Hamsters can be sexually mature when they are as young as 4 weeks old. Dwarf hamsters have been known to produce their first litters as little as 60 days after their own births. It can be challenging to tell if a hamster is pregnant or has recently given birth to a litter just by looking at her. It may be impossible to tell if a female has given birth if the pups are already mature by the time you try to figure out which hamster the mother is.
Check your hamster's cage thoroughly for pups, which look like hairless pink jelly beans. Hamster pups, especially dwarf pups, are extremely tiny and if you have a large cage with plenty of hiding holes for mom to build her nest in, you may not automatically see the pups even if you suspect your female may have given birth recently. Do not touch the pups if you find them, because some female hamsters react poorly to the scent of humans on their offspring and may abandon those pups.
Examine your hamster's cage closely. Look for areas where bedding has been gathered or built up into an extra large nest. Pregnant hamsters will start nesting and hoarding extra food shortly before giving birth. If your female -- or misidentified male -- hamster changes her behavior so that she is spending more time than usual nest building then you may want to start watching her carefully to see if she has pups or gives birth soon. Pay special attention to any areas of the cage that appear soiled or have any type of blood or discharge around them.
Examine your female hamster closely. If she has been in a cage with a male at some point within the past two weeks then she may be pregnant. Hamsters take 15 days to gestate a litter. An expanding or unusually large stomach may be a sign that she is pregnant. Loose skin around the stomach combined with milk coming from the nipples means that you have a nursing mother.
Take your hamster to the veterinarian if all else fails. Your veterinarian should be able to tell you both your hamster's gender, if it is in question, as well as if she is pregnant or nursing. Your veterinarian also may be able to give you some idea of whether or not your hamster is the appropriate age to breed or if she has been bred.
- If it has been months since your female had a litter then you probably will not be able to tell she was ever a mother.
- If you have multiple hamsters in a cage along with a litter of pups and you don't know which adult is the mother, sit and watch the pups until the mother comes back to them and starts to nurse them. You may see the mother become aggressive toward other hamsters or yourself if you attempt to bother the pups. This does not mean you should try to handle the pups, as the mother may eat them if she is stressed.
- If your female hamster just had pups and the male is still in the cage with her then you need to remove him immediately because your female can come back into heat the same day she gives birth.
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Jen Davis has been writing since 2004. She has served as a newspaper reporter and her freelance articles have appeared in magazines such as "Horses Incorporated," "The Paisley Pony" and "Alabama Living." Davis earned her Bachelor of Arts in communication with a concentration in journalism from Berry College in Rome, Ga.