The Pet Report

Furry Little Creatures Behold!

How Long Do Hamsters Live?

This question is both easy and difficult to answer. There’s of course the “right” answer; the expected lifespan, but then there’s reality.

By Tb240904 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Regular hamsters (big hamsters like teddies) have an expected lifespan of 3 – 5 years.

Dwarf hamsters live up to 3 years. Russians tend to live only about 2, while Siberians and “fake” dwarf hamsters (Chinese, Taiwanese, etc…) live about 3. Roborovski dwarf hamsters life spans are more volatile and live anywhere from 1 to 3 years.

All of the above is assuming the hamster lives in good condition.

Then there’s reality…

Working at a pet store, I’ve learned many things about pet life expectancy both in-store and from customers. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard someone say his or her hamster “lived a long time. It lived for 6 months / a year”. Here are some of the things that can affect a hamster’s lifespan drastically.

Other Hamsters

English: Two Roborovski Hamsters sleeping toge...

English: Two Roborovski Hamsters sleeping together. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hamsters are extremely territorial and as such may fight each other when they don’t get along. While dwarf hamsters will typically only fight enough to injure, teddies will sometimes fight to the death. If you want your hamster to live long, it’s best to have just one hamster per cage.

Robo dwarf hamsters, however, will coexist peacefully. For them, you can have 2 or 3 per tank with no problems.


Sometimes customers have hamsters that fight, but don’t kill each other. Do they take them to a vet? Not always… Then they wonder why that animal died later on. Wounds can get infected; it’s important to give medicine to an injured hamster.

Wet Tail and Diarrhea

This is mostly for non-dwarf hamsters. Dwarf hamsters don’t seem to get wet tail and diarrhea that much. However, this is an easy killer for the bigger hamsters. If left untreated, or poorly treated, it can kill a hamster in a matter of days. Not only do the hamsters need medicine, but they’ll also need to be force fed fluids as they will be too weak to drink enough liquids to stay alive.

Causes of Wet Tail and Diarrhea are stress, poor hygiene, overfeeding of vegetables, and poor water quality. This is especially true in-store when new animals come in, as the stress of traveling almost guarantees one will be sick, and possibly infect others, the next day after it has arrived.


hamster (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


  • Clean cages weekly or biweekly
  • Don’t overfeed vegetables (except cabbage. It’s hard to overfeed cabbage, so it’s a safe choice).
  • Whenever a stressful event is occurring ( coming home for the first time, changing homes, new pets (hamsters or other loud pets), visiting loud cousins, etc….), make sure to give Benebac to reduce stress.
  • Clean bowls and water bottles at the very least on a weekly basis. Water, especially unfiltered untreated water, needs to be changed at least every few days. If algae is found, it must be removed and the water must be changed.

Lack of Excercise

English: A hamster and a hamster wheel

English: A hamster and a hamster wheel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is one I often hear from customers: the wheel was too loud so I removed it. Well, hamsters need exercises or they get fat, and that’s just as bad for them as it is for us. If you’re going to remove the wheel at night while you sleep, fine, but then make sure there’s a wheel when you’re not sleeping. Also consider having a hamster ball to let your hamster roam around in during supervised play time.

Not having chew sticks

Hamster teeth grow forever and ever. In their natural habitats, they’d be surrounded by trees and other hard materials to gnaw at and grind their teeth down on. If they don’t have some kind of hard, safe material to chew on, their teeth will keep growing and will buckle over. When that happens, they’ll have difficulty eating and will starve to death unless you go to a vet to have their teeth clipped. Don’t ignore having chew sticks if you want your hamster to live and if you want less vet visits.

Not paying attention to cage condition

Many people get those plastic-bottom cages. Hamsters that are determined enough can, and will, chew through and get out. This is why it’s actually best to have a tank (like a reptile tank or an aquarium tank). However, all it takes is to occasionally check the cage to see if the hamster has started chewing through. If caught early, you can do something about it by either getting a new cage, or putting an obstacle in front of where the hamster starting chewing. A hamster that gets out can eat and drink unwanted substances and die, among other things.

Not cleaning thoroughly

Cleaning isn’t just removing old bedding. You have to wash the ENTIRE cage  (including the top, side, tubes,  wheel, wires, etc..)  with warm soapy water. Every few months, you should also consider bleaching the cage for a full 24 hours. Then you should soak it in water for 24 hours, remove all the water, then resoak it  in brand new water for another 24 hours. This will disinfect the cage from bacteria that builds up, and the soaking process will remove the bleach. Make sure it’s fully dry before putting anything else in.

  • Obviously, you need a (clean) backup cage or tank while you’re going  through the cleaning process.


Hamsters live 3-5 years while dwarf hamsters live 2-3 years and robo hamsters live 1 – 3 years. This is assuming hamsters receive good care. Bad care often leads to hamsters only living a few months.


4 comments on “How Long Do Hamsters Live?

  1. chaoticscribbles
    June 6, 2012

    I’ve had 6 Syrian hamsters in the past; all lived to 2 and a bit years – one even made it to 3 years (even though he was very old and doddery by then). Never known one to get close to 5 years though 😛

    • thepetreport
      June 6, 2012

      Well if you add the time the hamsters were in the pet store before you got them, it might reach the 3 years of expected lifespan, so that’s good. I wrote 3 – 5, but the 5 years are much harder to get than the 3 years.

      Thank you for commenting ^^ Didn’t expect that for a brand new blog.

      • chaoticscribbles
        June 6, 2012

        Im a huge animal lover (not quite the crazy kind yet) so you are very welcome. New blogs are the most interesting anyway – they develop in front of you kind of thing 😛
        Yes I suppose I never considered the time they were in the shop before too much. I have two very new Syrian hamsters, check out my blog when you get a few minutes – you are welcome to use any of my photos of them 🙂

  2. rubyandwheaky
    June 6, 2012

    Love your blog! Great info! Back in college I had a friend who adopted a hamster. He lived for five wonderful years. He was very well taken care of, exercised on a daily basis, and had the best food available. He got more love and attention then most kids in America. I’m looking forward to following your blog and getting the “inside scoop” on small animals.

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This entry was posted on June 6, 2012 by in Hamsters, Rodents and tagged , , , , , , , .


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