Owning a pet hamster requires you to be perceptive and knowledgeable when it comes to the hamster’s natural habits. That means that you should know when they are about to hibernate and what the signs of their impending or current hibernation look like considering the fact that some breeds of hamsters just aren’t suited for the cold and may end up dying when they go into hibernation.
After all, it’s going to be natural for hamsters to go into hibernation when the season gets cold but the problem is that some people cannot really tell whether or not the hamster is hibernating, sick, or dead. That’s why we have come up with the 9 signs that you should look out for to know whether or not your hamster is just hibernating.
This is probably the most common sign of hibernation in any kind of animal. It is quite normal for hibernating animals to start binge-eating before they go into hibernation because they would need all that food during the winter when they will enter a long state of suspension. During that state of hibernation, they won’t be able to eat anything.
So, in your hamster’s case, if you notice that it is eating far more than it does on a regular basis, it may actually be storing food for energy in time for winter when it is about to hibernate. After all, it needs the excess fat to keep its body well-nourished during its state of hibernation.
This will happen when the temperatures start dropping. As such, the best thing to do in your case is to keep the temperatures higher than 20 degrees Celsius so that the pet hamster won’t end up having to binge eat in time for winter.
Even before the hamster begins its hibernation cycle, you will actually see tell-tale signs that it will begin to hibernate. One of them is when the little pocket pal begins to shiver due to how the temperatures are starting to get colder and colder. Your hamster won’t be able to handle temperatures that are too cold, hence it will begin to hibernate when that happens.
So, your best bet here is to keep your hamster’s habitat as warm as it can be without making it too warm. Your hamster needs to be placed in an area where there is enough ventilation such as a window but windows may end up becoming too cold for it.
What you can do in such a case is to provide it with a warm lamp that is capable of heating up its enclosure so that it won’t get too cold even when it is in a particularly cold corner of the room.
3. It starts to become lethargic
Before your hamster begins its hibernation, you may notice that it becoming a bit lethargic and lazy. That means that it won’t be moving as often as it did in the past before the temperatures got a bit too cold.
There are times that it could mean that your hamster has simply fallen ill but, if it is still in perfect health, it could only mean that it will begin to start hibernating as soon as the temperatures become cold enough for it to hibernate.
But before you assume that its lethargy is a sign of an impending hibernation, you have to make sure that it was completely healthy just a few days before the season got cold. That’s because its lethargy, as mentioned, could just be a sign of sickness.
4. Hamster hibernation temperature
Hamsters will only hibernate whenever the temperatures are getting cold. This usually happens when the winter is approaching because that is when the season gets too cold to prompt your little furball to start hibernating. Check the temperatures and see if they are steadily below 20 degrees Celsius. If yes, then the hamster is probably hibernating.
However, if you want to check whether or not your hamster is hibernating or is sick, you may gradually increase the temperatures to over 20 degrees. If the hamster wakes up, then that means that it was just hibernating.
This might take a few hours to a few days but a hamster that was just hibernating will eventually wake up when the temperatures become too warm for it to hibernate.
5. Check for breathing
This can be pretty challenging especially because hamsters that are hibernating are most likely going to be breathing very slowly to the point that they may sometimes appear to be dead or very sick. But you can still tell that they are breathing even when they are hibernating.
Just inspect the little guy closely and see whether or not it is taking short but deep breaths. If yes, then it just means that it is hibernating.
You may also pick a hibernating hamster up but you will notice that it will be quite weak and limp due to the fact that it is dehydrated. Its ears and nose will also be quite cold if you try touching them but that doesn’t mean that it is dead.
6. Inspect its heartbeat
Another sign of life that you should look out for when you think your hamster is hibernating is its heartbeat. A beating heart will always tell you that it is still alive but is merely in a suspended state of hibernation. But the problem is that telling whether or not your hamster has a heartbeat can be pretty tough considering how small these little furballs are.
In that case, what you need to do is to place your forefinger and thumb on the sides of the hamster’s chest. Try applying a bit of pressure but not too much. When you do so, the heart will start beating in about a minute after applying a slight pressure to its chest. But be careful not to apply too much pressure as it can actually end up causing internal injuries to the hamster.
7. Its food and water will remain untouched
Naturally, whenever an animal is hibernating, it will undergo a period where it will be in a state of suspension. As such, when that happens, they will become inactive as they fall into a deep slumber. They will not move around or even eat and drink.
So, obviously, if the hamster is hibernating, it only means that it won’t be eating its food or drinking its water in that state of hibernation. As such, if you check its food and water and they remain untouched, that could only mean that your hamster has entered a state of hibernation and will not wake up until the temperatures begin to warm up again.
8. The hamster will become stiff
The problem when it comes to hamster hibernation is that these little furballs will become so stiff whenever they are hibernating. In fact, they are so stiff that you might think that they are actually dead.
Their entire body will become so stiff that one would think that it would be impossible for its limbs to begin moving again. It would appear lifeless and may not even move even if you try to manipulate the hamster’s body into moving.
That doesn’t mean that the hamster is dead. If you try to apply a bit of heat to the hamster’s habitat and gradually increase the temperatures to more than 20 degrees Celsius, you might soon notice the hamster moving its limbs again even though it might be weak and limp due to lack of water when it was hibernation.
9. It should feel cold to the touch
Your hamster should not feel warm at all while it is hibernating. The truth is that it should feel so cold that you would think that you are feeling a dead body. But body temperature shouldn’t always be an indication when it comes to telling whether or not your hamster is dead or is just hibernating considering that this animal naturally becomes cold to the touch during winter seasons.
However, if you tried to warm its habitat but it still feels unresponsive even after a few hours or a few days, there is a good reason to believe that it has fallen ill or may have even died due to the cold temperatures. That’s why it is always important to make sure that you don’t allow the cold to take your hamster as there is a good chance that it will end up dying while hibernating due to dehydration.