As a hamster parent, you will want to know exactly how long your fluffy pet can go without food. It will help you both plan your own schedule to always be home when they need to be fed, and ensure there is someone dropping in to check on them when you are away.
How often do hamsters need to be fed, and what happens if you skip their meal times?
How Long Can Hamsters Go Without Food?
Most hamsters can go for 3-4 days without being given fresh food, because they have most likely already stored some in their cage. Since they are desert animals, they are used to hiding resources, and likely have food stashed away you know nothing about.
Several factors will influence if the 3-4 days can even be stretched to a week, or if you will need to give your hamster fresh food in as little as a day or two:
- Overall health: healthy hamsters can go without food for longer than hamsters who are currently ill or who suffer from a chronic disease.
- Age: middle-aged hamsters, so to speak, will be more resilient than very young or very old ones. Hamsters under 3 months and over 2 years of age will require more care and a more regular feeding schedule.
- Room temperature: if the room the hamster is in is relatively dry and at a pleasant temperature, they can go without food for longer.
- Previous meal: if your hamster has eaten a protein-rich meal, consisting of pellets, grains and seeds, they will be full for longer. If they’ve been eating fruits and veggies recently, they will get hungry sooner.
- The nature of their stash: while hamsters do seem to always be preparing for the apocalypse, the food they hoard won’t last them more than a couple of days. Also, if they hoard seeds and grains, the stash will stay fresh for longer. If they have stored veggies or fruits, it will go bad sooner, so they won’t have anything to eat.
Most hamsters are very smart and tend to build a mixed stash, so you can count on the fact that they have something stored away for emergencies. If you are away for a day or two, they shouldn’t greet you in a state of extreme hunger.
However, just to account for the fact that your hamster may not have stashed enough food or that the food may have gone bad, make sure there is someone available to provide a fresh meal every day, if you plan to be away for longer than just one or two nights.
Can Hamsters Go a Day Without Food?
Yes, hamsters can go a day without food. As they are hoarders, they will likely be fine for 3-4 days without being given a fresh meal.
If you can’t make it home to feed your hamster for a day, don’t worry, they will more than likely be fine. Unbeknownst to you, they have a very sizable stash of food somewhere in their cage, and they will break it out when they get hungry.
If you are frequently away for the entire day or overnight, aim to give your hamster plenty of pellets, seeds and grains they can store. They will last longer than fresh fruits or veggies, so they will have a meal ready while you are not available to provide one.
Do Hamsters Store Their Food?
Yes, hamsters store some of the food you give them in their cage. You may not be able to see where their storage cupboard is, but know that it is there.
Hamsters are desert animals, so they are used to putting away food for a rainy day. If you give them too much food, some of it will end up in storage.
Note that it is much better to give your hamster extra pellets and other dry foods, like seeds or grains, as they will stay fresh in their cage longer. Fruits and vegetables will start to go off, causing both an unpleasant smell in your hamster’s cage, and potential health problems if eaten.
If you carefully portion your pet’s fresh food and make sure to check their cage every other day, removing all the stored bits, you’ll prevent both the smell and the upset stomach.
How to Leave Enough Food for Your Hamster While You’re Away
Provide several protein sources for your hamsters. Focus on leaving a lot of dry food and only a bit of fresh food that’s high in water. Make sure to take their eating habits and personality into account as well.
If your hamster is the type who wolfs everything down immediately, you may want to leave extra portions just in case. If they are good with rationing their food, you can allow them their usual amount, knowing they will leave plenty for later.
Provide a lot of protein, in the form of pellets, grains and seeds. Since this is dry food, it will last longer and sustain your hamster while you are away. Leave some wet fresh food out, like cucumbers or lettuce. Hamsters can also eat apples, so you can leave a couple of bites out as a treat too.
If you also include a biscuit, they can munch on it when in the mood, and it will last a long time.
2-3 teaspoons of dry food per day should cut it – but depending on your hamster’s usual eating habits, you may want to leave them a bit more or a bit less.
Before you leave, you should check your hamster’s current stores. Remove all fresh bits of food that may or may not have started to spoil, but let them have the dry stuff. Just make sure their cage is dry and that their toilet area is clean.
Also ensure that they have at least two water sources, ideally water bottles. If one of them runs dry or gets clogged, they will have a backup.
How Long Can a Hamster Be Left Alone?
You shouldn’t leave your hamster alone for longer than 48 hours. While they can be fine on their own for longer, it’s best to ensure they have both fresh food and water, and some human contact.
If you are going away for the weekend, you can set up extra water sources for your pet and leave them extra food. However, if you’ll be away for longer, ask someone to come and check in on them.
Even though your hamster will probably have plenty of food stored in their cage, they will benefit from a fresh meal, fresh water, and a bit of a pet. If you leave your hamster alone for too long, you may find them a lot more nervous when you come home, resistant to being held.
What Can Happen If You Leave Your Hamster Alone For Too Long?
If you leave your hamster alone for too long, they may escape their cage, get too bored and stressed out, and eventually run out of food and water that will jeopardize their health.
If you leave your hamster plenty of water sources (because leaving them just one is never a good idea) and enough food, they will probably be okay in the nourishment department. Of course, if you miscalculated their needs, they may end up going hungry or thirsty, and eventually getting ill or even dying. If you come home and aren’t sure if your hamster is dead or hibernating, try warming the room up and check their breathing. If they ran out of food, they may have gone into hibernation to conserve energy.
A more likely scenario is that your hamster will escape their cage and go on an adventure around your home. You may thus come back to find all of your cables have been chewed through and a general mess and state of chaos.
Hamsters can also seriously injure or even electrocute themselves when allowed to escape, so if yours is known for their adventurous spirit, place their cage in the bathtub. That way, they won’t be able to get out and chew on anything that can do them harm.
Make sure you don’t leave them any toys that they can accidentally swallow or get tangled up in either. Ideally, you want someone to come and see them, just so they have a bit of company and don’t feel lonely.
When you come back, make sure they are healthy: check for bald patches, wheezing, a runny nose, loose stool in the cage or signs of blood. If a lot of food and water are still in the cage, take them to the vet to see what may have caused their loss of appetite.
Wrapping It Up
While hamsters can go without being given fresh food for 3-4 days, you still want to make sure they get regular, fresh meals as often as possible. If you are leaving town, make sure someone is available to check in on them and at least provide fresh water and a bite of something juicy.