In the wider animal kingdom, cannibalization is not as taboo or uncommon as it is for us humans! For some newborn hamsters, this process is a natural order of events if multiple babies are born to an entire litter. But why exactly do hamsters eat their newborn babies?
A mother hamster may eat newborn hamsters due to feelings of anxiety or fear that motherhood is too much to bear or dangerous in a chaotic environment. A mother hamsters natural instincts, as well as feelings of intense hunger or odd scents on a hamster baby, can cause cannibalization.
We were lucky in that Oscar was a boy – with two daughters and a female dog we needed to try and balance the genders a bit more in our household! This meant that we did not have to worry about hamster cycles, pregnancy or birth!
If you are a female hamster owner, however, and your pet has recently given birth, then you should look out for particular signs that could result in this disturbing behavior. Because although it is an alarming phenomenon, it is important to understand.
In this guide, we are going to explain why a female hamster may feel the need to eat its babies. We will also explore some ways in which you can help prevent this practice.
Do mother hamsters cannibalize?
Hamsters are undeniably adorable pets that spend their days burning off energy in their cages and nibbling on a wide variety of treats. While these traits are a major draw to owning one of these cuddly creatures, hamsters can display some evolutionary traits like any animal that goes beyond the stereotypes we design for certain pets.
Nature is not the kind and comforting phenomenon we always associate it with being. The fact is that life, even for animals, is an incredibly stressful and highly competitive experience.
Even if a mothering hamster is provided with more than enough food, she may still eat her newborn babies for other reasons.
So, this is not a matter of a female being odd and cannibalizing her young for no reason whatsoever. That kind of behavior is typically seen in males. There are numerous different reasons why this occurs.
How do I stop my mother hamster from eating her babies?
We have discussed a few reasons why hamsters eat their babies. But how can you stop this behavior?
It is all about ensuring that the mother hamster has a stress-free large cage. Separate her from male hamsters to keep things calm while she cares for her litter. This can also keep the males from possibly eating the babies as well.
Ensure that her cage always has fresh and ample amounts of water, and that she is fed regularly with treats nearby. If she is well-fed, and her stress levels are down, you are unlikely to have to worry about her eating her young.
What causes female hamsters to eat their own offspring?
Let’s explore some of the main reasons this happens.
Stress and Anxiety
Hamsters are a type of animal that is naturally prone to stress and anxiety. Hamsters eat their babies for a wide variety of reasons, but similar to post-natal depression in humans, a mother hamster can easily begin to feel overwhelmed at her new role, and may eat her own babies to reduce the stress she feels about the litter.
Since giving birth is a monumental and draining experience for hamsters as well as any mother, the stress and anxiety about the future and being able to properly care for a baby hamster pack can become too much.
Lack of Food
Although less common, there is the possibility that lack of adequate food could be a reason why mother hamsters eat their babies.
Always ensure a hamster mom is fed a balanced diet during pregnancy and consistently after giving birth.
This will give her the strength to handle the needs of the entire litter, and all the babies will not drain her of energy. Having enough food and fresh water can prevent hamsters from cannibalizing a new litter.
To find out the best pre bought hamster foods to feed your hamster, check out our informative blog.
Odd Smells and Different Scent
Another reason hamsters eat their babies is related to odors on babies that cause confusion for the mother. To prevent a mother eating her own young, try and avoid touching the babies or allowing other pets to touch or lick the baby hamsters.
Odd scents are one of many reasons hamsters eat their babies that has nothing to do with the stress or fear a mother hamster may be experiencing. She wants her young to have her scent, and her scent only.
Sense of Danger
If a mother hamster senses danger near her new babies, an instinct can kick in that causes her to think that devouring her babies is better than allowing them to be killed or eaten by other predators.
This behavior can be seen in other examples of animal cannibalism as well. Make sure the nesting material is enclosed in a quiet environment where loud noises, pets, and other things a hamster would register as danger are not near.
Lack of Adequate Care
Although this may seem cruel to us, a nursing hamster mom may feel that she cannot properly care for so many babies. If the litter is large, a nursing hamster may want to reduce some of the babies to provide more food for the amount of young she feels she can adequately take care of.
She feels that it is better to risk sacrificing a few of her young than to risk possibly causing starvation for the entire littler.
This is another reason why it is crucial to ensure a female has a large supply of variable food and water near her at all times. If she is properly fed and hydrated, she can create the milk needed to care for a large littler of babies.
This can also help her stay healthy so she can take care of other family members.
Just like with puppies and kittens, we sometimes cannot contain ourselves when it comes to the newborn offspring of our favorite pets.
With this in mind, you should avoid touching or moving a hamster cage as much as possible during the first few weeks after a female gives birth.
This is important because it ensures that the mother does not have to wonder if the babies have been touched or in some way harmed by other animals, and even by us.
She wants her young to be coated in her scent and does not want to smell other animals or people on her babies since this can confuse her and make her feel as if the babies have been compromised in some way.
So it is best to ensure the cage is not disturbed, and never, ever touch the babies until they have grown past the newborn stage of development.
In summary, hamster eats their babies for a variety of different reasons. All the reasons are completely natural and align with a mother’s natural instincts for protecting the majority by sacrificing a few.
You can help stop this behavior by always ensuring the mother has plenty of food and water, by not touching the babies, and by ensuring the cage is safe and left undisturbed.
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