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How Long Does a Hamster Live? (Hamster Lifespan)

Rachael Gerkensmeyer

There are five breeds of hamsters that can be found in pet stores throughout the United States, and they all have unique personalities. They also have similar lifespans of between 1 and 3 years old, with most hamsters living between 1.5 and 2 years of age. No hamster is preprogrammed to live a specific amount of time. Several factors can make a difference in how long your hamster lives. Let’s explore those factors together.

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Genes and Traits

Although hamsters are not preprogrammed to live a specific length of life, their genes and inherited traits may play a role in a hamster’s lifespan in some way. For example, a hamster can be born with a predisposition to get early-onset diabetes because it runs in their genes. If this is the case, the hamster likely will not live as long as they could.

Most people buy hamsters from pet shops and therefore, cannot know whether their new hamster carries any genes or traits that could affect their lifespan overall. The only thing that can be done is to schedule blood tests and other types of inspections at the veterinarian’s office to try and determine whether they are predisposed to any illnesses. If a predisposition is detected, your vet can offer guidance and advice as to how best to deal with the situation so your hamster can live the healthiest and longest life possible.

hamster enjoying a sand bath
Image Credit: IRINA-ORLOVA, Shutterstock

Habitat Setup

Your hamster’s habitat setup could not affect the animal’s quality of life and have an impact on their overall lifespan. For example, if the habitat is made of a wire cage and a wire gets loose, your hamster could cut themselves on the wire and develop a bacterial or blood infection that shortens their lifespan. They have been known to break their feet and legs on wire exercise wheels too. Also, if a hamster does not have soft blocks of wood or safe toys to chew on, they could end up chewing on their habitat components and digesting plastic or metal that could harm their health and even kill them.

To keep your hamster safe and healthy, give them a glass or plastic habitat to live in rather than a wire cage. If you are using a wire cage, inspect the cage a couple of times a week to ensure that all components are properly put together. Invest in a plastic or metal exercise wheel that has no openings that their legs can fall into. You should also make sure that your hamster has access to proper toys that engage their senses and allow them to satisfy their instinct to chew.

hamster 9_Cindy Parks_Pixabay
Image Credit: Cindy Parks, Pixabay

Diet and Exercise

If your hamster does not eat properly or get enough exercise daily, they may become obese and ill, both of which can lower their expected lifespan. Hamsters should eat high-quality commercial pellet food made just for their species as their daily staple. They should also be offered fresh vegetable and fruit pieces to supplement their nutrition intake. Great options include:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Celery
  • Cucumbers
  • Broccoli
  • Bok choy
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Oranges

Hamsters can eat timothy hay in place of pellets or as a snack. They can also be fed nutritious protein snacks, such as boiled egg pieces and mealworms. Your hamster should never eat bread, pasta, doughnuts, or other foods that are high in non-complex carbohydrates, fats, and sugars.

When it comes to exercise, keep in mind that the average hamster can run the equivalent of up to 20 miles every day. They love to explore, play, and gnaw on things during their waking hours. You will not find a hamster lounging around unless they want to nap or bed down for deep sleep. Therefore, they should be provided with plenty of space to explore in their habitat. Consider providing them with a multi-tiered habitat that includes multiple tube tunnels to travel through.

You can also invest in an exercise ball in which they can travel around the house for exercise without the worry of them getting stepped on or injured in some other way. If your hamster must spend all their time in a small, cramped cage, they will not get the exercise that they need, and they will likely get bored, leading to a lower quality of life and maybe even a shorter lifespan.

hamster-running-in-circle_Billion-Photos_shutterstock
Image Credit: Billion Photos, Shutterstock

Stress Levels

Hamsters can get stressed out just as we humans do, and just like stress affects our health, it can have a serious impact on your hamster’s health as time goes on. A less stressful life means a more enjoyable, longer life when all is said and done. You can minimize the stress in your hamster’s life by placing their habitat in a quiet, safe space in the home that does not see much foot traffic or get exposed to a great deal of noise. On a table in the corner of a bedroom, in a home office, or even in the dining room are all viable choices.

Make sure your hamster is not handled by people without your permission, as handling by strangers could make your hamster nervous. It is important to make sure that your hamster seems relaxed and comfortable before letting anyone they are not used to handle them. Another thing you can do to keep stress to a minimum for your hamster is to always handle them gently. Even if you are feeling playful and excited, slow movements should be made when touching and holding your hamster. This will help keep them calm and enhance their sense of well-being as they interact with you.

a hamster on countertop
Image Credit: Free-Photos, Pixabay

Quality of Care

The quality of care that your hamster receives will have an impact on their health and overall lifespan. In addition to providing your hamster with a large, safe habitat to live in, proper food and clean water to enjoy daily, plenty of opportunities to exercise, and regular interactive attention, you should schedule checkups with the veterinarian once or twice a year. Never leave your hamster in its habitat unattended for more than a few hours at a time. You should check on them frequently whenever you are at home. If their quality of care is not made a priority, you cannot expect your hamster to meet the high end of their expected lifespan.

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Final Comments

Hamsters are fun, lovable pets that only live for a couple of years. But the time that you spend with a pet hamster can provide you with great memories that will last throughout your lifetime. Hopefully, this guide will make it easy for you to keep your hamster happy and healthy during a long life. The more effort you put into being a hamster parent, the better results you will get. What aspect of taking care of a hamster is your favorite? Let us know in the comments section.


Featured Image Credit: Johannes-Menge, Shutterstock

Rachael Gerkensmeyer

Rachael has been a freelance writer since 2000, in which time she has had an opportunity to research and write about many different topics while working to master the art of fusing high-quality content with effective content marketing strategies. She is an artist at heart and loves to read, paint, and make jewelry in her spare time. As a vegan, Rachael is obsessed with helping animals in need both in her community and anywhere in the world where she feels she can make a difference. Animals also happen to be her favorite topic to write about! She lives off the grid in Hawaii with her husband, her garden, and her rescue animals including 5 dogs, a cat, a goat, and dozens of chickens.