hamster in the wild Are hamsters allowed outside and can they survive in the wild?

Are hamsters allowed outside and can they survive in the wild?

Many owners wonder if they can keep their hamster outdoors, or at least let it outside from time to time.

After all, fresh air should not harm him, right?

In this article you will find out whether a life under the open sky for hamsters is really as paradisiacal as it first appears.

In order to answer the question whether hamsters are able to survive outside or in nature, we have to distinguish between wild and domesticated hamsters and between different species.
Wild hamsters vs. domesticated hamsters

Basically, hamsters are creatures of nature.

The wild living representatives of the small animals cope with the respective conditions in their area of origin, because they know nothing else. They get the “genetic blueprint” from their ancestors, which enables them to live (survive) outside.

With the hamsters in our latitudes, however, the matter looks different: They are domesticated and largely adapted to life as pets – each new generation of the little scurryers a bit more.

It would mean their certain death if they were suddenly released into the wild.

Do not keep gold and teddy hamsters outside under any circumstances

Most hamster species cannot survive outdoors simply because they originate from other climatic zones and are not made for the weather conditions in Central Europe.

These include the popular Gold and Teddy hamsters, whereby the Teddy is a subspecies of the Goldis.

For the Syrian medium hamsters, temperatures below 15 °C feel terribly cold. Under these circumstances it easily happens that they take refuge in a kind of hibernation and enter a “Sleeping Beauty Sleep”.

In concrete terms, this then looks like the hamsters

lower their body temperature,
consequently cool down and
all processes in the body slow down and
as with the death freeze.

It is anything but certain that the small animals will awaken from this intense sleep.

In any case, hibernation carries a high risk – apart from the fact that it would be a waste for hamsters to have to spend a large part of their already very short lifespan of 2 to 3 years in this way.

Dzungarian dwarf hamster as a small borderline case

Dwarf hamsters cope better with cool temperatures than medium hamsters.

This is especially true for the Dsungarian Dwarf Hamster. The wild-caught offspring of the species still have nature in their blood and often see the light of day in breeding communities where they are not artificially warmed.

Originally, the Dzungarian Dwarf Hamster comes from the bitterly cold steppes of Siberia, which is why it is well adapted to the winter season. It adapts its metabolism and develops a dense white coat to avoid freezing and to camouflage well in the snow.

But: For offspring of domesticated Dsungars as well as for Campbell dwarf hamsters and hybrids these “laws of nature” apply only conditionally or not at all. Therefore, it is not advisable to keep hamsters outside – especially since there are so many dangers lurking that threaten all hamster species equally.

Hamsters are exposed to these dangers outside

Heat, cold and temperature fluctuations, noise, odors and other animals, and poisonous plants: The range of influences that can harm your hamster outside is enormous.
Heat, cold and temperature fluctuations

Heat and cold as well as temperature fluctuations are very hard on hamsters.

Even golden hamsters, which are native to warm climates, can quickly suffer heat stroke in a hot environment with temperatures above 25 °C (77 °F). In their homeland, the free-living rodents spend the hot time underground during the day – only at night, when it has cooled down a bit, do they venture out.

And the opposite side of the temperature scale? When it’s frosty or wet, all domesticated hamsters catch cold easily.

Whether in the garden, on the balcony or on the terrace, outside your little rodent would be exposed to all these temperature-related effects. Therefore, it is better not to keep your hamster outside.

Whether in the garden, on the balcony or on the terrace, outside your little rodent would be exposed to all these temperature-related effects. Therefore, it is better not to keep your hamster outside.

Stress due to noise and odors

During the day, almost all hamsters primarily want one thing: to have their peace and quiet.

Unlike our species, these small animals are nocturnal. In return, they sleep all the more during the day and do not tolerate any disturbance – otherwise this can have a negative effect on their well-being and health.

Now imagine if your hamster had to listen to traffic noise, yelling neighbors or other background noise during its relaxation time. This would most likely be the case outside, as noise can never be completely ruled out even in inherently quiet areas.

Besides noise, unfamiliar smells can also gnaw at your hamster’s mental and subsequently physical substance. The small pet has a very fine nose. Intense scents, no matter what kind, are commonly perceived by hamsters as extremely unpleasant.

Just think what could be “wafting” towards your rodent outside – strong smells of food, plus exhaust fumes and cigarette smoke are just a few examples. And just the two last-mentioned influences work naturally also on hamsters health-damaging.

Who means now to let the hamster then evenly in the calm night now and then times outside, it is still said that hamsters can suffer sudden changes of location just as little as noise and intensive smells.

The hamster as a found food for cat and Co.

And then there are the other animals. Every bird that flies by becomes a stress factor for the hamster. Not to mention predators such as cats or martens, for which hamsters are literally a meal waiting to be eaten.

With the rodents, which surpass rabbits and guinea pigs once again, which concerns the smallness, hunters have easy play on four paws.

Dangers from foreign animal droppings and poisonous plants

When scurrying around in the garden, on the balcony or on the terrace, it can happen that your hamster nibbles on plants that are poisonous for him – and unfortunately there are many of them.

Furthermore, there is a risk that your rodent will help himself to the droppings of other animals and infect them with diseases.

Scurrying climber: Hamster can fall or escape

Two scenarios you certainly don’t want to happen:

  1. your hamster is moving freely on the balcony of an elevated floor. He is an accomplished climber by nature and curious. It can happen so quickly that he acts carelessly in his euphoria and falls off the balcony, which he probably would not survive. It is also conceivable that he could get lost somewhere and not find his way back.
  2. your hamster lives in an outdoor enclosure in the garden, just standing on the ground. As a passionate burrower, he digs a tunnel through the ground in no time and makes a run for it.
    What an outdoor enclosure for hamsters should look like

So let’s keep in mind: You could theoretically keep a Dzungarian Dwarf Hamster outside, as long as it comes from a wild-caught breed.

For all other hamsters, even short trips outside are generally not recommended.

But let’s deal with the case that you adopt a small dsungarian “nature boy” and want to keep the rodent species-appropriate and safe outside.

What would you have to do?

Well, you would have to build a suitable outdoor enclosure – with the following features:

  • Base area of at least 1.5 x 1.5 m, height of at least 1 m
  • embedded in the ground (so that the hamster can dig in and protect itself against heat and frost)
  • safe for burrowing and escape (e.g. old fish tank made of concrete)
  • with small holes in the bottom or partial roofing (so that water can drain off)
  • predator-proof but human-accessible structure above the enclosure
  • Planted grasses and shrubs plus hiding places on the surface

Building an outdoor enclosure for hamsters that meets all of these criteria is enormously difficult, as well as costly and time-consuming.
Can you really reconcile this with your conscience?

Even if you don’t spare any costs or efforts, there are still a few questions of conscience that you should ask yourself before you actually put this ambitious project into practice:

How will you intervene in the event of illness?

What do you do if a foreign hamster of the opposite sex somehow finds a way into the enclosure through a leak and reproduces uncontrollably with your rodent?

These are situations in which you should not react if you want to keep your hamster close to nature. But you would logically have to act to save your pet. However, your intervention could in turn cause stress and harm the hamster as well.

Are all these risks worth keeping your hamster outside?

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