If you are considering adding a pet hamster to your family, in order to make an informed decision you will want to consider the average lifespan of pet hamsters.
While the life expectancy of a hamster is not that long (unfortunately), you will still be able to enjoy your furry friend’s company for a couple of years, if you provide him or her with good care and appropriate nutrition.
From a scientific viewpoint, it might surprise you that there is very little conclusive information about the lifespan of hamsters.
Laboratory hamsters tend to have a shorter life expectancy than their pet relatives, often due to husbandry shortcomings (small cages, no fresh foods in their diet, co-habitation with other hamsters).
Therefore, all scientific data on hamster lifespan can be taken with a grain of salt, and it’s a safer bet to rely on anecdotal evidence on pet hamster life expectancy.
Syrian Hamster Lifespan
How long do Syrian hamsters live?
The lifespan of a Syrian (also called Golden) hamster typically lies between 1 and 2.5 years, the average being 1.5 to 2 years. In veterinary practice, any Syrian hamster older than 1.5 years is considered elderly.
Female hamsters that have had at least one litter have a significantly lower life expectancy than males or unbred females.
Dwarf Hamster Lifespan
How long do Dwarf hamsters live?
Dwarf hamsters often live longer than Syrians, with a life expectancy that depends on the species. Roborovski dwarf hamsters (often called “Robos”) have an average lifespan of 3 years, and are regularly reported to live to see their 4th birthday!
Siberian dwarf hamsters (who also go by the name of Russian or Djungarian hamster) live between 1 and 3 years, occasionally longer. The lifespan of Campbell dwarf hamsters and Chinese dwarf hamsters is a little bit lower, with an average of 2 – 2.5 years.
The current Guinness record for world’s oldest hamster stands at 4.5 years and is held by a UK-owned hamster of unknown species (though it’s probably safe to assume it was a dwarf hamster, rather than a Syrian).
Wild Hamster Lifespan
It is surprisingly hard to get accurate data on the lifespan of hamsters in the wild, as these small, mostly nocturnal animals are not easy to study!
Some sources state that the average lifespan of wild hamsters is much lower than that of captive hamsters, while others think that wild hamsters actually live longer than their pet counterparts.
The reality probably lies somewhere in between: While it is true that pet hamsters often suffer from diseases that are caused by poor nutrition and lack of exercise (wild hamsters can walk over 5 miles in one night!), they are also far less likely to perish from infections or fall prey to a raptor.
Hamster Life Expectancy Summary
How long do hamsters live?
If you take good care of your hamster, providing him or her with a balanced and appropriate diet as well as plenty of exercise, you can hope to spend up to 2 – 4 years with your cheeky little friend – with a little bit of luck.
 Johnston, R. 1985. Communication. Pp. 121-148 in H Siegel, ed. The Hamster: Reproduction and Behavior. New York, NY and London, U.K.: Plenum Press.
 Asdell, S.A., Joshi, S.R. 1976. Biology of Reproduction 14, Pp. 478 – 480. Reproduction and Longevity in the Hamster and Rat. Cornell University.
 Chen, Michael. “How Long Do Hamsters Live?”. Pet Gear Planet 2017.
 The Dwarf Hamster: A Guide to Selection, Housing, Care, Nutrition, Behaviour, Health, Breeding, Species and Colours (About Pets) ISBN 978-1-85279-210-7
 Hamann, U. 1987. Zeitschrift für Säugetierkunde, Pp. 65-76. “Zu Aktivität und Verhalten von drei Taxa der Zwerghamster der Gattung Phodopus Miller”. (In German).
 Hamsters For Dummies. 2007. p. 8. Hoboken: Wiley Publishing.
 Sherwin, C.M.. 1998. Animal Behaviour 56. Pp 11–27. Voluntary wheel running: A review and novel interpretation. Animal Behaviour, 56: 11–27
Nina has a degree from the Veterinary School in Zurich, with a special focus on microbiological research. Nina has a passion for sports, nutrition and the outdoors and she loves all pets, but rats have a special place in her heart. When she’s not working or reading and writing about all things related to pet health, she loves to travel and surf.
As a small animal veterinarian, Nina is your go-to expert on pet health and nutrition.