13 reasons why your hamster may suddenly die

What can a hamster die of?

A hamster can die from direct causes such as old age, disease, a fight with a fellow hamster or a fall on its head, but also from indirect causes such as stress, malnutrition, lack of exercise or poor hygiene in its enclosure.

Hamsters never die without a reason, it may not be apparent but there is always a cause behind the death of a hamster.

We will therefore see the multiple direct or indirect reasons why a hamster can suddenly succumb.

13 reasons why your hamster may suddenly die

1- Hamsters die of old age:

The most common cause of hamster death is of course the natural cause, old age. Hamsters have a short life expectancy, even very short for some breeds, the hamster starts to get old just after its 12 months and is considered an old hamster that will need special care, only after 18 months.

Hamsters die of old age sometimes just at the age of 24 months (2 years).

2- Bad hamster genes:

Hybrid hamsters are more genetically disposed to die prematurely. Born in pet mills, from unselected parents and probably suffering from diseases, hybrid hamsters have a low birth immunity and a predisposition to diseases and infections that are usually fatal.

On the other hand, hamsters bought from passionate breeders live longer and may never see a vet in their entire life because they are born from selected and healthy parents, without hereditary diseases ( such as polymyopathy) , and a strong resistance to stress.

3- A hamster can die from a fatal disease:

Hamsters can contract several diseases and infections, detected late or not treated in time, most of them can get worse and cause the death of the hamster.

There are some diseases that are more deadly than others, such as Wet Tail (proliferative ileitis), heart problems such as the Congestive Heart Failure or an Atrial thrombosis without forgetting the hepatic or biliary cysts that you unfortunately could not treat if they reach the liver of the hamster for example.

Cancer which affects more winter white dwarf hamsters (of the digestive system or of the skin) and pneumonia or pulmonary infections come in second place of the deadly diseases of hamsters.

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diseases that can be transmitted to humans by a hamster

Other infections can also kill a hamster, the ones that make the most victims are LMCV and HaPV.

Finally we find diabetes which affects more Chinese hamsters and kidney failure which are also fatal if not detected and treated in time.

Other hamster diseases such as flu, skin or eye infections or simple diarrhea can be easily treated and are very rarely fatal.

4- Falling can be fatal for a hamster:

Hamsters also die after some falls, most of them are without consequences, but some falls can kill a hamster on the spot.

A hamster that falls from a great height and has nothing underneath to break its fall will probably die of internal bleeding.

The same for a hamster that falls on its head, it may break its neck and join hamster heaven, the same for a hamster that falls on a hard object.

5- Stress kills hamsters

The indirect cause that kills hamsters the most is stress. Stress does not directly kill the hamster, but it weakens its immune system and makes it more prone to contracting deadly diseases like wet tail and heart problems.

Stress can actually kill your hamster in less than a week, excessive salivation, hyperactivity, constipation, refusal to feed are the most common symptoms of stress.

6- A bad enclosure can kill your hamster:

The hamster enclosure should have at least 1000 square inches of continuous floor space. Hamsters are very active animals at night and need to have space to exercise and plenty of elements and enrichments to help them do so.

A small cage and lack of enrichments can cause your hamster stress, obesity and other heart diseases that can easily kill your hamster.

The wrong choice of bedding or delay in changing it and sand that you put in the sandbath can also cause lung infections to your hamster and cause death.

Finally the bad hygiene of the enclosure and its elements, the sound pollution (noise) and olfactory (smells and perfumes ..etc) and a continuous exposure to the artificial light can also be indirect causes which will quickly trigger incurable and fatal diseases for your hamster.

7-Ignorance and poor preparation kills hamsters:

Hamsters hide their illnesses well, this is normal because they are prey and if you do not learn to detect the symptoms of these diseases and the changes in your hamster’s behavior when it is sick, know that you have facilitated its death if it occurs.

So pay attention to your hamster’s behavior and learn how to detect hamsters illnesses so you can treat them before they get worse and become deadly and incurable.

You should also have a first aid kit, which will contain everything you need, not only to treat your hamster’s small wounds and rehydrate him…, but especially to give him first aid and save his life in case of serious diseases while waiting to take him to the vet.

Keeping your hamster’s temperature stable on the way to the vet or giving him a few drops of water with a syringe could save his life for example.

8- Cage mates can kill each other:

Hamsters are solitary animals and should be put in separate cages at the latest at the age of 6 weeks, otherwise the turf war will start, and the weaker hamster will sooner or later succumb to its injuries.

When you put two adult hamsters together, be aware that one of them, the weaker or dominated one, will suffer from poor nutrition and chronic stress and will probably not survive this situation for long and will die very quickly either from injuries, food insufficiency, anorexia or wet tail due to the stress caused by the bad treatment it will receive from its cage mate.

Female hamsters can also kill the male after mating, she will try to chase him out of the cage and if you leave him in, she will surely kill him.

9- Heat can also kill a hamster:

You have probably heard of heat stroke, yes, the ideal temperature for a hamster is between 75°F and 80°F (24°-27°C) and when it is too hot in your hamster’s enclosure, its blood will thicken and its internal organs will not be irrigated normally anymore which will quickly cause a failure of the hamster’s internal organs and death if you don’t intervene in time

The cold does not usually kill hamsters but it will push them into hibernation and you can kill your hamster if you don’t know how to get it out of this state of torpor by gradually warming it up and giving it something caloric to eat or drink.

 10- Other pets can kill a hamster:

The cat will not miss a hamster, it may not eat it, but it will play with it like a ball, and even if your hamster will not be killed on the spot, it will surely not survive the stress that this encounter with your cat or dog will cause.

So secure your hamster’s cage so that your cat can’t get in or even get close to it, and especially so that your hamster can’t escape during the night and have bad encounters or fatal falls.

Also, a hamster that escapes from its cage and finds a way out of your house is in serious danger if you don’t find it very soon. It will surely fall victim to hunger, cold, stray cats and dogs, vehicles and natural predators.

11- Boredom can kill a hamster 

A hamster is meant to roam in the wild, not to be confined in an enclosure. Hamsters travel an average of 5.5 miles each night in their natural habitat.

Your hamster will get bored, stressed and stop feeding if you don’t give him something to do at night, a wheel adapted to his size, toys to chew on, puzzles, things to climb on, a good thickness of bedding to dig in, tunnels, hideouts, seeds hidden in the enclosure, a sandbox large enough for sandbathing…etc

Never let your hamster get bored if you don’t want to shorten its longevity.

Playpens and outings outside the cage are also a necessity, so tame your hamster and schedule at least 15 to 30 minutes of play and interaction with him every day, preferably at night. Install a playpen or just a room where your cat should not have access and play and share time with your hamster.

12- Bad food will surely kill your hamster:

As I said before, stress and poor diet are the two factors that usually determine how long your hamster will live.

As far as diet is concerned; the hamster will not be able to live long on pellets alone!

This is really absurd, because the hamster needs essentially seeds, dry and fresh vegetables, herbs and flowers and protein foods like mealworms, crickets …

A poorly fed hamster will either suffer from malnutrition followed by anorexia or digestive problems that will quickly become fatal, or it will quickly become obese and will quickly become a victim of heart disease or diabetes that will surely end up killing it.

So make sure you feed your hamster well if you want it to live long and in excellent health.

Also avoid poisoning your hamster by feeding it dangerous foods such as chocolate, milk, peanut butter, honey, garlic and onion, citrus fruits such as lemon, parsley, celery, onion and basil, curly lettuce and beans, and all frozen vegetables.

Also avoid fruits that are too sweet and especially excess, no more than a piece the size of your pinky nail and only two to three times a week.

Do not poison your hamster with fat and raw meat, it will surely not eat them on the spot and will take them to its nest, the purification will do the rest and contaminate all its food and can even make it sick and poison it.

13- Contact with a sick animal could kill a hamster

It is rare that hamsters die just after contact with another animal, infected or sick. I have often heard of hamsters being visited by a rat or even a wild mouse at night, attracted by the smell of food emanating from the hamster cage.

Don’t be surprised, but the food stored by the hamster may attract visitors you don’t even know are in your home.

A cockroach, for example, can carry bacteria or pathogens and microbes that will easily cause your hamster’s death.

So make sure you isolate your hamster from other small animals, insects, ticks and bugs.

Final thoughts:

Most hamsters live their whole lives without seeing a vet, especially if you take good care of them.

It’s good to want to ensure your hamster lives a long life without too many trips to the vet, but you should know that death is a part of life.

You should be prepared to say goodbye to your hamster at any time because you never know when it will leave you.

It’s not just old hamsters that die, young ones can also have internal diseases that you or a veterinarian would never guess.

You should let your hamster go in peace to hamster heaven and even make the trip easier with euthanasia if the vet confirms that there is nothing more to do to save him and he is suffering.