Do Hamsters Have Paws?

By Dawn | General
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Ever wondered whether hamsters have paws or hands, or even feet?  Well I certainly have.  I let the curiosity get the better of me and decided to find out.

Hamsters have paws rather than hands and the reason is this.  Hands are defined by the fact that they have opposable thumbs, or in other words, the pad of one thumb can face the pads of the other fingers.  Hamsters do not have opposable thumbs and therefore do not have hands.

But hands aren’t limited to just humans.  Chimpanzees, monkeys and lemurs also have hands and some say koalas do too because they have two opposable thumbs on each “hand” and their fingerprints look the same as human fingerprints too.

So with that out the way, let’s have a little look at what paws are and what hamsters use their paws for.

What are paws?

Well, according to Wikipedia, paws are made up of a number of pads which on the surface have a thin layer of hairless skin (called Epidermis) which covers thicker layers of fat and tissue.

Paws consist of a large, heart shaped pad (not very large on a hamster!) and four load bearing digital (fingers) pads.  The pads themselves basically act as a cushion or shock absorber for the animal’s limbs which bear most of the load. 

Carpal pads can also be found on the forelimb, although I couldn’t find this on our hamster, but maybe it’s covered in fur.

These pads are used for additional traction to help the animal come to a stop or when descending a slope.  On some animals, like dogs for example, there are some “dewclaws”, which are basically small claws on the front legs.  Some have them on their hind legs too.

What do hamsters use their paws for?

Hamsters use their paws for all sorts of things.  When hamsters are eating, they tend to stand on their back legs and use their front paws to eat or to store it away in their pouches.

Hamsters also use their paws for running and it’s not unusual for a hamster to run over 5 miles during the night, but doing so can result in small cuts on the paw pads or toes as this study has found.

If you do notice these cuts on your hamster’s paws, don’t worry, as they will soon heal and scab over.

If they don’t heal and you think that your hamster has a more serious injury, then contact a vet as soon as possible.

Another trait that hamsters have is their ability to dig tunnels and burrow using their front paws.  Hamsters also have small claws on their fingers and toes which allows them to do this with ease.

Because hamsters alternate between being nocturnal and crepuscular, hamsters tend to stay hidden during the day in these underground tunnels, which helps them stay safe from their natural predators who are often awake during the day looking for food.

Having opposable thumbs surely would have hindered their ability to dig and burrow because opposable thumbs are designed for grasping and not for digging.

Do hamsters have claws?

Yes, hamsters do have claws at the end of their paws and they allow them to climb, which comes in handy when trying to escape predators.

Claws also enable them to climb to get food from hard to reach places, although hamsters generally spend their time foraging for food on the ground.

Hamster claws also come in handy when burrowing and climbing out of their burrows.  Claws also help hamsters to grip and hold onto food between their paws.

Do hamsters claws need cutting?

Hamster’s claws tend to wear down naturally and you should not have to clip them.  You should try to avoid it where possible because it can cause lots of stress to a hamster.

There are things that you can do if they do get too long, which are mentioned in the video below, however if you are concerned that they may be damaged in any way, or overgrown, then contact your vet.

Do hamsters have fingers?

Yes, hamsters have four fingers on their front paws with one thumb receded and their hind paws have five toes.

Hamsters also have soft pads on the bottom of their paws which act as a cushion for their load bearing limbs.

Do hamsters have feet?

Hamsters have paws rather than feet but the front paws look more like hands.  A hamster uses its front paws for climbing, digging, holding and foraging for food.  

The back paws, which are larger than the front paws, are used to help them balance when they stand up on their hind legs, which they often do when they’re curious!

Wrapping up

In a nutshell, hamsters have paws and not hands, mainly because they don’t have opposable thumbs like humans and other primates.  

They look incredibly cute, but not only that, they are essential in allowing them to dig, climb, hold and forage for food.   They’re also essential in allowing them to run and boy do they love to run!

I hope your curiosity about whether hamsters have paws or hands has now been satisfied, and you never know, it may even help you in the pub quiz!