Is My Hamster Hibernating Or Is He Dead?

Because hamsters hibernate and sometimes don’t move for long periods, you may be left to wonder:

Is my hamster hibernating, or is it dead?

Start by checking its heartbeat and breathing rate. Your hamster might be faint and slow during hibernation but is still detectable. Also, if the surrounding temperature is cold, then your hamster likely hibernated to preserve energy. You can even notice slight movements and tremors in your hamster’s body.

Hibernation is common for hamsters and is a normal phenomenon. Here’s we’ll discuss hamster hibernation in detail.

How to Check Whether Your Hamster is Alive?

Believe it or not, hamsters love their owners. They are lovable pets!

The sight of a motionless hamster in its habitat can momentarily startle any owner. However, it’s crucial not to jump to conclusions too swiftly. It’s possible that your hamster is undergoing a bout of hibernation, so it’s best to observe patiently before making judgments.

Hibernation is a phenomenon where the animal sleeps for more extended periods to preserve their energy.

You can do many things to help you decide whether your pet is still alive or just hibernating.

So, how does a dead hamster look? Let’s see!

1. Notice the Surrounding Temperature

If you live in a colder climate, then it is likely that your hamster is just hibernating.

When temperatures drop below 20 degrees Celsius, hamsters go into hibernation mode. If your hamster’s cage is near a window or in a colder region of the room, it may go into hibernation.

During hibernation, their metabolic system slows down, and they try to match their body temperature with the room’s ambient temperature to preserve energy.

2. Check Your Hamster’s Breathing Rate

While they do look motionless, try to look at your pet for a few minutes. Breathing is a sure sign of the hamster being alive and healthy!

If your pet is just hibernating, you will undoubtedly notice them breathe every two minutes. Their chest and lower body are likely to inflate a bit with intervals in between.

However, it is hard to detect it since their metabolism is already slow. Hence, your hamster’s heart is not working at the same pace as it usually would.

3. Check for a Heartbeat

If you can’t correctly detect the breathing rate, then go ahead and check the hamster’s heartbeat. The ideal place to detect the hamster’s heartbeat is on its chest right above its elbows.

Place your forefinger and thumb there for a few minutes, and silently detect whether you sense a thud like a rhythm. This thud will indicate that your hamster very well does have a heartbeat and is alive.

4. Body Temperature

It is easy to mistake a cold body for a dead body

But, don’t worry!

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Your hamster may have lowered its body temperature during hibernation to match the temperature of the surroundings. It is common to have a low body temperature during hibernation.

Try to feel the hamster’s cheek pouch gently.

If you feel that the cheek pouch is warmer than the rest of the body, then your pet is likely just in hibernation. However, there is also the possibility that your pet has passed away.

If you want to know for sure, take your hamster to the nearest vet and find out.

5. Notice Their Movements

There are specific ways that you can also feel whether your hamster is still alive

First of all, try stroking his whiskers with your finger. Even in hibernation, your hamster will likely twitch his cheek pouch. But make sure you’re not too harsh with this fragile animal.

Another thing you can do:

Notice a small tremble of nod in their head. Even in a deep sleep, there is a slight trembling effect near the head of the Hamster.

However, if all methods don’t work and your pet is exceptionally rigid, there is a possibility that they must have passed away.

You can confirm immediately with your vet and find out for sure!

What is Hibernation?

Hibernation is a period of inactivity that many animals observe.

This phenomenon involved the animal usually sleeping for longer periods than usual. During this period, the animal’s metabolic activity slows down.

Not only that!

Hibernation lowers the heart rate, breathing rate, and body temperature, which is why it might be easy for you to confuse a hibernating animal with a dead one.

It is also observed during the winter months when animals need to preserve their energy and retain body heat.

What Do To When My Hamster Hibernates?

If your hamster has gone into hibernation, then make sure that you still leave fresh food and water out, they might be hibernating, but they will also wake up from time to time to eat.

Additionally, there is also a possibility of your hamster developing hypothermia while they hibernate.

Most hamsters hibernate when they are in colder temperatures. Try to move them to a warmer location, where the temperature is more stable.

A warmer environment will help them regain their body heat and normalize internal temperature.

Although if you feel that your hamster is not in danger, then allow them to hibernate peacefully. Take a suggestion from your vet to know your situation better.

Why is My Hamster Hibernating?

Not all hamsters hibernate.

There are two types of hibernators:

  • Obligatory
  • Permissive

Animals that fall under the obligatory hibernators’ category always hibernate regardless of their surroundings and bodily conditions.

Permissive hibernators usually hibernate according to environmental conditions depending on their temperature or food supply.

Hamsters are permissive hibernators.

Especially the Syrian hamster, which only goes to sleep for long periods when there are changes in its body temperature or food supply. This means that hamsters hibernate in any season, even if it’s not winter.

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If the conditions urge them to do so, the hamster can hibernate 12 out of 24 hours

In a cold and dark room, a hamster is more likely to hibernate than a hamster in a warm and well-lit space.

How to Wake a Hamster from Hibernation?

First and foremost, be sure that your hamster is hibernating. Check for all the possible signs, and if you’re confident that it is hibernating, then start the process of taking them out of it.

1. Increase Body Temperature

Most hamsters hibernate due to lack of heat. More so when the temperatures drop below 20 Degrees Celsius.

There are multiple ways you can try to increase your hamster’s body temperature; First, warm him up with your body heat.

Hold the hamster close to your stomach or chest for at least 30 minutes. See if there are any changes in their behavior or if they are acting alert.

Another way is to use a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel. Make sure that you keep the bottle at a safe distance from your hamster, but it still emits enough heat for the hamster to react to it.

Many veterinarians make use of a heating pad!

You can set the heating pad to a temperature of 32 degrees Celsius or 90 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the ideal temperature to boost the hamster’s metabolism and start making him more alert!

2. Regaining the Normal Function

After you have achieved some level of consciousness, try to help your hamster regain its normal function.

Give your hamster some warm milk; that will really help alter the body temperature. You can also give them a solution of water and sugar. It helps to rehydrate your pet.

3. Prevent Future Hibernations

While hibernating is not bad! It is also a sign that your pet is not at the right temperature.

Ensure you have a good supply of food, water, and bedding inside the Hamster’s enclosure.


If, despite having this information, you remain uncertain about whether your hamster is in hibernation or has unfortunately passed away, it’s advisable to consult a nearby veterinarian for a professional assessment. Medical tools and expertise can swiftly provide the confirmation you need and guide you on the appropriate course of action.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do hibernating hamsters go stiff? 

Yes, to know for sure, try to make temperatures warmer for the hamster. If it remains stiff, then it is likely that he has died.

Why do hamsters die suddenly? 

Hamsters suffer from a defect called Cardiomyopathy, where their heart can suddenly give out. So, they can die without a cause.

How long will my hamster hibernate? 

A hamster can hibernate for up to 2- 3 days!

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Nadine Oraby

My name is Nadine; I am a passionate writer and a pet lover. People usually call me by the nickname “Joy” because they think that I am a positive and joyful person who is a child at heart. My love for animals triggered me to create this blog. Articles are written by vets, pet experts, and me. Thanks for visiting. Your friend, Nadine!

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