Yes, you did indeed read the title correctly. No, you are not crazy. Believe it or not hamsters sometimes can and will eat their young. All hamsters have done it; from Dwarf Hamsters to Syrian Hamsters. It is safe to say they make unique parents. This behavior is something that sounds appalling, but it is also a necessary behavior that helps them survive in the wild. So why do they do it? Well, there are a few reasons: stress, fear, scent, food scarcity, and an inability to provide. Unlike human pregnancies which take nine months, a hamster’s gestation period is roughly twenty days. If the mom needs to, she can always make more kids quickly and easily. Let’s go over some of the reasons a hamster might resort to this survival induced behavior.
Have you ever seen a mom trying to take care of their newborn? One can only imagine how stressful that may be. The same thing goes for hamsters. If the babies stress out the mom too much, she may eat them to get rid of the nuisance. This is likely to happen if it is a new hamster mother or if the babies are frequently bothering the mom during the day. Rather than deal with the stress, a hamster may decide to give up and try again at another date. Instead of abandoning the children, she eats them for the nutrients.
Hamsters are prey creatures, and they scare very easily. Predators, people, loud noises, other pets; many things can scare a vulnerable hamster mother. Out of fear, a hamster mom may put her self-preservation first.
As people our primary sense for perceiving our surroundings is sight. Thus, it is hard for us to imagine another sense being an animal’s best means of survival. Hamsters have very poor eyesight and instead rely on their senses of smell and hearing to get around. A hamster’s main way of identifying their children is via their scent. So, if for some reason one of her children smells different, the mom will be unable to identify her child. She will think an imposter has invaded her nest and promptly remove them.
Pregnancy takes a lot out of a mother. The nutrients needed to create and birth offspring is far more than what a female hamster would consume otherwise. A normal hamster litter contains about six to eight pups. After these kids are born, a hamster mom will have to find that much more food. If the mom cannot get enough food for herself, she will rectify this situation by eating what is available.
Inability to Provide
This is an interesting one, as it both encompasses all the reasons above and does not apply to a hamster mom’s full litter. For whatever reason, if a hamster mom feels she is unable to provide for her litter she will cut down on the size. This may sound like a cruel thing to do, but mom’s often find themselves having to make tough choices. A hamster mom will do this if she feels it will ensure the survival of the rest of her litter.
While this article covered a more gruesome topic, you can take solace in the fact that it is not a frequent occurrence. Hamsters often make great mothers to their children.