Hamsters are complex little creatures and incredibly popular pets, especially for children or those looking for an easy-to-keep pet. These sweet little furballs can exhibit an extended range of odd behaviors, such as rolling on their backs. If you noticed your hamster rolling on his back, you might wonder why.
Your hamster is rolling on his back because he’s feeling scared, trying to get your attention, grooming, regulating his body temperature, marking his scent, or is feeling ill. Suppose you notice this happening alongside other strange behaviors. Don’t hesitate to send your hamster to a veterinarian.
In the rest of this article, I will cover some of the possible causes of your hamster rolling on his back and how you can help your hamster if he exhibits this odd behavior. So let’s get started.
What Does It Mean When My Hamster Rolls on His Back?
There is no shortage of information on the internet and pet owners’ forums about why hamsters often roll on their backs.
However, it is interesting to learn that rolling on the back is one of the body language features researchers have focussed on when investigating hamsters’ body language and behavior.
Your hamster rolls on his back because it’s likely that you’ve startled him while he’s asleep or when he has just woken up. Rolling on the back is a common sign of agitation and aggression in hamsters. Sometimes, hamsters roll on their backs because they’re scared or unwilling to move.
Seeing your hamster rolling on his back when you approach his cage can leave you feeling concerned and wondering what on earth could be wrong with your little furry friend. There are several reasons your small pet might be behaving this way.
Let’s take a look at some reasons your hamster is rolling on his back.
Your hamster might be feeling scared. Unfortunately, hamsters are prey animals. That means your hamster may easily get startled despite your best efforts to make him feel safe.
Suppose you notice your hamster frantically flopping onto his back whenever you approach him, narrowing his eyes, angling his ears backward, and baring his teeth. In that case, it likely means that your hamster probably hasn’t trusted you yet.
Your hamster may be behaving this way to protect himself from possible attacks.
There are a few ways that you can help your tiny hamster if he’s feeling scared and keeps rolling onto his back.
Ways to help build trust with your hamster and keep him calm:
- Keep your hamster somewhere away from loud sounds. Loud or sudden noises can startle your hamster and cause him to feel on edge. You should do your best to keep your hamster cage in a quiet location where your furry friend will feel safe.
- Never force your hamster to be held. If your hamster thinks you are forcibly going to hold him each time you enter the room, he may resort to flopping on his back or even biting as a defense mechanism.
- Give your hamster enough time to get used to your presence. Sit in the room with your hamster or gently touch the outside of his cage. Doing this will help your hamster get used to you and feel less threatened by your approach.
- Move slowly around your hamster. Never move quickly or suddenly, as doing so will startle your hamster and cause him to panic.
- Never pick up your hamster from above. When you try to grab your hamster from above and your hand forms a claw, your hamster will panic; hamsters are prey animals, after all. Doing so might result in your hamster biting you or flopping on his back.
- Don’t let large pets disturb your hamster. Keep your hamster somewhere your cats or dogs don’t have access to. These larger pets will terrify your hamster and could be contributing to your hamster rolling on his back.
- Offer your hamster a treat when you approach his cage. Offering your little furball a treat is an excellent way to build trust and get your hamster excited to see you.
Ultimately you will want to create a calm, peaceful environment for your furry friend and work on building trust. Doing this is important, especially if you suspect that your hamster is rolling on his back because he’s scared. Of course, it will take time to build trust, but eventually, you should notice progress.
Another possible cause for your hamster rolling on his back is he just wants some attention. Yes, just like a dog, your hamster might roll onto his back because he desires a good belly rub.
Your hamster may also exhibit this behavior upon seeing you coming if he wishes to get a treat rub or when it’s feeding time. If your hamster recognizes that this behavior will get your attention, he will continue to do so.
Also, if your hamster is rolling on his back at your approach, it can often mean that your hamster likes you and simply wants you to pay attention to him.
You shouldn’t be alarmed if your hamster is trying to get your attention by rolling on his back. Instead, you should give him some much-needed love.
Your hamster rolling on his back isn’t a dangerous thing so long as it isn’t due to an illness or fear. There’s no need to worry if you’re sure that your hamster simply wants some one-on-one time.
A prevalent reason hamsters roll on their backs is to practice grooming. Hamsters are naturally clean rodents and love to groom themselves. However, hamsters aren’t huge fans of traditional water baths.
Instead, hamsters prefer sand baths to keep themselves clean and their fur shiny.
When bathing in a sand bath, your hamster will roll on his back to coat his fur and skin evenly. So, just how can you help your hamster with his grooming problem?
If you notice your hamster randomly flopping onto his back and moving around, he may just be trying to clean himself.
Suppose you suspect that your hamster might be rolling on his back to try and get clean. Then be sure to provide your fluffy friend with a dish full of specialized Hamiledyi Hamster Bathing Sand (available on Amazon). This excellent sand is finely ground and lightweight, and your hamster will love using it to get clean.
Once you introduce a source for your hamster to bathe in, you should notice a decrease in your hamster randomly rolling on his back.
Another common reason for hamsters rolling on their backs is to try and regulate their body temperatures.
Hamsters generally prefer temperatures between 65 and 75°F (18 to 24°C), making states like Florida or California ideal. However, if you don’t live in one of the warmer, more tropical states, don’t worry. You can still keep your hamster friend cozy by keeping your home within this temperature range.
If you notice your hamster frequently rolling onto his back, he may just be cold and doing his best to maintain his body temperature.
There are several ways in which you can help your hamster maintain the proper body temperature.
You can help your hamster by doing the following:
- Keep your home between 65 and 75°F (18 to 24°C).
- Provide your hamster with plenty of bedding to dig tunnels and make beds with it.
- Provide good hides for your hamster to cuddle up and sleep in.
- Keep your hamster away from windows if you live in a colder state such as Alaska.
- Keep the fan off in your hamster’s room so that cold air doesn’t blow on him.
- Keep your hamster’s cage away from air conditioning vents during the summer.
You will want to do your best to maintain a reasonable temperature for your furry friend, especially if you live somewhere cold. Feeling cold can undoubtedly lead to your hamster rolling on his back to keep warm. And if you notice this behavior, make sure you check if your home is a suitable temperature for your hamster.
Believe it or not, sometimes hamsters roll onto their backs to relax. Just like a person, your hamster might be looking for a comfortable position to sleep in.
It’s quite common for hamsters to fall asleep on their backs if they feel comfortable and safe in their environment. So if you notice your hamster is frequently rolling onto his back to sleep, don’t worry because this is a common hamster behavior.
Just be sure to watch for signs of distress whenever you notice your hamster is on his back.
If you notice your hamster sleeping on his back and there appear to be no signs of distress, you should let him sleep peacefully.
It’s normal for a happy hamster to take the occasional nap on its back. Other animals, such as dogs and cats, also do the same. But if you feel that your hamster’s behavior isn’t quite right, don’t hesitate to consult a veterinarian.
There is a genuine possibility that your hamster might just be trying to mark his territory by leaving his scent all over his cage.
Hamsters have scent glands on their hips, often referred to as flank glands or hip spots, and will flip onto their backs to spread their scent across their bedding.
So if you notice your furry little guy exhibiting this behavior, he may just be trying to claim his cage and warn other hamsters to be wary.
So, is there anything you can do for your hamster that keeps rolling on his back to mark his territory?
There are a few things you can do:
- Make sure your hamster cage is clean. Your hamster may try to mark his territory if his cage smells funny or like a previous pet.
- Ensure your hamster’s scent glands aren’t infected. These glands can grow infected and could cause your hamster to roll on his back in discomfort.
- Let your hamster be. Once your hamster feels that it has successfully marked his home, he’ll stop rolling on his back.
Ultimately if your hamster is rolling on his back to mark his territory, the best thing you can do is let the little guy do it.
Last but not least, your hamster might be feeling sick.
Small rodents such as hamsters are prone to various illnesses, including tumors, seizures, worms, skin issues, and other disorders, which all can cause them to roll onto their backs.
If this behavior comes on suddenly, there is a good chance that your furball isn’t feeling so good. So, what should you do if your hamster is rolling on his back due to an illness?
Suppose you suspect that your little buddy may be rolling on his back because he is sick, i.e., seizures, rapid breathing, etc. In that case, you should schedule an appointment with your local veterinarian immediately.
Rodents like hamsters can so easily grow ill, and it’s essential to act quickly if suspect illness might be the culprit.
Even if you aren’t sure if your hamster is rolling on his back due to an illness, a quick veterinarian visit can go a long way in getting to the bottom of your little friend’s behavior and also give you some peace of mind.
Ultimately there’s a wide variety of reasons your hamster might be rolling on his back. The best way to get to the bottom of this behavior is by process of elimination.
You should first figure out if your pet is ill and then go through all the other possibilities, such as the following:
- Your hamster is scared or cold or wants attention.
- Your hamster is trying to bathe or relax.
- Your hamster is trying to mark his territory.
So long as you follow this list, you should be able to figure out why your furry friend rolls on his back.
Related Hamster articles:
- Why Is My Hamster Lying Flat?
- How To Bond With Your Hamster
- Why Does My Hamster Lick Me
- How To Tell If Your Hamster Is Sick?
- Why Is My Hamster Losing Weight?
- How To Make a Hamster Leash?
- Where To Adopt a Hamster?
- How Many Miles Does a Hamster Run 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