Hamsters need to drink a lot of water to survive. Unfortunately, they can forget this from time to time. It’s up to you to ensure that your pet hamster gets enough water.
You need to check their water bottle daily to make sure there’s no blockage and that your hamster can access it.
Why Isn’t My Hamster Drinking Water?
There is a multitude of reasons your hamster might not be drinking water.
1. Adjustment to A New Environment
Any animal, wild or domestic, will take some time to settle into a new environment. For hamsters, that might manifest in not drinking water as they get used to the peculiar environment.
When you see your pet hamster not drinking water, it might be adjusting to new surroundings.
If you recently brought it home, switched cages, or made some other drastic change to its environment, it might just need time to adjust.
During the adjustment period, the hamster might reduce the amount of water it drinks. It should start drinking water soon enough. If it doesn’t, then there might be a deeper problem.
2. The Hamster is Stressed
Loud noises are improper handling can stress hamsters since they are pretty timid. (1) So when you see your hamster drinking less water, it might be stressed.
Handling them with care will prevent stress and thus ensure they don’t stop eating or drinking water. Check for a change in appetite, an increase in cage-biting, or an increase in aggression.
3. The Hamster is Sick
Veterinary doctor Kristin Valdes of the Chicago Exotics Animal Hospital in Skokie, Ill, says hamsters can hide signs of sickness for a long time. However, one of the most common signs is not drinking water.
So if your hamster isn’t drinking water, it might be sick. Check for other signs of illness, such as hair loss, wet tail, difficulty breathing, or nose/eye discharge. Get the pet to a vet as soon as you can once you notice any sign of illness.
To learn about more signs of disease, consult this comprehensive list of symptoms from PetLifeToday.com. (2)
4. A Malfunctioning Water Bottle
Did you know a malfunctioning water bottle could be why your hamster isn’t drinking water? If the hamster’s water bottle is malfunctioning, the animal can’t drink water even if it tries.
A common reason for a malfunctioning water bottle is a defective nozzle. You can check for this by pressing your finger against the nozzle and checking for a stream of water.
A hamster needs the water to come out of the bottle as easily as possible. Irregular spurts of water will dissuade the pet from drinking.
You need a water bottle that passes as much water as possible.
5. The Water Doesn’t Taste Good!
Access to clean, fresh water is paramount to raising healthy hamsters. (3)
If the water you offer tastes weird or is stale, the hamsters can refuse to drink it. A common cause for this is additives such as vitamin supplements.
If you recently changed the type of water you offer, check to see if it has any additives. Most urban centers use chlorinated tap water, which might not taste good for your furry friends.
Chemicals such as fluoride also interfere with the water’s taste and could make your hamster not drink water.
It isn’t only chemicals that can make the water undrinkable for the pets. Stael water is also a culprit. If the water has been in the hamster’s bottle for too long, it will taste weird and discourage the animal from drinking it.
6. The Hamster is Growing Old
As they grow older, hamsters have lower energy levels and feed much less. So you might notice that your small hamster drinking lots of water as it ages.
Though aging hamsters play, eat and drink less, you need to be on the lookout for any other problems. It could be true that the hamster is growing old, but diseases can also cause it to stop drinking as much water as it used to.
If you understand your hamsters well, you’ll notice any changes before they become a problem and get it to a vet.
7. The Hamster is Eating Foods With High Water Content
Sometimes the hamster could be drinking less water because it gets most of the water it needs from its food.
Though pellets are the go-to food for hamsters, most owners feed them fruits and vegetables too.
Fruits and vegetables have high water content and reduce the hamster’s need for water.
On the other hand, dry food will make the hamster drink more water. If you need your hamster to drink more water, it might lie in checking the diet and adjusting it accordingly.
Now that we’ve covered the potential reasons behind your hamster not drinking water, we’ll talk about some ways you can check their hydration level and encourage them to start hydrating again.
READ MORE: How Long Can You Leave a Hamster Alone?
Check How Dehydrated Your Hamster Is
Once you’ve noticed your hamster isn’t drinking, you must determine how long this has been going on. They may not have been drinking for a day or more if you just noticed it.
Here are a few ways you can check how dehydrated your hamster is.
- Look at your hamster’s eyes. If they are dull and listless, they’re probably dehydrated.
- Gently pinch the scruff of your hamster’s neck. Everything is okay if the skin quickly snaps back into its normal position. If the skin holds its shape or moves back to its normal position very slowly, your hamster is dehydrated.
- Check the water level of your hamster’s bottle or bowl. If it hasn’t changed much since the last time you filled it, your hamster hasn’t been drinking.
Check the signs your hamster is dying!
How to Get Your Hamster to Drink Water
1. Train Your Hamster to Use the Bottle
Younger hamsters may be unaware that the bottle strapped to their cage contains an endless stream of refreshing water.
To give them a little nudge in the right direction, you can place a dollop of peanut butter on the ball of the bottle.
Your hamster should eat the peanut butter and get a mouthful of water.
If they aren’t interested in the peanut butter, detach the bottle from the cage, pick up your hamster, and attempt to “nurse” them by gently pressing the bottle into their mouth. Then replace the bottle and nudge them over to the nozzle.
Most hamsters with an inkling of a brain should take the hint eventually.
READ MORE: Do Hamsters Have Periods?
2. Place a Water Bowl in Their Cage
Some hamsters simply don’t like using a bottle. That’s alright; you can accommodate them just fine with a bowl of water instead.
I suggest placing the bowl on a raised platform, so your hamster doesn’t throw bedding into it as it goes about its day. You should also change the water daily, as there’s always a chance some dirty bedding, feces, or urine has made it inside.
This increased chance of contamination is the primary reason most people use bottles, but a bowl still works if your hamster is steadfastly refusing to use the preferred option.
3. Give Them Cucumbers and Skinned Apples
If purified water isn’t doing the trick, entice your hamster with some water-heavy fruits. Two of the juiciest options are cucumbers and apples.
Make sure to skin the apple and remove the seeds before giving it to your friend — neither is suitable for a hamster to eat.
4. Wait It Out
Sometimes your hamster is just being weird for no particular reason. Maybe they’re still getting used to new surroundings.
Maybe they don’t feel like drinking much today. Before you grow too concerned, give your hamster a day or so to come back to its senses before you start considering a veterinary appointment.
Don’t wait too long, though. It can only take a few days for your hamster to die of severe dehydration. If your hamster shows signs of dehydration, it’s best to skip waiting and take immediate action.
I’ve Tried Everything… Now What?
If your hamster still isn’t drinking after trying all of the strategies mentioned above, something is probably wrong. Like every other animal, hamsters cannot survive without water for more than a few days.
If your hamster hasn’t drunk in over 24 hours, you need to start considering some more drastic measures.
The first thing you should do is nurse your hamster with an eyedropper or syringe. This option is a stopgap measure, but it should keep your hamster somewhat hydrated while you figure out your next move.
Here’s how you do it: gently drop two drops of liquid every half hour into your hamster’s mouth. If you have an electrolyte-rich fluid-like Pedialyte or Gatorade around, use that instead of straight water.
Now that your hamster is receiving some water, it’s time to see an exotic species veterinarian. If you don’t know one, you can ask your local veterinarian if they’re comfortable treating a hamster.
If they aren’t, ask them to recommend someone who can help you.
READ MORE: Do Hamsters Swim?
How Much Water Do Hamsters Need?
There isn’t a uniform amount of water hamsters need daily. Some hamsters prefer to drink less water, while others drink copious amounts for their standards.
However, according to Dr. Melissa Witherell, DVM, the daily amount should be about 10 milliliters for every 100 grams of body weight. (3) If your hamster weighs 50 grams, it needs 5 milliliters of water daily.
Of course, you shouldn’t begrudge it more if the need arises.
So to know the exact amount of water you need to provide your hamster, you’ll need to know its weight.
Veterinary doctor Christal Pollock approximates the regular physiological water needs for hamsters at 9 to 12 ml of water daily. (4) You can use this to know the amount of water to have in the pet’s enclosure.
While the above figures are the benchmark for the average hamster, some might not strictly adhere to them. When that happens, it shouldn’t be a reason to panic since not all hamsters are the same.
Always aim to provide as much fresh water as possible for your furry friend. That will ensure they’re healthy and as happy as possible.
We know the amounts of water your hamster needs. We also know how to make it drink more water. But how long would the critter survive without water if you choose to wait it out?
How Long Can a Hamster Go Without Water?
A hamster can stay without water for a maximum of four days. However, it is unthinkable and downright barbaric to test this theory.
Depending on the hamster’s age, the number of days they can stay without water or food may vary. Healthier well-fed hamsters can last a few days. Unhealthy or aging hamsters will not last as long.
Old unhealthy hamsters will struggle to even get to two days without water. That’s an experiment you never want to try.
Hamsters need fresh water to function and should never be left to stay without water. If you plan to go on a trip, always plan on how your hamster will get its water and food needs.
You can decide to travel with it or get someone to look after it. You should never leave them alone without enough food, hoping they’ll be fine when you return.
Why isn’t my hamster eating?
There are several reasons your hamster might not be eating. Your hamster could be too hot, bored of its diet, stressed, with dental issues, or constipated.
How much does an exotic vet cost?
It depends on the vet and the treatment your hamster will need. Ballpark estimates for a simple office visit can range from $50 to $150. That number will rise if it’s an after-hours emergency visit.
Can hamsters drink water from a bowl?
Yes, hamsters can drink from a bowl instead of a water bottle. However, Most people will find a water bottle more convenient.
Did you ever train your hamster to drink water? Please let us know in the comments section below!
- 1. Health and welfare | rspca.org.uk [Internet]. Rspca.org.uk. 2017. Available from: https://www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/pets/rodents/hamsters/health
- 2. Pet Life Today [Internet]. Pet Life Today. 2019. Available from: https://petlifetoday.com/vet/how-to-tell-if-hamster-is-sick/
- 3. petMD. What Can Hamsters Eat? Carrots, Grapes, Tomatoes, and More | petMD [Internet]. Petmd.com. 2016. Available from: https://www.petmd.com/exotic/nutrition/evr_ex_hm_what-can-hamsters-eat
- 4. Basic Information Sheet: Hamster [Internet]. LafeberVet. 2014. Available from: https://lafeber.com/vet/basic-information-for-hamsters/
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