There are a number of misconceptions about a hamster’s hibernation. First of all, it is important to know that only the Syrian hamster, also known as the golden hamster, can fall into a deep sleep. The Russian dwarf hamster adapts in its own way. More on that later. Temperature is the most important factor for the Syrian hamster. When it gets too cold outside or in the vicinity of the golden hamster, it falls into a kind of coma. At 15 degrees Celsius the hamster often becomes slower and at 12 degrees Celsius or lower it can be overwhelmed by hibernation. You will find your hamster half curled up on its side with its front legs out. His heart rate drops and his body temperature drops to 5 degrees Celsius. Because the hamster feels so cold, some owners think their hamster has died. He also no longer eats or drinks. How can you check if your hamster is hibernating? When a hamster dies, the body becomes stiff and hard. In the long run, a dirty smell also develops. This is not the case during hibernation. You can gently pick up the Syrian hamster and gently roll it out a little. When you stroke the paws or feel the whiskers, the hamster gives reflexes, although these are very slow.
Tip: Make sure that the ambient temperature is no lower than 18 degrees Celsius to prevent the Syrian hamster from hibernating. When placing the loft, take temperature and sunlight into account. A nocturnal animal always needs a dark hiding place.
How long does a Syrian hamster's hibernation last?
A Syrian hamster can hibernate for up to a week. With a little luck, the hamster has fallen asleep in its warm nest. However, he can fall asleep so unexpectedly that he cannot make it to his safe house. If your hamster is older, sick, weakened, or not weighing enough, hibernation can be detrimental to its health. Has your hamster been hit by a long hibernation? Then you can wake him up gently by letting him warm up slowly. Take the hamster in your hands and make sure that the ambient temperature is at least 18 degrees Celsius. Never wake your hamster abruptly!
Did you know … that the body temperature of the hamster is normally equal to your own body temperature? When the hamster hibernates, its temperature drops from about 37 degrees Celsius to only 5 degrees Celsius
The Russian Dwarf Hamster and a hibernation
The dwarf hamster is not sensitive to hibernation, but the rodent goes through a completely different process. The little hamster gets a real winter coat, even when it lives indoors as a pet. Within weeks, the Russian dwarf hamster has completely transformed from summer coat to winter coat and from gray to white! Some dwarf hamsters even turn completely white. In addition, the hairs of the winter coat are longer and fluffier so that the hamster is more resistant to the cold. The change process usually starts at the eyes and on the butt, where you will see the first light hairs. You will also find more hair in the enclosure and especially in the nest. Slowly but surely, the dark gray hairs in your hamster’s coat disappear and make way for the special winter coat. However, it may happen that the process stops halfway and you have a crazy spotted hamster. This can’t hurt.
The Russian dwarf hamster lives strongly on instinct. He lives in your home just like he would in Siberia. In addition to the change of the coat, the weight of the hamster usually also decreases. It eats less and often makes a warm nest in which it can hide for a long time. In Siberia, the native habitat of the Russian dwarf hamster, it can be as low as -70 degrees in the winter months. In these weather conditions, the hamster crawls into its hole deep underground and lives off the food it has gathered during the summer and autumn months. The dwarf hamster transformation is linked to weather and temperature, but this is not why your little friend knows it is time for his winter coat. The hamster keeps an eye on the length of the days and reacts to the amount of light. As a result, he sometimes starts changing his coat in the summer. Otherwise, the dwarf hamster will never have its winter coat ready in time for the extreme weather conditions. In Siberia the weather can suddenly change. Besides the winter coat being thicker, white is also the ideal protective color during the Siberian winter months.
In order to save energy in winter, the Russian dwarf hamster has developed its own method called torpor. In fact, it is an adjustment to the daily routine that is used as a rest period. Instead of hibernation, torpor is also called winter paralysis. The hamster can only get torpor when the days are getting shorter and when it gets too little food. During this rest period, the dwarf hamster lowers its body temperature from about 37 degrees Celsius to 20 degrees Celsius and sits or lies down quietly with its eyes closed. Heart rate and respiratory rate also drop. This reduces the little hamster’s metabolism by 30% to 40%. In nature, the process begins just before sunrise, about thirty minutes to an hour in advance, and takes about four to nine hours. If the weather conditions do not change, the process can repeat itself more often. Torpor, unlike hibernation, is independent of ambient temperature and is only caused by less light. When the days get longer again, the process stops automatically.
How can you tell that your hamster has torpor? Your hamster is barely moving and it feels colder and limp. The dwarf hamster eats and drinks less than normal and can lose weight as a result. The hamster is also difficult to wake up due to the temporary ‘paralysis’. If your dwarf hamster suddenly hits torpor, it may appear as if it is dying. In addition to the colder body temperature, the hamster will shake a bit. For some owners, this is not a pleasant sight, especially if you do not directly link it with winter paralysis.
Tip: If your dwarf hamster gets torpor, it is best to pick it up and hold it in your hands. This way you can gradually warm up your hamster.