How long a dwarf hamster will live depends on a variety of factors. There are two halves to a dwarf hamster’s lifespan: one half is genetics and the other is the quality of care they receive right from birth. On average, dwarf hamsters live for 1.5 to three years.
As owners, no matter how much we wish we could alter our beloved little pet’s genetics and make them live longer, we can’t. Your dwarf hamster’s lifespan will be limited by their species and quality of their lineage.
However, there are things we can do to maximize our hamster’s all-round health and therefore maximize their ultimate lifespan.
Read on to find out how hamsters age and what contributes to them having a long and healthy lifespan relative to what their genetics allow.
Dwarf Hamster Lifespan
To better understand your dwarf hamster’s lifespan and maybe why it is so short relative to other pets you may have, we need to understand how a hamster ages and what their lifespan looks like.
A baby dwarf hamster, or a pup, is completely vulnerable when born. They are hairess, pink, blind, and solely reliant on their mothers for warmth and sustenance.
Pups should stay with their mothers until they are five weeks old. In these five weeks, the pups will grow hair and teeth and open their eyes. After five weeks, the pups start to resemble rivals and the mother may turn on them and cannibalize her young.
Dwarf hamsters grow up quickly. From five to 12 weeks they are considered adolescents. They are growing rapidly, bulking out their bodies, and becoming sexually mature. During this time, they need premium quality food and to be physically stimulated.
From 12 weeks of age, your dwarf hamster is considered an adult. A dwarf hamster that reaches two years old is considered to be in their old age.
During their adult months, your dwarf hamster will require lots of mental and physical stimulation to remain fit and healthy.
Things That Affect Your Dwarf Hamster’s Lifespan
As we’ve said previously, genetics halfway determines how long your hamster will live; however, their quality of care will be the deciding factor for whether they live to their predetermined maximum age or they die before then due to illness.
Your dwarf hamster’s genetics are determined by its parents. As small pets, hamsters are unfortunately ‘mass produced’ or ‘chain bred’ by pet stores and breeders in order to make money.
The people and organizations that breed as many hamsters as possible in a short amount of time do not care about the strength of their genetics and will back-breed many generations of hamsters to get ideal coloration or markings.
These unethical practices ultimately reduce the quality of the dwarf hamster’s genetics and their lifespan.
Hamsters need a balanced diet or readily available commercial food. However, you cannot rely on dry pellets to provide all the nutrition your hamster needs.
To add hydration, essential vitamins and minerals, and exciting variation to your hamster’s diet, you can give them fresh vegetables and an occasional fruity snack. These optional extras ensure your hamster is getting enough water and nutrition, and is an excellent way to bond with them.
Hamsters need plenty of space. You should get the largest cage possible but avoid tall cages with lots of climbing. Hamsters aren’t very nimble and are prone to falling. They can seriously injure themselves if they fall from a high perch in their cage.
Good airflow is also essential for your hamster’s health. If the air inside the cage is stagnant, your hamster can develop a respiratory illness that will shorten their lifespan.
For more information on what to put in your hamster’s cage, check out our beginner’s guide.
Along with plenty of physical stimulation and exercise, your hamster needs mental stimulation too. Running wheels, interesting (and healthy) snacks, tunnels, and toys are all necessary to provide mental stimulation and enrichment.
Buying or building a maze for your dwarf hamster to explore, use their nose, and problem solve is the ideal enrichment exercise.
A clean cage is essential to ensuring a long, healthy life relative to how long your hamster can reasonably live. You should give your dwarf hamster’s cage a once-over every day and pick up any mess, soiled bedding, or leftover food.
Hamsters are notorious for storing food in their cheek pouches and hiding it in parts of their cage or tubing they run around in. It’s very important that this food be removed to prevent it from going moldy and causing your hamster to get sick, which will also shorten its lifespan.
If you’ve ever wondered why hamsters can store so much food in their cheeks, check out our article that explains it all!
Hamsters are prone to respiratory issues and will get sick easily if they are in a damp and/or dusty environment. Make sure their bedding is replaced often, any spills or urine is cleaned up every day, and that there is no condensation build-up in any plastic tubing.
Water bottles and food bowls should also be cleaned once a day to prevent bacteria build up. Dwarf hamsters have very sensitive stomachs and can get diarrhea easily if they have contaminated food or water.
The age and frequency of when and how often dwarf hamsters are bred heavily impacts their lifespan. When a hamster is pregnant, calcium is reabsorbed from its bones into its system to go to the developing pups. A pregnancy usually lasts 20 to 22 days.
Dwarf hamsters should not be bred before they are 100 grams or 12 weeks old as they are far too young and this can permanently damage their bodies.But they should not be bred after they are 14 months old as they are considered geriatric and pregnancy at their age can kill them.
Hamsters have the ability to become pregnant 24 hours after giving birth. While they are capable of doing this, they shouldn’t. Frequent pregnancies will shorten your hamster’s lifespan significantly.
Stress affects our overall lifespan as humans and the same goes for hamsters!
Dwarf hamsters can be difficult when it comes to handling. Too little handling results in high stress levels when you do need to touch and move your hamster. However, too much handling can also be bad for your hamster’s stress levels.
A consistent handling schedule in a calm environment is key to minimizing their stress.
Managing your dwarf hamster’s stress is essential. Their cage should be placed in a part of your home that is warm but not hot, has good airflow, and is relatively quiet, especially at night.
Your hamster sleeps a lot during the day because they are nocturnal (meaning they are active at night). They need at least six to eight hours of sleep during the day. This means their cage needs to be in a place in the home that is calm and quiet during daylight hours.
If your hamster doesn’t get enough quality sleep, they will become stressed out, which will shorten their lifespan.
FAQs About How Long Dwarf Hamsters Live
What hamster species has the longest lifespan?
The Roborovski dwarf hamster is the longest lived hamster with an average lifespan of four years.
What hamster species has the shortest lifespan?
The Chinese ‘dwarf’ hamster is the shortest lived hamster with an average lifespan of only two years.
What was the oldest hamster to ever live?
The oldest pet hamster to make it into the Guinness World Records was 4.5 years old!
Why do people say handling hamsters kills them?
The act of handling your hamster is not what will kill it; it’s the inevitability that they will want to run, jump, or move around that leads to their untimely deaths. Hamsters are not always on board with being held and will generally try to get away from you or try to explore the new smells you’ve introduced them to.
Because they are such small creatures, if they fall from your hands while you’re standing, hamsters will die if they hit the floor. This is why many people say handling kills them.
Wrapping Up On A Dwarf Hamster’s Lifespan
Dwarf hamsters live for 1.5 to three years on average. Their ultimate age will be determined by their genetics and species. However, how you care for your dwarf hamster will either maximize or shorten their ultimate lifespan.
Let’s recap the main points on maximizing your dwarf hamster’s lifespan:
- Keep the environment clean.
- Provide your hamster with lots of floor space to run around.
- Lots of mental stimulation keeps hamsters happy and stress free.
- The cage needs to be in a calm and well-maintained environment.
- Be careful of overbreeding or incorrectly breeding your hamster.