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A dozing hamster is a common sight for an owner of this burrowing rodent. Though they often sleep the daylight hours away, hamsters can be quite noisy when the sun goes down, just when many pet owners are falling into their own natural sleep cycles. A hamster’s sleeping habits are biologically driven, and they are impacted by environmental factors.
Hamster Sleeping Habits
Captive hamsters are typically nocturnal in nature, according to 2008 research published in the journal "Biology Letters." Some owners report their hamsters are active at dawn and dusk, or crepuscular. This stems from hamster behaviors in the wild. The journal researchers note that, in their natural habitat, hamsters exhibit the most activity in the early morning and early evening, with little to no activity at other times of day. Captive hamsters are less crepuscular, more nocturnal. To their owners, though, captive pet hamsters may seem perpetually drowsy since they spend the majority of the day asleep. They usually rise early in the evening to pass the night away in a state of busy activity and exercise, according to Pet Education.com. Since they love to eat, though, it's not unusual that they sometimes awaken from daily slumber to snack and hydrate. These brief daytime food breaks tend to occur intermittently and help serve the hamster’s naturally high metabolism.
Hamsters put a great deal of effort into making cozy, nestlike beds in which to sleep. Experts at Boston’s Angell Animal Medical Center, a veterinary hospital run by the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, recommend preserving a hamster’s comfy self-made bed, as long as it is clean. You can carefully remove the bed from a cage during cleaning, then place it back inside the clean environment. Be gentle with it. If the bed itself is dirty, provide fresh bedding -- aspen shavings or soft paper shreds -- that the hamster can use to craft a new sleeping space.
Much like their human companions, many hamsters do not take kindly to being awoken from slumber. The experience of being shocked awake can, in fact, be very stressful for them. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, hamsters may nip or bite when stirred from daytime sleep. Disrupting the hamster’s natural sleep cycle is a mistake made by owners who innocently want to enjoy their pets during daytime hours.
Cooler temperatures induce what appear to be deeper, longer sleeping habits in hamsters. As temperatures drop, you may notice decreased pet activity. Cold temperatures produce hibernation behaviors, which can sometimes be misinterpreted as typical sleep or even as death, according to Pet Education.com. During hibernation, hamsters’ breathing slows considerably; they may not stir at all. Hamsters thrive best in temperatures between 68 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the ASPCA.
Becoming familiar with your individual hamster’s habits and sleep tendencies can help you identify unusual changes in behavior. If a pet hamster shows a marked decrease in activity or abnormal disinterest in food, seek immediate veterinary care, as these may be symptoms of disease. Hamsters are small, fragile creatures that require swift medical attention for illness.
- "Biology Letters": Golden Hamsters are Nocturnal in Captivity but Diurnal in Nature
- Hammy's World: Why Does My Hamster Wake Up Late?
- Pet Education.com: Golden Hamsters as Pets: Husbandry and Care of Syrian Hamsters
- Humane Society: Hamster Feeding
- Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Hamster Care and Adoption
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Hamster Care
- Pet Education.com: Housing and Environment for Hamsters
- hamster lunch time image by cat from Fotolia.com