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How Long Can a Hamster Go Without Food & Water?

Jordin Horn

June 18, 2021

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? They can survive without food and water for about 3-4 days maximum since they last had food or water, to answer your question.

Now that you know this information, rest assured, you’re probably okay to leave on that weekend trip, 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!

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How Often Do Hamsters Need Food and Water?

hamster 4_NanaSod_Pixabay
Image Credit: NanaSod, Pixabay

Hamsters, by nature, are desert animals. This is the reason they will often hoard the food inside their hamster house. This is one reason you need not worry if you are gone for a few days, as it is likely that your hamster has already some food stashed away for such a time as this.

But even though they hoard food sometimes, you still need to feed them regularly.

Feeding Guidelines

Little hamster eating a piece of broccoli
Image Credit: Cristina RC, Shutterstock

Hamsters thrive on 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.

Your hamster can have “real food,” too. However, you should only give them enough perishable food as they can eat in 4 hours’ time. If you notice they have not finished in that time, you should remove the food to prevent it from going rancid.

So, how much food do hamsters need, and how often? Here’s a quick list of what they can have on a daily basis:

  • Pelleted food: fill their bowl ¾ full every day
  • Dark leafy greens: every other day, 15% of their bowl size
  • Fruits like apples, bananas, or melons: once a week, only 5% of their bowl size
  • Treats like alfalfa hay and raisins: once a week, 5% of their bowl

Feeding your hamster with this routine will give them balanced nutrition. Of course, talk to your vet if you want to be sure. Each hamster is different with different health needs.

Watering Guidelines

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Image Credit: Lord Belbury, Wikimedia

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.

How Long Can a Hamster Be Left Alone?

You want to find out how long you can really plan your next vacation without leaving your hammy for too long. So how long is too long?

Can I Leave My Hamster for a Week?

Djungarian hamster eating a piece of watermelon
Image Credit: piotr.ma, Shutterstock

It’s possible to leave your hamster for a week, as some hamster parents have done this and have returned to find their hamster in good or okay condition. This should only be done when there are no other options, though, as your hamster likely is used to the routine of you being around, and will miss the social element of you in his life.

One thing to keep in mind is how much trouble a hamster can get into when left alone for too long. Your hamster might try an escape routine while you are gone. So, if you do leave for that long, make sure you take necessary precautions. One pet owner put their hamster’s cage in a bathtub while they were gone, just to be sure her hamster wouldn’t chew through the cage and be gone.

So, if you have to leave your hamster for a week, or just for a few days, make sure that you take the necessary measures and provide enough food and water for sustenance while you are away.

How to Leave Enough Food and Water for Your Hamster While You’re Gone

hamster drinking_JessicaGirvan_Shutterstock
Image Credit: JessicaGirvan, Shutterstock

When it comes to leaving your hamster enough water while you’re away, it’s a good idea to install two water bottles onto your hamster’s cage. This serves one purpose in making sure there’s enough water, but also serves as a backup in case one of the bottles breaks or fails to dispense water.

For food, give him lots of protein sources that will not go bad if they sit in the cage while you are gone. Fill up the food bowl with protein-rich foods. He likely has some food hoarded in his house to sustain him a little while longer, too.

In addition to this, provide some very dry food like grains, and some very wet food like melon and veggies like cucumber. This wet food will give them a little extra water for while you are gone. You may also consider leaving a biscuit-type food that they can chew on slowly for the days you are gone.

Keep in mind your hamster’s personality while you are planning to be away from him. Does he portion out his food when you normally feed him, or is he greedy and gobbles it all up right away? You can determine how much extra you may need to leave him based on his temperament.

Do Hamsters Miss Their Owners?

hamster 8_PublicDomainPictures_Pixabay
Image Credit: PublicDomainPictures, Pixabay

You may wonder if, by leaving your hamster alone for a long time, your hamster will get lonely and miss you. While we can’t know for sure, we do know some things about hamsters and people.

Hamsters are solitary animals by nature. So, if you leave your hamster alone a lot, they will not suffer from a lack of attention. Though, hamster owners can form bonds with their pets by daily handling and showing them affection.

If they are used to a daily routine of love and affection from you, and all of a sudden it stops for a few days, your little hamster may indeed miss you. But if he is used to being left alone for days at a time, it will not affect him much.

Hamster Distress Signs

gray Dzungarian hamster eating green leaf of lettuce_VH-studio_shutterstock
Image Credit: VH-studio, Shutterstoc

When you return home from your time away, you will want to check on your hamster to make sure he is still healthy and happy. Be sure to look him over and give him food or water immediately if he is out. He might look a little peakish 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 him to your vet:

  • Runny nose
  • Irregular eating or drinking
  • Wheezing
  • Overgrown front teeth
  • Bald patches
  • Foot sores
  • Loose stools
  • Blood in the urine

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Conclusion

While you can leave your hamster without food or water for a recommended amount of 3 or 4 days max, you can leave him alone for up to a week, if you provide the proper amount of food and water. It’s best, though, if you can have someone take care of your hamster for you or at least check in on him once or twice. This way, when you come home, you are guaranteed to have a healthy hamster waiting for you.


Featured Image Credit: mordilla-net, Pixabay

Jordin Horn

Jordin Horn is a freelance writer who has covered many topics, including home improvement, gardening, pets, CBD, and parenting. Over the years, she has moved around so much that there's been no time to settle down and own a pet. However, as an animal lover, she dotes on and cuddles any pet she happens upon! She grew up with and dearly loved an American Eskimo Spitz named Maggie and a Pomeranian/Beagle mix named Gabby. She calls Colorado home, but has also recently resided in China, Iowa, and Puerto Rico Jordin does not like to settle for the "easy answer" when it comes to living life with your pet. She loves to research the best methods and products out there and cut through the jargon so you can see plainly what something is or how something is done.