Most Teddy Bear Hamsters (syrians) live between two and three years. While Chinese Dwarf Hamsters live between one and a half to three years. But like people each hamster is an individual and can live for less time or more time, depending on the care and the health of the hamster. If you buy a hamster at a Pet Store or breeder you should always ask how old it is so you will know. Keeping track of your pets age will help you to determine what’s wrong and why he may be acting certain ways as he gets older.
An older hamster will often times have bald spots, be less lively and not want to run around as much, and might not clean themselves as much as they did when they were younger. Therefore their fur may look unclean, but that does not mean you should give them a bath. Bathing your hamster should be a last resort as they can become chilled and get sick and it can be stressful for them. Giving them a bowl of Chinchilla dust to roll around in is a much better way to help them groom themselves. If they do get dirty you can wet a papertowel and clean off the dirty part. Most hamsters will then clean themselves where you got them wet.
Many Dwarf hamsters may bite or nip when they are younger and then mellow out as they get older. Sometimes if a hamster lives long past what is considered normal you may have to take special care of it. Some hamsters as they get older have a hard time chewing the seed mixture. This also means they can no longer bite. My hamster still tries to bite me when I handle him but he just has no strength to do so. I have had several hamsters that when they reached an age of three or more were not able to break through the sunflower seed shells or any other hard seeds and would have died of starvation. My Vet told me I could give him canned dog or cat food, baby food and any soft foods that I eat.
The Dwarf hamster I have now is four years old and doesn’t like the cat food, but loves Mighty Dog canned Dog Food. I also feed him soft human foods. For the past six months I have taken him out of his cage at least six times a day and fed him. You could feed your hamster right in the cage but it’s easier to take them out and let them take what they want, pouch a little for later and have some out with you. That way their cage won’t have old food spoiling in it either.
With an older hamster you should also move them to a single story cage and make sure the water bottle in down low enough so that they don’t have to climb to get a drink. In a large cage that has tubes to climb in, an older hamster may not have the strength to climb in order to reach the water bottle. They may also fall down the tubes and hurt themselves because as they get older they lose alot of their strength.
You may have to take your older hamster to the Veterinarian’s office and have him put to sleep if it looks like he is too weak to walk around or eat anything or seems like he is in pain. I’ve taken Chance to the Vet’s office twice in the past year, but she told me as long as he is still eating, can walk around and seems healthy there’s no need to euthanize. But it is a huge undertaking and not one to be taken lightly. When deciding whether or not to buy a small pet you should consider what you would do if a hamster you bought needed this type of care when they got older. Are you willing to put this type of time into taking care of your hamster? If the answer is no, then maybe you shouldn’t get one.