How Long Do Hamsters Live?

Melissa Witherell, DVM
By Melissa Witherell, DVM. Reviewed by Lauren Jones, VMD on Apr. 21, 2024
Hamster in a cupcake

iStock/Nynke van Holten

Hamsters can make great family pets—they’re easy to care for, and with frequent handling they can be very docile and affectionate. However, the average hamster lifespan is a good deal shorter than some other common household critters, so this is good consider when you’re welcoming a new hamster into your house.  

So, how long do hamsters live? On average, the pet hamster life expectancy is about 18–36 months. Any hamster that’s 1.5 years old is considered elderly.  

How Long Do Hamsters Live in the Wild?

Like many other animals, domesticated hamsters live longer than their wild cousins. In the wild, a hamster’s lifespan may be as short as a few months because hamsters are targeted by predators, including owls and foxes. Their lifespans are also affected by environmental conditions and fighting with other hamsters.

Hamster Species and Their Lifespans

While the typical hamster life expectancy is roughly 2–3 years, a hamster’s lifespan may also be affected by their specific breed.

  • Syrian or Golden hamster: 2–3 years

  • Dwarf hamster: 1–3 years

  • Teddy Bear hamster: 2–3 years

  • Roborovski dwarf hamster: 2–3 years

  • Winter White dwarf or Russian dwarf hamster: 12 months

  • Chinese hamster: 1.5–3 years

On average, the pet hamster life expectancy is about 18–36 months. Any hamster that’s 1.5 years old is considered elderly.  

Factors That Affect a Hamster’s Lifespan

As fragile and sensitive pets, domesticated hamsters are prone to illnesses and other health conditions that can significantly impact their lifespans.

Common ailments that affect hamsters include:

  • Heart disease   

  • Kidney disease   

  • Diabetes  

  • Dental problems   

  • Cancer 

  • Amyloidosis (protein deposits in the organs)  

With proper diet and care, these diseases can be mitigated.  

How To Improve Your Hamster's Lifespan 

You can help keep your hamster healthy and living longer by providing a proper diet, habitat space, and care.   

Feed the Best Hamster Food

Your pet’s diet should consist mainly of a commercially produced pelleted rodent diet intended hamsters. Diets made of primarily seeds may cause nutritional deficiencies in vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. They also contain a lot of sugar and fat, leading to diabetes and obesity.   

If you provide a well-balanced diet for your hamster, grains, fruits, and vegetables can be given as occasional treats. To aid in longevity, avoid diets with high levels of refined sugar and low fiber.  

Invest in the Right Cage

Hamsters also need plenty of space to move around. Several types of cages are excellent habitats for your furry friend.

Cage size for one hamster should be large enough to provide a nest box, exercise wheel, and other enrichment. Sizes can range from 24” x 12” x 16” to 48” x 12” x 16” or larger. The bigger the better! The more space your hamster has to move around, the more they will exercise and play, which is good for longevity.

Maintain Your Hamster’s Bedding

Hamsters do well with a solid-bottomed cage with bedding. Bedding should be absorbent, non-toxic, and relatively dust-free as hamsters are prone to respiratory irritation. Do not use cedar or pine shavings, which can be irritating to a hamster and even cause allergic reactions. Also use caution using any type of “fluff” bedding which can be ingested and cause intestinal blockages.

Hamsters tend to urinate and defecate in one corner of the cage, so any soiled bedding material should be removed and replaced with a clean cloth daily. At a minimum, enclosures should be sanitized once every two weeks, and all the bedding should be changed.

Provide Hamster Toys and Mental Stimulation

It is also good to provide enrichment and stimulation for your hamster by adding tubes, exercise wheels, pipes, shelters, and chew toys to their cage. Providing tissue paper, cotton, or paper towels allows your hamster to make a lovely fluffy nest.  

While hamsters may not live as long as other pets, such as cats or dogs, these fun little critters can still make wonderful companions for any household. Establishing healthy practices in daily hamster care can help improve your hamster’s lifespan, in addition to regular wellness checkups with your veterinarian.   

References

  1. Brown, Susan. Veterinary Partner. Hamsters as Pets.  2000.  

  2. Mayer, J. and Donnelly, T. Elsevier Health Sciences. Clinical Veterinary Advisor: Birds and Exotic Pets. 2013.   

  3. Mitchell, Sandra. Veterinary Partner. Husbandry and Medical Care of Hamsters. 2020.   

  4. Mitchell, Sandra. Veterinary Partner. Parents’ Guide to Selecting a Small Pet for Children. 2020.   

  5. Pollock, Christal. LafeberVet. Basic Information Sheet: Hamster. 2010.   

  6. Pollock, Christal. LafeberVet. Differential Diagnosis in Hamsters.  2010.  

  7. Quesenberry, K., Orcutt, C., Mans, C. and Carpenter, J. Elsevier. Ferrets, Rabbits, and Rodents: Clinical Medicine and Surgery. 4th ed. 2020.  

  8. Suckow, M., Stevens, K. and Wilson, R. Elsevier Academic Press. The Laboratory Rabbit, Guinea Pig, Hamster, and Other Rodents. 2012. 

References


Melissa Witherell, DVM

WRITTEN BY

Melissa Witherell, DVM

Veterinarian

Dr. Melissa Witherell is originally from Connecticut. She attended undergrad at Fordham University to study Biological Sciences. After that...


Help us make PetMD better

Was this article helpful?


Get Instant Vet Help Via Chat or Video. Connect with a Vet. Chewy Health