Hamsters breathe pretty fast in general, but for a new owner that doesn’t know how fast they should breathe, it might be concerning to see your hamster breathing fast while they sleep.
Of course, they can develop respiratory problems, so it is better to know what a regular breathing rate is for hamsters to know if it’s ok. It is easier to spot those problems if you have had your hamster for some time and you know how fast they usually breathe, but it is impossible to know when you just got it.
In this article, I will talk about what is a normal and an abnormal breathing rate for hamsters. Unfortunately, all I can give you is a pretty wide range. But don’t worry, there are other signs you can check to ensure your hamster is ok.
Why is my hamster breathing fast?
Hamsters breathe at least three times faster than humans, so they breathe pretty fast. If you didn’t notice any change in your hamster’s breathing rate, there might not be any actual respiratory problems, but if you somehow noticed that they are breathing faster lately, you should get your little hamster to a specialized vet immediately.
A hamster’s heart rate is between 34-114 bpm, which is a wide range but as in our case, it varies a lot from one hamster to another, and many other factors can affect this rate. Factors like the hamster’s age, health condition, weight, stress level, and so on.
One very important thing about hamsters is that they make noises when they have a problem. Otherwise they are quiet, except for some random squeaky sounds they make when they sleep, those can be associated with dreaming. Yes, you’ve heard that right, your little furball can dream.
So if you notice that your hamster is breathing fast and it is also sneezing and has a wheezing breath, there might be a respiratory problem and you have to get your hamster to the vet as soon as possible.
Hamster respiratory problems
Here are a few common respiratory problems in hamsters or problems that affect how fast a hamster breath.
1. Cold and flu
Hamsters can get catch a cold or the flu as we can, they can also get it from us, so you should avoid playing with your hamster when you are sick.
A cold hamster is more likely to be lethargic and unwilling to move around. You may also notice that your hamster is eating less than usual or has lost a significant amount of weight. Other signs that your hamster is cold include shivering, red eyes, and sneezing. If your hamster shows any of these signs, you should take them to a vet as soon as possible in order to assess the situation and provide treatment if necessary.
Those problems are much more dangerous for your little furball than for you, so don’t treat them lightly.
Living in a cage, which prevents them from burrowing for warmth, and exposing them to drafts for extended periods, increases the risk of rodents developing serious pneumonia. Though this illness can be remedied in humans, it can have much more serious effects on the small respiratory system of a rodent.
Signs of pneumonia in hamsters include:
- Pus or mucus oozing from the nose or eyes.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Loss of appetite.
- Lack of activity.
So if you notice any of these signs, then your hamster might be sick and you have to get it to a specialized vet.
Hamsters are very anxious animals and are easily stressed, which might make them breathe faster and heavier. There are many reasons for your hamster to be stressed, ranging from not having enough space in the cage to not liking the interaction with a human and so on.
The signs of a stressed hamster are very important, and while the reason is hard to understand since it can be anything, the signs are quite clear.
Signs of a stressed hamster include:
- Hiding away.
- Being hostile.
- Not eating as much.
- Becoming immobile when you are around them.
- Drooling excessively and being overly active.
4. Tumors and lumps
Here is an entire article I wrote about tumors and lumps in hamsters, I will not get into as many details here as in that article to not repeat myself. However, it is important to know that hamsters can develop tumors and lumps and if they are on the chest area, it might affect the hamster’s respiratory rate.
So if you notice that your hamster is breathing faster than usual, you might want to check if there are any tumors on its chest.
This is one of the most obvious reasons a hamster breathes faster or more heavily.
If you want to know why your hamster is fat and how to make it slim without stressing it, check out my article on three main reasons a hamster can be fat.
In that article, I talk about how much you should feed a hamster, how often, and other things that you should be aware of.
How to exercise your hamster?
An active hamster is less likely to have respiratory problems, so it is crucial to give our hamsters all tools they need to exercise properly.
When we talk about an inactive hamster, one of the main reasons is a small cage without enough space for a proper wheel and other exercising toys and also not enough space for bedding for your hamster to dig in.
Here is a big enough cage that you can find on amazon without hurting your wallet too much.
Hamster cages can get quite expensive, but this one is great value for money. It isn’t a fancy cage, but you don’t necessarily need one with many tunnels and other stuff since you can add those yourself in the cage if it’s big enough.
So if you start with a big enough cage, your hamster will most likely get enough exercise.
The next important thing to get for your hamster is a proper wheel.
They spend most of their time in the wheel when they are active so having a good one is crucial.
The hamster wheel should be big enough for your hamster to exercise in it without bending his back because this will affect their spine health over time.
Here is the best one I could find on amazon for you, it is an 11-inch plastic wheel that can be placed in the cage.
If you have a small cage that can not fit an 11-inch wheel, here is a 9-inch one that is also good enough for most hamsters.
No matter which one of those two you choose or any other good wheel you can find, it is important to get a big enough wheel for your hamster.
Usually, they need a bigger cage and wheel than you might expect if you have no experience with hamster pets.
The exercise a hamster gets from playing with you is nonsignificant compared to the exercise they get in the cage and wheel.
So it doesn’t matter if you get your hamster out of the cage more often, if the cage is too small or they don’t have a wheel, they will not get enough exercise, and this will lead to some health issues, including respiratory ones.
Some hamsters don’t use the wheel as often, and that is unfortunate since, for a pet hamster, that is where they get the most out of their exercise.
Someone had a hamster that was going in the wheel only to sit there or sleep from time to time. So, if your hamster doesn’t want to exercise in the wheel, unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to motivate it. However, if they don’t go in the wheel at all, you might want to try to place some treats in there for them to find the wheel and find out that it is moving.
In normal conditions, hamsters breathe pretty fast, between 34-114 bpm, so it’s hard to know when they have a problem only judging by their breathing rate, but if they have other symptoms we talked about, you have to get your hamster to the vet.
I hope this article helped you asses properly if your hamster is sick or everything is normal, but you didn’t realize until now how fast those little furballs breathe.