8 facts about hamsters that I guarantee you didn’t know!
Whether you’re thinking about getting a hamster or have been keeping one for a long time: These 8 facts about rodents are guaranteed to surprise you and significantly expand your knowledge.
Let’s not waste time and start right away!
Are hamsters awake all night?
Hamsters are nocturnal – you know that for sure.
But are they awake all night long?
It’s not quite that easy to answer. The phases of wakefulness depend on different factors:
State of health
Influences during the day
If your animal has its rest during the day and can sleep undisturbed, is healthy and adult, but not yet old, it is very likely to be awake the whole night. During this time it looks for food, moves around a lot and cleans itself extensively.
If, on the other hand, it is a baby hamster or a senior citizen, the rodent may sleep for some time in between. Energy and stamina are simply different in these phases.
However, your hamster will be most active at dusk and dawn.
That is why hamsters are only conditionally suitable for (small) children: They only wake up when children need to sleep and are sensitive to disturbances during the day.
In addition, they themselves can cause restlessness during the night.
However, their evolutionary activity is a great advantage in the wild and in some cases as pets.
On the one hand, the hamsters escape predators or predators. On the other hand, their senses are adapted accordingly. This means that hamsters can easily find their way around blindly.
In the case of clouding of the eyes, complete blindness or even loss of the eyes, the animals can still orient themselves via the sense of smell and hearing, even without any changes.
Can hamsters get herpes?
Yes, it is quite possible. Just as they can become infected with other diseases in other pets or humans, the herpes virus is not uncommon in hamsters.
In severe courses, primarily the central nervous system is affected. This can cause considerable limitations.
If you carry the virus yourself, you can infect your hamster with it!
Typical symptoms are nerve pain, weight loss and aggression. The animal may appear fatigued and powerless. Since the characteristic herpes vesicles are usually absent in hamsters, only appropriate laboratory findings provide information.
Restrictions in movement and sudden changes in behavior should be considered in any case and serve as a reason to consult a veterinarian.
Although a cure is not possible, the symptoms can be alleviated and appropriate precautions taken. These include adequate hygiene and distance from your hamster, but also caution when cleaning the cage.
In addition, the cage and all furnishings should be disposed of rather than using the hamster home or toys and food bowls for another animal. This will reduce the risk of further infection.
Also avoid contact that could lead to virus transmission.
Petting your hamster and then grabbing your face can increase the risk. You should also avoid your hamster’s contact with other animals.
Can hamsters be bitten by mosquitoes?
Yes, hamsters can get mosquito bites. Wasps and bees can also bite hamsters – though it is rare.
Since the animals are mostly hairy, body parts with less fur are the preferred biting sites. This includes mainly the paws, the nose and also the ears.
In case of hair loss, other body parts such as the back and abdomen may also be affected.
The consequences of a mosquito bite are no different in hamsters than in humans. Itching, redness and swelling at the site of the bite are possible. In addition, the area may be warmer than the surrounding skin.
Are mosquito bites dangerous?
No, mosquito bites are usually not problematic.
However, complications can occur: For example, if bitten on the nose, it can swell so much that breathing is difficult. At the eyes, vision may be restricted and in the area of the mouth, eating and drinking may be impaired.
If an allergic reaction occurs, the swelling can also become very large.
Tearing of the skin, inflammation or a negative impact on overall health are rare, but pose potential dangers.
Likewise, your hamster may scratch or rub itself open due to the itching. On the one hand, this will result in hair loss and possibly a bald spot. For another, an open wound may form that is susceptible to invading germs.
This can result in an inflammation that requires treatment. In addition, mosquitoes can transmit diseases.
Fly screens on the windows can significantly reduce the danger.
Why do hamsters live such a short time?
There are several factors that influence the lifespan of the hamster. Among them is the breed. Roborowski dwarf hamsters, for example, live up to four years, significantly longer than the Chinese dwarf hamster, which on average does not even live two years.
In addition, there are numerous predators in nature, such as foxes, birds of prey or snakes.
Many hamsters therefore do not even reach their first birthday.
As a pet, this risk does not exist. Diseases, such as infections, can be avoided when keeping them, as well as injuries caused by fights or falls, lack of water or malnutrition.
However, hereditary diseases or an increased susceptibility to them are still given and can only be compensated to a limited extent even by high-quality food and medical care.
In addition, it is genetics that is responsible for the short lifespan.
The rodents are comparatively susceptible to infections, injuries and organic diseases. These include diabetes, kidney failure and intestinal obstructions or general digestive problems.
Because of their size, the body’s reserves are depleted more quickly – for example, in the case of a diarrheal disease such as wet tail disease. Dehydration and malnutrition therefore not only occur after a short time, but are also more likely to be fatal.
Also dependent on size is heart rate. This is already very high in a healthy and young hamster. If there is a lack of exercise, stress or overweight, the risk of heart failure or even a heart attack is additionally increased.
Evolutionarily, however, hamsters are designed for these risk factors and are well adapted to the resulting short life span.
They reach sexual maturity within a few weeks of birth and produce numerous offspring, preserving the species despite the numerous dangers to the small animals.
Can hamsters play dead?
In some ways, hamsters can certainly play dead. The condition is also known as rigor mortis or shock rigor.
If the rodent perceives a (supposed) danger, it freezes in motion and can maintain this position for some time. Thus, if it was just flat on the ground while doing this, it may act like playing dead.
The behavior may seem odd when kept as a pet in a secure cage or hamster home. However, in the wild it is a sensible adaptation and can save the hamster’s life.
Since rodents are active at dusk and at night, predators with similar sleeping patterns can become a danger. However, some of these can only sense their prey when they are moving.
If the hamster falls into rigidity, it camouflages itself and is more difficult to recognize.
In addition, it also conserves its own strength and reserves, because escape consumes energy. In areas with a low food supply, this is problematic. If, on the other hand, the hamster keeps still, it has both camouflaged itself and saved calories.
In addition, while hamsters can run fast relative to their size, they are still at a disadvantage in terms of speed without proper protection. So unless they can immediately escape into a hallway or other narrow shelter, rigor mortis is more likely to occur.
If it occurs regularly in the pet, you should adjust the housing conditions. Because then the hamster often feels stress. Typical triggers are noises or smells of other animals as well as fast movements.
Can hamsters climb?
Hamsters are not climbing animals that climb trees or find themselves in particularly mountainous regions, but they can climb without any problems. It exercises their muscles, coordination and endurance, keeps them busy and occupied.
For these reasons, you should include climbing facilities in your hamster’s home! Branches and twigs are ideal, but wooden stairs and stones can also be suitable.
However, you must pay attention to some factors.
First and foremost is safety. Hamsters must not fall from great heights or fall onto hard surfaces.
The risk of injury is high.
Keep the distances between the floors small. Also, choose a thick layer of soft bedding under the climbing area.
In cages with bars, as well as in the free run, you must also pay attention to other risks.
Your hamster can get stuck in curtains or between bars. Stairs or ladders with gaps between the steps cause the same problem. If the hamster falls, it can lead to serious injuries.
Interruption of blood flow to broken bones and dislocated joints are possible. This can lead to the need for amputation or even death.
Also, secure the roof of the cage or hamster home.
Even if it is well above the top tier and does not contain climbing features such as bars or branches, the hamster can move upward in a corner, possibly causing it to take a low fall or even fall out of the cage.
So make sure you have a secure cover.
Can hamsters drink from a bowl?
Drinking from a bowl is no problem for hamsters. In nature, they also drink from puddles or other accumulations of water. Some animals even prefer to drink from bowls or dishes rather than water bottles.
Because hamsters can become dehydrated quickly, they need to have ample options available for water intake.
You should therefore provide several options. Water in a shallow dish or small bowl, in a water bottle, and in the form of water-rich food will improve supply and may prevent health problems.
When offering water in a bowl, make sure it is not too deep. Otherwise, swallowing or inhaling the liquid can occur, especially with very young animals or sick hamsters. In addition, water in a bowl gets dirty more quickly. Litter, dust, food scraps and even feces can be carried in or get in when your hamster digs extensively.
So the water needs to be changed frequently and the bowl cleaned daily. Otherwise, there is an increased risk for digestive problems and other diseases.
Another potential problem is that both the bedding and your hamster can get wet.
Damp litter is an ideal base for mold!
This in turn poses a health hazard and can weaken the body’s defenses, among other things. A wet hamster can also quickly become hypothermic and subsequently fall ill. Therefore, make sure that the bowl is small and stable.
Everything about hamsters and water can be found here.
Can hamsters become depressed?
Yes, hamsters can suffer from depression. This can not only be deduced from the behavior. Evidence can also be found in the altered brain chemistry.
So hamsters (unfortunately) have all the prerequisites to be depressive.
There is always an increased risk if the husbandry is not species-appropriate and your animal is exposed to an increased stress level. Research in this area is far from complete, but it has been shown, among other things, that sleep plays a crucial role in the development of depressive symptoms.
If the hamster cannot sleep in the dark or is repeatedly disturbed during the day, the risk for psychological problems increases.
Since hamsters are nocturnal, this can be difficult.
Therefore, choose a quiet location and place a blanket over the cage if necessary. Lowering the blinds or drawing the curtains may also be necessary.
In addition, you should include a deep layer of bedding and sleeping houses made of natural materials in the cage. They provide shelter, the opportunity to retreat, and keep daylight out. This corresponds to a species-appropriate husbandry, since your hamster can create passages.
It is still important to provide adequate activity and exercise opportunities.
Hamsters are unbalanced and can even become aggressive if they are not kept busy. To be able to create corridors already helps. In addition, a large floor space, a running wheel and climbing opportunities are useful.
This increases the well-being, your hamster can live out his natural urge to move and also the physical health benefits.
Also, keep in mind that depression does not always manifest itself through apathy and listlessness. Restlessness, aggression and obsessive-compulsive disorder are also possible.
Caution: Every hamster is unique
Although our list of surprising hamster facts stops here for now, we have one final piece of important advice for you!
You should think of each hamster as an individual. Some are very shy. Others adapt to your daily rhythm and are already waiting for you to come home, begging, following you around and being taught tricks.
Even in littermates, the differences in character can be very great: so you may have a true climbing genius as a pet, or a rodent who prefers to sit on your lap.
As with any other living creature, you get a surprise package!
In addition, a lot depends on how you arrange the husbandry and from whom you adopt the hamster. If the rodent was raised lovingly and species-appropriate, he is usually more trusting and balanced. If he knows a lot of variety, he is usually less skittish and possibly even more creative.
So you can be curious what special features your hamster has in store.
My name is Mark and the senior editor
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I have spent a lifetime learning about pets and animals, and have worked in the pet and vet industry for over 20 years now!
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