illnesses which can lead to your hamster dying. Hamsters can’t live without food for more than 3 days, often less than that. And while hamsters naturally hoard food, they don’t always do this in captivity, so don’t depend on this. If you are not sure you can feed and water your hamster every day, then water and food dispensers are needed.
Can a hamster die of starvation?
Yes, a hamster can certainly die of starvation. They will last between 1 and 3 days without water and food. Because they hoard, many people think they will last longer than that, but in reality, they don’t. Hamsters are no super beasts who somehow can live without proper care while in captivity. They need daily feeding and water change unless you have food and water dispensers.
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Can I leave my hamster alone for 5 days?
Yes, you can leave your hamster alone for 5 days, but it’s really not recommended. It would always be best to ask someone to look after your hamster if you are going to be away for longer than 2 days. However, if this is really not possible, you will need to take precautions to make sure your hamster does not suffer and die while you are away.
You will need food and water dispensers and preferably a backup of each as well in case one drops or breaks. You also take a risk that something else happens to your hamster while you are away. Illness and infections could occur as well as accidents in the cage, and you would not be able to take your pet to the vet until you come back.
How long can a hamster survive on its own?
Hamsters can survive on their own perfectly when in the wild. However, in captivity they are dependent on you. If you make sure they have food and water they will probably be ok for 3 or 4 days, however you should really have someone check on them every 2 days. If you are planning on leaving your hamster on its own often, then you might want to reconsider getting one in the first place. While it seems that hamsters are very independent (they are solitaire in the wild) in captivity they will need attention and be handled and petted.
How long can a hamster go without eating before dying?
Some hamsters hoard food in their bed and can last a bit longer, but in general you should assume that your hamster will last somewhere between 1 and 3 days. While they naturally live in desert habitats, they do not have the ability to store water, therefore they’ll need access to water at all times.
Can you leave a hamster alone for 3 days?
You can leave your hamster alone for 3 days; however, it’s recommended to have someone check on your hamster every 2 days. This is to make sure that your hamster can get the care it needs in case of illness or accidents. You will need to make sure your hamster has plenty of food and water.
How do I know a hamster is dying?
There are several symptoms which could show your hamster is dying:
- your hamster stops eating and drinking
- your hamster is lethargic and sleeps all the time sometimes in unusual places
- your hamster doesn’t come out of its hiding place
- your hamster stops playing
- Makes strange noises
- Has stopped grooming itself.
Your hamster might also show other symptoms, depending on the cause of death, like shaking or not being able to walk or shallow breathing.
How often should I feed my hamster?
While you need to make sure your hamster has enough food, you don’t need to always have food on display. Feeding once a day is enough and only about 1-2 tablespoons. Snacks can be added when you handle and pet your hamster. When you fill your hamsters bowl, chances are that the bowl is empty in no time. That doesn’t mean your hamster has eaten all the food, more likely he has taken it in his cheek pouches and put it in its store for later snacking. Hamsters don’t have large meals; they snack throughout the day and night. If the store is full, then reduce the daily food for a while until the store is running low.
Should I remove my hamsters store food
Yes, once a week you should remove your hamsters store food as it will go moldy otherwise. It’s easiest to remove it when you are cleaning the cage. If you allow your hamster to store fresh food like fruit and vegetables, you will need to remove your hamsters hoard more often as these will go moldy much quicker. While your hamster will not appreciate losing its store food, your hamster will soon be building a new store!
Can you overfeed a hamster?
Yes, you can overfeed a hamster which can lead to obesity especially when feeding dry pellets. They can also get diseases like diabetes if given too much sugary fruits. Your hamster will need an exercise wheel to stay in shape and to stay healthy.
In conclusion of How long can a hamster go without food.
Even though your hamster will be able to survive without being fed for 3 to 4 days, that doesn’t mean you can leave your hamster for that amount of time and assume he will be ok. Chances are he is, chances are he isn’t.
In an emergency, yes this would be the expected time. However, in 3 or 4 days a lot can happen to unsupervised hamsters, and it is always a good idea to have someone check on your pet just to make sure and for peace of mind. That way should something be wrong, quick action can be taken.
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