LIFE STAGES AND SEXING OF HAMSTERS 

 

 Click to go to  

- LIFE STAGES   - CARING FOR AN OLD HAMSTER    - SEXING (GENDERS)   - SCENT GLANDS   - HAND REARING    - HEAT (FEMALES) 

ALSO PLEASE REFER TO THE IMPORTANT TOPICS ABOUT BREEDING, AS WELL AS HOUSING HAMSTERS TOGETHER

LIFE STAGES

 

 

APPROXIMATE GESTATION:   Syrians 16-18 days         Dwarfs 18-21 days.       Babies are called pups (sometimes "pinkies")

PREGNANCYAs soon as you realise that your female hamster is pregnant and about to give birth, give the cage a good clean (if necessary) so that you won't have to worry about it too much for 2-3 weeks after the birth. 

  • Extra good nutrition is vital for the mom right from gestation until 6 - 8 weeks after the birth to keep her body healthy and strong, and for the developing pups (see the Food page). Note: Do not over-do proteins while she is pregnant as this can cause the babies to grow too large, resulting in a difficult birth, as well as mealies that often causes cannibalism (she will eat the pups).

  • Ensure that you have the correct safe bedding in the habitat and that the babies are not delivered into pine shavings! 

  • Ensure that there is plenty of stripped up 1-ply toilet paper for mom to prepare a nice soft warm nest for new arrivals and for her own comfort (never fluffy or woolly nesting or fabric).

  • She may or may not become grumpy towards the birth date, so please exercise your understanding.

  • Move the habitat to a peaceful area of your home if it is currently in a busy, noisy zone. 

Note that a female can fall pregnant again within minutes
of giving birth! If you have a male with the female,
remove him immediately, regardless of pregnancy/birth!
If you have two hamsters together, for whatever reason, they will need to be separated
immediately and permanently into their own individual enclosures, whether they are both
females, both males, or male and female!
Hamsters should not be housed together in the first place because of the compatibility risks,
as mentioned on previous pages, aside from the debacle of further breeding/inbreeding!
BIRTH & BABIESBabies are born blind and deaf and do not have fur, and look like pink jelly babies.
  • You must never disturb the nest or touch the babies until the eyes start to open and they start walking around and eating solid food by themselves, as this will make them smell different and/or stress out the mom and she could kill one or all of them. Don't even clean the cage...simply clean her sand potty/bath, refresh her water, and put in fresh food every day. 

  • Please be aware that sometimes the mom may kill and eat one or two of the babies at any stage, in spite of the peace that you have afforded her. This could be for a number of reasons: there is a severe deformity with the pup or it has become weak and most likely won't survive anyway; the litter is too large for her to cope with; she is still a baby herself and doesn't know how to deal with becoming a mom; she has an inadequate diet and requires the extra nutrition and proteins to strengthen her body to keep the nursing pups; or something has stressed her out (they often kill their own babies to protect them against predators getting them first). 

  • Be sure to provide plenty of stripped up 1-ply toilet paper for mom to make a nice soft nest for herself & the pups (never fluffy or woolly nesting or fabric).

  • Extra good nutrition is vital for the nursing mom and pups to keep everyone healthy and strong (see the Food page).

  • IF, FOR SOME REASON, MUM ABANDONS THEM, GOES MISSING, OR PASSES AWAY, REFER TO THE HAND REARING SECTION BELOW.

  • Only if mom is already tame and 100% bonded with you, you may take her out for brief play sessions if/when she is happy to do so, but do return her to the habitat within 10 minutes so that she doesn't become anxious about not being with her babies. Never remove her from the nest though if she is sleeping or busy nursing...only if she's up and about and looking interested in you.

  • The fur will appear from 5 days.

  • The eyes will open at around 2 weeks old. Once the eyes open, they will start to explore and become more independent and may even start sampling solid food from that age, but it is important that they remain nursing from their mother until they are at least 28 days (4 weeks) old.

  • At this stage, start placing some good quality mini-hamster food mix in a shallow bowl into the enclosure and take note of when they start sampling this. A water bottle attached to the side will also be a good idea (water bowls are not recommended for babies, as they can drown). You may then start offering them small amounts of fresh foods as they start weaning off mom's milk. 

  • Make sure that the babies don't have access to levels, wheel, tubes, ramps, and sand until they are really steady on their feet and the eyes are fully opened. Cordon off a zone with these items by means of a temporary cardboard barrier with tube access that only mom can reach. 

  • You can start putting your hand in the cage to get them accustomed to humans, and you can start handling them soon thereafter.

  • Once the babies are running around competently (about 3 weeks), you can give the cage a clean, and at 3.5 weeks you can remove the barrier to the cordoned off area.

  • At 28 days (4 weeks) the babies need to be separated into boy and girl enclosures to prevent the risk of breeding, or they can go to new homes at this age. IF mom is happy and healthy, the girls can stay with her for another 2 weeks but PLEASE make sure that your gender determination is accurate (see further down)!

  • If you are not able to separate and keep all the offspring, please see the Adoptions page for some tips and guidelines. 

 
 
 
breeding.jpg

Watch:

Dwarf Hamster Babies Growing Up (Day 1 - 30): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YA5Ri_jGhvk

Syrian Hamster Babies Growing Up (Day 1 - 30): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ssj4i6Cbj4s (not the best setup but good footage of the babies at various stages)

ADOLESCENCE & SEXUAL MATURITY:   Sexual maturity starts at 4 - 6 weeks, with males maturing faster than the girls. Therefore, it is at 4 weeks old that males and females HAVE to be placed into separate habitats, or each can go to new homes.

  • If you are absolutely certain that you can correctly identify boys from girls, each sex can remain together for another 2 to 4 weeks in gender-specific habbies.

  • Please remember that just because they can have babies at this age, it is not good for their health and strength until they are older, and females that are this young can give birth to still-born pups, or will be stressed and unsure of how to care for them (she may kill or abandon them). Responsible breeders will know the right age to allow breeding to occur.

  • At 8 weeks old, they should most definitely all each be in their own individual habitats ON THEIR OWN! They become territorial shortly thereafter and fighting over territory will either be fatal or require expensive veterinary treatment! Please don't even try pairing or grouping as many people have disregarded this advice and discovered, to their detriment, that it very rarely ends well!

 

MATURITY: Hamsters reach full maturity at around 8 months old, depending on species, and will be confident, energetic, sociable (with humans) and playful. This is the prime of their lives. 

They can become infertile from about 14 months old and will gradually stop going on heat from about 18 months (see info about HEAT below).

AVERAGE ADULT WEIGHT >>> SYRIAN/TEDDY: 120 – 250g and DWARFS: 40 – 60g

These are just average weights and, like us, some have a larger/smaller build than others and may weigh a little more or a little less than these averages, e.g. a large Syrian could be healthy at 300g, while a runt could be healthy at 100g.

Your ham should stay the same weight from about 6 months until about 2 years old.

A diamond scale or small diet scale should be useful, otherwise your vet will be able to weigh him/her. However, if you don’t have a scale at all (and you obviously don’t want to put the little one through a journey to the vet just for a weigh-in), and you are sure your ham is a healthy weight, try to get a decent picture of your hamster at 6-8 months in your own hand to refer back to.  

SENIOR AGE:   From about 18 months old, your hamster will be heading for old age. Some health issues may start occurring at this age so, if you have never had to take the little one to a vet before, make sure you know the details of your closest exotics vet now.

 

OLD AGE AND EXTRA CARE: At 2 years, your hamster is an old hamster and it is around this age that health issues are most likely to start occurring. Just because your hamster is old, does not mean s/he doesn't need to see a vet when ailing. Allowing him/her to suffer in old age is extremely cruel. With early treatment, you may still enjoy him for another year!

  • Some signs of old age include weight loss/skinny and boney (there will be distinction between body and head where there was never a "neck" before), sleeping more, less active (the wheel may even become an ornament), fur thinning, grooming themselves less.

  • Adjusting the habby: Some hamsters can become quite unstable on their feet in old age and, in this case, you should remove access to upper levels, or ensure that access is easy and that there are barriers along edges of ladders and shelves to prevent falling. If you have a particularly large habby, move all the vital things closer together (bedroom, sand bath, water and food) to make this stage a little easier for the old chap, and to be sure that he can reach everything when he doesn't have the energy to get to what he needs. If s/he is still using the wheel but keeps stumbling, it will be a good idea to remove it to prevent injuries. Do provide enough shredded 1-ply toilet paper for warmth and comfort in the nest.

  • Water: Make sure that the spout of the water bottle is within easy reach. Some old hamsters can find it difficult to reach up and hold on for long enough to have a proper drink. If you are using a water bowl, it is more important than ever that this is sturdy enough not to be tipped over...your old one's immunity will not be as good as what it once was and, if he gets wet, he will catch a cold very easily. The bowl should also not be big enough for him to fall into.

  • Food: Your very old ham may start finding it difficult to eat harder foods, but you should still provide some of this in case he gets the urge to gnaw for his dental care. Softer foods will be easier to eat and digest (See Food page under "fresh foods").

  • Wetting the bed: In some cases, very old hams will start peeing in their nest/bedroom even though they were previously using the sand potty exclusively for this. In this case, you will need to check and thoroughly clean the bedroom every day to maintain comfort and health. Spare bedrooms may be useful to have while the soiled one is being washed and properly dried. But do still keep the sand potty close by in case s/he wants to use it in a lucid moment.

  • Grooming: Your ham may start finding it difficult to groom himself properly so if you notice this, you may want to offer some assistance. Make sure the room is warm and use a damp cotton pad to gently wipe over the coat without wetting it too much (you can do a different section each day in order to not get the ham too damp all over in one go). Particularly with Syrians, you may notice that the bum area gets caked with poop. You will need to clean the area daily - gently with a damp cotton pad to ensure that the anus and/or vagina doesn't get completely blocked, and that the caking of poop doesn't cause skin irritation and/or infection. (Do not use baby wipes -  some claim to be fragrance & alcohol free, they still have certain "legal" alcohols.)

  • The Rainbow Bridge: When the sad time comes to say the final goodbye, it is up to you how you wish this to happen. Some people prefer to hold and snuggle their little one until the last breath is drawn, while others will take it to the vet to be euthanized to help the old one along comfortably and quicker. There is no right or wrong way in this scenario, but if your hamster is obviously suffering because of pain it is indeed kinder to go to the vet (in this case, it doesn't have to be a specialised exotics vet).

Many hamsters simply pass away in their sleep but, if it is in the cold of winter, please make sure that s/he has indeed passed away before burying - check that s/he hasn't simply gone into a state of torpor (see the Weather Comfort page for details about torpor).

 

 
RIP - rainbow bridge.jpg

    Some tips on "How to cope with your hamster's passing"  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0v0hT05Bldg

By the edge of a woods, at the foot of a hill,
Is a lush, green meadow where time stands still.
Where the friends of man and woman do run,
When their time on earth is over and done.

For here, between this world and the next,
Is a place where each beloved creature finds rest.
On this golden land, they wait and they play,
Till the Rainbow Bridge they cross over one day.

No more do they suffer, in pain or in sadness,
For here they are whole, their lives filled with gladness.
Their limbs are restored, their health renewed,
Their bodies have healed, with strength imbued.

 

They romp through the grass, without even a care,

Until one day they start, and sniff at the air.

All ears prick forward, eyes dart front and back,

Then all of a sudden, one breaks from the pack.

 

For just at that instant, their eyes have met;

Together again, both person and pet.

So they run to each other, these friends from long past,

The time of their parting is over at last.

 

The sadness they felt while they were apart,

Has turned into joy once more in each heart.

They embrace with a love that will last forever,

And then, side-by-side, they cross over… together.

 

~ Steve and Diane Bodofsky 

SEXING OF HAMSTERS

 

Determining the gender of your hamster is not always easy, particularly when they are babies. Vets, experts and many pet shops also make errors in sexing the little ones, so you will be forgiven if you suddenly discover that your darling little girl is actually a handsome little boy once they start entering puberty.

Apart from checking the underbelly of your hamster, there really isn't another way to tell the sex of your hamster. Hopefully some of the guidelines below will assist you. If you still are really unsure of the gender of you hamster, then take him or her to an exotics vet and they should be able to tell you more accurately.

BOY

GIRL

BOY

With DWARFS, it may be easier to tell earlier than with Syrians when they are still young, since the male's scent gland is in a more obvious place. If s/he is too wriggly for you to get a proper look, place the hamster in a glass/transparent dish and view from underneath.

  • If there's something that looks like a belly button in the middle of the tummy, it's a boy. It's his scent gland.

  • The male's anus and penis spots are also further apart than the girl's, where these are very close together.

  • In dwarf males, it can be difficult to see the actual penis, so don't assume that because there's nothing sticking out that it's a girl!  

HamsterDiaries explains the sexing of SYRIANS rather well:   

Females

  • Girl hamsters have rows of teats on each side of their belly.
    These can be tricky to see but if you gently hold your hamster like in the picture above, you should be able to get an idea as they create a fleck in the fur.

  • You should also be able to see the lady-bits between the hind legs

Males

  • There is no sign of flecking in the belly-fur

  • You can see the butt and the hammy-manhood (circled in the picture above)

  • The butt is a noticeable and prominent bulge around the tail area. Take a look at the picture above and notice how the female is flat across the hind legs whereas the male has the bulge. You can sometimes tell whether it is a by looking from above - this butt bit is so characteristic.

BOY

GIRL

GIRL

BOY

GIRL

BOY

Remember that just because you cannot see any visible "jewels", which are often indeed quite pronounced in a Syrian male, doesn't mean it's a girl. The testicles often stay close to the body until full-blown puberty, but can also pop out when the weather is hot....apparently it helps to release some heat.

Interesting fact: Long-haired Syrian males have really long hair and skirts, while long-haired females are simply a little fluffy with tuffty skirts.

REMEMBER: EVEN WHEN YOU KNOW

IF IT'S A BOY OR A GIRL,

KEEP ALL HAMSTERS SEPARATED

....EVEN DURING PLAYTIMES OUTSIDE THE CAGE!

 

SCENT GLANDS 

 

You may notice the scent glands as two rough spots on each side of a Syrian, which are more noticeable than in Dwarfs who have them underneath. These glands become more visible when they reach full sexual maturity (6-8 months). In Syrians, they are often more prominent in males and appear as black spots on either side of the body near the upper thigh area, as opposed to a female's where they usually look more like discoloured spots.

Scent glands can sometimes become infected due to over-irritation and will need veterinary attention. It is therefore good to get to know your hamster and be familiar with these stinky little spots so that you will know when something is amiss. To reduce the risk of this, it is one of the reasons why we advise you to always return as much used bedding and nesting material to the cage as possible during cleaning times. This is not just to save you money, but to reduce the stress that results from removing his/her special smell and having to frantically go about remarking his habitat. To reduce the frequency of having to clean, make sure he/she has a sand potty to pee in, which will keep the cage cleaner for longer (with their own smell) and you simply have to do spot cleans once or twice a week (wiping shelves clean, etc.)...obviously the pee spots in the potty will need to be cleaned daily, which is easy enough. For more reading about the scent glands: 

 https://www.veterinarypracticenews.com/what-you-may-not-know-about-hamster-scent-glands/

 

FEMALE HAMSTERS IN HEAT

heat.jpg

Mature female hamsters go on heat every 4 days for a few hours. Particularly in Syrian girls, you may notice that they have a particularly unpleasant pong during these episodes. If you stroke her back, she will "present" for you....the back will arch and she will stay really still in this position (but please don't continue touching!)

Heat is more obvious in Syrian females than dwarfs.

You may also notice a small amount of milky-white discharge from the vagina. As long as it's not a lot of yellow stinky puss-like substance, this is nothing to worry about. If it is still there the day after heat, and terribly stinky and yellow, please see your exotics vet ASAP, as this could indicate that your lady hamster has Pyometra (infection of the uterus), which is fatal if left untreated. (See topic on the Health & Medical page)

They will stop going on heat from about 18 months old (some even from as early as 14 months).

~ Good explanation by C JAY MICHEALS of Hamsters Pawfect Cages:

"The hamster looks like they are enjoying being stroked, due to they won’t move, stiffen their backs, lift their tail.
This is a “mating” position! Please don’t touch their backs to cause this position.

Female hamsters likely go into heat around every 4th night. This is a protective response in the female as normally a female would attack a male who came near them or their territory but when in season they enter a trance when they feel a pressure on their backs so the male can mate without any danger. The smell lets the male know when the right time for mating is and attracts him to the female.

Many may not be aware this is what it is. Thus, the purpose of this post is to educate.

Female Hamster’s body cycle :

Just like other animals, hamsters do in fact use their tails in order to communicate. Female hamsters will raise their tails to indicate to a male hamster that they are interested in mating.

Your female hamster may freeze in place, lift her tail up or straight out, while being pet on her back. Please stop touching her on her back/back end should your hamster do this. It can cause distress & unnecessary stimulation, hamster thinking she’s going to get mated. A cloudy discharge usually is released that is very strong odor.

If a female hamster encounters a male when her estrous cycle is not at the point for mating then the two hamsters will be aggressive to each other and could be injured from fighting. When a female hamster is in season to breed her estrous cycle spans four days. Every fourth day between sunset and sunrise she will be in heat and receptive to mating. She will be more receptive later in the night.

In the wild, hamster mating season is spring and summer, so hamster mothers only go into heat in those seasons. In typical domestic settings female hamsters will breed year round. The triggering factors which make year-round breeding are 12-hours of daily light and absence of cold in the winter.

Progression of the estrous cycle includes different vaginal discharges:

On the morning of the day 1 the female is sexually dormant.

In the evening of the first day she will become sexually receptive.

On the morning of day 2 the sexually receptive period ends.

By the evening of day 2 the female is sexually dormant. At this time the female will have a large discharge of thick white fluid that gives the hamster a particular strong smell.

On the morning of day 3 the hamster's discharge will be waxy and by evening the discharge ends.

By day 4, the hamster has been sexually dormant since day 2. She may have clear mucous discharge.

Day 5 is a repeat of day 1, as the cycle repeats.

A female hamster who has had and unsuccessful mating on day 1 can be identified by her regular discharge on days 6 and 10 of this schedule."

 
baby - feeding.jpg

EMERGENCY HAND-REARING BABY HAMSTERS 

 

  • This is a touch-and-go situation and not many of us have very much experience with it. In fact, there is an almost zero percent chance of survival without the mother up until 8 days old. All, or most, will probably pass away before that in spite of anyone's best efforts to assist them.

  • Therefore, obviously, the only time hand-rearing is to be attempted is if the mother has abandoned/rejected the pups, passed away, or escaped the habby and gone missing. Otherwise, never remove the pups from the mother...their chances of survival without her remain rather slim up until 2.5 weeks. 

  • Hand-rearing requires round-the-clock care for the first 3 weeks if they are to have any hope...and it is exhausting for the handler, both physically and emotionally!  

  • Should you find yourself in such a predicament, it may be best to rush them to your nearest exotics vet or critter rescue shelter, where they have more experience with these situations. Should all solutions to find such experience fail, we can only offer you the following tips below.

"INCUBATOR" & NEST:​

  • If they are less than 3 weeks old, you will need to make some kind of an incubator in order for them to maintain body temperature. Pups cannot regulate their body temperature during the early stages and, since mum isn't around to lie on them to help generate appropriate warmth and humidity, you have to make a plan. A small container is required e.g. cardboard box, small solid animal carrier (not a side ventilated cage), bin/tub, small glass/perspex tank, etc. 

  • The incubator should be nice and toasty inside and using a 20W reptile heating pad works best, since this automatically regulates the heat. Alternatively, while the pups are still "immobile" you can place an electric hot water bottle to one side of the container...however, controlling the warmth in the nest may be a bit tricky this way, since you would have to be constantly reheating the bottle every hour. 

  • Ventilation is important but this should be so that most of the heat does not escape. A few ventilation holes just along the sides at the top, and a slightly wider ventilation hatch on one end, will be good. A small sturdy jar with a little water, placed in a safe corner will help prevent the air within from drying out, but not make it so humid that the incubator becomes steamy. For crawling babies, remove the jar in case they fall in or topple the jar and get wet.

  • Place the heating pad on a flat surface, and cover with a sheet of thick cardboard. Place the incubator on top of this.

  • Place a folded towel or fleece blanket over the floor on the inside of the incubator.

  • Little nest box/es are important to keep the pups close together and snuggly. Small open-topped cardboard boxes are ideal but a little plastic container lined with cardboard at the base will also work (two boxes are useful during feed times to transfer each fed baby into one). Make sure that they aren't too shallow as the babies can often wriggle/jump over the edges. Place a soft white cloth (like fleece or flannel) into the bottom of the boxes (never use fluffy nesting, wool, or cottonwool) and have another cloth to loosely place over the babies. 

  • Ensure that the nest is further slightly raised from the base so that the bottom doesn't become too hot (both too little or too much heat are dangerous). You can fold another piece of cardboard so that has like a hollow in between two layers and place the nest box on that.

  • Lastly, an extra blanket or towel over or wrapped around the container (without totally blocking all ventilation, will help to insulate the incubator. You can also stick cardboard on the sides and part of the top instead.

Example, using an old acrylic mouse tank to make an incubator:

baby hamsters - nest.jpg
weather-heatingpad1.jpg
weather-bottle1.jpg
incubator4.jpg
incubator8.jpg
incubator6.jpg
incubator3.jpg
  • For babies that are older, a hardier container with a little more space will be required since they can start crawling around anytime from then on and may also start chewing at about 3 weeks old (a cardboard box will therefore be risky at that stage). A bin or glass/perspex tank will be preferable, since this will continue to offer protection from drafts, and the heating pad can be eliminated/removed if the weather is warm. 

  • At 3 weeks old, they won't need a heating pad any longer and ventilation can be expanded at the stage, particularly in summer. In winter, you can raise the container a little over the heating pad so that the base is not resting directly on it. 

  • Place a lot of Carefresh or unscented Kaytee Clean & Cozy bedding at the bottom of the container. If you do not have Carefresh/Kaytee at this stage, use a lot of finely stripped up unbleached 1-ply toilet paper over this (never use pine shavings).

  • Provide a nestbox or two with an entry hole on the front and/or side. 

FEEDING: (This is very important so pay close attention and re-read, and re-read again!)

The average feeding routine requirement appears to be as follows:   

  • Week 1 of life:  1 hourly feeds, extending to 1.5 hourly intervals from 5 days old. A timer is useful...you will become tired and it's easy to forget how much time has elapsed since the last feed!

  • Week 2: 2 hourly feeds, extending to 2.5 to 2.75 hourly intervals midway through this 2nd week (possibly 3 hrs by the end). You should notice around the middle of week 2 that the pup will start to chew the brush more and more instead of suckle, and this is normal at this age. He is learning to start eating.   

Take the hamster's lead. When they're ready to extend feeding intervals, you should notice them becoming reluctant to eat very much in one session, and may instead feed for a little longer in the extended sessions.

  • Week 3: The eyes should open around the end of week 2 and once they're crawling about, may start looking for solid foods and you can start offering mashed up veggies and soaked dry food mix (just small amounts since they still won't be able to eat very much). You should still offer the milk feeds every 3 or 4 hours, particularly at the start of this week and continue with bowel and bladder stimulation.    

  • Towards the end of Week 3: They should now be really tucking into the solids and you can further extend the milk intervals by an hour or two. You could even mix the milk formula into the mashed food and just offer a brush-feed 3 or 4 times a day. They should even be willing suckle it from the brush held out to them without having to be held.    

  • Week 4: They should be eating a full solid food diet by the end of this week and you can reduce the milk to a little bowl a day, as well as mixing some into mashed solid food.

  • End of Week 4: Males and females need to be separated at 4 weeks old and you can still put a little bowl a day into each habitat for another few days but leave it out of the food. They should ideally be fully weaned off milk by the time they're 5 weeks old.   

The Substitute Milk Mixture:

  • Depending on how long they have been abandoned for, they may be dehydrated and it will be difficult for the intestines to absorb water from the milk formula if their electrolytes are too low, which often results in organ failure and a dose of electrolyte solution is therefore vital before feeding the first milk. Dehydrated or not, electrolytes are still important for absorption of liquid, and a little solution should still be mixed into the formula itself for at least the first 2 weeks of life. Pro-Lyte powder, which also contains useful probiotics, is specifically for animals and should be available from most vets, and possibly some pharmacies. If there is no time to spare in getting this, mix up your own emergency electrolyte solution: 2.5 tsp sugar + 1/4 tsp salt dissolved in 1 cup of warm water, but try to get Pro-Lyte as soon as you can for future feeds. (Administer a drop or two, before giving a drop or two of milk formula before that first feed). 

  • If you are using Babycat Milk, you can forgo the electrolytes/Pro-Lyte and simply use a little Protexin every few days to provide immunity that they would otherwise have gotten from mom.

  • Royal Canin Babycat Milk (available form your vet) is required (DO NOT use Kyron Kitty Milk...the ingredients will bloat and kill the babies). Follow this schedule of  boiled water to powder ratio for the mix: 

       

(For very young pups under 8 days old, keep the mixture at the 4th feeding ratio until they are about 10 days old

and then move onto the 5th feeding ratio)   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BLOATING: you can make a light fennel tea, using fennel seeds and boiling water,

and use that tea to mix into the powder instead of plain water.

  • Isomil #1 baby milk formula (available in supermarkets/Dischem) can be used instead of Babycat Milk, but needs to be diluted more,  e.g. use 2.5 parts water to 1 part powder (where you would do 2 parts water to 1 part powder Royal Canin).

  • If the mixture is any richer than the guidelines while they are under 2.5 to 3 weeks, it could result in kidney failure,   

  • Do not mix up too much as you cannot use the same batch for more than one or two feeds (average 0.5 tsp powder for a batch of pinkies to start with). Make sure that the milk powder is properly dissolved.

  • Use a very CLEAN small soft pointy #3 size paintbrush, used for watercolour painting to dip into the milk and allow the pups to suckle from (get a few spare brushes and either trim or replace if the bristles become frayed and splayed). After they are 2.5 weeks old, you can get the next size up or if they are drinking from a water bottle and eating solid foods, you could probably place a little milk mixture in a shallow bowl for them to lap up themselves,. 

  • Syringe feeding is not recommended for inexperienced people, as there is too big a risk of aspiration and the pup will die (basically, they drown). 

  • Before the hair fully covers the body, the skin is quite transparent and you can see the white patch of milk in the tummy through the skin.

 How to Feed: 

  • To keep the milk warm (not hot), keep a little bowl of formula resting in a larger bowl of warm water and keep dipping the paint brush into this until the little one appears to stop suckling. Make sure that the formula doesn't get too cold. Keep loading the paint brush.  

  • Keeping the pups nice and warm before and during feeds will help - they will be reluctant to suckle if they are cold.

  • It is important to feed very slowly to prevent aspiration pneumonia. If milk is coming out of the nose, that is the most obvious sign that they are aspirating, which is dangerous as it can kill them quickly. It is difficult to avoid getting milk on the nose so have an extra cotton bud handy to quickly wipe that away.

  • If there are several babies, it will be useful to have somebody help you during the feeding process, otherwise have two little boxes to transfer each one into as you feed them so that you don't get confused about who has been fed and who hasn't. It's tiring! A litter of 5 pups can take over an hour per feeding session, and it's tiring in the wee hours of the morning!

  • Gently hold the pup in your warm hand, being careful not to squeeze too tightly, and in an almost vertical position or diagonally upright almost on it's side (not on it's back). https://www.youtube.com/watch? If you can't manage to hold a tiny squirming baby and keep it warm at the same time, it may be easier to use a square of toilet paper or soft cloth to lightly wrap the baby in with it's face visible for you to get the brush to the mouth. This will help keep him warm. It's not as easy as what it sounds to hold a wriggling hamster!, but you will get the hang of it after a few tries.  

  • Place the milk-loaded paintbrush gently on the pup's bottom lip almost slightly above so that he almost reaches up like he would to his mom's nipple. Remember that they may not be used to being fed this way at first, so some possible resistance is natural (the paintbrush may be better received as it is more natural). 

  • As a general indication, about 2 to 5 drops in one sitting is plenty for a pinky-stage pup, and you can gradually increase        the amount as he grows and is eager for more. But they usually stop suckling or resist more once they've had enough. 

         - If they don't show interest, a small drop of formula on the bottom lip can be licked up and consumed all the same.

  • It is important to try avoid getting the liquid onto the nose, as they can inhale it and aspirate, which kills them easily, the younger that they are. It can be quite difficult to avoid this, especially once they start wriggling and flailing their hands about! Gently wipe any formula off the nose and face as quickly as possible with a cotton bud/pad or piece or paper towel.

  • Wait for the pup to stop suckling or 'chewing' the formula (it allows them to swallow and is perfectly normal), then repeat. 

  • It is very important to make them poop and urinate. After feeding, or even during, use an earbud or small soft brush and gently stroke it between the back legs (over the tummy to the tail) to simulate the way the mom would lick them to stimulate urination and bowel movement. 

  • As each baby has been fed and stimulated, place them into the "fed" nesting box. Both nesting boxes should be on or next to a warm bean bag/electric hot water bottle (WARM, NOT HOT) in order to prevent them from become cold during the feeding session. You can then return the "fed" nest to the incubator when feeding time is over and set your timer for the next feed.

hand rearing feeding.jpg
Electrolyte - Prolyte.jpg
meds-Protexin.png
kitty milk -Royal Canin YES.jpg
Kitty milk -kyron NO.jpg

THE INGREDIENTS IN THIS MILK WILL BLOAT & KILL THE BABY HAMSTERS.

baby - isomil1.jpg
baby - feedingbrush1.jpg
meds-earbuds.jpg

From 2 weeks old, start placing some good quality mini-hamster food mix in a shallow bowl into the enclosure and take note of when they start sampling this. A water bottle attached to the side will also be a good idea. You may then start offering them small amounts of fresh foods in between formula feeds as you start weaning them "off the bottle".

Refer to the Life Stages section above, as well as the Baby Hamsters section on the Food page.

baby - eating.jpg

Good luck and, even if the babies don't survive, please know that you have given them your best shot! Thank you for trying.