Hamsters Eat Their Young

“Parental feeling, as I have experienced it, is very complex.” —Bertrand Russell, “Autobiography”

In A Nutshell

Hamster cannibalism is not uncommon. When a hamster gives birth, she may feel pushed to eat some or all of the new pups. This may be a response to lack of resources (like food, space, or protein), fear of a perceived threat, or some type of confusion.

The Whole Bushel

What could cause a cuddly, harmless, predominantly vegetarian rodent to ingest its newborns? As it turns out, lots of things: It doesn’t take much to push a mother hamster into eating her new babies.

One theory suggests that the mother eats her young as a way of compensating for lack of resources. Eating some of the pups gives the mother the extra protein she needs to lactate enough milk for the remaining pups. Additionally, the mother may calculate that there’s not enough food to go around for her entire litter—or that the cage the new family lives in is too small to house everyone. In that case, rather than let the runts die out, the mother proactively makes some cuts.

Fear may also be a factor. The shock of birth may cause the mother to perceive her pups as some kind of threat that needs to be eliminated. Additionally, an outside threat may cause the mother to believe that eating her pups is for the best: either to reduce her own workload in a high-pressure situation, or because there’s a good chance they were going to be eaten anyway (and she might as well eat them instead).

Runts or abnormal pups (common to first-time moms) are rejected outright. Similarly, if a pup is handled too early by a human or is born outside the nesting area, the mother will, again, reject it and treat it as a food source. This is likely because the scent of a human is associated with food.

Hamsters aren’t the only child eaters: Polar bears, burying beetles, wolf spiders, and sand goby fish (among others) also practice infant cannibalism. The male sand goby fish is responsible for raising the young that he produces with two females at a time—but he’ll eat up to one-third of the eggs before they’ve hatched. He even targets the bigger eggs, understanding that they require more work to nurture. Less work equals less time before he gets to mate again—and produce thousands more eggs.

Show Me The Proof

LiveScience: Why Parents Eat Their Young, Especially the Big Ones
Why Hamsters Eat Their Pups

  • Ben


    • lbatfish

      Congratulations! But next time, maybe try for “best” in addition to “first”.

  • Andyman7714

    Yes, one of the horrors of my childhood.

  • Hillyard

    Another reason to have a dog instead of some rodent.

  • ssarcpublic

    As cruel as it sounds it makes a lot of sense. I can’t imagine being a tiny little ball of fur with 10 babies to care for. I’d be eating my babies out of stress too.

    • Antoni Zoo


  • Doone00
  • Benjamin Wagner

    Rabbits are known to do it , too.

  • birdybirdy

    people in china and north korea also practice this.

    • meis

      no they don’t you dumbfuck

  • Shelly

    Also resist the urge to move the babies the mother won’t like that I just put on a pair of gloves and moved the mother and the babies to a separate cage the cages are both connected through tubes but I moved the babies in the mother to the other cage so I could clean the cages they live in and she wanted a meeting to the babies I made her spit them out and then I buried them but then I put her back in her original area where they were and now they’re doing good

    • Deborah

      I’ve learned that human breast milk is a sufficient form of nourishment for hamsters and other smaller animals like toy dogs or kittens. Only thing I find difficult is teaching them how to lactch on to my nipples since they’re much larger and not surrounded with fur.

      • Doone00

        …the fuck?

        • Deborah

          For real. Additionally, fecal matter collected after a cleansing and vitamin regimen can be equally as nourishing provided the young have been vaccinated.

  • As cruel as it sounds it makes a lot of sense. I can’t imagine being
    a tiny little ball of fur with 10 babies to care for. I’d be eating my
    babies out of stress too.
    endüstriyel mutfak malzemeleri
    pastane ekipmanları

  • Yes, one of the horrors of my childhood.
    sineklik, oto cam

  • Very Interesting Article, Definitely something about hamsters i had no idea about. As a landscaper i guess i should pay more attention to the goings on in the garden

  • comelnya