Has a hamster ever killed someone?
I love hamsters! They’re cute little creatures and they make excellent pets. Or do they? A big question came along the other day which I really wanted to investigate. Are hamsters dangerous and do they kill? Or to put it differently:
Has a hamster ever killed someone? You might be surprised to hear that hamsters have indeed killed people! Maybe not in the way you might expect, you know biting an artery or something. Hamsters themselves haven’t killed anyone, but their bite has. They can also infect humans with Lymphocytic choriomeningitis which can be fatal in immune compromised people. So, the answer would be hamsters can kill in an indirect way.
Let me explain.
How has a hamster killed someone?
House mice and hamsters can carry a virus called Lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCM) which can cause a viral infection in humans of the brain or the membranes around the brain. Most affected are children, young adults and people who are immune compromised.
The virus can be passed to humans when breathing in dried particles of hamster urine, faeces or saliva. The particles can also land on food and be ingested.
Luckily not all house mice and hamsters carry this virus. It’s understood around 5% does. This can be in wild house mise and hamsters, as well as in pets and hamsters used in animal testing facilities.
Lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCM) is normally quite a mild disease that causes flue like symptoms and most people recover without any issues. However, not everyone does. People with a compromised immune system or history of allergic reactions and anaphylactic shock might need to be aware of the risks hamsters and other small rodents like mice could pose.
People can also be affected by the hamster’s saliva when bitten as some people have extreme allergic reactions as you will see in the stories below.
Having said all this, the chances of being killed by your hamster are really small and overall, they actually make great pets.
Examples of people being killed by hamsters
Here are some examples of people dying as a result of hamsters. Luckily there aren’t many of these and it’s safe to say these are unfortunate exceptions.
The Daily Mail in the UK reported in 2007 that a father of two was almost killed by his daughters’ pet hamster. When the rodent was about to fall through a crack in the floor, the man quickly tried to scoop up the hamster. He caught the hamster but got bitten in his thumb. Not a big deal you might think, however, minutes later he suffered a severe allergic reaction. He turned grey, started wheezing and had clear difficulty breathing. Thanks to the quick reaction of his wife, he survived. He had suffered an anaphylactic shock the year before and she recognised the seriousness of the situation. She called the emergency services instantly which saved her husband’s life.
In 2013 an 11-year-old girl died in China after being bitten by her pet hamster. Her parents cleaned her cut, and all seemed fine. However, and hour after being bitten by her hamster, she died. Experts said that the girl died as she was asthmatic and had a severe allergic reaction to the hamster bite. Unfortunately, her hamster killed her.
In 2005 a lawsuit was filed in US District Court. It showed that 3 people had died after receiving organs that were infected with the rodent virus lymphocytic choriomeningitis.
The donor was a woman who had bought a hamster which later turned out to be infected by the virus. The woman died of a stroke not long after he bought the pet.
As she was registered as an organ donor, her liver was transplanted to the husband of the complainant, who died from the virus a month after the transplant.
Two other people had received organs and tragically died as well.
The lawsuit was against PetSmart for selling the infected hamster in the first place.
Does a hamster kill someone or does someone kill a hamster?
The chances that you’ll kill your hamster are infinitely larger than the other way round.
I for sure believe hamsters to be delicate little creatures and killing a hamster is easier than you think!
While most hamster owners do everything they can to look after their pet the best they can, it’s often disease and accidents that kill the rodent.
Here are some of the reasons hamsters die (besides diseases) and how you can avoid this for your hamster.
Suffocation can happen when fluffy materials are left in the cage. Especially long fibre materials can tangle in their cheeks or around their teeth, or even around their necks.
When hamsters are left out in a cold area like a garage or shed, the hamster can go into what looks like hibernation, however it’s actually hypothermia which can be deadly to a hamster.
Rough play by other pets
Your other pets, like cats and dogs might chase the hamster or are too rough in their play. This can be detrimental.
Dropped from height.
While I’m sure you wouldn’t expect your hamster to fall when you’re holding it, they are restless and small. They easily wriggle their way out of your hands. They can also bite when they are agitated, and your reaction will likely be a shock reaction, with the consequence of a flying hamster.
When at low height, this will not be a problem. But when you are standing up, the height might be a little too much for your hamster. This is especially an issue when children hold the hamster, as too much force is easily applied, and bites can follow.
Talking about children, most kids under the age of 7 or 8 have not fully developed motor skills. This means they might accidentally squeeze too hard which can be followed by many scenarios which I’m sure you can imagine.
Your hamster can get stuck in small spaces in furniture or floorboards. When you handle your hamster, it’s best to keep to a small area without many places to hide and crawl under or behind.
Make sure you give your hamster food that’s suitable for him/her. Also make sure you don’t over feed it. When hamsters eat too much, they can develop health problems like diabetes. And just as for us, it won’t do your hamster any favours.
And lastly, keep your hamsters living space clean.
If you don’t keep your hamsters cage clean, your hamster can get ill and even die.
This is such a basic thing, that in my view, you really should not own a hamster or any animal for that matter, if you can’t be bothered to keep their living space clean.
The above list are ways your hamster can die when it’s not looked after the correct way, and many of the things on the list can happen accidentally.
Convictions for hamster killing.
Some people however kill their hamster on purpose, and this can have very big consequences.
Did you know that’s a crime to kill a hamster on purpose and you can be charged with aggravated cruelty to animals?
This protects large animals as well as small ones.
Unfortunately, there have been far too many cases of people filming torturing and killing hamsters and posting it on social media and YouTube.
Ethical questions have been posed by Peta about the responsibility of pet shops in selling life animals to anyone, without asking any questions or doing any due diligence.
A strange case happened in 2010 in Brooklyn, NY, where a 19-year-old woman was charged with aggravated cruelty to animals, with the possibility of a sentence of up to two years in prison!
The story was strange because it was actually her 25-year-old brother who killed their younger brother’s hamster by kicking a hamster toy ball on purpose, while the hamster was in it. The ball flew across the room, the hamster fell out and died.
Feeling bad, the older brother bought 3 new hamsters for his younger brother to make up for it.
The 19-year-old sister, for some reason didn’t agree with this, picked up one of the hamsters and threw it to the floor.
Apparently, the hamster died on impact due to blunt force trauma and liver failure.
It’s not clear who contacted the police about the second hamster, and why the older brother was not charged after killing the first.
What is clear however, in my mind anyway, that this family is not the best place for any hamster and luckily the 2 remaining hamsters left were given away to a friend.
Hopefully they made it to a good old age of about 2,5 (years), as that’s unfortunately the lifespan of a hamster.
Has a hamster been to space?
Yes, many animals have been sent to space to be studied, including hamsters though not many.
Is it illegal to kill a hamster?
Yes, it’s illegal to kill a healthy hamster on purpose under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. If your hamster is ill or severely hurt, your vet can help you end its life humanely which is legal.
Is it cruel to keep hamsters?
If you look after your hamster, give it a spacious clean living space, feed it well and ensure it has a happy life, then most people would not find it cruel to keep hamsters. However, hamster farms with the purpose of selling them and keeping them in small dirty cages is something most people would consider cruel.
What can kill a hamster?
While hamsters are strong creatures, their small size gives it many obstacles and danger in our world. Most common things that can kill a hamster are disease and accidents. Diseases are sometimes brought into your home from the place you bought your hamster. Sometimes they can be due to bacteria when the cage is not kept clean. Accidents are often due to hight where the hamster is damaged on impact. Sometimes they have accidents in their cage when toys or beds are broken or damaged.
What happens if a hamster bites you?
Most of the time you are absolutely fine when your hamster bites you. While it can hurt, most of the time no blood is drawn. Should there be blood then there is a very small chance that the hamster infects you with Lymphocytic choriomeningitis which can be fatal in immune compromised people
How long does it take for a hamster to starve?
In general, it’s best to assume that a hamster can live for 2-3 days before it will starve. While hamsters tend to store food for later, this food could be rotten if fresh food has been stored with dry food and you should not rely on this when leaving your hamster without someone feeding it for several days. Always have someone check in on your hamster. A hamster feeder is also a good idea should you be away for several days.
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