The phrase ‘phantom pregnancies’ isnt really easy to research on google.
I have saved everyone the hassle of trawling the internet for facts and done it myself so you can find it all on here!
What is a phantom pregnancy?
This is where your hamster appears pregnant (all curvy in the middle, tetchy, nesting lots and nipples all noticeable) but never gives birth to a litter. The gestation period (15-18 days for Syrian hamsters) passes by and your hamster gets slim again, or back to normal without giving birth to babies.
Why do these happen?
Its not entirely known why these happen.
One possibility is that the female hamster is stressed out (particularly common for first time mummys) and maybe doesnt feel safe enough to give birth to her litter. This can lead to ‘absorption’
What is ‘absorption’?
This is when the mummy reabsorbs the litter growing in her belly into her body. Sounds gory right? Well its basically a defence mechanism for little hamsters who will protect their litter if they feel in danger for any reason. They wont give birth to them and instead will reabsorb the unborn babies back into their bodies.
How can you prevent phantom litters?
Well there is no set way to 100% guarantee avoidance of these phantom pregnancies but there are things you can do to try and better the chances of a successful litter.
- Dont disturb the females cage throughout the pregancy. Period.
The scent of your human hands can threaten a pregnant hamster and cause all sorts of difficulties. This is the most common cause of the mummy hamster eating her babies after the birth because if them babies dont smell like the mums, then she will eat them out of instinct!
- Hold the female less during the pregnancy.
If they get stressed out or even dropped accidently then it can make her panic and the risks of absorption higher.
- Provide plenty of food and high protein foods whilst the female is pregnant.
If your hamster is worried about starving before the babies are even born then she will cull the litter at risk of them starving or even just absorb them before they’re born.
What should you do if your hamster does have a phantom pregnancy?
Its best to just leave the lady be for a week or two after your expected birth date because there could still be a chance of a late bloomer! Hold regularly for short periods of time but do not introduce her to back to the male as it could lead to a big fight that could turn VERY nasty. She needs to rest and get back to her normal self before you attempt to breed her again!