While many describe hamsters as nocturnal, meaning they’re active in the evening and sleep during the day, that’s not actually the case for most.
“Most hamsters are crepuscular, meaning they are active at dusk and dawn,” says Erin Ramsey, co-president with Melissa Brown of California Hamster Association in Southern California, and owner of Cheeks and Squeaks Hamsters. “They sleep in the day and parts of the night.”
Understanding and working with your hamster’s sleep schedule is essential to developing a good relationship with your tiny pet. It also affects your hammy’s health and longevity.
What is a Hamster’s Normal Sleep Schedule?
Each hamster is an individual, but these prey animals naturally wake to forage for food at night, since in the wild that’s the safest time to be out while avoiding predators. That said, they will wake some during the day to eat and drink water, but it’s generally short periods of time and then back to sleep.
It helps to be a night owl yourself if you want to spend time interacting with your hamster. This also depends on your hamster species, because different varieties have distinct sleep schedules and needs.
For example, “Dwarf hamsters are known to be awake occasionally during the day while with Syrians it’s rather rare,” Ramsey says.
Accommodating Your Hamster’s Sleep Schedule
Trying to alter your hamster’s sleep schedule is stressful for your pet and can cause poor health and unfriendly behavior. A hamster who is disturbed frequently during the day will become cranky and is likely to bite.
“Just like us, the natural sleep schedule is always best,” Ramsey says. “Each animal has a unique personality but, in general, you will have a less cranky hamster that gets it beauty sleep.”
Ramsey recommends learning your hamster’s natural sleep schedule and giving your pet the quiet time she needs. In time, your hamster may adjust a bit to the general household schedule as well.
Steps to Accommodate Your Hamster’s Sleep Schedule
1. Learn your hamster’s schedule, and plan to handle and play with her during her natural waking periods.
2. Schedule cage cleaning, meals and handling for the late afternoon or evening.
3. Place your hamster’s cage in a dark, quiet area where she can sleep comfortably during the day and where her digging, scratching and wheel-running won’t disturb you in the middle of the night.
4. Provide a cozy enclosed space, such as a small box or clay pot turned on its side, where your hamster can sleep. For example, the Lixit Critter Space Pod Hideout gives small animals a convenient place to burrow, next, rest or just hang out. An added feature is that it comes apart to make cleaning easy.
5. Include clean, fresh bedding to meet your hamster’s natural instinct to burrow and build nests. Choose something absorbent and similar to what your pet would choose in the wild.
6. If you need to waken your hamster, talk to her quietly as you change her food and water. Your voice and the activity will bring your tiny pet out of her slumber.
7. Wake your hamster at the same time every day to help her develop a regular schedule.
“Hamsters generally will wake up for dinner time and go back to sleep when the family goes to bed, and then up again for breakfast,” Ramsey says. “This is a generalization, but it’s the most common hamster schedule.”
By: Audrey Pavia
Featured Image: Via shawn_ang/iStock/Thinkstock