As a new pet hamster owner, one day, you might find your hamster appear dead. In this situation, you may wonder, did your hamster pass away or just playing dead?
Under certain conditions hamsters do play dead. Wild hamsters use this behavior as a defense mechanism again predators, but pet hamsters playing dead might indicate serious concerns, such as anxiety, depression, stress or extreme level of fear.
The domestication of hamsters started only a few years ago. Before this time, hamsters adopted several behaviors to help them survive in the wild, where they were at risk of starvation and falling prey to several animals.
The practices have taken time to adapt and have been passed down to generations of hamsters. As pets, these behaviors will not automatically disappear and, in fact, often persist through a hamster’s lifetime.
In the wild, a hamster’s first instinct is to run and hide when it feels threatened. There are, however, times when there is no place for the hamsters to run to or hide when facing a threat. In this instance, the hamster might play dead until the danger has passed.
Playing dead points to extreme anxiety in your pet hamster, and you should immediately remove the threat if possible. If the hamster is outside its cage or your house, consider placing back inside its cage so that it feels safe.
Unfortunately, it is not easy to differentiate if your hamster is sleeping, playing dead or dead. Below is information to help you understand these behaviors in your hamster.
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 in 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?
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 that 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 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.
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.