Although hamsters are born blind, they don’t spend the rest of their lives in that situation. You might be wondering if hamsters have good eyesight, especially due to their tiny yet adorable sizes. So how far can a hamster see?
A hamster can see up to 3-4 inches (7.6-10.2 cm) past its nose. Hamsters generally have poor vision compared to humans and other animals. However, other senses, including smell, touch, and hearing, are more developed.
Knowing how your furry pet sees the world is essential as it helps you understand their behavior better. This article discusses everything you need to know about a hamster’s vision. Keep reading to learn more.
Most people in the United States have the misconception that hamsters are blind. But, this is not the case. They’re only completely blind at birth and develop a vision as they progress into adulthood.
But how far can a hamster see?
Hamsters can see only a couple of inches past their tiny noses. Therefore, any object beyond that distance will appear blurry. Moreover, they don’t see well in bright light and perceive nothing in the dark.
Although hamsters can’t perceive faraway objects (unlike humans), they see better in low-light conditions, which explains why they’re most active at dawn or dusk when there’s dim light.
As nocturnal animals, you’ll find your hamster playing on the wheel or looking for food during nighttime when their vision is a bit better compared to daytime.
Since hamsters can’t see very far, they can’t tell how high or far an object is. Therefore, you might notice that your hammy will jump from your hand or climb high on their cages. That’s why it’s best not to have a multi-level cage for your hamster to protect it from potentially fatal injuries due to falls.
If you’re not sure about the ideal cage for your hamster, I’d recommend the Ferplast Favola Hamster Cage. It’s a spacious enclosure with a wheel and deep base to keep your friend active and entertained. Moreover, the cage comes with a feeding bowl and water bottle, minimizing your worries about how to feed your hammie hygienically.
The cage is available on Amazon. Thus, you don’t have to worry about buying it physically, even if you’re in Texas, the Dakotas, North Carolina, or any other state.
A hamster’s vision is not as developed as its other senses. However, hamsters’ poor eyesight is not a hindrance to their survival in their natural habitat as these tiny animals depend on their sense of smell and touch to survive.
How are hamsters’ eyes adapted to their function?
Hamsters’ eyes have similar components to human eyes, including the:
- Optic nerves
However, their eyes have some modifications to suit their environment. For instance, a hamster’s eye is almost spherical with a large pupil and retina to capture light optimally. The lenses are also significant in maximizing light absorption, although they aren’t as flexible as a human’s.
Although hamsters’ eyes have similar parts to the human eye, their vision cannot be compared to that of humans. Additionally, hamsters have poorer eyesight than most pets and usually see blurred images, especially in high light settings.
A hamster’s poor eyesight also results from the composition of the eye’s photoreceptors. These are special cells (neurons) found on the retina (back of the eye).
Photoreceptors constitute two types of cells that convert light into electrical signals, facilitating some body processes:
- Rods enable scotopic vision that occurs when there’s minimum light.
- Cones are responsible for photopic vision, which occurs at high light levels. The cones also enable high spatial acuity and help animals to perceive color.
A study on hamster retinas revealed that their rods are 96.99%, while the cones constitute about 3.01% of their total photoreceptors. So, due to the high concentration of rods, hamsters see best at dawn or dusk when there’s dim light. Also, because they have few cones, hamsters can’t see many colors except:
Moreover, the low concentration of cones means that hamsters can’t bear too much light. So, if you don’t want to stress your hammy, avoid exposing it to direct sunlight. And, since your furry friend will wake up around dusk to look for food, ensure that you place its cage in a dimly lit room.
In the wild, hamsters are nocturnal and are primarily active at night. They also live in very dark burrows and only come out to search for food or explore. And, since they’re prey animals, they need unique adaptations to be safe from predators.
Poor vision doesn’t diminish a hamster’s quality of life.
Your furry friend doesn’t require sharp vision to find its way around the cage as it relies on senses such as hearing, touch, and smell. Additionally, hamster eyes are adapted to seeing best in low-light conditions, meaning your hamster won’t struggle to play or eat food at night or dusk.
Hamsters can’t see in total darkness as their eyes rely on light for vision. Their eye adaptations allow them to absorb light optimally and use it in low-light conditions. When in total darkness, hamsters will rely on their sense of touch and smell to get by.
Hamsters are nocturnal mammals since they forage for food and explore their environment at night. And, like other nocturnal animals, hamsters have large eyes. Their large pupils, lenses, and retina allow them to absorb ambient light, especially at dusk and dawn when they’re most active.
Hamsters hunt insects or locate food from other sources at night. Therefore, they need some light to allow the photoreceptors on their retina to distinguish objects. So, they’ll hardly see anything when it is pitch dark.
Like humans, a hamster has a panoramic field of vision. Hence, it will use both eyes to see objects in a wide area of vision. But, when there’s no light, a hamster can’t see and will use its other senses to find food or its way through the environment.
Most hamster owners have the notion that their pets are color blind. But, research has shown that not all hamsters can see no color at all. So, their color vision is poorly developed and can also vary among hamster species.
A hamster can only see white and black, with shades of green or blue. This scenario occurs because they have more rods responsible for the white and black colors. Moreover, a hamster has few cone receptors, meaning that it can’t perceive many colors.
Your furry friend will not see very well during the day since its eyes aren’t built for daylight activity. And, it will not recognize many colors due to the minimal composition of cone receptors. However, some hamster species can perceive other colors apart from white and black.
For instance, a study on the cone receptors of the Siberian hamster and pouched mouse showed that the two rodents have some level of photopic vision (perceiving colors). And this ability arises due to the presence of some visual pigments in their retina. Hence, a Siberian hamster’s eye can see the blue and ultraviolet parts of the light spectrum.
On the other hand, the cone receptors in Syrian hamsters only have one visual pigment. Therefore, they can only see some shades of green in the light spectrum. However, both species can’t see red as they have no pigments for that color.
After bringing a hamster home from the pet store, don’t be shocked when it bites your finger or hides in a corner. And it’s challenging to handle a hamster when your furry friend doesn’t recognize you. So, do hamsters recognize their owners?
Hamsters recognize their owners, but only after learning their scents. They’ll take a couple of days (or weeks) to get accustomed to being around their new caregivers. Therefore, be patient with your hammy and handle it with care as it learns how to be comfortable around you.
As I mentioned earlier, hamsters only see objects within a short-range. However, since their retinas have few cones, their eyesight isn’t very sharp, and they can’t detect a wide range of colors. Hence, anything beyond 3-4 inches (7.6-10.2 cm) will appear fuzzy, including you.
Your presence might appear as a shadow or blurred object to your hamster if you stand too far away than their eyes can handle. However, if you stand very close to your hammy’s cage, it will recognize your face with time. Your furry friend will also use other senses to familiarize itself with you.
Since hamsters have an incredible sense of smell, they’ll learn how you smell as they become comfortable with your presence. But, this can be a challenge if you confuse your ball of fur with different smells (or scents).
Here are tips to help your new hamster recognize you faster:
- After bringing your hammy home in the first couple of days, stand near its cage and speak to it softly.
- When your hamster feels comfortable around your presence, put your hand (or fingers) in the cage.
- Always wash your hands with non-scented soap after preparing or handling food.
- Avoid wearing perfumes or scented clothes when close to your hamster’s cage.
In their natural environment, hamsters have to survive by avoiding predators and locating sufficient food. Hence, they’ll have their homes in underground burrows and only wait for dusk or dawn to leave their hideouts. And, since they’re somewhat nocturnal, hammies can’t tolerate bright light.
Since hamsters usually live in pitch-dark burrows or underground tunnels, they’ll not necessarily need the vision to find their way out. Therefore, they depend on other senses to move quickly.
A hamster survives in the wild by learning about its environment and using its senses of touch, taste, smell, and hearing. Therefore, it will master its way around its burrow and the surrounding by leaving a scent trail (without relying on sight). This means that even a blind hamster can leave its shelter to find food and rush back to escape from predators.
The excellent sense of smell and touch also comes in handy when a hamster searches for a mate. It will also use its whiskers to touch and recognize hamsters of the opposite gender. Moreover, hamsters utilize pheromones (chemical signals) when attracting mates.
Your pet hamster may not be in a dangerous environment, but it will mimic the crepuscular patterns of a typical hamster. Hence, it will mostly sleep during the day and play at night. Moreover, it will be most active at dusk and dawn.
Your hamster will also use all its senses to ‘get away from trouble.’ So, don’t be surprised when it runs to its hideout when other pets or strangers enter the room. And, it will display some “odd” behaviors, especially when it hasn’t gotten used to a new environment.
Some eyesight-related responses in hamsters include:
- Biting and nibbling on objects – this is a defense mechanism when hamsters detect danger.
- Freezing on the spot – a hamster might freeze on the spot once it spots sudden flashes of bright light.
- Stress and disturbed sleeping patterns – exposure to UV rays (from bright light) confuses hamsters. Hence, they develop stress symptoms and have trouble sleeping.
So, it’s essential to understand your hamster’s behavior to handle it in the best way.
For example, it’s not advisable to force your furry friend to play during the day. It will be grumpy and unwilling to bond with you, especially if you startle your hamster from sleep. Furthermore, you might end up nursing some wounds due to bites.
Although blind at birth, hamsters develop some vision as they progress into adulthood.
However, a hamster’s eyesight is weaker compared to most other animals, as it can only see a few inches from its nose.
Hamsters also don’t have well-developed color vision since their retina has minimal cone receptors (color detectors). Moreover, hamsters hardly perceive anything when it is pitch dark since their eyes require light to perceive objects.
You may like the following hamster articles:
- How To Pick Up a Hamster When You’re Scared
- Why Is My Hamster Rolling On His Back?
- What Is the Average Weight of a Hamster?
- How To Put a Hamster Out of Its Misery
- Do Hamsters Need a Wheel at Night?
My name is Everly. I am a Milwaukee-based mom of 2 and have been a proud owner of many hamsters throughout my life. Like many of us, my introduction to hamsters happened when I was very young. My family saw several hamsters come and go through the years, and I enjoyed playing with them, but I never fully appreciated them until I grew up and my own children decided to jump on the hamster bandwagon. At that point, I was determined to learn all I could about caring for these adorable pets. Read more