Hamster behaviour

Behaviour logo © RSPCA publications and brand 2010

Ensure your hamster is able to behave normally


Hamster Nesting © iStockphoto

Hamsters need:

  • Plenty of space to play during the night. Wild hamsters are usually active only at dusk and night time - they can run up to 5 miles a day. 
  • To sleep undisturbed. Hamsters rest and sleep during the day. 
  • Lighting times that are fairly predictable in the room where they live e.g. keep them in a room where the lights are not left on till late at night, or where regular hours are kept. 
  • A deep layer of litter, if possible, in which they can dig and construct a burrow, see Home cage for Hamsters (PDF 254KB)
  • Space to exercise and appropriate enrichment. A running wheel can help, but additional opportunities are also necessary and the wheel shouldn't be the only enrichment provided. 
  • A good quality wheel with a large diameter e.g. one intended for rats. It must be a solid structure and axel-free for the safety of your pet; ideally with a non-slip running surface. If your hamster develops sore feet, remove the wheel temporarily and seek veterinary advice.
  • To be kept warm during the winter as this will help prevent them for going into hibernation. While hamsters can hibernate with no issues, some concerns have been reported. If they do go into hibernation, making sure they are in a warm (but not too hot) place should result in them waking within a short period. Make sure that they have plenty of fresh water, fresh food and nesting material, and check them regularly. If you are at all unsure contact your vet for advice. Wild hamsters hibernate during the winter but wake up periodically to feed. 
  • Supervising if you let them out of their cage (when they have become tame) to see they don't stray or get up to mischief. If you have another pet e.g. a dog or cat, ensure your hamster is safe. Never leave a hamster out of their cage unattended or overnight. 
  • Their whiskers - they're very important for exploring objects, because their sight is very poor. Never trim your hamster(s) - whiskers.


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