Written By : M Samy

How to Properly care for a hamster in cold weather?

Caring for a hamster in cold weather requires setting up his enclosure in a heated indoor room, providing plenty of warm bedding and nesting material, feeding him a diet rich in protein, healthy fats, and vitamins, and ensuring that the temperature in his enclosure does not drop too low to prevent him from going into torpor or developing cold-related illnesses such as influenza or pneumonia.

Keep reading to know everything on how to keep a hamster warm in winter and cold weather.

How to properly care for a hamster in cold weather?

As temperatures drop and winter approaches, it’s important to provide your beloved hamster with the warmth and comfort he needs to stay happy and healthy.

Cold weather can pose a number of challenges for these small pets, affecting their health and overall well-being. In this article, I will try to cover the essential steps for creating a comfortable and safe environment for your pet hamster during the colder months. 

How to keep a hamster in cold weather

From choosing the right cage and setting it up to maintaining the ideal temperature to help him build cozy nests, to feeding your hamster. Let’s find out how to create a warm haven that will keep your furry friend thriving all winter long.

I’ve already written about how to care for your hamster during heat waves, so here’s how to protect your hamster from the cold.

Why keep your hamster warm in winter?

Hamsters should not be exposed to extreme cold (below 60°F/16°C for dwarf hamsters and below 8°C/46°F for Syrian hamsters) or lack of light for long periods of time (12 to 24 hours), or they may enter a state of torpor (brief and involuntary hibernation). 

The temperature inside their enclosure should remain between 18-24°C (64-75°F). Finally, you should know that pet hamsters, unlike those living in their natural environment, have neither the knowledge nor the physical ability to hibernate properly, and the risks to your hamster are many:

  • Dehydration 
  • Hypothermia 
  • Risk of infection (as his immune system becomes compromised)
  • Risks when he wakes up.
  • Digestive problems after coming out of hibernation.
  • Stress caused by the unusual situation.
  • Hamsters kept in cold enclosures are at risk for pneumonia.
  • Finally, older hamsters are at greater risk when they enter the torpid state.
  • If your hamster is pregnant, there is a risk of losing her pups.
  • There is a risk that the female hamster will eat her pups if she is nursing.

The temperature should never drop below 16°C for a short period of time or below 18°C/64°F for more than 24 hours to prevent your hamster from going into a torpid state(into torpor). Unlike wild hamsters, domestic hamsters are generally not physically prepared for this situation and may not revive.

How can you tell if your hamster is cold?

When the temperature in your hamster’s cage drops, you’ll notice a change in his behavior. Here are the warning signs:

  • Your hamster becomes slow and lethargic and less active than usual.
  • Shakes or feels stiff when you touch him.
  • His body temperature will drop and he’ll have cold extremities (paws, ears, nose, and tail).
  • Shallow breathing (you will find it hard to feel his respiration when you put your hand near his face).
  • A cold hamster will become unresponsive and won’t respond much to what’s going on around him.
  • Your hamster will curl up into a ball and try to maintain his temperature.
  • Loss of appetite.

How can I properly care for a hamster in cold weather?

Hamsters don’t like cold. Winter white hamsters are known to be the most resistant to drops in temperature, but they’ll start to stress once the temperature drops below 65°F.

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So you’ll need to prepare your hamster’s enclosure, its equipment, a special diet, and a backup plan to keep your hamster’s enclosure at around 70°F throughout the winter time and to keep your hamster warm during cold days, here’s how:

How to prepare your hamster’s enclosure for the cold season?

1- Pick a good location for your hamster’s enclosure 

As winter sets in, or before an extreme cold snap such as a snowstorm or polar cold arrives, it’s time to winterize your hamster’s enclosure. It is imperative that you prepare your hamster for the cold and his enclosure, and the best way to do this is to choose the right location for his cage. Here’s some advice on where to put your hamster’s enclosure when it gets cold:

  • The enclosure should be away from openings, doors, windows, hallways, etc.
  • Avoid areas exposed to drafts, moisture, and any source of uncontrolled or transient heat, such as the kitchen.
  • Avoid large rooms, the garage, the porch, and any open area where there’s a lot of access and the door could be left open at any time!
  • Place the cage where your other pets don’t have access and where the temperature can be controlled and maintained throughout the day and especially at night.
  • You should also never rely on central heating, and always try to have a portable heater on hand in case there’s a power outage.
  • During the cold season, the smaller the room where you put the hamster cage the better, because it would be easier to heat it, and the best would be to put the cage in an indoor room.
  • You should also aerate the room as soon as the weather permits it, preferably when your hamster is in its nest or burrow, to avoid exposing it to a rapid drop in temperature.
  • When airing the room where your hamster’s cage is located, turn up the heat immediately after closing the window so that the room quickly returns to its original temperature, preferably between 64°F and 75°F (18-24°C).
  • Avoid placing your hamster’s cage near heat sources such as space heaters and radiators to avoid overheating and causing your hamster thermal stress, which can quickly lead to heat stroke.
  • You should have a backup plan, a warm backup to deal with any eventuality, and that’s what we’ll see in the rest of this humble article.
  • Finally, avoid placing your hamster’s cage at ground level, and keep it at least 3 feet high.

If your hamster’s cage is against an outside wall, it’s a good idea to put at least one rug between them to prevent the external wall from transferring the cold to your hamster’s cage. You can also put another rug under your hamster cage before you put it down to prevent the cold from getting into your hamster’s bedding.

2- What’s the best hamster cage for cold weather?

Your hamster’s winter habitat needs to be as insulated as possible from environmental elements, sudden changes in temperature, humidity, and draughts… and the best habitat, in this case, is one made of glass, like those made from Ikea Detolf.

This Large MewooFun hamster enclosure that I just found on Amazon is Perfect for your hamster not just for winter but for all year around. It’s large enough, high, made of safe wood, chew-proofed, and well-insulated. I Highly recommend it, Just make sure that the substrate layer on at least one side of this enclosure reaches the level of the horizontal glass door.

The best overall encosure for hamsters

Bar cages (prisons for me) are not suitable for hamsters, and I don’t recommend using them even when it’s hot outside, as they won’t protect your hamster from sudden changes in the room where you have installed them.

Your hamster’s enclosure must be insulated from its immediate environment (the room and its hazards). Try to reproduce as closely as possible its natural environment, and only a well-set-up large glass enclosure will do.

3- What substrate and bedding for your hamster in cold weather?

To keep your hamster warm in winter, start by laying a blanket on the bottom of the enclosure to insulate it from the cold, then make sure the bedding layer is very thick, 15 inches or more of floor bedding. A

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Aspen and Spruce wood shavings are excellent choices for insulating your hamster’s burrows from the cold, while still allowing a little air to infiltrate. This type of bedding is also highly absorbent and holds well when your hamster goes to create its tunnels..

You can also use paper-based bedding such as Carefresh Natural Paper Small Pet Bedding, which is also highly absorbent, retains heat, and has a good texture for tunneling. It’s best to mix it with Kaytee Clean and Cozy.

As nesting material for hamsters in cold weather, I recommend a good amount of toilet paper or paper towels, and you can also add a few strips of cotton towels (make sure your hamster doesn’t chew or swallow them first to avoid blockage).

Finally, you can give him a regular supply of soft hay and dried grass, which he can also use as nesting material.

During the winter, you should always buy extra bedding and food for your hamster in case there’s a storm that prevents you from leaving the house.

4- Best Hamster Accessories for Cold Weather

During cold weather, your hamster will spend a lot of time in its nest, so you need to install a nesting box and hideouts, preferably with a small opening (entrance) to prevent heat loss.

These hiding places should preferably be made of natural wood, which has a higher thermal insulating capacity than ceramic, plastic, clay, and glass.

Remember that hamsters like to build their nests away from their litter box and water bowl.

The exercise wheel is very important when it’s cold, so install a good running wheel with a flat surface (no bars or mesh), preferably one made of wood, so your hamster can exercise and warm up his body, especially at night.

Last but not least, you should encourage your hamster to stay active when the temperature starts to drop by providing toys and chew, sprays, and things to climb on, which are also excellent ways to encourage your hamster to run around his cage and warm up his body.

How do I feed a hamster in cold weather?

To help your hamster maintain its body temperature in cold weather, you need to increase the protein and fat content of your hamster’s diet. Offer your hamster more high-energy foods such as seeds and nuts.

You can also offer him a small piece of boiled/scrambled egg, cooked chicken or turkey, or dried mealworm from time to time.

To boost your hamster’s immune system over the winter, offer him vitamin C-rich vegetables such as bell peppers, broccoli, and carrots, and the occasional fruit treat, especially berries, which are rich in vitamins and minerals.

Hamsters need water even in winter

Hamsters are at greater risk of dehydration in the winter than in warm weather. So make sure your hamster has easy access to fresh water. You can also give him water-rich vegetables, such as cucumbers and zucchini since hamsters often prefer to eat rather than drink.

Finally, your hamster’s water should not be too cold; give him lukewarm water to encourage him to drink as much as possible.

Clean and groom your hamster

During the winter, your hamster’s coat needs to be kept clean to protect it from the cold. Hamsters secrete oils that help them maintain their body temperature.

Hamsters usually groom themselves, but if your hamster is sick, it is just getting old, or has an injury that prevents him from grooming, you’ll need to help him.

Caring for a hamster during the winter

Sand baths are also very important for hamsters

You must never let your hamster get wet, or its coat will lose its insulating properties. You also need to do daily spot cleaning to change bedding that has been wet by your hamster and pick up food scraps to prevent waste from accumulating in the cage.

Don’t forget to check your hamster’s nest and bedding regularly to make sure it’s warm and dry.

Sandbathes are very important for hamsters, so make sure your hamster’s sand stay always warm enough to encourage him to keep taking its sand baths.

Last tips for proper winter care of your hamster

  • Avoid or shorten your hamster’s time out of his cage.
  • Do not touch your hamster if your hands are cold or too hot.
  • Have a portable heater or other warm backup plan, a battery-powered heating pad, hot water bottles, or at least cover your hamster’s cage with a warm blanket to limit heat loss in the event of a power outage.
  • Always be prepared to take your hamster to the vet if he shows signs of illness, as the cold can quickly complicate his health.
  • Reduce your interactions with your hamster to the bare minimum if you have the flu, and wash your hands and wear a mask when approaching your hamster’s enclosure.
  • Never leave your hamster’s bedroom door or window open (especially if you’re leaving the house), unless you’re airing the room for a just few minutes.
  • Keep an eye on your hamster’s weight: if he’s losing weight quickly, he’s often cold and you’ll need to step in to warm him up. Another sign that your hamster is cold is if his paws are cold.
  • Don’t forget that spring mornings are also cold, with temperatures dropping to around 4 AM, so take steps to keep your hamster warm in the spring.
  • Last but not least, always have your exotic vet’s emergency number handy in case you suspect your hamster is unwell and can’t be moved.

Final Thoughts

Hamsters tolerate cold better than heat, but the cold can also cause issues for your hamster. So be on the lookout for sudden cold snaps or approaching storms, and get ready to keep your hamster’s enclosure warm and look after his well-being. They’re adorable creatures and deserve all our love.

FAQ

Can I cover my hamster cage with a blanket to keep it warm?

Yes, you can cover or wrap your hamster’s cage with a blanket to keep it warm, just leave an opening so that some air can still flow through the cage to prevent your hamster from suffocating from odors.

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If not, use the other methods mentioned in this article to keep your hamster’s cage warm.

What temperature is too cold for a Syrian hamster?

Both Syrian and dwarf hamsters should never be exposed to temperatures below 60°F/15°C for long periods of time, especially during long nights (+12 hours of the night), as this can cause your hamster to become torpid, which is very dangerous for hamsters in captivity..

What is the best heating pad for hamsters?

Reptile Heat Pad – Under Tank Heater It’s the best heating pad for hamsters. Just don’t put it inside the cage, but right underneath it and not on the side where his litter box or food is, so that your hamster has the choice of moving away from this heating pad if his temperature starts to become unbearable.

You’ll need to add a thermometer to monitor the temperature in your hamster’s cage when using this kind of equipment.

Is it possible to get a hamster acclimated to the cold?

If you live in an area where temperatures are often cold, studies on stripped hamsters “Chinese hamsters”(non-hibernating animals) have shown that they can adapt to the cold (changes in metabolic thermogenesis, digestive enzymes) if you gradually reduce the temperature in their enclosure over a long period of time.

The hamster will begin to shorten the time it takes to digest its food in order to heat its body and regulate its temperature. The hamster will also undergo physiological changes to reduce body heat loss.

Can hamsters recover from exposure to freezing temperatures?

According to another study conducted on Syrian hamsters, these hamsters were able to recover and survive even after being frozen for 50 to 70 minutes!

Never expose your hamster to the cold as the risk of internal bleeding is serious.


Some resources

Aspen Commons Vet

Journals.plos.org

Jstor.org

M Samy pet blogger and author at famillypet

About Author

Hey! Samy here , Welcome to my Blog I'm an animal lover, especially pets and Really concerned about their well being ; I've been around and caring for all my life and Now ; a full-time Pet blogger at your service . My motto here at Famillypet is: "Pets First" ... Read More