Best ways to keep your hamster warm
We all like to wrap up warm when the cold weather arrives, and your hamster is no exception.
Best ways to keep your hamster warm in winter include moving the cage to draft-free areas, adding extra bedding and ensuring that they are well fed. These are fool-proof ways to ensure that your hamster stays warm when it’s cold outside.
Hamsters originate from dry, arid, temperate places such as Syria and Greece so are used to being warm and cosy. If the temperature around them drops to below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, then your hamster may become lethargic. And, if the temperature continues to decrease below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, then your hamster could potentially become lifeless and fall into hibernation mode.
Below is a list of precautions that we have taken in order to keep our hamster snug and comfortable during the winter months.
Top tips for keeping your hamster warm
We bought our pet hamster at the start of fall when the weather was warmer and the days were longer. Therefore, Oscar was used to seeing more daylight hours streaming through the windows and revelling in the last few rays of fading sun.
Roll on 4 months and we are now in the depths of winter, shrouded in darkness with rain, ice and more recently snow lashing at our windows. And whilst we have been pulling on extra jumpers and snuggling under duvets, I noticed that our hamster was struggling to keep warm.
Here are some quick and easy solutions that you can implement yourself in order to stop your hamster getting cold and keep him nice and warm: –
- Extra bedding. Most hamsters like to make a nest out of bedding, pulling it up around them in order to keep snug. Our hamster, however, likes to creep into his outer tube, cocooning himself in a mass of bedding. Therefore, it is really important that you ensure there is a plentiful supply for which your hamster can use to burrow, dig, pull and nest. If you can’t afford to stock up on excess bedding, then shredded tissue works just as well as a cheap alternative – but please make sure that it is nice and soft.
- Blankets. Draping a piece of fleece fabric over your hamster’s cage can provide some extra insulation but do make sure that there is ample ventilation for your hamster to breathe. We hang a small fluffy hat over the corner of Oscar’s tube which he loves, as it not only provides him with heat but makes it darker for him to fall asleep.
- Food. Keeping warm requires your hamster to expel a lot of energy, so feed them bigger portions to ensure their levels are kept up. If you are unsure of what to feed your hamster, take a look at our blog on what you should and shouldn’t be giving your hamster to eat.
- Warm environment. Make sure that your hamster is kept indoors and not in a porch or garage during the winter months. Remove them from window ledges or anywhere that there is likely to be cracks or drafts as you do not want any peeps of air creeping through. And remember to turn up the heating – that way you can all benefit for a cosy room.
- Heating Pads. If after following the above advice your hamster still looks like they have a chill, then you may want to consider investing in a hamster heat pad or alternatively a heat lamp. I do not recommend using those that are advertised for human use, but self-regulating pads used for reptile tanks are perfect for heating hamster cages. You will need to make sure that you raise your hamster’s cage up slightly and attach the heater under one side of the cage so that your hamster can move to a cooler area if they so wish.
Why do hamsters need to be kept warm?
Just like humans, if your hamster gets too cold their immune system becomes suppressed. This makes them more prone to viral or bacterial infections, and if you have a very young or elderly hamster you could be putting them at risk of getting hypothermia.
It is normal for your hamster to become more lethargic in the winter. This is because they are preserving their energy levels in order to keep warm, choosing to stay in bed for longer. You shouldn’t be alarmed by this as in the wild, hamsters only wake periodically in order to eat and drink. If, however, your hamster becomes unconscious due to extreme coldness or goes into hibernation mode, then this is potentially life-threatening and you should seek veterinary assistance immediately.
What happens if a hamster gets too cold?
Hamsters can go into shock or hibernation if they get too cold. This can be very distressing for everyone as it may look as though your furry friend has passed away, as they appear limp and are cold to touch.
If you suspect that your hamster may be hibernating you should check for shallow breaths and signs of twitching and move them immediately to a warmer spot, stroking them until they start to stir. If you are unable to rouse them, you should see your vet straight away.
Can all hamsters hibernate?
There are some species of hamster, such as Syrians, which are prone to hibernating. They are known as permissive hibernators which means if they are subjected to cold temperatures or fluctuating food supplies, then they may decide to shut their bodies down and hibernate. This can last for just a few days until changes occur in their environment or it can last for up to a week.
If you suspect that your hamster is showing signs of wanting to hibernate then you must make sure that you handle them regularly to keep them alert, ensure that they are always warm (as stated above) and keep a watchful eye on any noticeable changes in behaviour. Everyone knows of at least one story where a hamster has “risen from the dead” – when it has most likely been stimulated from hibernation.
Please be aware, however, that hibernation can lead to hypothermia, and this is a potentially life-threatening condition.