Why does my hamster eat her pups.
Why does my hamster eat her pups?
This question is asked many times. The answer in full is not known. Even scientists and ethologists have never been able to give a satisfactory answer to cannibalism. We can only assume the most obvious reasons, within our perception of the understanding and knowledge we have of these animals as to why they do it, and help us to prevent it.
One of the main reasons the female cannibalizes the litter is the intervention of humans in the early stages of the birth. Once the pups have been delivered she should be left in peace and quite without any human interference. Physical disturbances in the early stages are the most destructive to litters: After the first 7 days it is usually considered safe and she will not cannibalize the litter after this time, but 10 days is the norm. A female hamster is very protective of her young pups and her territory. The nest should never be touched or disturbed for any reason. If she feels the nest may have been discovered or disturbed, possibly by a predator the female may become fearful for herself and the safety of her litter and therefore may abandon the nest and the litter. If she feels she is unable to raise her young in complete safety she may become concerned for their safety then dispose of them by eating them. This is called cannibalizing the litter.
If the female is too young to start breeding from she may not be mature enough to cope with a litter of pups.
If the pup is born malformed with an affliction in which some part of the body is misshaped or malformed i.e. missing limbs joined body parts. Or the pup may be born dead in that case she will dispose of that pup’s carcase by eating it.
If food is in short supply and not enough to go round she may cull some of the litter so that others may survive.
Cleaning out the cage prior to the birth will inadvertently destroy the nest she has painstaking prepared for the pups. If the nest is touched, cleaned or destroyed in any way at all just before the birth, or immediately after the chances of her keeping and rearing the litter is very slim. The nest plays a very important part of her environment and is just as important as food and water. Because of her parental investment, the nesting site is a place she associates with safety and security in which to raise her litter. The female is very protective of her nesting site. Cleaning the cage will remove or add different scents causing her to stress and feel threatened.
At some stage in the young pup's life the female herself may become sick or ill. In that case she may not feel able to raise the litter safely or adequately and may cannibalize them.
If the pup is a runt: A runt is an undersized animal, the smallest and the weakest of the litter. Cannibalism is also a way of rooting out weak offspring's that take too long to mature with very little chance of survival and requiring too much parental care.
Having a predator in the vicinity a cat, a dog, or a pet bird flying around will make her fearful for the safety of her litter.
Pup's can be born with genetic disorders, the mother is fully aware of this and will root out any affected pups. The pups are born without an active immune system of their own, until the immune system begins to develop at between 6 to 8 week of age. This leaves them vulnerable and very susceptible to many infections the mother and some of the stronger pups in the litter are immune to. There are many diseases and infections that can affect the pup during it's infancy before weaning that may not be obvious to us. This is one of the most common causes for the seemingly unexplained cannibalization of the pups.