Most hamster breeds originate from desert-like areas. That sounds like as if hamsters could do well with heat. But can they? Can hamsters overheat at all?
Hamsters can actually overheat! They like it warm, but they don’t do well with too much heat. Especially combined with high humidity. The ideal temperature for hamsters is between 69° F and 72° F (21° C to 23° C). Temperatures above 90° F (32° C) are critical for hamsters. These high temperatures can cause heat stroke and even lead to the death of your hamster.
Below we address the questions of what temperatures are ideal for hamsters and how to notice that a hamster is overheating. We also take a look at what effects overheating can have and how to prevent a hamster from overheating. Be sure to read on, because overheating in hamsters should not be taken lightly.
What Is the Ideal Temperature for Hamsters?
The optimal temperature for hamsters is between 69° F and 72° F (21 ° C and 23 ° C). This is a rather narrow range of temperatures, but ideal for hamsters.
But there are other climatic conditions that are important for hamsters. The humidity is also important. It mustn’t be too high. Hamsters prefer low humidity, which simply has to do with their origins in desert-like areas.
A combination of high temperatures and high humidity is something that is not at all suitable for hamsters. Such an environment can be very dangerous for them and cause damage to their health and even death.
Temperatures above 90° F (33° C) are dangerous for hamsters. They can suffer from heatstroke and its precursor, sleeper disease. This can even lead to the death of the hamster.
How Can I Tell if My Hamster Overheats?
A hamster can show several signs in case of overheating. If the temperature is quite high, watch out for the following signs your hamster might show:
- Panting: If your hamster’s breathing sounds different than usually, it might be a sign of overheating.
- Lethargy: If your hamster moves less than usual, and sits rather apathetically in a corner of his cage, this could also be a sign of overheating.
- Weakness: If your hamster seems anemic to you, he doesn’t move much and may not even have the strength to eat, he could be overheated.
If you discover such signs, they should check the temperature and also the humidity and adjust if necessary. Possibly they should also think about cooling the hamster immediately.
Further below we list some ways to safely cool your hamster should it be necessary. You should take these signs seriously, because it can be quite dangerous when hamsters overheat.
What Happens if Hamsters Overheat?
Hamsters can be seriously harmed if they overheat. It can happen that they feel only slightly uncomfortable, but it can even lead to the death of the hamster.
One problem is that different effects of overheating present themselves similarly. So you can’t always say with certainty how critical the hamster is. Therefore, if it shows signs of overheating, it is better to always cool it down.
In the following we present some of the possible effects of overheating. We will then explain how to prevent your hamster from overheating.
Sleeper disease can be scary to people who don’t know about it. Fortunately, it’s not a big problem for a hamster.
However, you should still be attentive, because heat stroke can very easily be confused with sleeper disease. And heat stroke is not harmless at all! It requires your immediate intervention.
When the temperature is high, around 75 degrees Fahrenheit, the hamster will appear lifeless and limp. It can be picked up, turned over and shaken with no visible sign of life. If you look closely, you can usually see the whiskers twitch.
The hamster will usually wake up within a few minutes if you hold it gently. This awakening can be very abrupt. Therefore it is better to hold the hamster over your lap or table. Just in case it moves very suddenly.
This condition is common in young hamsters who are held together. Sleeper disease should not be confused with the severe heatstroke described below.
If an animal does not return within 5 minutes from sleeper disease you should treat it as a heatstroke. However, as a general rule, try to cool the animal down if the temperature is significantly too high. We have compiled helpful tips on how to do this below.
Hamsters can get heatstroke very quickly. Especially in cars, where a short period of time in a stationary vehicle can be fatal. 5 minutes are enough to put the hamster in serious danger.
Another problem is setting up a cage in a room in direct sunlight. Symptoms are as described for sleeper disease above, but the hamster does not recover in a few minutes.
Hamsters suffering from heatstroke often trickle, and saliva becomes visible around the mouth. They move lazily and eventually lie quietly on the bottom of the cage. In the worst case, it is even possible that they will die from the heatstroke.
It is important to cool the animal as soon as possible. Splash the animal with cold water to lower the body temperature and try to make it drink cold water to replace lost body fluids.
This treatment should be sufficient if the hamster is experiencing heatstroke. If there are no immediate signs of recovery, contact your veterinarian for advice and possible treatment.
How Can I Prevent My Hamster from Overheating?
There are several things you can do to keep your hamster from overheating. If the temperature at your place goes above 90° F (30° C), you should consider the following ideas to keep your hamster cold.
- Buy refreezable plastic ice packs* that you normally use to keep portable lunches cool. Wrap them in a plastic bag to catch any condensation. Then lean these against the hamster’s cage so they have something cool to lean on. You need to have enough of these ice packs to switch when the first batch melts. In that case use the second batch and refreeze the first one.
- Buy some small stainless steel saucer shells* and freeze them. You can find them in the kitchen department at Target or Walmart. Freeze them and put one in the cage. You can simply swap them out on hot days.
- Freeze water bottles and put them in the cage. If your hamster wants to cool off, he can just go nearby and sit there for a while. Make sure your hamster is not a biter for this solution.
- Have a floor fan* running near the cage and make sure there is good ventilation all around. Make sure that the hamster doesn’t get direct draft, though.
- Buy a tile from a hardware store and put it in the freezer for a while. When it is cold, put it in the cage. That way, the hamster has something cold to lie on when it’s too hot.
- Try giving them some frozen fruits and vegetables.
- Buy reptile sand* and put it in the freezer for a while, then take the sand out and it should be pretty cool.
- Put a ceramic hamster house* or a terracotta pot* in the freezer, this will keep the cold out and provide a nice cool shelter.
Hamsters can overheat. They have a fairly narrow range of temperatures in which they are really comfortable. Of course, they can withstand slightly higher temperatures, but above 90° it becomes dangerous. Especially when high humidity is added to the mix.
There are several signs that hamsters are overheating. These signs include panting, lethargy and weakness. Watch out for these signs, and if it is indeed the case that your hamster is overheating, apply our tips to cool it down.
If you follow this advice, your hamster should not have any problems with overheating and should be able to live a nice and comfortable life.