Hamster sleeping in hand

Do Hamsters Hibernate?

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One of the things that people tend to wonder when they get a hamster is whether it hibernates or not. As you may already know, many small animals do hibernate during the colder months and seasons. Some also hibernate in times when there is a food shortage. You may notice that your hamster goes into a deep sleep every so often. When this happens, some pet owners tend to worry, but you should not. Let’s take a quick look at what’s going on with your hamster.

Do Hamsters Hibernate Or Not?

The simple answer is no; they don’t. Hamsters are not ‘true hibernators.’ That is to say that they never enter the dormant state that you will notice in other mammals. When these animals enter the state of dormancy, they shut many of their systems down. This trick helps them to conserve energy for as long as possible. Animals will slow down their metabolic rate so that they don’t need food during this period. Hamsters are not capable of entering this phase. Hence, they are not hibernators.

Why Do They Enter A Deep Sleep?

While they don’t enter the dormant phase, hamsters can enter a deep sleep. Many pet owners think that this stage is a form of hibernation, although it is not. Hamsters originate in hot countries, such as Syria. They don’t do well in the cold weather, and so have defenses to avoid it at all costs. When the temperature drops, you may find that your hamster enters a deep sleep for a short period. This phase is torpor dormancy. Since hamsters are endotherms, they can keep their body temperature at a stable level. That means that they can keep themselves warm, despite their cold surroundings. When hamsters are in this phase, they may appear to be hibernating. You should know that this stage is not true hibernation, although it looks quite similar.

How Long Do Hamsters Sleep For and Why?

Often, when a hamster enters a deep sleep, it can stay in that state for around two-three days. It’s important that in your home you purchase a safe well constructed cage for your pet hamster.  In the wild, the winter would have been a hard time for hamsters. After all, food would have been scarce, and the temperature would be too cold for them. During these periods, the best things for hamsters to do was to conserve what little energy they had. That meant that they had to sleep for short periods. The video below shows a hamster in the process of waking up from topor dormancy.

How Can You Tell Whether Your Hamster Is Asleep Or Dead?

When your hamster goes into a deep sleep, you want to be sure that it is not dead. Of course, many pet owners worry that their pet is dead when it is asleep. So, how can you tell the difference? Well, it can be quite hard. If your hamster is sleeping in its nest, it is likely in a deep sleep within a state of topor dormancy as discussed above. If it is asleep somewhere else in its cage, there may be a problem. It may help to gently handle and warm the hamster up and see whether it wakes. Increasing the heat slightly within the room should also help to gently wake the hamster just as in it’s native environment.

If you’re thinking of getting a hamster then you can read about taking care of hamsters and learning about what they like to eat in this post.


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