If you are often away from home, as a hamster parent, you will be wondering how long you can leave them alone for, and how long they can go without water.
While hamsters can go 3-4 days without food, they do need water more often, and will appreciate having an extra water bottle available if you are out of the house a lot.
Here’s how long they can go without being given fresh water.
How Long Can Hamsters Go Without Water?
Hamsters can, in theory, go 3-4 days before succumbing to dehydration. However, symptoms will set in much sooner, and your hamster’s health will be seriously compromised. Since a hamster’s water intake is based on their weight and environment, more precise estimates are difficult to make.
Hamsters need about 10 milliliters of water per 100 grams of body weight, per day. If it’s hot and humid, they will need more, if they are eating food rich in fresh fruits and veggies rich in water, they will need less.
If your hamster has a chronic condition, they may need more water. If they are in a cold room and go into hibernation, they will drink less.
As you can see, there are various factors to consider. The average water bottle will last a hamster 2-3 days. Ideally, you want to have at least two full ones available, if you are leaving your hamster for longer than two days.
You can of course also weigh them and make a more precise calculation, and leave extra water on top of what you believe their needs will be. The best thing to do is have someone check in on them every day or every other day, just to make sure the water bottles are still clean and to remove any fresh food that has gone stale and replenish it.
How Much Water Do Hamsters Need?
Hamsters need around 10 milliliters of water per 100 grams of body weight per day. The average adult hamster weighs in at around 200 grams, and will need around 20 milliliters of water per day.
Depending on the size of the water bottle you use, it may last 2-5 days, or even longer.
Don’t forget that factors like age, health, room temperature and diet will also play a major role in how much water your hamster needs, and how much they drink during the day. On a hot day, they will get dehydrated faster, so the amount they will be fine with during colder days will not be appropriate.
Can Hamsters Store Water In Their Cheeks?
No, hamsters can’t store water in their cheeks. They can use their cheek pouches for storing food, but they will soon hide it somewhere in their cage.
A hamster’s cheeks are made for transporting food to their storage unit, usually found somewhere in their bedding. Every hamster has a different storage tactic, but most often, they will choose to store dry goods, like seeds and grains.
Water is not something hamsters can store in their cheek pouches. They are not in any way related to camels, so they need a fresh supply of water to stay hydrated, especially when eating a lot of dry foods.
How Can I Tell If My Hamster is Dehydrated?
To check if a hamster is dehydrated, gently pinch their skin and see how stiff and dry it is. Signs of dehydration also include lack of urine output, lethargy and drowsiness.
When hamsters get dehydrated, their skin becomes less elastic and will not bounce right back when you gently pinch them. They will also stop peeing, and will likely appear very sleepy and slow.
If you come home and notice they have run out of water, do a stat checkup. If they appear to be dehydrated, give them water immediately and take them to the vet, as they may also need IV fluids to help them recover.
How Long Does It Take a Hamster to Die of Dehydration?
It would take a hamster 3-4 days to die of dehydration, but they will start showing symptoms much sooner, and could suffer from irreversible organ damage even if they spend just 48 hours without water.
How long a hamster can survive without water is not easy to calculate. It will depend on their health and age, as well as the temperature and humidity in their cage and their recent diet.
Eating dry foods and not getting a drink of water can kill a hamster quicker than eating fresh foods high in water content.
If you are a couple of hours late home, don’t worry too much, your hamster will be fine. But if you are often away from home or have an unpredictable schedule, make sure to leave at least two full water bottles for your hamster before you leave.
How Long Can You Leave a Hamster Alone?
You shouldn’t leave your hamster alone for more than 48 hours. Even then, make sure they have plenty of water and access to dry, protein-rich foods. If you will be away for longer, have someone check in on them at least every other day.
Since hamsters are hoarders, they are not likely to run out of food if you leave them alone for a day or two. However, even their carefully preserved stores will run out or start to spoil after a while, so they do need to be fed (and their cage cleaned) on a regular basis. Every other day will suffice, if you can’t get someone to stop by daily.
If you know your hamster will be alone for a day or two, get an extra water bottle for them. Always have at least two, but even three will be okay. If one gets clogged or runs out, they will have a backup available.
How to Leave Enough Water for Your Hamster While You’re Away
Leave at least two full water bottles for your hamster while you are away. Three won’t be an overkill either. Ensure the water is cool and fresh, and that the bottles are clean and not chipped or cracked.
Don’t leave a water bowl for your hamster while you are not there. They can very easily spill their water and get their cage and bedding wet, but they can also drown or get sick if they get their fur wet.
Ideally, you always want to offer your hamster water bottles instead of bowls. That way they’ll get used to drinking out of them, and it won’t feel odd to them while you are away. It will also make for a cleaner cage and a healthier hamster.
What Can Happen If You Leave Your Hamster on Their Own For Too Long?
The likeliest thing to happen if you leave your hamster on their own for too long is that they will escape their cage. They may also get dehydrated or run out of food, but that is less likely, if you’ve left enough supplies.
Hamsters are escape artists and will try to make a run for it even when you are home. When left to their own devices, they are prone to wriggling out of their cage and wreaking havoc. Since they are so tiny and curious, they can easily get injured by falling from a height. They can also get electrocuted while trying to chew through some of your wires.
To be safe, place your hamster’s cage in the bathtub while you are away, especially if they are known for their antics. They’ll stay protected even if they do escape, and will always have access to their water and food supply.
Of course, also make sure they have plenty of water available, and leave them enough dry, protein-rich food. A biscuit can also be a good idea, as can some fresh, juicy food, like lettuce or cucumbers.
Wrapping It Up
Never leave your hamster with only one water bottle or a low supply of water in several of them. While they are desert animals and are somewhat used to heat and humidity, they need to stay hydrated to survive, just like all other mammals.