Pregnancy in hamsters is usually marked by a very large and firm abdomen that will be visible within the first week of gestation. They will also become more lethargic and start to sleep for long periods throughout the day. I have mentioned signs which will be helpful for how to tell if a hamster is pregnant.
How to tell if hamster is pregnant
Swelling in the side of the face
If you have noticed swelling around your hamster’s cheek area, it is likely that she is pregnant. This will be most noticeable after she has eaten as this will temporarily shrink the size of her stomach and allow her cheeks to expand with fat deposits.
Sleeping for long periods at a time
You will notice that your hamster is sleeping more during the day and has a large appetite. This is an indication that she may be pregnant and can even happen before you see any physical signs of pregnancy. It should be noted that not all female hamsters become this lethargic when they are expecting babies, so do not panic if she is not sleeping for long periods.
Swelling of the abdomen or “popcorning”
As your hamster’s pregnancy progresses, you will be able to notice a swelling in her abdomen which gets progressively larger as time goes by. This bulge may only become apparent after she has eaten, but it will be the first sign of pregnancy. She may also start to “popcorn” or give little hops around the place, this is usually done when she cannot reach her food bowl at feeding time.
A possible discharge from the vagina
This is obviously only relevant if you have a female hamster that has been paired with a male, if not then ignore this symptom. Some female hamsters may have a small amount of vaginal discharge when they are pregnant, it is usually clear or milky in color and can sometimes be mistaken for droppings.
A build-up of fluid in the abdomen
At around 3-4 days before birthing, your hamster will start to develop a build-up of fluid in the abdomen, this is caused by hormones that soften and loosen the muscles ready for birth.
A rise in body temperature
At around 2-3 days before birth, your hamster’s body temperature will rise by 0.5-1 °C (0.9–1.8 °F); it is usually about 37 °C (98.6 °F) before this increase. Because of the natural insulation provided by the fur, it may be difficult to tell for sure if your hamster has a fever or not.
If you have noticed any swelling in the side of your female hamster’s face then she may be pregnant. This will start to appear after about 3-4 days of pregnancy and be most visible during the later stages of gestation. It is again only relevant if you know for certain that your hamster has been mated with a male, if not then ignore this symptom.
A change in behavior
Your hamster may start to act differently prior to giving birth; she will become less responsive and will appear to be in a daze. This is another indication that she could be pregnant however it can also happen when she is ill or otherwise unwell, so do not mistake this for being the only sign of pregnancy.
A build-up of fat behind her back legs
As time goes by during gestation, you will notice that your hamster has a much larger appetite which results in her gaining weight. Eventually, this weight gain results in the build-up of fat behind her back legs, giving the appearance similar to that of someone with big biceps!
Your hamster may start to build an excessive amount of nests within her cage. This is a sign that she could be pregnant as it is believed that the mother will start to collect nesting material in preparation for her babies.
A loss of fur from her tummy
Your hamster may become less concerned about grooming herself; this results in the loss of fur around her chest, belly, and sometimes even on her face.
Markings around the eyes and nose swell
Your hamster’s markings may start to darken or swell, this occurs as a result of hormonal changes that take place during pregnancy. This will only be apparent towards the end of gestation however you can start to look out for it now in case she is not ready to give birth just yet.
A loss of appetite
During the early stages of gestation, your hamster will become less interested in her food; this is due to hormonal changes which affect appetite and they can remain like this for several days before wanting to eat again. If your hamster has not eaten at all and seems uninterested, take her to a vet as she could be ill and you will need to rule out any potential problems.
A distended belly
As time goes by during gestation, your hamster’s stomach will begin to swell and become distended as a result of the developing babies inside. You should expect this symptom to start towards the end of pregnancy however she may experience it earlier if she has very large litters.
Hamster pregnancy Period
A hamster pregnancy may last between 16 and 18 days. The average litter size is 8 to 10 babies. There are five different types of hamsters that could be categorized by their breeding times:
- Campbell’s dwarf hamster (Phodopus campbelli)
- Roborovski dwarf hamster (Phodopus roborovskii)
- Winter white Russian dwarf hamster (Phodopus sungorus sungorus)
- Chinese hamster (Cricetulus griseus)
- Siberian hamster, Phodopus sungorus Campbell. The gestation period of a female Siberian hamster is 16 days long.
If you have noticed any of these signs within your hamster then she may be pregnant, even if there are no visible signs but she has been paired with a male. It should be noted that in rare cases, female hamsters may in fact still be virgins even when they appear to give birth. This is due to the male not penetrating the vaginal opening correctly and therefore being unable to fertilize the eggs within. If this is suspected, then there are other signs that can indicate pregnancy such as enlarged or distended mammary glands, however, it is best to seek veterinary advice for this problem.