Do female hamsters go through periods or heat cycles? I understand symptoms may include a pungent white discharge and aggression. Is there anything I need to do during this period to soothe my hammy?
Afemale hamster does go through heat cycles but she does not, however, menstruate or have any bloody discharge (unlike in female humans and dogs).
When she is on heat, she will be more receptive to male hamsters to mate. The white discharge often emits a strong odour to attract potential mates. Your hammy is more sensitive to the touch— especially along her back and near her backside area—because the female hormones induce such sensitivity for mating to take place.
The reason she gets more aggressive is that there is a spike in oestrogen within her body, making her more territorial and possessive. It is important that you handle a female hamster on heat slowly and gently, and give her privacy and hideouts using a hamster house, plenty of bedding and even shredded tissue to allow her to build a nest should she choose to. Ensure she has access to plenty of fresh water, a healthy amount of fresh greens and that her appetite is good. Monitor your hamster’s urine; often it will be more pungent due to the white vulva discharge during her heat cycle. Clean out the litter, tissues or nest regularly to prevent bacterial build-up in her surroundings.
Heat cycles can occur as frequently as every 60 to 80 days, and each heat duration can last for three to seven days. During this period, it is best to isolate her from other hamsters—especially males if you are not intending to breed them.
As mentioned, hamsters do not menstruate. Hence, any blood stains or blood clots indicate abnormal discharge and the possibility of infection. In some older hamsters, they can be prone to womb thickening and cancers. It is advisable to bring her for a veterinary examination if there’s abnormal discharge from her private parts. A vet will perform a full physical examination to ensure appropriate medications are given to prevent or cure any infections. Should your veterinarian suspect womb swelling or cancer, surgical removal of the womb may be performed as the last resort of treatment.
Expert: Dr Grace Heng Veterinary Surgeon B. V (Sydney) Resident Veterinarian at The Joyous Vet