Hamsters are convenient pets because they are not particularly demanding. When you buy hamster food, you will not have to break the bank, and a cage and some comfortable bedding will make your hamster’s day. Therefore, you might be surprised to see that all your hamster does all day long is sleeping. There is a simple explanation for that: hamsters have the same sleeping patterns as those in the wild.
Why do hamsters prefer to be active at night?
Whenever you bring a new pet into your household, you should know what habits he or she has, and what kind of animal you want to make part of the family.
Like other animals, hamsters live in the wild, too, and, even if they are bred and sold to become pets, they have the same habits and demands as their siblings who do not live in cages, close to humans. That said, you need to know that hamsters are prey animals, which means that they need to go searching for food at night.
The nighttime serves as a cover against predators. Since animals that could hunt them are asleep at night, it makes perfect sense for hamsters to be active then. That’s when they do all their foraging for food that they store so that they could eat from it whenever they are hungry.
Of course, your pet will not have to do that since you carefully supply him or her with food and water regularly. Still, that doesn’t mean that your pet doesn’t share the same habits as his or her wild counterparts.
Another thing you should know about hamsters is that they have a very high metabolism which requires food and water once every few hours. That is why, from time to time, you will notice your pet waking up for that even during the day. Nonetheless, once these basic needs are satisfied, any hamster will go back to sleep right away.
Can hamsters be considered nocturnal?
In the light of the explanation above, you may feel tempted to believe, and rightfully so, that hamsters are nocturnal creatures. However, it appears that scientists don’t agree on this point of view, and there are plenty of experts who believe they are more crepuscular, in the sense that they prefer to be active in low light conditions.
Such scientific debates shouldn’t bother you since all you need to know is when and why your hamster sleeps. To put it simply, hamsters sleep throughout the entire day, or what we call daylight hours, and they become active once the sun is down and there’s no natural light anymore.
As mentioned earlier, the sleep cycle of hamsters has a solid root in how these creatures live in the wild. Besides the presence of predators that are active during the day, you should know that hamsters don’t like high temperatures either. In many places where they naturally live, the temperatures during the day can get quite hot.
For them, adapting to these natural conditions meant preferring the nighttime to be active. This is the time when they forage for food, they socialize, and even when they mate. In case you want to breed hamsters, that’s a little bit of information you should be aware of.
Another thing you should understand as a hamster owner is that the sleep cycle of your pet is the result of thousands of years of evolution. That is why you can’t argue with a sleepy hamster. He or she knows that daytime isn’t safe. No matter what you do to make sure your pet feels safe, that is no match for this thousand years old habit.
Also, hamsters have been kept as pets for less than a century, so you can’t expect domesticated species to overwrite what their natural evolution ingrained so deeply into their genetic makeup. In other words, your pet follows the same patterns as his or her ancestors, without questioning that at all.
Since your pet likes to sleep during the day, make sure that his or her cage is not placed in an area where they will be a lot of noise. It is ideal that your hamster gets used to the presence of people around, but that doesn’t mean that it should be in the middle of all the regular household activity as a rule.
Hamsters like being cozy, and that is why their place to sleep must be comfortable. They also prefer bedding that is thick enough so that they could burrow in it. It is one of their defense mechanisms as they need to remain hidden from predators. You know well that there’s nothing for your pet to worry about, but he or she doesn’t know that.
You do not actually have to do anything but supply the raw materials. Shredded paper tissues and some hay are enough for hamsters to create some really comfortable beds where they will sleep throughout the day. Be aware that bedding that is too fluffy might cause a hamster to choke and die.
Why you shouldn’t disturb a sleeping hamster
If you intend to get a hamster, this is one thing you should know well. Your hamster will sleep during the day, and it’s never a good idea to wake him or her up. It is the same if someone came and woke you up when you were sound asleep. A hamster will be just as surprised and confused as you would be under such circumstances.
The most challenging could be to convince your kids to leave the family’s hamster alone. Being so cute and fluffy, a hamster looks like the most tempting pet to play with. Now, this is the type of temptation you should resist, and also teach your kids to avoid stressing out the hamster by waking him or her up to play.
Hamsters will fight back if they feel startled by having their sleep interrupted. They might bite you and become irritated and aggressive. That’s certainly not the way you would like to interact with your pet. So, for everyone’s sake, just let your pet sleep without any interruptions.
Sleeping patterns may vary from one pet to another
All the information listed above is general and applies to different degrees to all hamsters. However, you should always be aware that individuals can be quite different, just like humans are. Your cousin may like to go to sleep with the chickens, while your best friend may have no problems burning the midnight oil more often than not.
Such things happen with hamsters, too. That means that you should pay attention to the sleeping patterns your pet has, and not any other. Also, by noticing sleeping patterns that may appear out of the norm, you can identify some problems that you are not well aware of.
For instance, hamsters like to sleep at temperatures that vary between 68F and 75F. In case the environment temperature drops too much, you will notice your hamster sleeping longer hours. That could be a sign that the animal finds the surrounding temperature too cold, and starts behaving like on the point of entering hibernation.
Temperatures that are too hot can also be a problem, so avoid this situation, too. In case you notice anything unusual in your pet’s sleeping habits, and you feel there’s a solid reason to worry, a good idea would be to take your hamster to a vet.
If sleeping patterns suffer changes, that doesn’t automatically means there is something wrong with your pet. However, if you notice other signs, such as lack of appetite, aggressiveness, or apathy, that could be a good moment to take your pet to see a veterinarian.
Always keep the bedding inside your hamster’s cage fresh, and give your pet enough food and water. As for how much he or she sleeps, don’t forget that habits formed throughout thousands of years can’t be changed easily.