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Question
I bought my panda bear hamster about 2 or 3 weeks ago and she was caged with males and females but for the past week shes been acting funny. Shes exercising less, gaining weight, putting bedding in her play tubes and taking it out her house and shes also taking food and bedding up to her hamster wheel and sleeping in it. Is she sick or can she be pregnant?

Answer
Hi Bobby

Thanks for your question - sorry for the delay in replying.

Your hamster could well be pregnant.  The usual gestation period for a Syrian is 16-18 days.  During this time a pregnant hamster might change their nest around, and you often notice a bulge on their hips - this is more apparent the closer you get to the birth of any babies.  If she stretches up the bars, is there a bulge that remains on her hips?

If she is pregnant, then there are a few precautions you should take - if she has a wire wheel and not a solid one, remove this and swap it for a solid wheel.  If there are any small houses/tubes etc. in the cage they should be removed.  It is far less stressful all round if she has any litter in the open or under a platform, rather than in a confined area.  Also, do not overfeed her right now - just give the usual amount of food.

If a litter appears, usually everything goes according to plan and you don't have to get involved.  Be careful if you are near the cage as you don't want to startle her.  Avoid looking in the nest however tempting this is.  If you do notice any babies out of the nest, then gently warm them in your hands before returning them to the nest. If this happens, gently place your hand over the other hamsters so that your scent is on all of them and you haven't just singled out one hamster.  Usually the mother gathers up and babies that accidentally get out of the nest when she leaves it (sometimes they are still suckling and they fall off her).

Put food around the nest so she doesn't have to go far to find any.  Increase her food by giving baby food (I buy a packet of the dried creamy porridge oat variety and mix a little with water).  If you give this on a jamjar lid, when the babies are 2 weeks old and leaving the nest they can eat it too.

The babies can be handled from the age of 2 weeks - I suggest just for a few minutes at a time and also remember to handle mum.  At 4 weeks they need to be sexed and any males removed.  The girls can stay with mum for another 2 weeks but by then they will be fighting and will all need a cage of their own.  It is around 5-6 weeks that the babies can be re-homed.

I suggest you contact the pet shop if you end up with a litter.  They might be able to let you have a spare cage for separating them at 4 weeks, and may well offer to take back any babies when they are old enough.  

If she is not pregnant, there are other reasons why a hamster might gain weight - this can be due to ovarian cysts or kidney problems.  See if there is a litter, and if not and if you are concerned about her then she would need to see a vet in case there is an underlying illness.

I've often found that hamsters gain some weight when I look after them - they tend to settle into their new routine and surroundings and become content - this is normal. After all, you don't know how they've been treated before they come to you, or how much food they have been given.

I hope this helps you.

Regards
Sheila

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Sheila Adby

Expertise

Syrian hamsters are my specialty, however, I have kept Campbells,Winter Whites and gerbils in the past. I can advise on most subjects associated with hamsters, including housing, bedding, feeding, handling, new borns and catching escapees. I have had some experience of various health problems with hamsters and can offer my opinion and advice on basic health issues, however I am not a qualified vet and therefore cannot recommend drugs etc. My website is www.thehamstersite.com

Experience

I have been keeping hamsters and other small animals for more than 12 years. My favourites are Syrian hamsters and I foster litters and 'difficult' hamsters for a rescue centre. My job is to tame hamsters ready for re-homing, which is extremely rewarding. I also enjoy looking after new litters and raising the pups. I have co-written a book on hamsters with my local vet and have a website: www.thehamstersite.com

Publications
Hamsters in Sickness and in Health - Sheila Adby and Dan O'Neill ISBN186163218-5 (Capall Bann Publishing)

Education/Credentials
Educated to A Level standard in the UK.

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