The amount of water hamsters need to drink depends on the rodent’s breed and gender. For example, female Syrian hamsters should be given about three teaspoons of fresh water every day, while male Syrian hamsters require only one teaspoon of water.
A healthy male Chinese hamster will drink a little over two teaspoons per day. Female Chinese hamsters commonly drink around three teaspoons of water each day.
However, smaller hamster breeds like the Dwarf hamster will not require as much water as larger Chinese or Syrian breeds.
Hamsters recovering from illness may drink a little more or a little less water, depending on their breed, size, and health.
Signs of a Dehydrated Hamster
Hamsters will dehydrate quickly if they do not have access to a constant source of water.
Because of their high metabolism rate, hamsters can show signs of dehydration within several hours if they cannot drink water. These dehydration symptoms can be life-threatening to hamsters:
- Rapid breathing/difficulty breathing
- Dry, crusted, sunken eyes
- Lethargy/inability to stand or walk
- Skin that, when gently pinched at the scruff, does not return to its normal position
Hamsters that don’t drink water because they are ill should be taken to a veterinarian immediately for IV treatment with fluids appropriate for a hamster’s physiology, breed, and size.
Why Would a Hamster Refuse Water?
Hamsters that are not drinking or eating may be suffering one or more of the following health problems:
Accidental Ingestion of Toxic Plants or Food
Plants poisonous to hamsters: crocus, evergreens, laurel, and oak/acorns
Food poisonous to hamsters: kidney beans, potato leaves, tomato leaves, rhubarb leaves, onions, and leek
Never give a hamster something to eat unless you know for sure it is safe. Call your veterinarian for more information about substances toxic to hamsters.
Overlong Teeth and Other Dental Problems
Just like all rodents, hamster teeth grow constantly. Unless a hamster can gnaw on appropriate items to keep them worn down, they will be unable to chew properly.
Give your hamster safe things to gnaw on, like chew sticks specially made for hamsters or pieces of twig from plants safe for hamsters.
Dirty Hamster Cage
Living in a cage full of excrement and dirt can stress hamsters enough to stop them from drinking water.
In addition to cleaning a hamster’s cage every other day, sanitize the cage every week by placing it in a sink of warm water and dishwashing liquid. Wash the cage and dry it completely with a non-shedding towel.
Poor Diet Lacking Enough Fiber
Hamsters need a combination of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and, of course, plenty of fresh water every day to stay healthy and happy.
High-quality hamster food provides proper hamster nutrition. Safe treats to give hamsters as supplements to their diet include corn, peas, crunchy vegetables, and grains.
Constipation caused by insufficient water, ingestion of hair, and insufficient water supply will often make a hamster refuse to drink or eat.
If you think your hamster is constipated, increase the amount of dietary fiber in your hamster’s diet and keep track of how much water your hamster starts drinking.
Monitoring Your Hamster’s Drinking Habits
Fill your hamster’s water bottle with fresh water in the morning and check the bottle throughout a day to see if the water level is going down. If hamster bedding below the bottle is wet, the bottle may be leaking.
Replace the old one as soon as possible to ensure your hamster has access to plenty of fresh water. If you are like other hamster aficionados, you probably spend a lot of time watching your hamster run on an exercise wheel or play with a hamster ball.
Hamsters will typically stop and drink from their water bottle several times while playing. This is a good way to know your hamster is drinking water normally.
Should Hamsters Drink Tap Water or Purified Water?
Room temperature tap water is perfectly safe for hamsters to drink. Avoid putting refrigerated, or ice water in your hamster’s bottle as the coldness may feel unpleasant to a hamster’s oral tissues and teeth.
Since tap water does contain varying amounts of impurities that are not harmful to humans, consider giving your hamster distilled water.
Depending on the water quality where you live, tap water may have minute quantities of impurities that cause mild gastrointestinal problems in hamsters.
Can Hamsters Drink Water from a Small Bowl?
All rodents can drink from bowls as long as they can reach the water by leaning over the edge of the bowl or standing on their hind legs to drink.
The reason you should use a hamster water bottle is simply to prevent spillage in the cage. Additionally, water in a bowl can get contaminated quickly with bedding, fur, and feces.
Hanging water bottles with tips from which hamsters can drink keep will keep the water clean and available at all times.
Is It Safe to Let Hamsters Drink Other Fluids Besides Water?
Hamster pups drink mother’s milk for two to three weeks before she begins weaning them. Since hamsters are omnivores and not strictly vegetarian rodents, they can drink milk as adults.
However, if you want to give your hamster milk as a treat, don’t give them cow’s milk containing lactose. Vitamin D, two-percent, and skim milk can cause diarrhea in hamsters. Instead, give them kitten milk that does not have taurine in the list of ingredients.
Limit the amount of milk you give a hamster to one teaspoon a week until you see how your hamster reacts physically to kitten milk.
Although hamsters eat fruit, they should not be given fruit juice to drink because of its high sugar and acid content. Hamsters that eat or drink too many sugary foods may become overweight and develop diabetes.
Fruit juice acid is harmful to the inner lining of a hamster’s stomach.
When Do Hamster Pups Start Drinking Water?
A hamster mom will start weaning her pups within seven to 10 days after birth. Soon afterward, you should notice pups sniffing around the hamster food, trying a nibble, and experimenting with the water bottle.
It is especially important to keep the water bottle full of fresh water during the transitional weaning period. If you plan to be away for a while, consider hanging two hamster water bottles instead of one in the cage.
How Does a Veterinarian Treat a Dehydrated Hamster?
The vet will ask you how long your hamster has not been drinking water or eating normally, if applicable. Vets specializing in hamster care will also check for overgrown teeth, examine the hamster’s eyes for signs of dehydration and look inside the hamster’s ears for evidence of infection.
It’s likely the vet will ask you to bring in a stool sample as well. Parasites or infectious bacteria can be detected microscopically in hamster feces. If the hamster’s temperature is above 99 degrees Fahrenheit, you may be prescribed antibiotics to give to your hamster.
Hamsters are normally passive, curious creatures but, like dogs, cats, and other pets, could exhibit aggressive behavior when ill.
Be extra careful when transporting a dehydrated hamster. Wear gloves to avoid getting nipped or gently nudge the hamster into a small, non-airtight container.
Until the veterinarian determines what is preventing your hamster from drinking water, handle the hamster as carefully as possible.
Hamster, mice, and other pet rodents can develop growths under their skin that are sore to the touch.
Do Older Hamsters Drink More Water Than Younger Hamsters?
The average life span of a hamster is between two and three years. One-year-old hamsters are “middle-aged,” so hamsters over 16 months old should be considered as senior citizens in the world of hamsters.
Older hamsters will gradually become less active and won’t eat or drink as much as they when youngsters. You might notice your aging hamster taking more time to arouse from a nap or not seem as interested in exercise wheels or toys.
Hamsters that once spent a good deal of time hoarding their food probably won’t be doing that much, either, in their old age.
To facilitate water drinking in aging hamsters, make sure the water bottle isn’t too high and always contains fresh water.
You might notice your older hamster’s cage smelling of urine just a few hours after cleaning it.
It is normal for senior hamsters’ urine to smell more strongly due to decreased functioning of their kidneys, so plan on cleaning the cage more than usual if you have aging hamsters.
In addition, reducing kidney and bladder functioning may increase the amount of water your older hamster needs to drink to avoid becoming hydrated.