Hamsters Playing Dead: The Surprising Truth about This Behavior

If you’re a new hamster owner, you might be in for a surprise one day when you find your little furry friend looking like it’s kicked the bucket. Don’t worry, though – there’s a good chance your hamster is just playing dead! While wild hamsters use this survival tactic to avoid predators, it could be a sign of something more serious for pet hamsters, like anxiety, depression, or stress.

hamster playing dead

Reasons Your Hamster is Playing Dead

As a hamster owner, I have experienced my pet playing dead several times. At first, it was terrifying, but as I learned more about this behavior, I came to understand why my hamster was doing it. In this section, I will share some of the reasons why hamsters play dead.

  • Hamsters play dead as a survival mechanism to avoid predators in the wild.
  • Hamsters may play dead when feeling stressed or anxious, due to a new environment, lack of space, or attention.
  • Illness or injury can also cause a hamster to appear as if it is playing dead.
  • Some hamsters may play dead to get attention from their owners.
  • Hamsters may play dead to get out of a stressful or uncomfortable situation.

One of the most common reasons why hamsters play dead is fear. When a hamster is scared, it will often freeze and remain still until the danger has passed. Playing dead is a survival mechanism that helps hamsters avoid predators in the wild.

Another reason why a hamster might play dead is because it is feeling stressed or anxious. Hamsters can become stressed or anxious for many reasons, such as being in a new environment, not having enough space to move around, or not receiving enough attention from their owner.

Illness or injury is another reason why a hamster might play dead. If a hamster is sick or injured, it may not have the energy to move around, which can cause it to appear as though it is playing dead.

In some cases, a hamster might play dead as a way to get attention. Hamsters are social animals and enjoy interacting with their owners. If a hamster is feeling lonely or bored, it may play dead as a way to get its owner’s attention.

Lastly, some hamsters may play dead to get out of a stressful or uncomfortable situation. For example, if a hamster is being held too tightly, it may play dead as a way to get the person to let go.

Prevent Anxiety, Depression, and Stress in Pet Hamsters

I have learned the importance of preventing anxiety, depression, and stress in my pet hamster. These conditions can have a negative impact on a hamster’s overall health and well-being. In this section, I will share some tips on how to prevent these conditions in pet hamsters.

One of the most important things you can do to prevent anxiety, depression, and stress in your pet hamster is to provide a comfortable living environment. Hamsters need enough space to move around and explore, as well as a place to hide and feel safe.

It is also essential to provide your hamster with plenty of mental stimulation. This can include toys, such as tunnels and chew toys, as well as opportunities to explore new environments, such as a playpen or outdoor enclosure.

Another way to prevent anxiety, depression, and stress in pet hamsters is to establish a consistent routine. Hamsters thrive on routine and will feel more comfortable and secure if they know what to expect each day.

Regular exercise is also important for preventing anxiety, depression, and stress in pet hamsters. Hamsters are active animals and need plenty of opportunities to exercise, such as running on an exercise wheel or in a hamster ball.

Lastly, it is essential to provide your pet hamster with plenty of love and attention. Hamsters are social animals and enjoy interacting with their owners. Regular handling and playtime can help prevent anxiety and depression in pet hamsters.

Is My Hamster Dead Or Sleeping?

Some pet owners understandably think that their hamsters are dead when they are sleeping because they hardly move. Hamsters in the wild will often sleep during the day to avoid running into predators.

They are among the most peaceful sleepers at this time because they have little to no threats. The animals will not bother if you try waking them up in captivity since they know that they are in a safe environment.

They also need the rest after hours of running around and being on their guard. If you are uncertain whether your hamster is sleeping or dead, check its ambient temperature, breathing and heartbeat.

How Much Do Hamsters Sleep?

Like humans, animals need to get enough sleep for them to remain healthy and active. Without adequate sleep, hamsters can become anxious and defensive or restless. Your pet will sleep for about 6-8 hours daily.

Some pet owners naturally assume there is something wrong with their hamsters when they sleep for more than eight hours. Remember that hamsters thrive in temperatures of 68-75 degrees Fahrenheit.

In winter, hamsters will sleep for more than eight hours because they hibernate. The pet’s metabolic processes at this point will slow down to preserve as much heat as possible. With a decreased body metabolism, other body processes will slow down.

This makes you think your pet is either dead or ill because the body is not so active. However, if this prolonged sleeping pattern is accompanied by a loss of appetite and increased lethargy, seek a vet’s opinion on what might be causing it.

Why Is My Hamster Sleeping All Day?

Most people erroneously describe hamsters as nocturnal. These animals are, however, crepuscular, meaning they are highly active at dawn and dusk.

They will sleep during the day and some points of the night. Chinese and dwarf hamsters are somewhat more flexible with their sleeping patterns compared to Syrian hamsters.

Some pet owners start changing their hamsters’ sleep schedules to match theirs so that they are comfortable. Disturbing the hamster’s sleep frequently during the day so that it sleeps soundly at night will, however, result in a cranky pet that bites.

Slowly learn your pet’s sleeping habits and accommodate them. For instance, you can schedule the cleaning and feeding of your hamster’s cage to the times it is awake rather than wake it up to feed or clean. The hamster’s cage should also be placed in a quiet place so that it enjoys a peaceful sleep.

How Can You Tell If a Hamster Is Dying?

A hamster’s life expectancy is generally 2-3 years. The precise lifespan of your pet depends on its breed, diet, environment, mental stimulation and physical activity.

Hamsters are incredibly sensitive and are easily affected by environmental changes and pathogenic microorganisms, among other elements. While some degree of discomfort is common in sick hamsters, here are some signs that a dying hamster might exhibit:

  • Lack of appetite: a reduced or total lack of interest in drinks and food is among the most frequent signs of a dying hamster. This is often followed by dehydration and a marked loss of weight.
  • Apathy and inactivity: hamsters are quite active. Their apathy and inactivity can point to an infection or stress. Unlike in stressed and sick hamsters, the indifference and inactivity in a dying hamster arise from an inability to move or a challenge reacting to environmental stimuli.
  • Pain: dying hamsters are often in pain which makes them hypersensitive. Therefore, they typically refuse to be held or stroked and might attack you if you try to do so.
  • Altered behavior: the pain and vulnerability in a dying hamster can lead to its behavior change. Some animals become more aggressive, fearful and nervous than they ordinarily are.
  • Altered vital signs: the breathing of a dying hamster will be choppy, the heart rate might slow down, and the body temperature might drop. The mucous membranes will also take more than two minutes to reclaim their typical colors when pressed. In poisoning cases, a hamster’s mucous membranes are bluish or whitish.

How to Dispose of a Dead Hamster?

Immediately after its death, place your hamster in a shoebox, paper bag, or towel to keep flies from settling on it and slow the decomposition process. Your two main alternatives for the hamster’s disposal are burying or cremation.

Cremation is generally more expensive compared to burial. A biodegradable pet casket is an excellent choice for burying so that scavengers do not dig up and eat your hamster’s remains.

Most vets have pet cremation services if you choose to cremate yours. You can also compost your dead hamster. The heat generated by compositing will quickly disintegrate the hamster’s body.

Wrapping Up

The above are general behavior tidbits for hamsters. To know the specific ones that apply to your pet, take time to study, and bond with it. This allows you to pick anything that is out of its ordinary behavior quickly and act accordingly.

avatar Jane
Jane is an experienced animal care specialist with a focus on rodents and small mammals, with over 10 years of experience in the pet industry. Her articles provide practical guidance on choosing the right pet and managing common health issues. Jane is an advocate for animal welfare and supports organizations dedicated to protecting wildlife. read more...

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