Is My Hamster Dying Or Hibernating? Here’s What You Should Do

Hamsters are mysterious animals. Sometimes you might come across one that seems dead but isn’t. Well, they may be hibernating due to your lack of care. 

So, is my hamster dying or hibernating? Your hamster isn’t dying if it’s in hibernation for not so long. Yet, it’s for sure that it lacks the conditions required to survive. Lack of food, water, and inadequate temperature leads it to hibernation gradually. And checking its breath can be a great indicator in that case.

Nevertheless, this information begs questions like how to check the heartbeat and why my hamster hibernating in the first place. So the only way to learn is to dive in deep with us. Let’s get started.

Hamster Dying Or Hibernating: Factors Analysis

Hamster Dying Or Hibernating

Before we get into details, let’s check the table below on the common factors to determine their life.

No MovementHibernating or dead
Cold BodyHibernating or dead
Small BreathesHibernating
Hard and stiff when you pick him upDead

Is My Hamster Dying Or Hibernating?

Hamsters are animals capable of hibernating when they encounter challenges in survival. Thus, hibernation takes place to make themselves consume less amount of food and water. Additionally, it saves them from the body temperature that would kill them.

Is My Hamster Dying Or Hibernating

And to understand this process, you need to realize some factors below.  

Types of Hibernation

There are two types of hibernation that hamsters are known for. One is obligatory and the other one is permissive. 

  1. Obligatory hibernation occurs to save themselves from environmental factors and conserve energy. For example, lack of food, water, and cold room temperature. 
  2. On the other hand, permissive hibernation doesn’t need a reason. Hamsters will be in this type of hibernation without any reason. Thus, an adequate survival environment wouldn’t even stop them from hibernating. This type of hibernation mostly occurs in the winter and is done by fat hamsters. 

However, the breed of hamster plays a significant role in whether it’s on permissive hibernation or obligatory. 

Is Hibernation Healthy?

Hibernation is certainly not a sign of good health. At obligatory hibernation, they should be out of it when the environment gets better to survive. Whereas, at permissive hibernation, you and I both don’t know when the hamster will come out of it. 

Hamster Hibernation Healthy

Nevertheless, it’s certainly not good for their health. Long time coma can lead to the death of a hamster.  They will have weak memory recall. Therefore, they cannot react to stimuli rapidly. Immunity significantly declines while in hibernation

As a result, illnesses are more likely to infect animals after hibernation. Additionally, it takes a long time to become used to the temperature after hibernation.

How Do I Know If My Hamster Is Dead

Knowing whether your hamster is dead or hibernating can get tricky. That is because  they tend to breathe as little as possible in hibernation. Additionally, if you already know, they won’t move or do anything at all. 

How Do I Know If My Hamster Is Dead

Thankfully, there is a little trick you can apply. Your fingers are incapable of understanding whether it is breathing or not due to very small breaths. What you can do is hold a mirror in front of your hamster’s mouth and nose. 

If you see some kind of haze in the mirror, your hamster is well and should be fine when the environment is sufficient. 

What Is The Best Environment To Keep My Hamster?

By now, you should know that environment greatly impacts Hamster’s hibernation. Therefore, knowing the perfect habitat is mandatory for any hamster’s owner to keep them healthy and away from hibernation.


The first thing to consider is temperature. You don’t want the temperature to be too cold to bear or sweating in hotness. The ideal temperature is 18-degree celsius to 24-degree celsius. This will keep your pet in good shape and health.

Nevertheless, changing the temperature won’t give you instant results. It takes at least a day to get back to normal. Here’s a video on how you can provide them with an optimal temperature;

Food And Water

Your pet certainly requires food and water to live. Thus, hamsters tend to choose hibernation to conserve energy when there’s a lack of food and water. So it’s your responsibility to keep a sufficient supply of food and water for at least a day in their homes.


Whether it be the sun or light bulbs, you must keep them in under the lights during the daytime. When there’s darkness, your pet’s brain triggers the hibernating hormones. As a result, a long time in darkness leads to torpor. 

Methods To Check Your Hamster Is Alive Or Not

Hibernation is often confused with death. As a result, knowing the methods to check whether your hamster is alive or not is reasonable. Here are the techniques you can apply;

Hamster Is Alive Or Not

Method 1: Breathe

As mentioned before, breathing is an excellent indicator of your pet’s life. You can carefully notice them for minutes or use the mirror technique. Here, you have to hold the mirror for a few minutes and check for hazes in the mirror.

As the hamsters are in saving mode, they may breathe after even a minute or two. Thus, don’t get scared if your hamster isn’t breathing every 5 seconds. There’s nothing to worry about here, but just that they are in saving mode.

Method 2: Heartbeat

Another amazing technique to check on your hamster is finding out its heartbeat. You won’t simply identify the heartbeats as they will be extremely low during hibernation.

To find out, simply place your index finger and pollex on the hamster’s chest. Slowly press a couple of times by making sure that you are gentle with it. After a couple of presses, you should be able to feel the pulses in your hamster.

Body Temperature Doesn’t Define Death

We, humans, have the tendency to think anything that is cold is dead. However, when it comes to hamsters, body temperature shouldn’t be the one that should be bothering you. 

It’s absolutely fine if you come across that your pet is as cold as snow. And it doesn’t define the hamster’s death as their body temperature drops with the environment. 

Signs That Your Hamster Is Going On Hibernation

In order to prevent hibernation, you need to know about the signs first. Thankfully, hamsters do give visible signs that will help you identify them. Let’s check it out.

Signs That Your Hamster Is Going On Hibernation

Food Table

Here, the food table is referred to the place you give your hamster food and water. If you find your hamster near the food table every time, it needs more food and water. Overall, the food and water you are providing are not enough for their survival. 

Buries Itself

When hamsters feel cold, they tend to dig down their nests. This is a clear sign that they are feeling cold and you should take them somewhere warm. Therefore, if their home is near any window, take them right away. Otherwise, they will bury themselves and start their hibernation process.

What To Do When Hamsters Are In Hibernation

Well, you clearly don’t want your pet to be hibernating as it’s quite unhealthy for them. As mentioned before, it decreases their immunity and opens up the gates for catching unwanted diseases. So how do you bring them back to normal? Here’s how;

What To Do When Hamsters Are In Hibernation

Heat Up Their Bodies

The first thing you want to be doing is heating up their bodies. Gently keep them in a warm place. Additionally, gently rub your hands on their skin to heat up their bodies. 


Massaging your hamster’s body is an excellent method used to get them back in life. This increases blood circulation and helps them breathe like normal. 


As darkness helps them hibernate, daylight helps them to get away from hibernation. So, placing your hamster safely outside in daylight would help them prevent the hibernating hormones.

If you’re worried about your hamster’s behavior and want to improve your relationship with your pet, there are a few things you can try. For example, you might find our guides on how to get your hamster to like you and how to tame a hamster useful. Our article on how to get your hamster to like you covers simple tips and tricks for bonding with your pet, while our guide on how to tame a hamster offers more in-depth techniques for building trust and creating a positive relationship. By following these guides, you’ll be on your way to having a happier and healthier relationship with your hamster.


What can be better than a FAQ section where we pull out some questions from hamster owners about hibernation and answer them accordingly? Here they are;

Q: Can a hamster be awakened from hibernation?

Yes, a hamster can be awakened from hibernation with a few techniques. Warm up their body, give them a massage to increase blood circulation, and keep them under daylight.

Q: How long do hamsters hibernate?

Generally, the hibernation period is 2-3 days. However, if the environment doesn’t get any better, such as the temperature, they will hibernate again.

Q: Do hamsters that are kept indoors hibernate?

Indoor or outdoor doesn’t play a role here. The only thing that matters is the temperature. If it gets too cold, hamsters hibernate.

Bottom Line

To sum up, hamsters are certainly mysterious creatures and often make us scared of pretending dead. Well, don’t worry as most of the time, they are in hibernation and not dead. Nevertheless, we can say that breathing and heartbeat conclude whether is my hamster dying or hibernating?

If you can feel the beats and small breaths, they are certainly alive. Regardless, the most important factor is the temperature. If you can keep it warm, your pet won’t hibernate again.

Lisa G

Meet Lisa G, the founder and author of With over 3 years of experience studying and observing various species of rodents. Lisa has established herself as a credible expert in the field. Her passion for these often-overlooked animals shines through in her in-depth articles and engaging writing style. Follow her blog to learn fascinating facts and gain a new appreciation for the furry creatures that share our world.

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