Caring For Orphaned Hamster Pups

Pekoe the Orphaned Hamster PupOne of the most helpless feelings that a hamster owner experiences is finding a cage of pups and Mama has died – or played Houdini and disappeared.

But, there is hope. If the little ones are 12 to 14 days old they will do fine, with a little extra TLC and plenty of nourishing food. The first step, if Mama has died, is to thoroughly clean the cage. Make sure there is plenty of bedding. Since Mama isn’t around to shred the toilet tissue for a nest, roll up the sleeves and have a shredding party! Place the cage in a warm location, with no drafts. If the little ones appear to be a little cold (young pups sometimes have problems maintaining body heat – that’s why Mom is generally sleeping with them), place a heating pad, set on low, under the cage. Lower the water bottle so it is easy for them to reach. (As an added precaution, unflavored pedialyte can be placed in the bottle to prevent dehydration.) Fill the food dish with plenty of their normal grain/seed mix, which can be sprinkled with some powdered milk, wheat germ and/or quick oats. For added protein and sustenance, canned dog food (beef or chicken – mashed well with a fork) or boiled egg can be placed in a small saucer (one that comes in toy dish sets works well). Fresh apple will also help with hydration. Although the list of “treats” that the pups would enjoy is astronomical, the primary consideration should be to maintain a well balanced diet that remains similar to what they have been accustomed to during their short life.

If Mom has just decided to take a little private holiday, don’t clean the cage (the scent should be the same as it was when she left) and set some traps for her. The commercial “Live Traps” work well, or place some grain and a special treat in a deep dish or pan and use books or pieces of lumber to build steps up to the rim of the dish. Mom will fall into the dish attempting to retrieve the “goodies” and will not be able to get out. Once Mom has returned, put fresh food in the cage and a treat. Place her back in the cage near the food. When she is ready she will find the pups – unless they find her first! Care for the pups the same as suggested above until Mama returns.

In the event the pups are 10 days or less, adoption needs to be considered since they still need “mother’s milk” to survive and grow into healthy pups. There are as many methods of adopting orphans as there are breeders. The following is a method that has proven to be extremely successful. The pups will undoubtedly be cold when they are discovered. Clean all residues from the nest off the little ones and wrap them in a clean terry towel. Rub them gently to stimulate circulation – generally the gentle rubbing and warmth of ones hands will have them wiggling in no time. It is best to find an adoptive mother that has little ones a day or two older or younger. Again, make sure that all the residue of the orphan’s original nest has been removed, take some of the nesting material that is around the adoptive mother and her babies and wrap it around the orphans. Continue holding them and let them wiggle around in the nesting material – the goal is to make them smell just like Mom’s other pups. Entice the adoptive mom away from her nest with a special treat. Once she is busy tending to devouring the treat, place the orphans in the nest with the other babies. Make every effort to keep Mom busy for as long as possible and give the orphans time to squirm in and around their new siblings and, hopefully, smell just like them. Go away and don’t disturb Mom and the babies. And, although it is tempting, don’t look in the nest for at least a week.

There’s no absolute guarantee that this will work – sometimes it is hard to fool hammies and they know right away that there strangers in the nest and will eliminate them.

Adoption successes are solely in the paws of the adoptive mother. If she believes that there is something wrong with the orphans, or if they aren’t healthy, she will mercifully dispose of them. If she can’t detect any “different smelling kids” in the nest and they are all healthy, she will probably settle right in and raise them. (Fortunately, hammie moms don’t count noses – so a few more or less doesn’t generally affect the quality of care they receive.

(Note: I have had Syrians successfully raise dwarf orphans. But, so far have not had a dwarf raise a Syrian. -Rusty)


In the event that you find yourself with a litter of pups and no mom ……..

Pups 8 days and younger have a better chance of survival if you can find a “surrogate” mom. A surrogate mom is a female who has recently given birth and is nursing her own pups. There is a chance that she will accept your abandoned pups as her own but no absolute guarantee. If no surrogate mom is available you can try the following but keep in mind this works best for pups over 8 days old.

You will need “KMR” which is a milk replacer that is used for kittens but it says right on the package that it can be used for hamsters. If “KMR” is not available you can also use either baby formula or evaporated milk ( 50%evaporated milk mixed with 50%warm water).

For pups from birth to approximately 12 days old you have to feed them around the clock with an eyedropper. Feed them 3 drops of “KMR” approximately ever hour. Once they begin eating solid food in addition to nursing you can drop the amount of “KMR” in the eyedropper to approximately .5-1ml. and now feed them still around the clock but every 2- 3 hours. Continue this schedule until they are 21 days when even pups with a mom stop nursing completely.

An important step that you can’t forget is that after each feeding you gotta stimulate each pup to urinate and defacate just like the mom would do. To do this gently rub each pup’s gential and anal area with a warm,moist cloth.

Pups lose body heat real fast without the mom to keep them warm so supply extra nesting material in the form of white,unscented toilet paper and place a heating pad under the tank/cage. Keep the temp on a low setting.

Pups also have a tendency to dehydrate rapidly so when you see them start to eat the dry food that is scattered around the tank/cage you can also supply them with a piece of peeled apple to prevent dehydration. Also when the pups are old enough to drink from the hanging water bottle fill it with water and unflavored pedialyte (50%water/50%pedialyte). This will also help prevent dehydration.

Gotta add this because it’s important. When you feed the pups with the eyedropper be real careful and do it gently never forcing the fluid because it’s real easy for a pup to inhale the liquid and once it’s in the lungs it can kill the pup.

Hopefully you will never have a litter of pups abandoned by the mom but if you do always remember it’s possible to hand feed them the way I described and yeah it’s hard work but worth the effort to save the little dudes from death. Take care comrades. The Rebel is over and out.

2nd article written by Alex a.k.a Rebel226