So, you want to leave your hamster alone for a trip. You don’t want to inconvenience anyone in taking care of your little fluff ball for you, so you’re wondering, how long can a hamster go without food and water anyway?
A hamster needs fresh drinking water at all times. Hamsters can survive for about 3-4 of non-feeding by being offered extra food prior to a trip; they instinctively hoard this food in a safe spot and can use it in your absence.
Now that you know this information, rest assured, you’re probably okay to leave them overnight, but you definitely will want to ask someone to take care of your hamster for you if you leave for much longer.
Maybe you are wondering about other care tips for hamsters, how to tell when they are not in good health, and find out if they do miss you when you’re gone. Let us help you with this refresher course!
How Often Do Hamsters Need Food and Water?
Hamsters tend to eat about every 2 hours or so when food is abundant. They require consistent meals in order for their gut to function properly. The lack of food can be a serious problem for a hamster. Fortunately, hamsters have a fix for this problem. They don’t readily overeat, and instead, instinctively hoard food.
As a hamster owner, you might have noticed that your hamster picks up large amounts of food in their cheeks and then scurries away to their den or preferred hiding spot. This allows them to continuously eat whenever they want to. This adaptation is important in the wild, as hamsters spend a lot of time hiding from predators.
Hamsters aren’t as fortunate when it comes to water. They require water on a daily basis. On average, hamsters need about 8.5 mL of water per day per 100 grams of body weight. Females tend to have higher water requirements than males. The water requirements are different for certain species of hamsters. It is best to offer your hamster an unlimited amount of water to drink.
Hamsters will instinctively hibernate if temperatures drop below < 5°C (41°F), however, they do not tend to fatten up before doing so and will starve unless they are periodically roused from their slumber to eat. Therefore, you cannot rely on this trait to leave your hamster unfed for prolonged periods.
Hamsters do best on a base of pellet food that comes from the store. When you feed them pellet food, they are unable to search through and just pick out their favorites, they are only left with the one food that has all the nutrition they need. However, no pellet is considered a complete diet for your hamster.
Your hamster should have their diet supplemented with other foods. This includes safe to consume vegetation, seeds, fruit, and meats. However, such food has a very short shelf life and once placed in their cage, will quickly spoil and rot. Hamsters do not discriminate between the types of food they try to hoard and will try to hide easily perishable food in their dens or favorite hoarding spots.
Freshwater should be provided for your hamster all the time. Bigger hamsters need more water, generally speaking. Typically, it’s easiest to give your hamster water in a water bottle that attaches to the side of their cage, with a metal tube inserted into the cage. That tube has a little ball at the end that moves when the hamster licks it, allowing just a little water to come out at a time.
As long as the water is clean, simply refill the water bottle when it is getting low, and clean the water bottle regularly. Refilling the bottle when it’s low should provide your hamster with enough water for his daily needs, no matter his size.
Hamsters will chew through glass and therefore, glass bottles should not be added in their cage. Stainless steel sipper tubes are recommended, however, the sipper must be checked on a daily basis to ensure that water flow isn’t impeded.
How Long Can a Hamster Be Left Alone?
It isn’t possible to leave your hamster alone for a long period of time, because they need fresh drinking water at all times. However, if you’re confident in the quality of your water bottles, you can leave your hamster for a period of about 2 to 3 days at most, provided they have plenty of water bottles with a functional sipper.
In addition, you should offer your hamster extra pellets and dry foods a few days prior to your trip, in order to ensure that they can hoard excess food in their dens to use in your absence. Before leaving your hamster for a period of about 2-3 days, you should place extra non-perishable foods (such as their pellets and other edible seeds) in their cage. Hamsters prefer to forage for food and therefore, you don’t have to worry about placing the food in a single spot, such as a dish. Food left in just one dish might also be useless if your hamster accidentally defecates on the dish – however, hamsters can be potty trained and rarely defecate near their dens once trained.
It is strongly advised to have someone check in on your hamster while you’re away, especially to replace their water on a daily basis.
Hamster Distress Signs
When you return home from your time away, you will want to check on your hamster to make sure they are still healthy and happy. Be sure to look them over and give them food or water immediately if they are out. They might look a little peckish at first but might improve after the nutritious boost.
If your hamster is showing these signs, immediately or after a few days, you will want to take them to your vet:
While you can leave your hamster without food for about 2 or 3 days max, provided you let them hoard food in advance and offer them a food supply of food before you leave.
Hamsters cannot survive without water, and therefore, it isn’t recommended to leave them without water for extended periods of time, as a water bottle with a sipper might stop working while you’re away; for this reason, it’s best to place as many water bottles in your hamster’s cage as possible.
It’s best, though, if you can have someone take care of your hamster for you or at least check in on them once or twice. This way, when you come home, you are more likely to have a healthy hamster waiting for you.
- How Long Does a Hamster Live? (Hamster Lifespan)
- 8 Best Hamster Foods in the UK – Reviews & Top Picks
Featured Image Credit: mordilla-net, Pixabay