If your hamster does not eat, quick action and investigation of the cause are required. The small animals can only survive for a short time without food.
In this post, we’ll tell you 10 common reasons why your hamster might be refusing food and give you tips on what to do about it.
Why is my hamster not eating?
If your hamster isn’t eating, there could be several reasons. From stress to an intestinal blockage or dental problems, there are numerous possible causes.
10 causes and treatment options
Cause 1: New environment
If you’ve just adopted your hamster, he’ll need to get used to his new surroundings.
Smells, sounds and the layout of the hamster’s home are new and can initially unsettle and frighten the territorial animal.
He needs rest and time to become accustomed and sufficiently relaxed to receive food.
This habituation may take several days. Even then, the animal may not be familiar with everything and truly arrived, but in an otherwise healthy rodent, hunger will then win out.
Even a change of cage, change of location or hamster home can cause excitement and anxiety in hamsters. So a change of owner is not the only cause.
You can help them get used to the new environment by leaving them alone. Avoid loud noises, keep other pets away from the hamster, and only reach into the cage to change water and food. This will lower the stress level and allow the rodent to more quickly dare to reach the food bowl.
If the condition does not change even after two or three days, you should consult a veterinarian. Because then starvation affects the health and can become dangerous.
Cause 2: Stress
The vast majority of hamsters live as solitary animals.
They only meet conspecifics when they are ready to mate and even then only for a short time.
An exception are socially living dwarf hamsters. However, even they need enough space to avoid constant stress when living in a group. If there are too many hamsters in too small an area, this can result in constant competition, fighting and unrest.
Food becomes a contested resource and outnumbered animals may avoid the food bowl out of fear.
Even without conspecifics, however, it is possible that your hamster will no longer dare to reach the food. This is the case, for example, if other pets observe him or try to chase him.
Constantly walking past the cage can also contribute to this, as can a location in front of a window.
Therefore, choose the place for the hamster home carefully and avoid stress for your pet.
Also, offer food in protected areas and near the nest, and wait to feed until your hamster is awake. This also helps to keep stress to a minimum.
Cause 3: Change of food
A sudden change in food may cause your hamster to be confused at first.
Perhaps he has only been fed ready-made pellets and therefore does not know fruits or vegetables. Possibly he has known a balanced and natural diet so far and therefore cannot do anything with pellets.
In addition to the confusion, digestive tract disorders are also possible due to a too abrupt change.
Accustom your animal slowly to the new food by first offering very small amounts in addition to the usual food. This way you will find out if the hamster likes it and tolerates it.
Cause 4: Dental problems
The hamster’s nail teeth continue to grow in the upper and lower jaws. For this reason, they need to be constantly ground down. This happens, for example, when gnawing on wood, chewing on hay and straw, or eating harder and rougher shells and bark.
Twigs and branches are good for this. Dried herbs, food blocks and nibble sticks are also ideal.
Other than that, the aforementioned options provide valuable variety and keep your hamster from getting bored. Species-specific foraging and gnawing on suitable surfaces is an important basis for dental care.
Nevertheless, problems can occur in the area of the teeth:
too long teeth
Nail teeth can grow so long that they cut open the gums or bore into the jaw.
It is therefore not surprising that teeth that are too long or otherwise altered lead to problems with eating. Pain can be responsible, as well as swelling, the inability to chew, and a split tooth where food gets stuck.
You can prevent these difficulties by:
performing regular checkups.
Providing appropriate material and food for gnawing.
Preventing gnawing on the cage.
If you notice very long nail teeth too late, they can be shortened by the vet. Shortening can also help with misalignments. However, it may be necessary (temporarily) to give liquid to mushy food.
Cause 5: Injuries and inflammations in the mouth
Just like the teeth, the oral mucosa can also be affected. Inflammation, abscesses, adhesions of the cheek pouches, and injuries from sharp or pointed objects are possible. Signs include:
full cheek pouches
The hamster may also stop drinking, neglect brushing and lose weight quickly.
Again, only regular check-ups will help to detect and treat the problem at an early stage. Veterinary care is essential in this case.
You can avoid problems in this area by making the hamster home safe and avoiding sticky food when feeding. In addition, sufficient fresh water should be offered at all times.
Especially with materials for gnawing, toys and other facilities of the cage, make sure that they can not splinter or have sharp edges. Because injuries and subsequent inflammations are pre-programmed with these.
Cause 6: Lack of hygiene
If there is a lack of hygiene in the hamster home and during feeding, several problems can arise.
Among other things, it is possible that the food quickly begins to mold, bacteria spread and thus digestive disorders occur or the food is no longer accepted at all. Fermentation of fruit also spreads unpleasant odors and can keep the hamster from eating.
In addition, if there is not enough space, the food can become contaminated with feces and urine.
Preventive and corrective measures include regular and frequent cleaning of the hamster’s home as well as providing adequate space and removing fresh food early if it is not eaten.
Feeding time also plays a role.
If you provide fresh or green food in the morning, the hamster will not eat it. This is because it takes several hours for his active phase to begin. During this time, greens wilt, berries can become moldy, and vegetables dry out, at least superficially.
This is not particularly appetizing for very few animals.
In addition, insects are attracted, fruit flies may hatch or even maggots may appear.
This is mainly the case if feeding is done at the wrong time in summer. The high temperatures favor the appearance of undesirable insects.
Cause 7: Diseases
A whole range of diseases can cause the hamster to lose its appetite.
Among others, this is the case when the digestive tract is affected. Food intake may also be impaired if the kidneys or liver are impaired, respiratory infections are present, or tumors are present.
Diagnosis and subsequent treatment are only possible by a veterinarian.
The earlier the cause is identified, the easier the therapy and the more promising it is.
Cause 8: Intestinal obstruction
Constipation, bloating and intestinal blockage can occur when your hamster has eaten something wrong.
This does not always have to be food. Also cloth fibers or cellulose can be responsible for it. If this is combined with too little drinking, a blockage occurs.
The feed pulp accumulates in the digestive tract and can no longer be excreted.
This can lead to life-threatening conditions. Early treatment is therefore crucial.
Even with simpler digestive disorders, your hamster may lose its appetite. Most of the time, food that is difficult to digest or flatulent is responsible for this.
Cause 9: Heat
When it gets too hot for your hamster, his appetite can decrease.
Especially foods with a high oil content and starchy foods will then remain in the food bowl. Water-rich and fresh foods such as greens, fruits and vegetables, on the other hand, will be eaten more.
This is not a cause for concern as long as your hamster continues to eat and just prefers to accept other foods.
In summer, make sure that the location of the cage is as cool as possible and that the temperature does not rise above 25° Celsius. Because then it becomes dangerously warm for your animal.
Air conditioning, fans and proper ventilation as well as shading can avoid the greatest heat. However, do not point the air conditioner output or fans directly at the hamster home. The draft and rapid cooling can be detrimental to health.
Also, offer plenty of fresh food.
Berries and other fruit, cucumber and greens are ideal. In addition, water should be available at all times. Both water and food need to be changed daily.
Due to the high temperatures, you should also check the nest for leftover food. Otherwise these could mold or otherwise spoil and lead to digestive disorders. This is true at least if they are not completely spurned.
Cause 10: Eating is not noticed
In some cases, it may appear that your hamster is not eating. This is possible if you overestimate the amount of food needed and don’t notice that the animal has been at the food bowl.
If you are unsure if food was ingested or not, the following procedure will help:
Document what you are feeding:
A berry, a piece of cucumber and a slice of carrot, grain food and mealworms – the overview can be lost quickly. Therefore, it is best to write down what you feed day by day.
This also makes it easier to identify incompatible foods and to balance the menu.
You can also keep track of whether that piece of apple is missing or the carrot has been in the nest since yesterday.
Especially with dry food, it is difficult to notice the quantities consumed.
If you’ve kept a supply of food for your hamster, five to ten grams less won’t be noticeable at first. Therefore, feed smaller amounts and weigh or measure them. If you suspect that your hamster is not eating, this will make it easier to track consumption.
Check the nest
When foraging, hamsters use their cheek pouches as convenient transport containers. They store food in them and empty the pockets in their nest.
If the bowl is empty but your pet is still losing weight, you should take a look inside the nest and pay close attention when changing the bedding. It is possible that the rodent has hidden food in the hamster’s home but has not ingested any of it.
Weigh the hamster
Checking the hamster’s health also includes weighing it regularly. Major weight changes will be noticed more quickly this way. This information can also help the vet if your pet is eating normally or even more, but still losing weight. This will make it easier to diagnose the cause.
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