Why Do Some Hamsters Eat Their Babies?

Hamsters are known to be among the cutest pets that anyone can buy. I remember that as a child, I always wanted to have a hamster. I first learned about them when I was a child at summer camp.

There was a hamster in the corner of the room and, without a doubt, he was the star of the show. It seemed like everyone wanted to spend time with the hamster.

They can often be found stuffing their faces with food, hoarding it in their cheeks. At the same time, there are also some situations in which hamsters aren’t actually eating food.

They actually eat their babies. I remember that when I first found out about this, I was horrified! Why would a hamster eat its babies? There are a few reasons to note.

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Emotions Drive the Hamster’s Behavior

Hamsters usually eat their babies out of some sort of emotional response. This could be a scent, stress, fear, or even hunger.

These are among the most common reasons why hamsters end up eating their babies; however, to truly understand why a hamster would engage in this behavior, it is important to dive a little bit deeper.

There Are Numerous Reasons Why a Hamster Might Eat its Babies

There are a lot of reasons why a hamster might eat her own babies. Even though this seems horrifying to many people, particularly children, this can be normal behavior for hamsters.

As a child, it took me forever to get this point through my thick skull. There are several important points that everyone should keep in mind when trying to figure out how and why a hamster might eat its own young.

The Normal Nesting Behavior of Hamsters

Before diving into why hamsters eat their babies, it is important to explore the normal nesting behavior of hamsters. Nesting is usually performed by female hamsters, given that they carry the babies.

A female hamster is usually going to start the process of preparing a nest when she knows she is pregnant. She is anticipating the arrival of her young at once and make sure they have a safe place to live. This is a normal parental response.

It is important to note that I female hamster is only going to be pregnant for around three weeks. Furthermore, up to 20 babies can actually show up overnight in the nest of a female hamster.

I remember that there was a time when I did not realize that one of the female hamsters at my daycare was pregnant. I was shocked to come in the next day to see close to two dozen small babies sitting in the nest of the hamster.

That was a shock to all of us, including the teachers. They didn’t know what to do!

Usually, female hamsters are going to use some sort of soft material to make sure there is a comfortable area for her offspring to hang out.

For example, female hamsters will commonly use tissues, shredded paper, paper towels, and even the substrate of the cage. In some situations, food might even be kept in or around the nest itself.

The Normal Diet of a Hamster

Next, it is also important to explore what hamsters will typically eat. Similar to other animals, hamsters are going to eat more when they are pregnant.

They are also going to eat more if they are nursing. Otherwise, a hamster’s diet is going to remain the same. For example, hamsters are going to eat pellets, fruit, vegetables, and seeds.

While pregnant and while nursing, hamsters are simply going to eat more of these items. Even though it is fine to provide treats from time to time, fresh water should always be available.

This is going to be critical for making sure that a hamster is healthy, regardless of whether or not she gets pregnant.

Reviewing the Most Common Reasons Why a Hamster Might Eat its Babies

Now, let’s take a closer look at some of the most common reasons why a hamster might eat his or her own babies. Most hamsters are going to take time to prepare for normal birth.

They are going to go to the nesting process we discussed above. They are also going to eat more food than usual, similar to other animals. As long as an animal has time to prepare for the birth of his or her own babies, it might be seeing shocking for a hamster to kill and eat it’s own young.

So, why is this case? There are a few important points to know.

They include:

  • A Hamster Is Feeling a Tremendous Amount of Stress: Anyone who grew up with siblings or as had a baby will know that the arrival of a new life can be an incredibly beautiful but also stressful process. Similar to other animals, a hamster might also feel stress. There is a lot that a hamster has to do during the pregnancy, birthing process, nursing process, and rearing process. This stress is felt by everyone, including hamsters. If a hamster is feeling excessive stress, then it may want to destroy the source of this stress. As a result, they decide to eat their babies. This is far more likely to occur in younger hamsters or if the mom is being disturbed throughout the day. Therefore, to prevent this from happening, give a female hamster plenty of space to take care of her babies. Do everything possible to manage her stress.
  • A Hamster Is Afraid: It is also a normal response for hamsters to want to take care of their young. Any mother or father can relate to this. Hamsters are certainly no exception. Therefore, when hamsters are afraid, this emotion can result in a hamster killing its own children. Other pets, loud noises, and other things that might be seen as intimidating could cause the protective response of a mother hamster to go into overdrive. A mother hamster may end up killing its babies to spare them from whatever threat is present. 
  • A Hamster Smells Something Unusual: A mother hamster spends a tremendous amount of time caring for her babies. Therefore, the mother hamster also gets used to the scent that is left on each of her babies. These scents are important for helping mothers recognize their own young. If there is a new scent found on one of the babies, then the mother might become confused. For example, if humans touch the babies, then there might be a human scent on the babies. Therefore, the mother hamster might no longer believe that that baby belongs to her. Then, the mother might interpret that baby as an impostor and kill it. In this manner, it is incredibly important for everyone to avoid touching hamster babies. Let the mother hamster do what she does best.
  • A Hamster Is Hungry: Finally, one of the most important reasons why a mother hamster might eat her own babies is that there is a lack of food. Animals that are pregnant or nursing are going to be consuming more energy than usual. As a result, a mother hamster is going to require more calories to keep up. Therefore, if there is not enough food in the cage, then the mother hamster is going on the hunt to find more food. This is where a mother hamster may decide to eat one of her own babies. If a mother hamster is afraid that she is not going to be able to provide enough food for her own babies, then she will start to kill them. 

These are a few of the most common reasons why a mother hamster might kill her own babies.

Preventing Infanticide in the Hamster World

Of course, we do not want mother hamsters to kill their own babies. Therefore, it is important to take a look at some of the ways that people can prevent hamsters from killing their own babies. 

First, it is important to make sure that everything is calm and quiet. Hamsters need plenty of space in order to nest and care for their young.

Therefore, pets and children should be kept out of the room where the hamster lives. Try to keep the volume down to keep from disturbing the hamster. In some cases, it might even be a good idea to cover the cage to hide any threats from the hamster.

Next, it is important to check on the babies on a regular basis to make sure they aren’t being killed. It is also important not to touch them. Looking at them is fine.

At the same time, it is important to leave them alone. Never leave a human scent on the babies because the mother hamster will eat them. 

Finally, also make sure the mother hamster has plenty of food. Do not let the mother hamster go hungry. If she gets hungry, she may end up eating the babies.