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Home » Complete Guide to Hamster Behavior and What It Means

Complete Guide to Hamster Behavior and What It Means

Hamsters are small, cute, and friendly animals that everyone loves. And some of their behaviors are adorable, however other behaviors may have you questioning whether your furry friend is okay. Jumping around, running like crazy, licking their cage, walking slowly, or not moving at all may be behaviors that have you questioning their health and wellness.

The good news is that in this article, we’re going to cover all types of hamster behavior and tell you whether that behavior is good or bad and what you need to do next. For some actions, there’s nothing to do because it’s common behavior. However, for others you’ll want to take them to the vet as soon as possible.

So without further ado, let’s jump in. But first, because this is such a long article, if you want to jump to any specific section, feel free to click any of the links below in the table of contents.

Table of Contents

    Why is My Hamster Running Around Like Crazy?

    Why is my hamster running around like crazy

    The most common reason for hamsters to run around like crazy is boredom. Hamsters need stimulation, toys, and other types of activities, such as wheels to keep them busy and occupied in their cage. Otherwise, they may start running around erratically.

    If your hamster is bored, they may run around in a seemingly crazy manner. The fact that they don’t have anything to do causes them to just run around their cage. To know if boredom is the reason, take a look at their cage and see what activities they have to do. Do they have a wheel? Are there tunnels they can explore? A plastic home?

    If your hamster cage looks sparse, think about adding more components to give your hamster something to do. Finished toilet paper rolls, wheels, small boxes, and more are all quick and easy ways to solve your hamster’s boredom issue.

    Why is My Hamster Suddenly Jumpy?

    Stress and anxiety are the most common reasons for your hamster suddenly becoming jumpy. When hamsters are stressed, they tend to exhibit those feelings in a physical way by acting anxious and nervous.

    Why is my hamster suddenly jumpy

    Keeping your hamster relaxed and happy is important to them living a long life. When hamsters get anxious, they get jumpy and that stress can cause negative health effects and decrease their life span. Sounds like the same behavior in people, right?

    That’s because it is the same behavior. Every animal or mammal can become stressed, but we exhibit that stress in different ways. Hamsters exhibit stress by being overactive, digging, scratching, and more. Basically any behavior that looks jumpy. So if you see theses types of behaviors, then your furry friend may be feeling stressed or anxious.

    To reduce your hamster’s stress and anxiety, make sure they have these 3 things:

    • Lots of things to do and toys to play with, such as wheels, boxes, or toilet paper rolls
    • Enough shelter to hide and burrow, such as a plastic home or kleenex box
    • Free from dangerous or stressful stimuli, ex. think a big housecat staring straight into their cage

    By giving your hamster a safe and engaging cage, they will be less stressed and less jumpy.

    Why is My Hamster Shaking?

    Hamsters shake because they are exhibiting a generally negative feeling, such as stress, anxiety, feeling scared. They can also shake when they have a physical ailment, such as a sickness.

    If your hamster is shaking, it’s generally a good idea to try and identify why they are shaking because that behavior is almost always accompanied by something negative. Whether it’s mental or physical, there is something amiss with your furry friend that you will want to resolve ASAP.

    A hamster may shake if they are feeling stress, anxious, or scared. You obviously can’t ask your hamster what’s wrong, but you can take a look at their cage or environment and identify areas that may be causing those feelings. Do they have enough toys? Sufficient shelter? Is there something in the wrong that is causing them stress? Has anything changed recently that is correlated with this new behavior?

    You’ll want to identify issues and start by solving them one-by-one. Make sure they have enough toys to be engaged, sufficient shelter, and are comfortable in their cage away from predators (ex. house cats) and nothing has changed in their environment that is causing them stress, such as a change in temperature.

    If nothing seems to be amiss with their cage or environment, then the shaking may be caused by a physical illness. If you feel this is the case and see other physical behaviors, such as lethargy, then it’s best to take your hamster for a vet check-up. While articles online can give you ideas of what your hamster may be going through, it’s best to get a vet check-up for anything physical.

    While shaking can be something minor, it can sometimes lead to major health issues. As a result, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

    Why is My Hamster Walking Slowly?

    A hamster walking slowly can mean it is lethargic or sick and if it is a common occurrence, you should take monitor their behavior and take them to the vet if it doesn’t improve. Hamsters are generally fast moving and energetic animals, which means walking slowly isn’t in their normal behavior.

    If your hamster is walking slowly, it can mean many potential things. Not all are bad, but the most important thing you should look out for is whether this is sustained behavior or just temporary.

    For example, your hamster may walk slowly when they wake up, after they eat, or after a long run on the wheel. All of that is normal behavior and they generally start moving faster soon after.

    On the other hand, if your hamster is walking slowly throughout the day, not exercising, and accompanied by other worrying behaviors, such as not eating, then it may be a more serious issue. It’s never a bad idea to take your hamster to the vet when you’re worried about their physical or mental health. Sometimes a quick vet visit can end up saving their life.

    To recap a slow walking hamster, ensure that it’s only temporary and would occur when you would normally expect it to happen, such as after eating. If it is prolonged throughout the day or accompanied by other worrisome behaviors, then it’s time for a visit to the vet.

    Why is My Hamster not Moving?

    Why is my hamster not moving

    A hamster may not be moving because they are sick or feeling lethargic. If they haven’t moved for a while and this is unusual behavior, it’s best to take them to the vet to ensure they are not sick or need medical attention.

    Hamsters are generally fast moving animals who like to explore, engage, and run around their cage. So when they stop moving, you may be concerned for their health, which is an appropriate response. You’ll want to look for other signs as well. Do they look sick? Are they not eating? Are they not drinking? Not exercising? Are they exhibiting any other odd behavior?

    If you answered yes to any of those questions, you may want to visit the vet to get a professional’s opinion. Every scenario is different and it’s not possible to diagnosis any sickness or illness via an online article.

    However, one thing to keep in mind is that sometime’s hamsters just don’t move. Maybe they’re sleeping, relaxing, tired after a long run on the wheel, or just full after a big meal. It’s the context and other behaviors that you want to consider when deciding if this is a serious enough issue for a visit to the vet.

    Why is My Hamster Rolling on Their Back?

    Hamsters roll on their backs because of a few reasons: They are either trying to bathe, looking for attention, they’re feeling scared, or they’re itchy and trying to scratch that itch.

    As we’ve seen with lots of types of hamster behavior in this article, there are many reasons why a hamster may do something. Their behavior could indicate stress, happiness, sickness, or just be completely normal. And that’s the same outcome we may see with a hamster rolling on their back.

    The easiest way to tell whether this behavior is positive or negative is to look at other behavior and context clues. Is your hamster eating and drinking normally? Are they moving slowly and acting lethargic? Are they not as active or running on their wheel?

    Knowing whether their other types of behavior are normal or odd can help you uncover why your hamster is rolling on their back. If they’re eating normally, being active, and rolling around on their back, then it’s probably just an itch to be scratched, they’re trying to bathe, or looking for attention.

    If they’re not eating normally and not being active, then they may be stressed or scared. And in some more serious cases, they can even be physically ill. In this scenario, you should call your vet and get a professional opinion on how to proceed.

    Why is My Hamster Trying to Escape?

    Hamsters try to escape because they may be feeling confined in a small cage or they’re curious and want to explore more of the environment around them. The solution here is to make their cage larger and add tubes, as well as letting them out occasionally.

    No animal in nature is confined to such small spaces as little cages. That doesn’t mean it’s always a bad thing if the animal is safer and taken care of in a comfortable cage, however it’s in their brain to want to explore and escape. That’s why you may see your hamster trying to escape your cage. And it generally happens for 2 reasons.

    The first is that they are feeling confined. If your hamster’s cage is small and/or limiting with minimal views out into the world and not much to do inside the cage, they will likely try to escape. As a solution, you should expand their cage by purchasing a larger one, adding tubes for your hamster to go outside of their cage and look around, as well as adding toys and other items to engage them.

    The second reason is that hamsters want to explore. They’re generally curious, but cautious animals and you should try to give them more of the world to explore. A great option is a plastic ball with breathing holes that you can put your hamster in and they can roll around your room or home, while staying safe and protected. They can also get a lot of exercise.

    As a result, if your hamster is trying to escape it’s likely because they are either feeling confined or want to explore.

    Why is My Hamster Breathing Fast?

    The most common reason for your hamster breathing fast is that they are tired, overheating, and dehydrated. This normal behavior often comes after doing a vigorous exercise, like running on the wheel for an extended period of time.

    Not all behaviors are warning signs that your hamster may be sick or have an illness. Just as humans often breathe fast after exercising, hamsters exhibit that same behavior. So if you see your hamster running on the wheel or doing donuts in their cage and then breathing fast, that’s completely normal and they should eventually catch their breathe, take a drink, and be back to normal.

    The time to be concerned about your hamster’s fast breathing is in any of these scenarios:

    • It happens all of a sudden and not after exercise
    • If it lasts for a long time, such as more than 5 minutes
    • If it sounds labored and like they’re having a tough time breathing

    These can be signs of a respiratory illness, which is something hamsters are quite prone to. As a result, if you see your hamster breathing fast with any of these symptoms, it’s time to take them to a vet to get more thoroughly checked out.

    Why isn’t My Hamster Active?

    If your hamster isn’t active and acting lethargic, then they may be physically ill, which is cause for concern to take them to a vet. If they aren’t sick, but still not active, then they may not have enough items and toys to get them engaged and active.

    Why isn't my hamster active

    Hamsters are generally energetic and active animals, especially during the night since they are nocturnal. However, if you start to notice your hamster being less active, moving slowly, or lethargic then you’ll want to investigate and address the problem sooner than later. And there are generally two main reasons why this could be happening.

    • Physical illness
    • Boredom and little engagement

    Physical illness is one of the most common reasons for inactivity in a hamster and should be addressed as soon as possible. Catching an illness early on is key to taking care of it before it causes any significant harm to your hamster. And the best way to do this is to take your hamster to the vet. Only they will be able to run the tests and examine your hamster up close to understand what they may be going through.

    The second reason why your hamster may be inactive is just that they are bored and have little engagement within their cage. If this is happening, there are a few things that you can do. First, make sure they have all of the necessary toys and items in their cage to keep them active. A hamster wheel is key, toilet paper rolls, kleenex boxes, and tubes that extend out and back into the cage are all great at keeping your hamster engaged and active.

    And you should try to take your hamster out of their cage at least once a day. You can hold them, let them run around outside their cage in a confined space, or put them in a hamster ball and let them roam about.

    Keeping your hamster active is good for their health and you’ll want to do everything you can to make that happen.

    Why Does My Hamster Climb the Cage?

    Hamsters love to be active and climbing a cage is just another way to do that. If you see your hamster climbing their cage, it’s perfectly normal behavior and is a common way for them to burn energy and stay active.

    Why does my hamster climb the cage

    As we’ve mentioned before, hamsters are active animals. They are little balls of energy and they’re constantly trying to expel that energy in any way possible. Hamster wheels are a great example and why they’re so common in almost every cage.

    One of the other lesser known ways that hamsters burn their energy is climbing their cage. In the wild, hamsters climb trees, bushes, logs, and anything else they can get around. So naturally it makes sense that when they’re put in a cage made of essentially monkey bars, they’ll climb it.

    There’s nothing to worry about if your hamster is climbing their cage. It’s just a fun and active way for your hamster to get exercise and explore.

    Why is My Hamster not Eating?

    If your hamster isn’t eating it is likely because they are either sick, stressed, or scared. Hamsters eat when they feel safe and happy and if they aren’t eating, they are likely not feeling good.

    While hamsters aren’t anything like people, all animals and humans possess similar traits. One of those is the feeling of safety and comfort. If your hamster isn’t feeling well, the first thing they’ll stop doing is eating. And there’s two big reasons why hamsters won’t eat: they are physically ill or they are stressed and/or scared.

    This is helpful information to know because you can use it to identify any potential issues and resolve them as quickly as possible. Often times catching these issues as soon as possible can help your hamster make a speedy recovery.

    In previous sections of this article, we’ve covered why your hamster may not be active or moving slowly. All of these negative behaviors are likely due to some other stimuli or lack thereof. For example, if you have a cat that constantly watches the cage and takes swipes at your hamster, they may be feeling stressed. And when they feel stressed they likely won’t eat.

    As a result, you should try and identify reasons why your hamster may be feeling stressed, scared, or physically ill. If they are sick, then it’s best to get them to a vet. For feeling stressed or scared, you’ll want to resolve those issues as soon as possible

    Why Can’t My Hamster Keep Their Balance?

    If your hamster can’t keep their balance, they are likely sick or have an ear infection. Much like humans, a hamster’s ears help them keep their balance so if you see them falling over or difficulty walking, it’s best to get them to a vet as soon as possible.

    Most mammals use their inner ears to stay balanced. And hamsters are no exception. Because of that if you see your hamster having a hard time keeping their balance, the most likely cause is an infection of their inner ear.

    The causes can vary, but it’s important that you take them to a vet to be fully checked out.

    Why is My Hamster so Hyper all of a Sudden?

    The main reasons why your hamster may become hyper all of a sudden is if they’ve become bored or stressed out. They can also act hyper if they are younger and naturally have more energy.

    By nature, hamsters have a ton of energy. That’s why hamster wheels exist, just to get all of that energy out in a compact and efficient way. But sometimes you may notice your hamster becoming even more energetic than usual. If this happens it’s probably because they’ve become bored or stressed out and are trying to exert as much energy as possible to combat those feelings.

    Have you looked in your hamster’s cage recently? Do they have enough toys or items to keep them engaged? Do they need new toys or items to pique their interest? Is there anything you can add that may make them less bored or stressed?

    If you can add more engagement points to your hamster’s cage, you should do so! And try switching out their current toys with new ones every so often. Hamsters are energetic animals, but if they start to become even more hyper, you may need to make sure they have new toys or items to keep them engaged.

    Why Does My Hamster Stare at Me?

    Why does my hamster stare at me

    Hamsters stare for a number of reasons, including a desire for food, curiosity, they’re just feeling happy, and they’re watching out for threats. It’s hard to ask a hamster why they’re staring, but often times it’s one of those feelings.

    The good news is that hamsters generally don’t stare when they are feeling bad. Their staring is generally accompanied by any feeling a person might feel, such as curiosity or joy. Sometimes your hamster be watching for threats, but as long as there are no threats in your home, there’s no major issue.

    You should feel happy that your hamster is staring at you. Because often times it’s a sign that they are interested and happy. If they were scared, they would likely hide or try and burrow themselves out of sight. By sitting out in the open and staring, they are making themselves more vulnerable, which means they feel safe.

    However, sometimes the staring can indicate that the hamster wants something. So if they are staring, do a quick check to make sure that they have sufficient water, food, and toys to play with. While staring is often accompanied by feelings of joy or curiosity, it may also indicate that the hamster wants something from you.

    Why is My Hamster Licking the Cage?

    Hamsters lick their cage because they are marking their territory with their scent or trying to eat taste what is on the cage, such as sweat and/or other cleaning products. Generally it’s not an issue, but you should be careful to clean with only hamster safe products.

    It’s quite cute when hamsters start licking their cage and it’s generally a passive behavior. Unlike many of the other behaviors in this article, licking a cage is not immediate cause for alarm. Many times your hamster may just be entertaining themselves by licking their cage.

    The biggest concern with your hamster licking their cage is that they may be ingesting any cleaning products or chemicals that you’ve used to clean their cage. And that can be harmful. So the next time you clean their cage, make sure to use a hamster safe product or completely wipe down the chemicals after using them.

    Finally, your hamster may be trying to ingest the salt that appears on the bars from your hands or their sweat. Sometimes hamsters like to taste the salt and this is generally okay, but you’ll want to make sure that they have a full and balanced diet and aren’t deficient in any nutrients.

    Why Does My Hamster Keep Scratching?

    A hamster scratches itself because it has a skin irritation, such as an allergic reaction, fleas, or just dry skin. Resolving the issue is important to prevent any damage or harm as a result of the scratching.

    Generally, hamsters scratch themselves for the same reason we do; they’re itchy. And they’re often itchy because of 3 possible reasons:

    • Allergic reaction
    • Fleas
    • Dry Skin

    Those are the 3 most common reasons why they may scratch themselves and the scratching itself isn’t an issue per se. However, if the hamster scratches over and over, they can inflame the area and cause bleeding or other irritations. As a result, it’s important to get the cause of the itching under control as soon as possible.

    You may need to investigate for an allergic reaction. Was there anything new added to their cage recently? Did you change their diet? Otherwise if everything has remained the same, then the cause might be fleas or just dry skin.

    There are special shampoos that can help with both fleas and dry skin. And if your hamster is continually scratching day after day, you should try to resolve the cause with any number of special hamster cleaning products.

    Additional Reading

    If this article wasn’t enough and you’re interested in reading more about hamster behavior, check out these articles below:


    Phew, that was a lot of information. But very handy information to have and be available to you whenever your hamster may exhibit the behaviors above. It’s important to know what is passive behavior and what is potentially dangerous that requires a visit to the vet.

    Hamsters do a lot of things, so you’ll want to know what needs to be addressed as soon as possible and what is just quirky behavior from our furry friends. We hope this article was helpful and provided useful information. And we’ll be back with more helpful information in our next article!