Learn to read hamster body language
You'll quickly learn your hamster's quirks on your own. Here are some common hamster behaviors that you'll see.
Very hamster-like activities!
Just in case this is your first hamster and you have no idea what hamsters do. Here's a primer:
- Hamster Hibernation (or deep sleep) - hamsters will sleep more than usual and deep sleep when the temperature dips lower than 60F/16C. This is not a full hibernation where they sleep through the winter.
- Hamster Hoarding - hamsters love to hoard their food. It's a instinct passed on by their wild ancestors that often face food and water shortages.
- Hamster Hideout - hamsters live in burrows in the wilds. In your habitat, hamsters like to sleep and stay in their hideouts, under bedding, and in tight spaces with cover. My hamster sleeps in a space about 3 x 3 x 2 inch hub even when there's plenty of other, open spaces to choose from.
Image courtesy of hamsterH on flickr
- Grooming or Scenting - hamsters love to groom their fur. They'll comb their fur down. This may also look like scenting. They love to mark their territory and trail with their scent. They'll touch their paws on the back end of their eyes where there are scent glands and pad it on the ground.
- Running - hamsters usually wake up in the evening and will run for hours on their exercising wheel. Make sure to provide a good one as they love it. But they can also become addicted to it if there is nothing else for them to do or explore.
Happy body language
- Sleepy - hamster goes to hideout and says there
- Active - pads around, grooming, exploring, sniffing, scenting
- Relaxed - yawning, stretching
- Excited - some hamsters may do flips and leaps when they're happy
- Curiousity - sit on hind legs and sniffing the air or walking around, sniffing
- Alert - sitting on hind legs, still, watching and waiting for anything to happen
Frightened and aggressive hamster behavior
- Nervous/Hesitant - hamster will walk around slowly (especially in unfamiliar territory) and carefully
- Flight - hamster may dash for a safe location if you startle it
- Protective - hamster stays on hind legs with paws up to protect itself form attacks
- Aggressive - hamster lies on back, baring teeth, and legs ready to push away if anything pounches on it
- Sounds - hissing indicates aggression while squeak may indicate intense pain
When you start to become familiar with your hamster, you'll be able to notice what doesn't look right. In those situations, be careful that you're not the one provoking the aggressive behaviors and then figure out what's bothering your hamster. Otherwise, enjoy seeing your hamster relaxed and ready to play with you!