Do Hamsters Sleep On Their Backs?

By Dawn | Hamster Behavior
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I have heard a lot of hamster owners panicking because they have looked into their hamster’s nest to see their pet lying on their back. You wouldn’t immediately assume that these animals slept this way, so it might come as a surprise, and you may even think that there is something wrong with your pet. 

Some hamsters simply like lying on their backs, and it might not be anything to be concerned about. However, in other cases, sleeping on their backs with the belly facing up could signal that your hamster is suffering.

Of course, without investigating, it is almost impossible to know which is the case for your pet. So, I thought I would do a little research and take the time to share some useful tips about hamster’s sleep and when you should be concerned. 

Why Is My Hamster Sleeping On His Back?

If you look at your hamster when it’s sleeping, you may notice that it is lying on its back; you could be forgiven for thinking the worst and assuming that your pet has sadly died. However, this might not be the case.

Just like us, animals, including hamsters, have a preferred sleeping position. There is no right or wrong, but it is more common for hamsters to sleep curled up rather than sprawled out on their backs. 

One of the first things you should consider is whether your hamster sleeps like this all the time or whether this is something new.

If your pet has always slept on their back, then it is likely that they merely enjoy this position and feel comfortable. Provided that your hamster is otherwise healthy, you should let them stay like this; it isn’t going to hurt them. 

Conversely, lying on the back could mean that there is a problem, and your hamster is feeling uncomfortable. But there could be a number of reasons why they are behaving in this way. 

Firstly, you should check whether your hamster is too warm. Lying on their back is a way of trying to cool down. If the hamster cage is in a warm room or perhaps next to a heat source, it could be that your pet has overheated. 

It is important to remember that your hamster’s cage needs to be in a cool, dry location where it won’t get too warm because don’t forget, they have all of that bedding to keep them warm. 

In contrast, you don’t want to place the cage in a draught or an environment that is too cold. You must get the balance right. 

If you touch your hamster and they feel warm, you could try moving the cage somewhere cooler or placing a fan nearby while his body temperature lowers. 

Of course, once they are comfortable again, you should turn the fan off to avoid things going in the opposite direction. 

Another reason that hamsters lie on their backs is because of a poor diet, which could be making them uncomfortable. 

In this instance, it is a good idea to look back over your pet’s diet in recent days or weeks and determine if everything they have eaten is nutritious. 

It is also essential to keep in mind that hamsters need a lot of exercise; in the wild, they are known to run for miles each night. For this reason, you will need to make sure that they have a wheel and time to run outside of the cage.

Once you make some changes to his diet, you will likely notice that they begin to sleep in a way that looks much more normal. 

Do Hamsters Sleep With Their Eyes Open?

While sleeping on their backs could simply be your pet’s preferred position, even though this isn’t the norm, sleeping with their eyes open might not be something to ignore.

Some rodents and small animals, like rabbits, are known to keep their eyes open when they are asleep, but this is not the case with hamsters. 

If you notice that your pet is sleeping with their eyes open, this could be an indication that there is a medical problem, and you should have your hamster checked by your vet.

However, if you are peeking in on your hamster while they are sleeping, it is likely that you have disturbed them, and they have merely opened an eye to see what is going on. 

Should I Wake My Hamster Up?

If you notice that your pet is having medical problems and you want to have it seen by a vet or to check your hamster over, then, of course, this situation would warrant disturbing their sleep. It’s for their own good, after all. 

However, a lot of hamster owners try to rouse their pets during the middle of the day just so that they can play. But it is vital to keep in mind that hamsters are nocturnal, and they need their sleep during the day, just as much as we need it at night. 

If someone came and took you out of bed in the middle of the night and put you in a plastic ball, you probably wouldn’t be too happy. Nor will your hamster be.

That being said, if you need to wake your hamster to clean their cage once every fews weeks, then this won’t cause too much of a problem. Just try not to disturb your hamster any more frequently than is necessary. 

If you wake them too often, this could cause them to become stressed, which can result in other health issues. 

You might also notice that your hamster naturally wakes in the evening when it begins to get dark; most people are still awake at this time, so this is a great opportunity to interact with them. 

Your hamster willl also be very active as the sun comes up, so if you’re an early riser, the pair of you may be able to use this time together too. 

Related Questions

How do I know if my hamster is dying?

If your hamster has passed away, your hamster will not respond to you when you attempt to rouse them, and they will be rigid.  On the other hand, hamsters may hibernate, and their body temperature will drop, so if you find your hamster cold, don’t instantly assume that they have died.

Is it normal for a hamster to fall asleep in their wheel?

One of the most common reasons that a hamster falls asleep in her wheel is because they are not happy with their hamster house or nest. It could be the bedding that is an issue, or it might be that it is not clean.  It is worth checking out where your hamster usually sleeps to find the source of the problem, and once fixed, your pet will likely return to their bed.