Hamsters are curious and active at night, but sometimes they may do things we don’t understand. A hamster that does not drink water can be both confusing and stressful for its owner. Why is your hamster not drinking water, and what should you do? Let’s find out.
So, why is my hamster not drinking water? Your hamster may not be drinking water for a few reasons. If you just purchased your hamster, it may still be settling into its new environment. A hamster that suddenly stops drinking water may be feeling stressed. Also, your hamster’s water bottle may not be working properly. Last, your hamster may be feeling unwell.
In reality, there is no one definitive answer for all of you reading here today.
I know, it is a little frustrating – but it is the truth of the matter.
Besides, it depends a lot on circumstances.
And individual factors include but are not limited to:
- How much water a hamster has had previously consumed.
- How long they have stopped drinking.
- Whether they have actually stopped drinking altogether.
Remember, these are just some; it could even be a combination of a few.
It can get a little tricky.
And it can be hard to tell how serious the issue can be.
But thankfully, you’ve noticed a change.
And at least now you are in a position to monitor your hamster and take action if required.
Nevertheless, let us now take a closer look at the drinking of water in this small rodent.
That way, you will know what is normal, abnormal and what you should do to address the problem – if you do see it as such.
Is It Normal For Hamsters To Not Drink A Lot Of Water?
While hamsters do not drink as much water as many larger pets, they do typically drink a consistent amount of water over time. They are not a pet that you will notice drinking entire bottles of water in one day, but you should notice the level of water in your hamster’s bottle going down from one day to the next.
For hamsters, drinking water at regular intervals is important.
Their bodies are small and process the water they drink quite quickly.
When you add in that most hamsters are very active during their awake period, having a regular drinking routine is important.
You may have read that many species of hamsters (such as Syrian hamsters) were desert dwellers before they were bred as pets.
Do not assume that ancestors living in the desert mean that hamsters are designed to go long periods without water.
Wild hamsters know how to dig into plants and other sources for consistent small supplies of water.
Long story short, your hamster will not drink a lot of water in comparison to larger animals.
Your hamster may drink a lot of water one day, followed by a day of drinking slightly less.
Fluctuations in the amount of water your hamster drinks are normal as long as your hamster does not stop drinking entirely.
The most important thing is that your hamster drinks some water each day to support its active periods and overall hydration.
You can monitor the water levels in your hamster’s water source to make sure they are drinking each day.
How Long Can Hamsters Go Without Water?
Hamsters need to drink water at least every 48 hours to stay alive. They can start to become dehydrated after 24 hours without water. Two to three days without water can be deadly to a hamster.
Your hamster needs to have water available for drinking at all times.
This water is usually provided through a bottle.
Water bottles are a safe, clean method of providing water to your hamster.
Some hamsters do drink from dishes, but dishes are prone to spilling, becoming contaminated with bedding, and can pose a drowning risk to small hamsters.
A hamster that has not been drinking water may begin to show signs of dehydration. Signs of dehydration in a hamster include:
- Being lethargic or exceedingly inactive
- Sunken eyes
- Dull coat
- Loose skin that, if pinched, does not smooth back out over the hamster’s body.
- Difficulty breathing and walking
If your hamster shows signs of being dehydrated, it is important to offer freshwater right away and monitor your hamster for drinking.
If your hamster has gone over a day without drinking, it is wise to consult a veterinarian.
A hamster that has recently been relocated (from a pet store to your home, for example) may take a brief break from drinking.
This break should not last more than 24-36 hours. Any time that you bring home a new hamster monitor it closely for drinking.
Drinking water is a great sign that your hamster is beginning to feel at home in its new environment.
How Much Water Do Hamsters Need To Drink?
On average, a hamster needs to drink 2 teaspoons of water for every 100 grams of weight each day. Two teaspoons of water is approximately 10 ml of water for every 100 grams of weight.
Hamster sizes vary, and you may not know your hamster’s exact weight. A good rule of thumb is that your hamster should drink between 2 to 4 teaspoons (10-20 ml) of water each day.
Different breeds of hamsters tend to need to drink slightly different amounts of water.
In general, female hamsters tend to need more water than male hamsters.
Syrian hamsters are a common pet hamster breed.
In Syrian hamsters, males tend to drink just over two teaspoons (around 11 ml) of water per day for every 100 grams of weight.
In comparison, female Syrian hamsters drank just over four teaspoons a day (around 14 ml) per 100 grams of weight on average.
Not all hamster breeds are the same size and weight.
Syrian hamsters tend to be on the “large” side for pet hamsters and weigh 150-200 grams.
Some people prefer the smaller dwarf hamster breed that can weigh as little as 50 grams fully grown.
A dwarf hamster is going to drink less water most days than a Syrian of the same age and development.
If you own a dwarf hamster, you may notice that your hamster only drinks 1 to 3 teaspoons of water each day.
Again, the important thing for hamsters is consistent daily drinking even if your hamster is not drinking large amounts of water at one time.
How To Get Your Hamster To Drink Water
If you notice that your hamster is looking dehydrated, there are steps you can take to encourage it to begin drinking. Ways to get your hamster to drink water include:
- Refresh the water supply.
- Check to make sure the water bottle is working properly.
- Try a different type of water bottle.
- Lower your hamster’s stress while monitoring water intake.
Refresh The Water Supply
If your hamster has not had fresh water in the last 24 hours and isn’t drinking, try replacing its water.
Even though a hamster’s water bottle may not be empty, freshwater is more enjoyable than stale or day-old water.
If your hamster has been living with you for a while, make sure you are providing water from your usual source.
Water that smells or tastes much different than what your pet is used to can lead to avoidance.
This is a survival mechanism that prevents hamsters from drinking spoiled, poisonous or other unsafe water in the wild.
You should also make sure to get your water close to or just slightly below room temperature. Water that is too hot or too cold may be unappealing to your hamster.
Check Your Water Bottle For Proper Function
Most small pet water bottles hang from the side of a cage and use a spout and ball system for releasing water.
This means that as your hamster drinks, it pushes up on a small metal ball at the end of a metal tube with its tongue, and water slides past to your hamster.
Occasionally the ball at the end of the tube needs cleaning; if it becomes dirty with food or bits of bedding and dust, it can stick.
If the ball of the water bottle sticks, the hamster cannot move it and release water for drinking.
Similarly, if the tube becomes clogged, water can not be released, and your hamster will not get water.
Regardless of water bottle type, it is important to inspect your water source regularly for proper function and water release.
Sometimes a good inspection and cleaning can help a hamster get back to drinking.
Try A Different Water Bottle Type
While the most common water bottle is the ball drip type described above, there are several other types of water bottles on the market.
Some water bottles are free standing with a small dish at the bottom to catch any drips. Other water bottles have different water release systems.
Changing your hamster’s water bottle type should only come after you have tried the first few steps to encouraging your hamster to drink.
It easily attaches to the side of the cage and is entirely chew-proof too!
I have found that when transitioning water bottle types, it is a good idea to keep the first water bottle type available in the cage for the first day, periodically the second and third, and then remove it after that.
This allows the hamster a chance to drink from a familiar source while learning to drink from the new one.
As with any situation, watch your hamster closely to make sure it is comfortable using the new water bottle and drinking from it properly.
Lower Your Hamster’s Stress and Monitor
A stressed hamster is unlikely to drink water normally. If you just purchased your hamster, then giving it time alone in its cage without handling, sudden loud noise, and excessive business may help them feel comfortable settling into their new environment.
It is very tempting to want to hold and play with any new pet. While curious in nature, hamsters can still be defensive and shy around humans.
By giving your hamster a quiet and stress-free environment, you are allowing it to feel safe enough to explore, find its water source, and drink.
Spend time with your hamster the first couple of days, watching and learning their habits.
This will allow you to monitor its eating and drinking, as well as double-check that your cage is truly hamster escape-proof.
If you have had your hamster for some time, consider any changes you have made to its cage. Did you add new toys or rearrange them? Did you move the cage to a new area of your house? Have you changed bedding types?
Sudden changes to a hamster’s environment can create temporary stress that may lower its water intake.
Watch your hamster closely, and if it does not begin drinking, you may want to consider going back to a previous cage setup or location to increase your hamster’s comfort.
Last, if your hamster has cage mates (please know the gender and breed of your hamster before pairing), you may want to make sure that your hamster is not feeling bullied or kept off water.
If your hamster is fighting with a cage mate, being regularly woken or chased by a cage mate, or appears ill, it is a good idea to isolate your hamster and allow it some alone time to relax and hopefully drink.
A hamster that has continuous access to clean, fresh water will drink several teaspoons of water each day.
A hamster should drink regularly and should not go more than 48 hours without drinking water.
If your hamster appears dehydrated, you can try the steps above to get your hamster drinking.
If your hamster does not drink for over 48 hours, it is time to contact your veterinarian for further advice.
Just as you should if you notice any signs of ill health alongside the lack of drinking.
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.