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What Does a Hamster Look Like When It's About to Hibernate?

i syrian hamster on abstract white background image by Maximillian-Setislav from Fotolia.com

Even the most conscientious hamster owners make occasional mistakes when it comes to caring for their pets. Forgetting to close a window on a breezy day or failing to turn on the heater when there is a cold front moving in can lead to conditions which may be a bit uncomfortable for humans, but have the potential to be deadly for your hamster.

Hibernation Basics

The ideal range of temperatures for a Syrian hamster is 65 to 75 degrees, according to the the Humane Society of the United States. If temperatures drop quickly or go below 65 degrees, a Syrian hamster's natural reaction is to go into hibernation in order to preserve energy. Hibernation lowers your hamster's heart rate and conserves his strength in an attempt to help him better survive weather he isn't naturally equipped to withstand. As a hamster owner you do not want your Syrian hamster to go into hibernation, because he could easily die from exposure to cold temperatures or dehydration. Dwarf hamsters originated in colder climates and have not been shown to hibernate.

Warning Signs Your Hamster Is Too Cold

Even a few hours of cool weather combined with a lack of food or water are enough to send your hamster into hibernation. Before he goes into hibernation, you may notice that him burrowing deeply into his nest or building a very large, very deep nest. He may be less active than he normally is and reluctant to play. In some instances he may shake or shiver.


When a hamster truly enters hibernation, his breathing and heart rate will slow down to the point where he appears to be in a coma or dead. If you look closely at your hibernating hamster, you will notice that he is taking short, uneven breaths and is limp when you pick him up. His paws, ears and nose will be very cold to the touch. Hamsters do not wake up to drink when they are in hibernation and will become dehydrated.

Saving Your Hamster

If your hamster goes in hibernation, you will have to act quickly to save his life. Get your hamster to a veterinarian as quickly as possible. On the way to the veterinarian's office you need to try to warm him up. Wrap your hamster gently in a warm cloth and move him into a warm area. Gently massage and rub his body and limbs in order to help wake him up. If he begins to show signs of life, offer him water using a syringe or eye dropper. You only need to offer him a couple drops of water at a time so that he is able to swallow the water safely. Once you arrive at the veterinarian's office she can give your hamster intravenous fluids to help get him rehydrated.