The Hamsters That Just Won’t

By: Johanna Marano February 26, 2017

I am senior here at Delaware Valley University. I will be graduating in May with a degree in Small Animal Science with an English minor. As a part of my major’s curriculum, I am currently enrolled in a reproduction course. This course is to cover the basic principles of reproduction in both small and large animals. It focuses on the areas of endocrinology, gamete physiology, andrology, fertilization, and assisted reproduction techniques. We have to be familiar with normal reproduction in males and females, understand the control and manipulation of animal reproduction, and know the basic procedures for breeding animals. So as you can kind of see, it involves a lot more than just putting two animals together and hoping they breed.

One of the components of the class is to actual breed two animals of your choice. My partner and I have chosen to breed hamsters. The small animal labs on campus do not have many hamsters and are looking for more. So we figured if we could successfully breed our hamsters, the lab would have more hamster babies to work with.

When my teacher first explained the breeding project, it seemed easy enough, especially for hamsters. All you had to do was put the male and the female together in a cage and they would just, well you know, go at it. The only slight complication would be that the male had no clue what was going, but with a little coaxing from the female he would eventually get the hang of it. Then once they started to do their thing, it would be next to impossible to get to them stop. They would go at it for six or seven times, which by that point you needed to just pull them away from each other.

Well let me tell you folks, it is NOT that easy. For whatever reason, all of the female hamsters down in the lab want nothing to do with the act of reproducing or I guess the responsibilities of being a mother.

My partner and I placed our female hamster with a prospective male and were highly disappointed. We thought our timing was impeccable given that our hamster was in estrous, meaning she was at the prime time for mating. But when we placed her in separate cage with the male, she was not in the mood. The male, who is usually clueless, was very engaged and ready to get it on. Our female on the other hand, sniffed a little bit and that was it. Otherwise she ran around the cage like a lunatic, while the male desperately tried to mate with her. She let him try over and over again, until finally she snapped and tried to attack him. When that happened we immediately pulled them apart and play time was over.

We tried to get them to mate twice and both times played out as I described above. Maybe it was because we tried twice in one day and the time span in between the two times was not super long. It was a few hours max. But our optimal window for her to be in estrous was running out and we were trying to make the most of our time. We will have to wait another four or five days until she was back in estrous again.

So as of right now, there are no potential hamster babies. But it is not only us; the other groups are struggling with their females too. Our teacher plans on purchasing a substance that can be given to the female that will hopefully entice and encourage them when they are placed with their male counterpart. We will continue trying and hopefully before the end of the semester I will end up with some baby hammies. So please send happy thoughts and prayers mine and my hamster’s way. We need it!

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