Hamsters can find the heat difficult to cope with. Although they are desert animals, in the wild they are not up and about in the day. They are tucked up far below ground in their burrows, only coming out when it’s cooler. In our homes they don’t have the chance to escape the heat as effectively. Therefore it’s up to us to help them.
Hot Weather Travel
Never leave a hamster unattended in a car when the weather is warm
Make sure hamster cages are not in direct sunlight. It’s easy to move a hamster cage or for tree branches to fall over winter, only to find that the summer sun now easily reaches the cage.
Take special care with tank-style cages in hot weather. These get warmer faster than barred cages.
Check the cage at different times of day. My hamster room is in full shade all morning before the sun moves around to that side of the building in the late afternoon.
Regular checking of your hamster’s water is important in the heat. This is even more vital for elderly hamsters who may drink more due to poor kidney function and for unwell hamsters, for example those with diabetes. In very hot weather, you can use cool water from the fridge.
Outside the Cage
Try to keep your hamster’s room as cool as possible. If the sun is on that side of the building, closing the curtains can help. But remember to keep curtains far out of reach of inquisitive nibblers!
You can use a fan to help airflow, but don’t direct it into your hamster’s cage. The air the fan is moving may be warm, but you can cool this. Place in the airstream a large plastic bottle which has been partially filled with water and frozen.
Instead you coul use smaller frozen plastic bottles or picnic ice packs on the outside of cages to create a cooler area. Make sure the cool area is a choice for the hamster. They need to have somewhere they can escape from the cool if they wish.
Inside the Cage
You can use chilled ceramic, stone or terracotta items in the cage as another option for a cool area. Mugs are a readily available option for this. Do check there are no sharp areas on the item you choose.
Hamsters enjoy a refreshing sand bath using chilled or frozen sand in the heat. You could also chill the container if it is ceramic.
Hamsters enjoy frozen or chilled treats in hot weather. Vegetables are a favourite and also provide additional moisture. Allow the initial chill and frost to come off frozen vegetables before placing them in the cage. Seeds and nuts can also be fed frozen, such as linseed, millet, peanuts and cashews. If your hamster needs an extra boost, you could feed chilled, sometimes frozen, wet cat food or baby food.
Choose cooler parts of the day to get your hamster out for playtime. Playtime may need to be shorter in hot weather, especially if you are using a hamster ball where the hamster has no access to moisture.
If you have other tips for helping hamsters cope with heat, feel free to share them in the comments.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in July 2016. It has been updated for clarity in May 2019.