It’s always a really unfortunate situation when a pet as cute as a hamster has died.
Sometimes being able to tell if they have actually passed away or not can be hard to tell though.
So to help out fellow hamster owners I combined a little bit of research as well as used some of my own experience to put together a list of different ways to tell if your hamster is actually dead or not.
That way there won’t really be any confusion at all when it comes to the death of your pet hamster.
Table of Contents
When A Hamster Has Died They Get Into The Fetal Position
One of the first ways that you can tell if your hamster is dead is if they are in the fetal position and they’re not moving.
Most of the time when a hamster dies they get into something that looks like the fetal position while laying in one of the corner parts of their cage or even in their little homes.
When they get into this position this is something that you can see from afar and while you’re close to their cage as well.
What this looks like is the head of the hamster will be near their front paws while they’re usually laying on one of their sides.
You will also see that their back paws will be near their front paws while they have their stubby tails tucked in as well.
This usually looks different from when they are just sleeping because when they’re in the fetal position they will be curled up a lot more than usual.
Also, hamsters are usually very active at different times throughout the day so if they are in this position around the time that they’re mainly active, then you’ll know that something is wrong with them.
So if you do notice that your hamster is in the fetal position especially during the times when they’re usually active then they may have unfortunately died.
Rigor Mortis Will Set In For A Dead Hamster
Another way to know if your hamster is dead is if you notice that rigor mortis has already set in.
When a hamster has died they will feel stiff to the touch if you try to pet them or touch them in any way.
Their muscles will feel stiff and their whole body will just generally feel harder than it usually does.
The limbs of your hamster won’t be able to be easily moved if you try to lift one of their paws up, and this goes for the rest of their body as well.
So all of their muscles and joints will feel like they’re almost hardened or locked up rather than feeling soft.
This is something that you can check yourself if you think that rigor mortis has set in and your hamster is dead.
You can do that by trying to move your hamster by pushing a single part of their body gently.
If their whole body moves but stays stiff instead of just the part of the body that you pushed, then rigor mortis most likely has set in and your hamster has passed away.
You Won’t See Your Hamster’s Body Move From Breathing
If your hamster has in fact died then one of the things that you won’t notice is their body move as they breathe.
When they’re alive, hamsters generally breathe at a fast rate and this is something that you can see if you were to watch them while they’re sitting still.
But when a hamster dies and you look at their body you won’t see that type of movement anymore.
So if you think that they are dead then you’ll have to watch their chest area to see if it slightly moves up and down for a few or more minutes.
The reason why you’ll need to check for this movement for a few minutes or more is that they can actually slow down how often they breathe sometimes.
They can slow down their breathing rate by taking about one breath every couple of minutes, but this mainly happens when they hibernate.
So because of that, it can be hard to tell if they’re actually dead or hibernating, and that’s why you’ll need to check to see if their body is moving as they breathe for a few minutes or more.
If you don’t see that movement at all then you’ll know that your hamster is unfortunately dead.
When A Hamster Is Dead They Won’t React To Anything That You Do
A hamster that has died will not respond with the natural reflexes that they’ll usually respond with at all.
They won’t react in any way to you picking them up, and when you do pick them up their body will be stiff from rigor mortis.
If you try to rub their body or poke them in a soft way you’ll also notice that they won’t fidget around at all. They won’t even open or close their eyes if you’re touching them in general but instead will remain unresponsive.
A hamster that is dead also won’t respond to any food or water that you try to give them.
While it might seem obvious if a hamster doesn’t eat or drink when you try to give them food and water it can be a good way to tell if they’re actually dead.
For example, when a hamster is dying they may sit in one spot very still because they don’t have that much energy to move, but if you put food in front of them they’ll make an effort to try to eat some of it.
However, when a hamster is dead you will see no movement and no reaction to the fact that food has been placed right in front of them.
Also, if your hamster has actually died then they’ll be unresponsive in general.
They won’t react to you touching them even when you’re consistently touching them.
And they also won’t respond to you when you’re speaking to them or react to any loud noises that are going on around them, instead their body will remain unresponsive.
Hamsters will naturally react to being touched or react to hearing loud noises most of the time because they’re prey animals.
So when they don’t have those natural reactions at all, then there is a high chance that they are dead.
You Won’t Be Able To Feel Your Hamster’s Heartbeat
One more way to tell if your hamster is dead is if you are unable to feel a heartbeat coming from them.
So if your hamster doesn’t look like it has a heartbeat then they may have died, but this is something that you’ll need to check for yourself to be absolutely sure.
One of the best ways to check to see if they have a heartbeat is by feeling on their chest.
What you would need to do is gently push two of your fingers into their chest and keep your fingers there for a couple of minutes.
If you feel a heartbeat but it feels faint then that means that they’re still alive, but if you don’t feel a pulse at all then you’ll know that your hamster is dead.
So this is a simple but effective way for you to actually know for sure if your hamster is unfortunately dead.
Knowing When Your Hamster Is Actually Dead Is Important
Knowing for sure if your hamster is actually dead or not is very important because you don’t want to make the mistake of thinking that they’re dead when they’re actually alive.
So by knowing and using these five different ways to tell if your hamster is dead you’ll be able to know for sure that they have actually passed away.
By telling when your hamster is dead, you’ll be able to come to the realization that your little friend won’t be coming back, unfortunately.
Once you do know that your hamster is gone then the grieving process can start and you’ll be able to heal as time goes on.