Are Hamsters Nocturnal?

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As a hamster owner, one thing you will notice is their lack of activity during daylight hours. In fact, most hamsters will be more active in the evening and overnight. In the wild, hamsters are prey animals, so it makes sense that they should get out when there’s the least likelihood of meeting predators.

So, if hamsters sleep during the day and stay active at night, does it mean they are nocturnal creatures? In this short guide we run through the sleeping habits of your hamster and what kind of sleeping routine is good for them.

Are Hamsters Nocturnal?

Although some hamsters are nocturnal, the vast majority are actually crepuscular. You may not be familiar with the word “crepuscular”. It originates from the Latin word crepusculum, meaning twilight. In other words, hamsters are likely to be active and awake at dawn or dusk. Individual hamsters have different sleeping patterns and won’t be awake and asleep at the same time. Much like humans, each hamster has its own sleeping patterns. They are not all asleep and awake at the same time.

Why Are Hamsters Crepuscular?

Hamsters adapted the crepuscular living pattern in the wild due to predators. They would leave their hideouts at dawn or dusk to get food and stock it up to eat whenever they were hungry. The pattern is now a part of their nature, even though domesticated hamsters don’t live with the threat of predators.

Two important factors shape the sleeping habits of hamsters.

  • The environment
  • Their status as prey

The Environment

Hamsters live in hot climates in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. As a result, they have adjusted their sleeping habits to stay in their burrows and network of tunnels during the day to conserve energy. During the night, they become active and begin looking for food when it is cooler. In captivity, however, hamsters are at normal room temperatures during the day and, the reason they might show activity at any time.

Their Status as Prey

In the jungle, predators and prey adapt to each others sleeping habits. With their prey nature, hamsters will try to avoid roaming when predators hunt. Unfortunately, many predators prey on hamsters, including snakes, wild cats, canids, and predatory birds. As such, they try to avoid being outside when the predators are awake. Most predators are nocturnal, which makes sense that they try to be awake and asleep before their predators.

Can You Train a Hamster to Sleep at Night?

Although it’s doable, it’s not advised to change the sleeping routine of a hamster. Since they’re crepuscular, changing this may lead to stress, anger and make the hamster sick. However, if you do decide to train them to sleep at night, these three tips might help.

  1. Feeding At an Earlier Time

Hamsters often wake up when you put food or treats in their cage. If you intend to wake your hamster earlier, you can adjust the feeding time a little bit and move it earlier.

  1. Gradually Change the Night/Day Cycle

If there’s a form of natural light reaching the cage, your hamster is likely to follow the natural day and night cycle. You could use curtains to make the hamster believe the day is night and create a light source for the cage during the night.

  1. Change the Cycle Slowly

Changing the cycle all of a sudden can leave the hamster stressed. If you decide to change the sleeping patterns of the hamster, make it gradual and not a in a day.