How Long Can a Hamster Go Without Food?

There may be times when your hamster is either unwilling to eat or that you will be out of the house for a few days or more. With either of these cases, you are likely trying to figure out just how long your hamster can go without food. How long exactly can a hamster go without food? 

Hamsters can go two to three days without food. It is more essential that they have water, however, if they go longer than this period of time without eating, they can become distressed which can lead to illness or death. Be sure to leave ample food if you plan to leave for an extended period. 

There will be times when your hamster either takes a bit of a hiatus from eating, slows their eating habits, or when you simply cannot be there to feed them due to being away from home. This does not have to be a problem as long as you give your hamster plenty of opportunity to snack. Continue reading to…. 

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Exactly How Long Can a Hamster Go Without Food? 

Water is extremely important to your hamster’s diet and health, but without food, water can only do so much. Food consumption is the main way that hamsters are able to receive all of their nutrients they need in order to keep healthy, stay strong, and continue on with an active lifestyle. However, there is inevitably going to be a time when your hamster goes a while without having a morsel to eat. How long can that period actually be? 

For most hamsters, the average amount of time they can go without food ranges between two and three days. Many new owners are under the impression that this time is actually quite a bit longer due to their small size, however, hamsters burn a tremendous amount of calories, especially when they are between one and two years old. This causes them to need regular food in order to sustain themselves. 

If you have a younger hamster that is under one year, you may notice that they are eating more during high periods of activities. Opposite to this, if you have an older hamster that is older than two years old, they may take their time and eat much less than when they were younger. This can also be put into play when it comes to giving them the right amount of time without food if they are either refusing or if you are simply out of the house. 

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How Much Food Does a Hamster Need?

If you are trying to gauge just how much food you need to leave while you are gone or how much your hamster is missing out on due to the refusal to eat, you are likely wondering what the proper daily amount of food is. This can be difficult to determine if you have a hamster that is older and slower to eat or have one that is younger and seems to devour anything that you place in front of them. However, there is a standard amount that should be adhered to. 

Hamsters need to be fed daily and more than that, they should always have a food bowl available to them that is stocked well with dry food. In general, most hamster breeds need around one to two teaspoons every day depending on their size. If you notice that your hamster is eating this amount quickly, increase it to two teaspoons. If you notice they have quite a bit left over the next day when you go to refill, decrease the amount to one teaspoon. 

It is important to note that a hamster does not only need dry commercial food in their cage daily, but they also need plenty of vegetables and fruits. These can include things such as apples, grapes, cucumbers, carrots, and even small bits of chicken with cooked rice here and there. Hamsters are omnivores and are more than happy to partake in a bit of natural food alongside their dry food that they eat as their main source of nutrition. 

What Will Happen if Your Hamster Goes too Long Without Food?

Many pet owners don’t want to imagine the negative outcomes that can be associated with either improper care of their pets or accidental mishaps that lead to negative outcomes. Generally, people own pets because they love them and want to create a home where they feel safe. However, there are times when circumstances are out of your control, so when your hamster won’t eat, what can happen? 

If your hamster is not eating and has gone over three days without eating, you first need to call the vet. Beyond this though, your hamster simply cannot survive for long periods of time without food as they will begin to get stressed and their bodies will start to shut down. If you catch the behavior in time, this can mean that a vet can figure out the problem and find you a solution with only a stressed hamster to take home on its way to recovery. 

However, if your hamster goes too long without food from either the owner not noticing the habit or from owners being gone longer than anticipated without someone coming in to care for their hamster, this can lead to the death of their pet. Just as with people, food is an essential component in the life of a hamster and they must have it in order to fuel their little bodies through the nutrients it is able to give them. 

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What to Do if Your Hamster Refuses to Eat 

Death is never the outcome that any owner wants for their hamster, so what do you do if your hamster is refusing to eat? You need to first take a good look at your hamster and its current behaviors to really be able to diagnose the problem yourself (if this is possible without the aid of a vet). There are a few different reasons that can cause your hamster to stop eating, but let’s take a look at some of the most common ones and how to treat them. 

Many times, one of the biggest reasons hamsters refuse to eat is due to a bland or monotonous diet. If you were only to eat potatoes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the rest of your life, would you be excited every day to see them on your plate? Of course not! Your hamster feels the same way. They need their commercial hamster food, but they love fruit and veggies too. Try giving them more of a variety and see if this excites their appetite. 

Second to monotony, hamsters are also slower to eat if they are in the middle of a hot summer day or if their environment is consistently too warm. If the heat is something you can control, try cooling things off for them and see if it helps. If mother nature is the culprit for the heat, offer them foods that are water-dense like apples, kiwi, peaches, and small portions of watermelon. The water-rich foods may entice them to take more than a nibble. 

Stress can also be a major reason that your hamster refuses to eat. If you have a new hamster and are within the first few days of them being in their new home and have yet to see them eat, don’t fret just yet. It can take time for a new hamster to adjust. Simply give them space and offer them more treats than just their regular pellets. If it is just overall stress they are exemplifying, also try to give them something you know they love to help level them out. 

What to Do if You Are Leaving Town 

If you are not having trouble with your hamster refusing to eat, but are leaving town and know that there will be longer than 48 between you seeing your furry little friend next, there are a few things that you need to do in order to prepare them for the time away. This process does not have to be stressful for you or your hamster and is really rather simple. As long as you have everything in order properly, you will come back to a happy and healthy hamster. 

For food, you want to give them enough to last them the length of time that you are gone. If your hamster eats one tablespoon a day or half a day, give them about 3x that amount. This will last them 3 or more days along with what they have stored beneath the substrate (remember, hamsters are hoarders and tend to take food down into their little hiding spots). Also remember that if the food runs out, you have three to four days before having to return. 

More than food, your hamster will also need water. Be sure that their water bottle is completely filled and does not leak. There should be enough water to allow them at least .33 fluid ounces per 100 ounces of hamster. Determine how much water your hamster will need based on its weight and then decide if your water bottle will provide enough while you are gone. Hamsters can also go three to four days without water. 

It is always ok to leave your hamster for a period of time, however, if you are leaving longer than three days or so, it is really quite wise to have someone come in and check to make sure everything is fine with your favorite pet. They should make sure their food has not been soiled on, that the bedding at the bottom of the cage is clean (and if not, should change it), and should also give them fresh water. If this is possible for you, always bring in a little help. 

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