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Home > Hamsters > Can a Domesticated Hamster Survive in the Wild? Vet Reviewed Facts & FAQ

Can a Domesticated Hamster Survive in the Wild? Vet Reviewed Facts & FAQ

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lorna Whittemore

Veterinarian, MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Hamsters are cute little pets that many people bring into their homes. Each time you step into a pet store, they are one of the first pets that catch your eye. Often, hamsters find themselves living in the bedroom of children as their first pet when dogs or cats may not be an option. Unfortunately, hamsters can escape, maybe someone brought a hamster home but no longer has the means to care for them. In these cases, domesticated hamsters can find their way into the wild. The big question is, can a domesticated hamster survive on its own in the wild? Sadly, the answer to this question is no, most domesticated hamsters can’t survive and should never be released into the wild.

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Are There Hamsters In the Wild?

Yes, non-domesticated hamsters live in the wild. Of course, these hamsters were born in the wild and have the instincts to survive there. You’ll find that there are around 18 species of wild hamsters found in Europe and Asia. One of the most elusive wild hamsters and most popular pet ones are the Syrian hamsters. The little golden creatures are the ones we have to thank for the hamsters we now have as pets. As it turns out, a zoologist named Israel Aharoni in 1930, had heard stories of these golden hamsters living in the wild. He was trying to match up descriptions of animals mentioned in the Torah and give Hebrew names to any new discoveries. He embarked on an expedition to Syria to find these little known creatures and learn more about them.

While he wasn’t a lover of adventure, Aharoni persisted in his expedition. Finally, with the help of a local guide, he was able to uncover a litter of 10 Syrian hamster pups being cared for by their mother in a burrow. Unfortunately, the rest of the expedition didn’t go so well. Once the hamsters were captured, the mother began eating her pups due to stress. The remaining 9 hamsters got lost along the way, most were found again. A bit later 5 hamsters escaped, not to be found again. However, the team in the end had 2 Syrian hamsters to start a breeding colony. This breeding colony is responsible for the pet hamsters so many people love today.

European Common Hamster (Cricetus Cricetus) on the Vienna Central Cemetery
Image Credit: Lisa Stelzel, Shutterstock

Can Domestic Hamsters Survive in the Wild

Domestic hamsters cannot survive long in the wild due to predation from cats, inability to find suitable food and shelter and environmental conditions to name a few reasons. Wild hamsters are built for life in their natural habitat. They know how to forage for food, get away from predators, and how to thrive. Domesticated hamsters have been bred in captivity and know only this. Every meal they receive comes from their owners. We shelter them, give them water, and keep them safe from things that can do them harm. They are not accustomed to doing these things for themselves.

In addition the pet hamsters are being released into an environment where they are not a natural part of the ecosystem. The food type available and environmental conditions are not likely to be right for them.

Unfortunately, there are times when hamsters escape cages or are released by owners no longer able or willing to look after them. When they can’t find someone to take the hamster in, releasing them into the wild is often the result. On the rare occasions that these little hamsters are rescued, they are near death, malnourished, and ill. Releasing hamsters into the wild is not recommended, is considered by many as cruel, and may be punishable as an animal cruelty offense.

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Final Thoughts

When asked if a domesticated hamster can survive in the wild, the answer is a resounding no. If you by chance find a hamster that has been released, please take it to a veterinarian or a local rescue for assistance. If you have a hamster that you are no longer able to care for, please reach out to local rescue organizations and veterinarians for help.


Featured Image Credit: Marcela Arrubla, Pixabay

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