All hamsters, wild and domestic, have relatively short life spans – only a couple of years. Generally speaking, they tend to live longer as pets than they do in the wild.
Lack of food, drought, diseases, extreme temperatures, and the risk of being killed by predators, are reasons for the shorter life span in their natural habitat.
Although there are almost twenty species of hamster in the world, only five of them are kept as pets. Pet hamsters normally live for 1-4 years, but it varies between the different species.
|Common name||Also known as||Life Span (years)|
|Syrian hamster||Golden hamster|
European black bear
|3 - 4|
|Chinese hamster||Rat hamster||1.5 - 2.5|
|Campbell's dwarf hamster||Russian dwarf||2 - 2.5|
|Winter white Russian dwarf hamster||Djungarian hamster|
|1 - 3|
|Roborovski hamster||Desert hamster|
|3 - 3.5|
What Factors Affect How Long Hamsters Live?
Many different factors affect the life span of a hamster. The most important ones are:
- Diet. In the wild, the hamster dies at a younger age partly because of hunger, malnourishment, and drought. By providing your hamster with a healthy diet and access to fresh water (change it every other day), it will live longer for sure.
- Genes. Just like humans (and all other living organisms on Earth), some individuals are destined to live longer, thanks to better genes. This is beyond your control, so don’t worry about it.
- Species. As you can see from the list above, some species have longer life spans than others.
- Wild or Pet. As I mentioned earlier, hamsters generally have longer lives in captivity than in the wild.
- Living environment. Size of cage, quality of bedding, temperature, level of noise and stress in your home, cleanliness, and other similar factors matter a lot.
- Exercise. Hamsters are energetic little pets that need to move their bodies a lot. Without proper exercise, they will have shorter and not so pleasant lives.
- Disease. They are more exposed to diseases in the wild, but they can get sick in captivity as well. Humans can infect hamsters with flus and colds, and contact with other animals can also result in diseases.
- Care. A fully committed owner that takes care of their pet in the best possible way can make a huge difference.
How Can You Make Them Live Longer?
We all want out pets to live as long as possible. Some things are beyond our control though (like genes), but there are a lot of other things you can do to make sure your hamster gets a long life.
- Get a large wire cage with solid bottom. Create a nice bedding by covering the solid bottom of the cage with shredded paper. Make sure to keep the cage clean. Give your little friend a small “house” within the cage where it can sleep (for example, a box turned upside down).
- Your hamster will have a much better life with an exercise wheel and some toys (like toilet paper tubes). They will help drain energy, and stimulate the brain.
- Provide your hamster with a healthy diet and make sure it always has access to fresh water.
- Get something it can gnaw on, like a piece of wood block.
- Minimize the risk of illness by placing the cage in a warm place (18-27°C) without draft. And for the same reason, don’t handle your hamster when you have a cold.
- Contact a veterinarian when you discover signs of injuries or diseases.
If you follow these steps, your hamster will have a much better chance of having a long and comfortable life. Good luck!