While it may be difficult, you shouldn’t touch cute baby hamsters until they are at least two weeks old. Touching a mother hamster’s babies in the first two weeks of their lives can cause her extreme stress.
Once your hamster gives birth to her babies, allow her to give them care by herself. For no reason should you disturb the nest until they are at least two weeks old.
What happens if you touch baby hamsters?
If you touch a hamster baby before they have grown to three weeks old, the hamster mother may react drastically to defend her babies. If you try to touch them at this age, she will view you as a predator and she will be aggressive after giving birth to her babies. If she is put under extreme stress in this way, she may even result in killing and eating her own babies.
If you disturb or touch the nest, she may notice your scent on her babies. This may cause her to abandon or even kill her babies. Thus, you should never clean the cage or try to handle or touch her babies during this period of their lives. You should also try to avoid disturbing the nest for the days before the hamster mother is due.
When the hamster babies are less than two or three weeks old, you should avoid even looking closely into the cage, as this may cause stress to the mother.
While it can be hard to avoid touching the cute babies that appear so helpless, you mustn’t try. If you notice that a baby has wandered out of the nest, the mother hamster will go and return it to the nest herself.
Do not look closely into the hamster cage before the babies have reached at least two to three weeks old, otherwise, you may cause the mother severe stress.
If you want to get a good look at the baby hamsters, take a photo with your phone from a distance away as you are feeding them. If the hamsters’ nest is underneath a box or covering, never lift it to see the hamster babies. If the mother moves when you are feeding her, this is often a good chance to take a photo.
Notice whether the hamster mother becomes stressed when you feed her, if she does, move away from the cage calmly but immediately and allow her to relax before you start to feed her again. It is a good idea to give an expectant mother extra food in the days before she is due so that she can be left peacefully for the first few days after birth.
Make sure that there are enough food and water by checking the cage twice every day.
At what age can you start to hold baby hamsters?
Once the hamster babies have reached three weeks old, you can handle them safely, however, this does not mean that you should handle them regularly.
When the hamster babies reach two weeks old, they will start moving around the cage by themselves. This is also the period when the newborns will gradually stop drinking milk. However, be aware that a hamster mother may still kill her babies as late as twelve to fourteen days old, so be cautious.
Tip: Learn the key differences between an adult hamster’s diet and a baby hamster’s over here.
As the baby’s eyes open, you can take the mother out before you touch the nest or babies. She will usually enjoy playing with some toys and treats after nursing her babies. Don’t remove the babies from the cage, but touch them where they are if you need to.
Then put the mother back in the cage and perhaps give her some cucumber and high protein food. Continue this routine for a few days until the mother becomes used to it.
You can then take the hamster babies out of the cage and handle them in a handling tank. At this point, you can accurately count the babies by thoroughly searching through the bedding.
By taking time and patience to slowly build up the amount of handling at this age, will ensure a trustful bond between you and the hamsters.
Cleaning the cage
At this point in the babies’ life, it is safe to clean their cage. Do so by gently removing the mother and her babies and putting them in a safe place such as a bucket (the high walls will normally prevent them from escaping). When you remove the hamsters from the cage, make sure to place them away from other pets such as dogs or cats by putting them in a closed room.
Clean the hamsters’ cage in this way every week to ensure it is properly clean and hygienic. After you have removed the hamster mother and her babies, take away the used bedding and throw it into a waste bin. Clean the cage with antibacterial soap and rinse it thoroughly. Use vinegar for a deeper clean of the cage.
Make sure to keep an eye on the hamster and her babies during the cleaning process.
Tip: Here you can learn more about your hamster’s sand bathing needs.
Looking after hamster babies
It may not always be possible to avoid cleaning the cage before the hamster babies have reached three weeks old. If a water bottle has leaked into the cage, it is important to try to clean it. A wet nest and bedding are not good for the babies.
If you can, try to take away the wet bedding without affecting the rest of the nest. However, if the nest is wet too, it is necessary to clean the whole cage.
Remove the hamster mother and put her somewhere safe. Then, remove the babies while wearing gloves and put them in a deep bowl. Wearing gloves will ensure that your human scent is not transferred to the babies, which could cause the mother stress.
Once you have removed the hamsters, give the cage a thorough clean and place the nest in the same place as before. Put the mother and babies back into the cage. And, try to find a water bottle that doesn’t leak!