Being a devoted and loving hamster parent is a beautiful experience. However, it is a significant commitment in terms of time, money, and responsibilities.
One of the main reasons many prospective pet owners look into hamsters is the widespread belief that this pocket pet is not high-maintenance.
While it is true that hamsters and other pocket pets entail fewer and simpler responsibilities, they still have basic needs that need to be met.
- Dr. Ivana Crnec, DVM
Like any other pet, hamsters need food, water, and interaction (including mental and physical stimulation) to thrive.
However, having a hamster does not mean you will not be able to go on an extended escape weekend. In this article, we will explain how long you can leave your hamster alone how long can hamsters go without food and water. In addition, we will give you tips on how to ensure your hamster is well-fed and hydrated even if you are not at home.
How Long Can Hamsters Go Without Food?
Hamsters can safely go for three to four days without food. However, despite their diminutive size, hamsters have very fast metabolisms and are very active, which means they need a regular food supply to satisfy their basic needs and fuel their tiny bodies.
When talking about how long hamsters can go without food, it is essential to note that these rodents are skilled hoarders. This hoarding habit might be irritating when there is an unusual smell radiating from the cage, and you find a hidden and half-rotten fruit or veggie chunk inside the burrowing den.
However, in terms of leaving your hamster alone for a couple of days, hoarding is quite helpful. Just imagine – you are supposed to be gone for four days and just to be on the safe side, leaving enough food for five days. If you add the amount of food your hamster has stashed in its den, you will get a supply that can last for at least seven days in total.
To make sure your hamster has all the food it needs, be sure to leave the following:
- Dry food – grains, pellets, and seeds (the exact amount depends on how much your hamster eats and how long you will be gone; the general rule of thumb is that the average adult hamster eats between two and three teaspoons of dry food a day)
- Dry biscuit – get a larger dry biscuit that could last your hamster a couple of days (your hamster can eat the entire biscuit in one day, but if offered other choices, it will probably refrain from nibbling solely on the biscuit).
- Several slices of watery veggies and sugary fruits – ideally, you should serve your hamster with cucumbers, carrots, lettuce, apples, and seedless grapes, depending on what is seasonally available at the moment. The fruits and veggies should be left in a separate food bowl and not mixed with the dry food as the moisture can spoil the entire food. However, although your hamster will probably scatter the fruit and veggie chunks all over the cage or in its den, you should keep them separate when served.
This is a general guideline. The exact amount of food you need to leave depends on your hamster's eating habits too.
For example, some hamsters are greedy and can overeat on almost everything you have left and then go for the rest of the days a bit hungry. Other hamsters will eat only as much as they need. You know your hamster best, and if it belongs to the overeating category, you will need to leave extra food just in case.
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How Long Can Hamsters Go Without Water?
Contrary to popular belief, hamsters cannot go without water for much longer than the average pet. Basically, hamsters can go between one and three days without water.
Hamsters are active animals and need a constant water source to keep them hydrated.
The misconception that hamsters can go a long time without drinking stems from the fact that this little fellow is a desert animal and adapted to living conditions with scarce water resources.
While it is true that wild hamsters in their natural habitats face harsher conditions, the modern domestic pet hamster is a bit spoiled and has more delicate needs. One of those needs is constant water access.
Hamsters are active animals and need a constant water source to keep them hydrated and fueled. If left without water, they quickly become stressed and can even get sick. This means that the period without water is not always consequence-free.
Important factors affecting how long your hamster can go without water
The exact length of time your hamster can survive without water depends on several factors, including:
- The hamster type, sex, and age
- Overall health status
- Room temperature
- The level of care it is used to receiving
Why are these factors important? Well, first of all, different hamster types vary in size significantly, which affects their basic water needs. Sex and age are also determining factors.
For example, adult female Syrian hamsters typically drink around three tablespoons of water per day, while adult male Syrian hamsters need only one teaspoon. Syrian hamster babies will consume less than one teaspoon.
Female Chinese hamsters drink the same as female Syrians, while the males drink between two and three tablespoons per day.
Dwarf hamsters of both sexes usually drink no more than one tablespoon of water per day. However, a baby dwarf hamster will probably drink less than one-quarter of a tablespoon.
The next factor is overall health status. Logically, a healthy hamster can go without water for much longer than a sick hamster or hamster recovering from some health issue.
In terms of room temperature, hamsters staying in hotter environments can go without water for shorter than hamsters staying in cooler surroundings. The hotter the climate, the more water the hamster will need to stay properly hydrated.
How Long Can Hamsters Be Left Without Water?
When a hamster parent wonders how long can a hamster go without water, there are three possible scenarios:
- Planning a trip and having to leave the hamster alone
- The hamster managed to escape and is now roaming free
- Loss of water appetite because of an underlying medical condition.
In the first scenario, if planning to leave the hamster alone, make sure you have filled the bottled water. Make a simple calculation to check whether the water bottle is enough – just multiply the number of days you will be gone with the milliliters your hamster needs per day. Also, make sure to check if the ball in the water dispenser is working correctly. Also, getting another bottle can be a good idea just in case the first one breaks or leaks.
In the second scenario, things can be tricky and depend on where the hamster got loose. Before describing the situation, it should be noted that hamsters are real escape artists and can find an escape plan even if well secured in their cages.
With that being covered, we should note that hamsters are very resourceful and, if outside, can easily find a water source (pipes, puddles). However, things are a bit more complicated if roaming inside where there is no water access.
In the third scenario, if your hamster is not drinking enough or at all, you need to seek veterinary help immediately. Hamsters are delicate creatures, and things can go from bad to worse in no time. Because of their fast metabolisms, hamsters can get sick and dehydrated in a matter of hours. So, generally speaking, the sooner you get to the vet, the better the outcome.
Signs of dehydration
Hopefully, things will not escalate to the dehydration point, but being informed and prepared is part of being a responsible hamster parent.
The following signs and symptoms are indicative of dehydration in hamsters:
- Fast breathing or impaired, difficult breathing
- Sunken, dry, and overly crusted eyes
- Extreme lethargy
- Inability to stand and/or walk
- Decreased skin elasticity.
In hamsters, dehydration is a life-threatening situation. A dehydrated hamster is in urgent need of intravenous fluids to compensate for the lost fluids.
How Long Can Hamsters Be Left Alone?
As explained, you can leave your hamster alone for about three to four days without worrying about its safety and wellbeing. However, this general rule applies to healthy adults. If your hamster is young, senior, or has a chronic illness, it is not advisable to leave it alone.
If your hamster is young, senior, or has a chronic illness, it is not advisable to leave it alone.
In such cases, you should ask a friend to check on your hamster daily, hire a pet sitter, or leave your hamster in a boarding facility.
Hamsters are creatures of habit and would prefer to live in the same environment as always if given a choice. In those terms, in most cases, it is better to ask a friend for a favor or hire a sitter. However, if these options are not possible, you can look into boarding facilities.
Basically, leaving your hamster in a boarding facility is more straightforward for you as you will not have to worry about anything.
However, since your hamster would prefer the other two options, let us look into what you will need to ensure your hammy's wellbeing.
1. Ask a friend and explain his/her daily duties. In general, the friend taking care of the hamster would need to check on your hamster once a day. During these visits, the friend would have to check the food supply and, if required, add something to the menu.
2. Check the water bottle – whether it is filled with water and whether the ball in the drinking pipe is functioning correctly. The ball often gets stuck, and even if the bottle is full, the hamster would not be able to drink.
3. The friend should confirm that the wheel is functioning. A hamster wheel can get stuck and stop spinning. Considering the wheel is the leading entertainment source for your hamster, it needs to function properly.
4. Finally, the friend needs to make sure the bedding is clean and safe. If the bedding is messy, it should be changed. Ideally, the entire bedding needs to be replaced regularly. If this is too much, even a spot cleaning will temporarily do the trick (generally speaking, doing just spot cleaning is not recommended, but these are special occasions).
Read Also: Best Hamster Bedding for Your Furry Friend
Before you leave and have explained to your friend what to do, make sure the room in which the cage is settled has a constant temperature. The air should be neither too dry nor too humid. The enclosure should be positioned out of direct sunlight and in a draft-free place.
The air temperature and humidity are vital because they affect the time your hamster can go without eating and drinking.
On the other hand, a draft can be detrimental to the hamster's overall health. If exposed to a draft, hamsters can get cold and sick. It would be best if you also avoid direct sunlight exposure as hamsters are prone to heat strokes.
Leaving Hamsters While on Vacation
Although sometimes it's possible to bring your pet along with you when you're away from home, most of the time it's not. Hamsters don't like changes in their environment, and lugging along their cage is usually impossible.
You can take a few extra precautions to have that peace of mind while going away.
However, pet parents are certainly allowed getaways, as long as they take their hamsters' health, wellbeing, and happiness into consideration. Hamsters don't necessarily need your company, so they can do for a couple of days alone or with someone checking in on them.
When leaving your hamster alone for a couple of days, you can take a few extra precautions to have that peace of mind while going away.
1. Get Your Hamster an Automatic Feeder
Having an automatic feeder will ensure your hammy has all the food it needs while you're not at home.
It's better to leave the food in a dispenser because if all the food is available at once, your hamster is likely to pouch and hide its favorite bits leaving the rest behind. Also, the food left in an open food bowl may become soiled and unhygienic, which is why a feeder is good for keeping the food fresh and clean.
This Kaytee Gravity Bin Feeder is quite large for smaller hamsters, but because it is simple and reliable, you can rest assured your hamster has food available at all times.
2. Get the Best Hamster Water Bottle
If you're going to leave your hammy alone for a couple of days, you'll want to make sure they have enough water. First of all, it's a good idea to have two bottles, just in case the other one becomes blocked. Secondly, you'll want large bottles with reliable nozzles.
This Choco Nose small animal water bottle is great because the nozzle doesn't leak, the screw-on bracket keeps the bottle firmly in place, and you can use it with most PET bottles if you want to replace the bottle you normally use with a bigger one while you're away. You even get a discount for buying two, which is what you'll be needing to ensure your hamster stays safe and hydrated.
3. Peace of Mind With a Video Camera
If you're leaving your hamster alone, there are always risks involved. Even if it's just two days, your hammy could get caught on something in the cage or injure itself.
If someone is not checking on your hamster every day (which is pretty difficult if your hamster is mostly awake at night), a pet monitoring camera is a great way to check in on your pet and call for help if you see something troubling.
And it's not just a great thing to have when going on a trip without your hamster; you can also use the pet camera to see what your hamster is up to while you're sleeping!
This Petcube pet monitoring camera is our favorite because it offers HD live streaming, has night vision, 8x zoom, and two-way audio. It's a great way to check in to make sure your hamster is safe and happy while you're away.
Summing up – How Long Can a Hamster Go Without Food And Water?
Although many factors affect the timeframe during which a hamster can safely be left home alone, the general rule of thumb is that hamsters can spend a weekend or even an extended weekend without their human parents.
Basically, hamsters can go between one and three days without water and between three and four days without food. This does not mean you do not have to leave available food and water sources. It just means your hamster can spend time without close monitoring.
All in all, even if you prepared everything and ensured your hamster's wellbeing, you can always ask a friend to keep an eye on the hammy while you are away. That way, you will be able to enjoy your getaway without feeling guilty about leaving your hamster home alone.
Ivana Crnec is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine specialized in domestic carnivores. She graduated from the University Sv. Kliment Ohridski, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Bitola, Republic of Macedonia. Ivana is a certified canine nutritionist and also certified in HAACP food safety system implementation. She currently works as a veterinarian while completing her postgraduate studies. Her research has been published in international journals.
NOTE: Advice provided within this article by FeedingMyPet.com is not a substitute for veterinary advice. Please discuss your hamster's specific dietary needs (based on his breed, weight, age, and health status) with a veterinarian.