Hamster Senses

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How Well do Hamsters See, Hear and Smell?

Realizing that hamsters have different range of senses than humans will help you to understand your hamster better.  Some of the limitations or amplitude of your hamster’s senses will affect his behaviour, and if you understand this, you will not be puzzled or frustrated by your pet’s behaviour.  It can also keep your hamster safe.

Hamster Eyesight

The hamster has very poor eyesight.  Hamsters are born blind and as adults they are only able to see a few inches in front of his nose.  This makes them unable to tell when they are in danger of falling, because they cannot see that far.  For this reason, cages with several levels are not recommended.  Hamsters cannot tell when the floor drops off and they could fall from an upper level.  This can cause broken bones, internal injuries and even death.  It also means that you should not let your pet perch on your shoulder or hold him while you are standing – again, they can fall or leap to a tragic injury or death.

Hamster Hearing

In order to make up for their poor eyesight, hamsters have an extraordinary sense of hearing.  They can hear and communicate with each other using frequencies that humans cannot hear.  Hamsters will often freeze when they hear an unusual sound, then sometimes sniff the air for more information.  Because a hamster has such keen hearing, you must speak softly to your pet and make sure your hamster is not kept in a noisy area of the house.  Do not allow other pets to make loud noises around your hamster.  Barking dogs, in particular, can cause extreme stress for your hamster.  Children should be taught not to be loud or squeal around your hamster, as well.

Hamsters have delicate ears that can easily tear.  Be sure to be gentle with your pet’s ears, and make sure they are not injured in fights with other hamsters.

Hamster Sense of Smell

Your hamster uses his sense of smell to recognize other hamsters, to tell whether a hamster is male or female, to find food, and also to detect pheromones in hamster social situations.  Hamsters actually communicate with each other with pheromones (chemicals that are secreted from the body).  Male and female Syrian hamsters mark their territory with scent glands that are located on their hips.  Sometimes the fur around these glands is a slightly different color.

Because their sense of smell is so keen, make sure your hands are clean when handling your pet.  Scents on your hands can either make your pet agitated or want to nibble you.  (Hand washing before and after handling your hamster also helps prevent the spread of disease.)

Do not allow cats to lay on your hamster’s living quarters.  The cat’s scent of will cause stress for your hamster.

As a general rule remember, that your hamster’s eyesight is poor, and his other senses are more enhanced in order to compensate.

10 Comments on "Hamster Senses"

  1. Orla fallon | 27/02/2010 at 1:27 pm |

    If a dog is in another room and is barking and your hamster is in a bedroom,does it still hear the dog barking? And if your hamster can still hear it if u cover the cage with a cover lets say can that help it a bit. Im thinking about getting a hamster but i have a dog…

  2. can you cut your dwarf hamsters nails? and what those it mean if he rubs him against his cage walls?

  3. I need to know if they have any types of problems with taste or touch.Please add more information about hamsters? It is for my own good

  4. i got my hamster today and my cage has multiple levels and he fell off the top level and i was worried he could get hurt. what should i do to prevent him from falling over the wall again please help for my hamsters sake. :0

  5. JUJU find a way to put fencing around the levels. NOTHING with holes in it, because he could get stuck. Just some hard material that he can’t get through, under or over.

  6. I know ..dward Hamster is only poor eyesight

  7. yup thats right jonathan

  8. Gabriella | 23/06/2014 at 10:48 pm |

    I got my hamster two months ago at the start it was very agitated but now seems too have become used too her surroundings I just have a question, my hamster loves too chew on things so I’ve been putting in cardboard however I’ve (today) put in scented cardboard as it was holding bath bombs which were each singly wrapped does this pose a threat too my hamster? Thankyou

  9. I do not think the hamster has very poor eyesight.

  10. So you’re telling me that only dwarf hamsters have bad eyesight? I’ve got a Syrian hamster named Cookie.

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