Hamsters' lifespans are usually 1 ½ to 2 ½ years, with one-year-olds already considered middle aged. Your old hamster will eat less, move less, sleep more and arise slower and much later than before. It's extremely difficult watching your little friend age and slowly pass away, but there are things you can do to make an old hamster's life safer and more comfortable.
Clean your old hamster's cage more often. Urine smell becomes stronger as hamsters age. Your hamster may have age-related bladder and kidney problems, increasing its thirst and causing it to urinate more.
Check your hamster's teeth almost daily. They may become loose, crooked, brittle, broken or overgrown. It wouldn't be uncommon for your old hamster to break one or both of its front incisors. If your hamster develops tooth problems, its diet must be altered and main food content changed.
Change your old hamster's diet. The Hammysworld website recommends introducing softer foods such as boiled and scrambled eggs, carrots, cheese, cucumber, wheat biscuits, yoghurt and fresh corn on the cob. Always leave some of your pet's usual dry hamster mix.
Move the food dish and water bottle so they're easily accessible, making sure the hamster can easily reach both, without much effort or pain.
Freshen your old hamster's water often since age-related disease may cause it to drink more.
Watch for signs of difficult defecation and/or constipation. Contact your veterinarian if it becomes a serious or chronic problem, as it may cause your old hamster much discomfort and pain.
Give your hamster a couple of drops of cod liver oil, placed on food. It will not only help digestion, it may improve fur and skin condition.
Keep your old hamster warm and out of drafts. Weakness, frailty and lowered immune system cause a higher susceptibility to chills and illness.
Handle your old hamster whenever it wants attention. The hamster might be a little cranky at times but this doesn't mean it doesn't still need love and companionship.
Handle old hamsters gently, taking extra care against falls or leaping from high places. Old hamsters' bones are more brittle and can break easily.
Look closely at appearance and behaviour and decide whether or not to remove the exercise wheel, shelves and climbing apparatus and turn the home into a single-storey habitat. Generally hamsters do only what they're capable of but you, as the guardian, must make the final decision.
Take your old hamster to the veterinarian at the first sign of illness or anything unusual. Elderly hamsters deteriorate quickly so never waste any time. Depending on problems plaguing your pet, the veterinarian may prescribe medication such as antibiotics, may suggest surgery (for example, to remove an external tumour) or may advise euthanasia.
Try feeding your old hamster baby food if it is refusing other food and treats. Most hamsters love the taste!