Breeding Disorders, Infertility in Hamsters

By PetMD Editorial on Jul. 9, 2010

Why Do Hamsters Eat Their Babies?

Breeding and reproduction in hamsters, as in other animals, may be a natural, easy process or may undergo serious complications resulting in an inability to reproduce successfully. Breeding females, for example, may have smaller litters or become infertile as a result of old age, malnutrition, a cold environment, not having enough nesting material, and not having a normal estrous cycle. However, infertility problems can occur in both males and females.

Pregnant females have also been known to abandon or eat their offspring. Though the underlying reasons have not been studied thoroughly, there are a few theories. A poor or improperly balanced diet, for example, may cause the female to look for nutrients elsewhere. Also, a crowded or noisy environment or excessive handling of the young may lead to abandoning.


  • Infertility (males and females)
  • Abortion or miscarriage (females)
  • Abandoning of litter after birth (females)
  • Eating their young/litter (females)
  • Small litter size (females)



  • Stress
  • Old age
  • Malnutrition
  • Cold living environment, lack of heat
  • Lack of sufficient nesting material
  • Abnormal estrous cycle in females
  • Incompatibility of male and female hamsters trying to mate
  • Sensitivity to seasons and cycle of light through the day and night that are improper for the breeding of male and female hamsters
  • Ovarian or uterine cysts in females


  • Fetus may die in the womb
  • Malnutrition
  • Lack of sufficient heat in the living environment
  • Injury
  • Stress or sudden fright

Abandoning of litter

  • Large litter size may induce the mother hamster to abandon some or all of the newborns
  • Overcrowding of the hamsters in a small living environment
  • Noisy living environment
  • Human handling of the newborns is too frequent
  • Male hamster in the cage after birth
  • Insufficient nesting material
  • Milk production is not sufficient
  • Inflammation of the milk glands, mastitis
  • Sick and/or deformed offspring is often abandoned by the mother hamster

Eating of litter

  • Malnutrition
  • Sick or deformed offspring
  • Overcrowding
  • Stress

Small litter size

  • Lack of heat in the living environment
  • Female hamster is old
  • Female hamsters does not have normal estrous cycle
  • Lack of proper nutrition
  • Nesting material is not enough for the female hamster
  • Stress



There is no specific treatment for general breeding disorders. However, when a breeding disorder is due to abnormal estrous cycle, the veterinarian will provide hormone therapy.

Living and Management

Becoming more knowledgable in the reproductive physiology of hamsters will you better manage and prevent problems associated with the breeding and reproduction of pet hamsters.

Featured Image: Sayfutdinov

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