Do Hamsters Have A Spine?

By Dawn | Hamster Facts
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We are all familiar with our own anatomy, and one of the most essential parts of our structure is our spine. This series of bones allows us to remain upright and keep us stable; it’s no wonder that people who cannot stand up for themselves in a figurative sense are said to have no backbone. But hamsters are a little different from us, so do hamsters have a spine?

Hamsters are vertebrates, which is a fancy term for a creature that has a backbone, so yes, they do have a spine. Although, unlike our spines, which are rather rigid, the spine of a hamster is much more flexible.

So, perhaps hamsters aren’t all that different from us after all, aside from the fur and four legs, of course. But let’s take a closer look at this interesting topic. 

Hamster Spines

When we use the word spine, we are referring to a long series of small bones known as vertebrae. These bones are connected to one another and form a larger structure known as the spine, or sometimes, the backbone, as it runs the length of the back. 

However, the word spine can also refer to long quills which are seen on some animals such as hedgehogs and porcupines. Hamsters do not have these but instead, have a fur coat.

Back to the backbone; you could be forgiven for thinking that hamsters do not have a spine at all because, for the most part, you cannot see or feel it. 

A healthy hamster should have enough weight on it that the spine is buried beneath fur, fat, and other tissues, although you should never allow a hamster to become obese. 

Syrian hamsters have between 43 and 44 vertebrae, and while the outer part of their tail may seem small, there are actually fourteen vertebrae in the tail. Many of these will be where you cannot see them. 

Now, while the spine of a human is rather inflexible, yes, we can move in a variety of directions, but when you compare it to a hamster, you will appreciate what I am saying. Hamsters have spines that are extremely flexible, and this is not by chance. 

In the wild, these tiny creatures need to be able to burrow under the ground, and it can get pretty tight under there. For this reason, their spine is much more easily able to bend in all directions, allowing the hammy to burrow into enclosed spaces wherever it needs. 

You might notice how the spine bends when you see your hamster stretching after a sleep and they will undoubtedly contort their body into positions that we could only dream of. 

As we mentioned, a healthy hamster’s spine should not be visible, nor should you be able to feel it clearly. By this, I do not mean that you shouldn’t be able to feel it at all, but you will notice that it is covered in a thick layer of fur and flesh. 

The bones should not feel at all sharp; if they do, this could be a sign that your hamster is underweight.

Why Is My Hamster Underweight?

Hamsters don’t tend to be slim creatures and typically have a good layer of insulation. If you notice that your hamster is looking a little on the skinny side, there could be several reasons for this. 

One of the first questions to ask is whether your pet has lost their appetite recently. Just like humans, a hamster will lose weight if they are not eating enough. 

If this is the case, there could be an underlying health problem, so it is a good idea to have it looked at by your vet. 

You might consider the housing situation; if several hamsters are sharing one enclosure, it could be that this hamster is not dominant and therefore does not have such ready access to food. 

However, the weight loss could also be due to problems with the teeth, which are causing issues when your hamster tries to eat. The weight loss may also be a result of parasites.

How To Help A Hamster Gain Weight

If your hamster’s spine is showing and you have determined that they are otherwise fit and well, it may be time to put your hamster on an increased diet to help them regain some of the lost weight. 

It is no good simply ramming your hamster’s cage with food and hoping for the best; you will need to carefully control their diet and manage the process responsibly. 

Foods that are high in protein are a great way to encourage weight gain. Hamsters are known to love a bit of boiled or scrambled egg, so this is a good place to start. You should offer this on top of the normal hamster mix as a supplement.

Other options for boosting your hamster’s protein levels might be mealworms and small pieces of chicken, but make sure to cook this before giving it to your pet. 

There are also plenty of hamster treats available in pets stores, and regular treats can be a way to keep your hamster at a healthy weight. That being said, it is important not to do this too frequently, or you may find that the weight problems go in the other direction, and the hamster becomes obese. 

Related Questions

Do hamsters have periods?

Hamsters are mammals, and as such, their reproductive cycle is similar to ours, albeit much shorter. Hamsters will have a period, but this is not the same as humans. Every four days, the female will come into heat, which means she will be receptive to breeding. Hamsters are pregnant for just sixteen days.

How do I tell if my hamster is happy?

Hamsters are energetic when they are happy and will likely spend a lot of their waking time playing, burrowing, and eating. If you notice these behaviors, it is likely that your pet is happy. Conversely, if a hamster is dormant, this could be a sign that there is something wrong.