It is rare for hamsters in captivity to hibernate. However, captive hamsters may still hibernate during extremely cold ambient temperatures. But this is not really hibernation in its true form. Instead, this condition is known as torpor.
Hamsters may die during torpor because of the significantly reduced breathing and heart rate for the purpose of energy preservation. Unexpected temperature drops may also result in hypothermia.
For this reason, hamster owners often ask one question: can you wake up a hibernating hamster?
Yes, you can wake up a hamster in hibernation. After all, hamsters seldom wake up on their own, which means that you need to warm up your pets by raising their body heat.
Just make sure you don’t confuse a changing sleeping pattern with hibernation. During colder months, it is only normal for hamsters to sleep longer so expect to see your little friends emerging less often when winter kicks in or temperatures get colder.
Is It Possible to Wake Up Hamsters from Hibernation?
Before answering this question, it is important to know that hamsters are what you can call facultative hibernators.
Hamsters hibernate once exposed to some extreme environmental conditions like freezing temperatures. Hibernation, on the other hand, is a biological process that is critical to some species in the animal kingdom, although hamsters are not among them.
Aside from this, hamsters don’t actually go into an actual form of hibernation. Every time their environment turns too cold, hamsters enter the state of reduced metabolism known as torpor.
A hamster lowers its heart rate to 3 beats per minute and breath just once every 1 to 2 minutes. They preserve their energy through this last-ditch attempt at survival, helping them endure extreme conditions.
Since cold temperatures are the reason behind torpor, it is possible to wake up a hibernating hamster by warming it up. But here’s the catch: you shouldn’t do it too fast.
An abrupt change in temperature will shock your hamster’s system, causing it to overheat. However, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t act quickly because torpor can be deadly.
Is It Bad to Wake Up a Hamster from Hibernation?
While it might be tempting to just wait until your hamster wakes up naturally, torpor left for too long may turn into a serious problem. It is unnatural for hamsters in captivity to hibernate, so it is a sign that there is something wrong with the environmental temperature.
It is not bad to wake up a hibernating hamster because this will save your pet from starvation and dehydration. Although the reduced rate of metabolism keeps the hamster’s body ticking over while it is in torpor, it can never remain this way forever.
Your hamster will die if it fails to wake itself up naturally. As mentioned earlier, however, you have to warm up your hamster slowly, taking extra care to avoid sending your pet into shock.
Once again, it is rare for hamsters to wake up easily. Many hamsters hide inside their burrows as a means of keeping themselves protected from dangers and predators. However, they cannot dig themselves back out all the time. Also, an unexpected or sudden drop in body temperature may lead to hypothermia.
Make sure you pay extra attention to some signs to prevent your hamsters from going into torpor:
- Burrowing deeper into the bedding or building a larger nest
- Drinking and eating less often
- Slow heart and breathing rate
- Uncontrollable shudders and shivers
The moment you notice any of the above signs, increase the temperature in the room little by little to a more appropriate level of warmth to prevent your hamster from going into hibernation. Your hamster should also be exposed to natural daylight to mimic day-to-night conditions.
How to Wake Up Hibernating Hamsters
Most hamsters don’t wake up from hibernating at all, and this is why, as the owner, you need to intervene to keep your pet alive.
Here are the steps to follow to wake up a hibernating hamster:
- Determine if the hamster is really hibernating in the first place.
- Increase the ambient temperature.
- Use the sugar water solution.
- Use body heat.
What Will Happen If You Wake Up a Hibernating Hamster?
Your hamster is going to look deprived of sleep right after you wake it up from hibernation. Your pet may also become disorientated while he adjusts to his surroundings.
You can also expect your hamster to return to sleep for longer hours than usual as his body is on its way to recovery. Again, while it is perfectly normal, you still need to keep a close eye on your hamster to make sure that it doesn’t end up slipping back into torpor.
The body of your hamster will also feel cold to the touch as a result of the slow circulation. The nose and feet of your hamster may also look blue in appearance. However, rest assured that they will go back to their normal colors soon once your hamster’s body regulates the breathing and heart rate.
In the meantime, make sure to give your hamster quality food and water to restore his energy levels. Fresh vegetables and fruits can help rehydrate the hamster’s body while sources of protein such as plain cooked chicken, egg, and mealworms can replenish energy levels.
The Bottom Line
Yes, you can wake up a hibernating hamster. In fact, this is an essential step, especially because hamsters don’t really go into the true form of hibernation. Instead, they go through what you call torpor, which is unfortunately deadly if you don’t act fast.
However, avoid waking up your hamster too quickly. You should also avoid waking up your hamster if you hear or see it get up for water and food. Hamsters tend to sleep for longer hours and more often when the winter months come. This means that you don’t end up disturbing them as they rest. What you should do instead is to focus on increasing the temperature in the room and offering food to stop hibernation.