Lots of Americans choose to have a hamster as their pet. Their small size makes it easy to keep them even when you have a smaller house. Hamsters are nocturnal animals, so when you bring a hamster home, you’ll probably expect to see them out and about in their enclosure after dark.
A common reason hamsters don’t come out at night is that they’re not getting sufficient sleep during the day and thus have to make up for those sleeping hours at night. Another reason is that the hamster is overwhelmed and hides inside its cage even though it’s nighttime.
The rest of this article will discuss more topics related to the question of why a hamster may not come out at night. This includes the normal sleeping patterns for hamsters, how to make it easier for your hamster to sleep during the day, and when to call the veterinarian if you’re worried about your hamster’s behavior and sleeping patterns.
The normal sleeping pattern for most hamsters is to sleep during the day and emerge to run around their cage at night. However, hamsters don’t usually sleep for eight hours at a time as humans do. Instead, they’re more likely to sleep for a few hours at a stretch before waking up briefly.
During their short waking periods, they might eat, drink, and walk around their cage.
Hamsters are at their most active during the twilight hours and well into the night. However, hamsters can adapt their sleeping schedule based on their environment.
If a hamster is consistently woken at the same time every day—for example, when their owner gets home from work to greet them—they will adjust their sleeping schedule so that they’re regularly awake at this time.
This can seem like they’re not sleeping during the day, but often they’re simply self-adjusting their sleeping schedule to account for a time when their human is expecting them to be awake and interactive.
Different breeds of hamsters can also have different sleeping schedules. Syrian hamsters tend to stick closely to their established sleeping schedule with limited variation, even if they are disturbed while sleeping.
Dwarf and Chinese hamsters often have more flexible sleeping schedules. They will sleep as necessary and can adapt to new sleeping routines that match their surroundings.
Just like humans, hamsters will have their personalities and quirks. Where one hamster may sleep regularly during the day and only come out to play at night, another may sleep in short stretches before a brief period of activity.
Keep this level of individuality in mind when you’re evaluating your hamster’s sleeping habit. While it is true that most hamsters will sleep more during the day, the most important thing is that your hamster is getting regular sleep and not displaying any signs of illness or distress.
Even though hamsters have evolved to sleep mainly during the day, there are many factors that can impact their sleeping schedules. A primary factor is an environment the hamster is in during the daytime.
Like most humans, hamsters will sleep the best in a quiet environment without loud noises or bright lights. Lots of activities, such as that found in a pet shop or a school classroom, can also keep a hamster awake.
Even if your hamster adapts their sleeping pattern, don’t try to force a strict sleeping routine on it. Instead, provide it with an environment where it can sleep undisturbed and develop a sleep/wake schedule that works for its needs.
Needless to say, don’t wake up your hamster to play. Instead, wait until they have woken up, usually around twilight.
You can help your hamster sleep during the day by creating a quiet and peaceful environment. Place their cage in an area where the hamster is less likely to be disturbed during the day, such as a quiet room or a quiet corner.
Encourage children to leave the hamster alone while it’s sleeping during the daytime. Also, keep any other pets away from the hamster so it doesn’t get scared while trying to sleep.
If you can’t keep your hamster in a darkened room during the day, try adding a cage cover to create a dark environment that is more conducive to relaxation and sleep. A cage cover will also help deter children from trying to play with the hamster while it’s sleeping time.
Keep the times a room is lit and dark consistent so that the hamster has the opportunity to follow its natural sleeping patterns.
Studies have shown that a hamster’s living environment can significantly impact its behavior, including sleep patterns. You should always make sure your hamster is comfortable inside their cage.
This includes making sure their bedding is clean and fresh and water is always available. The cage should also be sturdy and kept away from other pets that your hamster may view as a predator, such as cats.
One of the essential things your hamster needs is adequate bedding. Your hamster will use its bedding the same way that humans use a mattress, and having good bedding can contribute to your hamster sleeping well.
As animals who like to chew, it’s important to remember that they can and will chew and even eat anything in their environment—including their bedding! Make sure that the bedding you use is digestible and non-fibrous.
You can purchase hamster bedding from your local pet store or online. One option I like is this Kaytee Clean & Cozy White Bedding (available on Amazon.com). It’s made of material approved by the FDA and is explicitly rated for small animals such as hamsters.
It’s also important that your hamster always has water available. Hamsters will often wake themselves up after a few hours of sleeping to take a drink of water, so they should have it readily available in their cage 24/7.
Most hamster owners use an upright water bottle that attaches to the cage. This allows the hamster to drink as much water as they’d like without making a wet mess in their cage.
Some water bottles are attached to food dispensers to do double duty. I recommend this Vannon Hamster Water Bottle Dispenser (available on Amazon.com). In addition to the food and water dispensers, this unit also features a small hideout that your hamster can retreat.
Hamsters can get bored in their cages if they don’t have enough toys and activities to keep them occupied. Adding physical and mental stimuli helps ensure they’re active and engaged when they’re awake, leading to better sleeping patterns.
A familiar hamster toy is the traditional running wheel. These wheels stay in one place while allowing the hamster to spin and run as much as they’d like. These wheels are an excellent way for hamsters to be active while staying within the safe confines of their cage.
This Petest Hamster Exercise Wheel (available on Amazon.com) is a great choice, as it runs quietly without any squeaking. This means that the hamster can play any time of day or night without creating any excess noise.
It can be placed directly on your hamster’s cage floor or secured to the wire cage walls. This toy is made of plastic, so it’s also easy to clean—simply wipe it down with a damp cloth.
Other popular hamster toys are ones that they can either chew or climb on. It might take some time to find the exact type of toys your individual hamster prefers.
One way to explore your hamster’s toy preferences is to purchase a multi-toy pack, such as this Erkoon Hamster Chew Toys (available on Amazon.com). These toys are made of 100% applewood (except for the pine cones), making them entirely safe for your hamster to chew on and even digest.
After a time, your hamster may become bored with the toys in its cage. You can usually tell when a hamster is bored: they’ll stop engaging with them and may become lethargic.
When this happens, try switching out the current toys for new ones. The excitement of learning to play with a new toy is usually sufficient to get the hamster playing again.
As long as your hamster is getting sleep at some point throughout the day/night cycle and is otherwise healthy, you don’t need to be too worried about when they are asleep and when they are awake.
However, if your hamster starts to lose weight quickly, becomes irritable, or becomes aggressive, then it’s time to call the veterinarian.
It can be challenging to tell if your hamster is genuinely sick or just stressed by its external environment. Here are a few more signs of hamster illness that may indicate it’s time to call your vet:
- Not eating or drinking: As small animals, hamsters typically eat and drink every few hours. They can become dehydrated quickly if they aren’t eating and drinking regularly. Complete refusal to eat or drink can be a sign of illness that requires a trip to the vet’s office.
- Not chewing: Hamsters have those cute little front teeth for a reason: they love to chew! A hamster that has stopped chewing might be sick or have an injury to its teeth or mouth. Be sure you’re supplying your hamster with chew toys to play with, and reach out to your vet if they suddenly stop being interested in chewing on anything.
- Extreme lethargy and tiredness: Hamsters are usually very energetic animals that love to scurry around their cage and play with their humans. A hamster who suddenly stops being active may have an underlying issue that needs to be checked out by their vet.
- Diarrhea or constipation: Hamsters who are eating and drinking regularly should also be pooping regularly. When they stop doing so, it’s a sign something is going on internally within their digestive tract. Call the vet if your pet has either diarrhea or constipation that lasts more than a day or so.
- Changes to their eyes: As energetic animals, hamsters usually have eyes that are bright and active. They’ll look around at their surroundings and track movement. When a hamster is sick, its eyes can become swollen or cloudy. They can also appear to sink into their face, making them look ill. Call your vet if this happens, as it may indicate an illness.
In the United States, hamsters are often seen by a veterinarian that specializes in small mammals. Sometimes this vet will also advertise as being a specialist in exotic animals.
Vets with this specialty will be better equipped to handle your hamster’s specific needs and will have the proper medical equipment to use with small animals.
You can find a hamster veterinarian by searching online for “hamster vet” or “small mammal vet” plus the name of your city, such as “hamster vet Houston”, or “small mammal vet New York”.
This will show you the appropriate vets in your local area. If you have trouble finding a local vet that specializes in hamsters, try asking around at your local pet store to see if they have a vet they can refer you to.
Related Hamsters articles:
- How To Bond With Your Hamster
- Why Does My Hamster Lick Me
- How To Humanely Kill a Hamster?
- What Can Kill a Hamster
- How To Clean Hamster Poop
Most hamsters are nocturnal creatures who will sleep during the day and be more active at night. When a hamster isn’t coming out and playing at night, it’s often because they aren’t getting adequate sleep during the day. This is usually caused by a bright, loud, or stressful environment that isn’t conducive to sleep.
Hamster owners can help their hamsters sleep better during the day by placing the cage into a dark and quiet place and providing stimulating activities that help them burn off energy during their active periods.
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