If you own a female hamster, you will need to know about her menstrual cycle, and if she bleeds during her period. Or if she even gets a period at all. Not all creatures are the same.
Let’s see how the female hamster’s reproductive cycle works, and how it affects the mating process.
So do hamsters get periods ?
No, not the same way other female mammals do. The female hamster does produce eggs that need to be fertilized by the male, but there is no bloody discharge if the eggs haven’t been fertilized.
There can be one single drop of blood, occasionally, but that’s it.
Instead there will be a whitish substance that the female will release at the end of her ‘period’. This repeats every 4 days, and the window in which the female is available for breeding is only 12 hours long, at night.
On that night, she gives off a strong smell, to attract the male hamster. This is the hamster version of being ‘in heat’.
This starts once the hamster becomes sexually mature (around 8 weeks) and lasts until she either dies, or becomes too old.
How you can tell your hamster is in heat
Aside from the strong smell the female gives off, there are other signs. For example on the day when the female is available (day 2 of her cycle), she will secrete a whitish substance that also contributes to the general smell around her.
By the end of her cycle (day 3 and 4) the substance secreted from the genital opening becomes drier, more waxy.
You will notice the hamster is more agitated, and if you stroke her back she will flatten her body and splay her legs. This means she’s ready to receive the male, and if you’re looking to breed hamsters, this is the right time.
Then everything starts again, with the thinner secretions on the first day. Female hamsters have regular whitish secretions, much like human females. This is partly a cleaning mechanism, and a part of the mucus that is meant to receive the male’s sperm.
This will continue until the hamster becomes pregnant, and them resume after she gives birth. And this will continue until she falls pregnant again, or become too old (a sort of menopause).
When/what age to let the female hamster mate
There are best and worst moments to let the female hamster breed. This is because pregnancies when the hamster is too young is taxing since she is still growing and it’s not an easy pregnancy.
Pregnancies in hamsters older than 15 weeks is not recommended, since it often has many complications. Anything between 10 to 15 weeks is fine.
As for how early you can start breeding the hamsters, the male is said to be in peak between week 10 and 14, while the female can start as soon as she 10 weeks.
When you do introduce the female to the male to let them mate, you should take a few precautions. Even though the female is willing to mate, she will not always accept the male.
This can vary from hamster to hamster, but the mating ritual is a bit violent. There will be tussling and a bit of fighting. She will test the male to see if he’s worth her eggs, and most of the time he is.
There are times when the male is either weak, or the female is too violent. This means that male needs to be removed and a different male introduced, possibly one who can stand against her.
This needs to be done in the evening, when the female wakes up, and her secretion is whitish and fairly thin. She should be on her second day, right in the middle of the cycle. It only lasts for 12 hours, and the male only has that one night to impregnate her.
Signs your female hamster is pregnant
If the breeding is successful, you will notice something that’s called a copulatory plug. This is kind of an actual plug, made of the male sperm, and the female excretions. It’s hardened and white, and will remain there for the first 5 days of the pregnancy.
This is the most obvious and definitive sign that the male has successfully impregnated the female.
Another sign, in case you missed the plug, is the fact that the hamster will still secrete a whitish substance but this will be consistent, creamy, and whitish. There will be no thin secretion, only the thick one for the following 5 days.
After that night, the pair needs to be separated. The female will be aggressive towards the male, and it’s best to keep a gestating female hamster undisturbed, on her own.
The gestation period varies from hamster breed to breed, but generally is between 16 to 22 days. Dwarf hamsters have the longest pregnancy (20-22) while the Syrian hamsters have the shortest pregnancy.
You’ll notice the female is pregnant about 10 days after the mating, her belly will swell and she will be more and more irritable. At this time it’s best to give her more and more food, especially protein like cooked plain chicken or egg white.
Also, more nesting material is required, since she will start building this big, warm, sprawling nest for her and the babies. So make sure you’ve for tissues, toilet paper and paper towels at hand, and give her more than you think she needs. She will use all of it.
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Pregnancy and birth of the hamster litter
The female needs to be kept alone, away from her cage mates, so nothing can disturb her. This is because any stress or annoyance can spook her, and she has a high chance of eating her young once they’re born.
This is especially true if it’s her first litter, and has no previous experience with young hamsters.
Once her due date approaches she will become restless, she will eat more, and she will stop using her wheel. She might be sleeping or just resting more. You might see a drop of blood or two just before the birth.
On the day of birth, you need to make sure she has a good stock of food and water on hand. She will stand up, and deliver one baby hamster. She will clean him, sever the umbilical cord, tidy around the nest or take a short nap, and a few minutes later deliver the second baby, and so on until all babies have been born and cleaned.
Once she is done, she will be very tired, and irritable. Be sure to leave her alone completely, and only bring food and give it through the cage bars. Do not try to peek at the babies or poke at her. So not clean her cage, neither spot-clean nor completely clean.
This will be the norm for about 2 weeks after she has given birth.
The babies are born hairless and blind, and will suckle from her until they reach 4 weeks of age. That is when she will wean them, and you will need to separate them into same-sex groups to avoid surprise litters.
Do hamsters bleed during their period ?
No, not usually. There might be a drop of blood every now and again for some hamsters. But a hamster period does not include a heavy, bloody flow like in human females.
This means that if your hamster is a female, and she bleeds during each of her periods, you should have her checked out. Even if it’s just a drop of blood, if it’s consistent and always happens (every 4 days) you need to be sure everything is okay.
Genital problems in female hamsters
A heavy flow of blood during the hamster’s period can indicate a serious health issue. It could be the a urinary tract infection that went very far. Or it could be an internal injury, especially if the bleeding is fairly constant (over a few hours).
Another problem is pyometra. It’s an infection in the uterus, which will produce a yellowish discharge from the hamster’s genital opening. It will be noticeable, and especially smelly since for the most part it will be pus.
The hamster’s belly will also be swollen if she has pyometra. This is more common in older hamsters, rather than young ones, so take that into account. It’s treatable, and you’ll need a good vet for that.
A word from Teddy
I hope you found what you were looking for in this article. I know us hammies can be confusing at times, but we’re quite a bit different from you.
If you want to know more about us hamsters you should check out the related articles below. You’ll learn how to keep us safe and happy, and what we need for a good life.