Why Do Hamsters Stand Up? (Explained for Beginners)

By Dawn | Hamster Behavior
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Hamsters are potentially one of the sweetest animals that can be kept as a pet and some of the things that they do can be incredibly adorable. The other day, I saw my hamster stand up as I walked into the room and it got me thinking; why do hamsters stand up?

Even though hamsters may not be anywhere near as intelligent as humans, they are certainly smart in their own way and their body language is a good way to prove this. When hamsters stand up on their back legs, this is typically a sign that they are on high alert and trying to sense out their surroundings.

But why would my hamster be on high alert at home? In captivity, there couldn’t be much that would hurt him, right? This is true, but this instinctive behavior is nonetheless present and not always a sign that they feel threatened. Let’s take a look at what this means in a little more detail. 

Why Does My Hamster Stand Up?

If you have ever entered the room suddenly or made a loud noise when your hamster is around, you will likely have seen them move onto their back legs and stay quite still. 

This is your hamster’s way of exploring the world around them. Hamsters do not have very good eyesight and as such, they have to explore things in a slightly different way to us. 

Sometimes, hamster fans will refer to this behavior as meerkating as it resembles what these animals do, standing up straight to get a clear view, and is equally as cute. 

If your pet hears a sudden noise or is startled, they will naturally be inquisitive. In the wild, you must remember that hamsters are prey animals and are on the menu for a lot of other creatures. 

For this reason, they must be on high alert but due to their lack of ability to see clearly, standing on their hind legs can give them a slightly better view.

Furthermore, you may see other behaviors when your hamster stands up. If they are curious and not frightened, they may wave their arms around in front of them and sniff the air. These are ways that your pet can discover what is going on around them using senses other than sight. 

Sometimes, your hamster may stand on his back legs with their arms hanging loosely in front of them. This usually means that they are watching but they will also be very alert and if they are startled, this could lead to them becoming aggressive. 

In some cases, a hamster might stand up like this when they are being defensive. When you approach your pet, it can be tempting to scoop them up to interact with them but you must keep in mind that we seem pretty big and threatening to hammies, especially when they aren’t familiar with us. 

For this reason, it is a good idea to watch your hamster’s body language before you attempt to handle them. If they suddenly move onto their back legs, this might be their way of saying that they are a little cautious, so give them time to feel safe before you fully approach them.

If your hamster is feeling defensive, this behavior will typically be accompanied by other things. 

Hamsters may hiss at you as you approach them and this is another way for them to let you know that they are not in the mood to be messed with. 

Other Hamster Behaviors

Aside from meerkating, you might notice your pet acting in some questionable ways. For the most part, these behaviors are entirely normal and usually make a great photo opportunity; provided that your hamster is happy with this. 

With this in mind, let’s take a quick look at some of the things that you might see your hamster doing. 

  • Hamsters will often yawn and stretch and while this is typically a sign of tiredness in some animals, for hamsters this usually indicates that they are feeling relaxed and happy. 
  • As well as standing on their back legs, hamsters may also freeze, this normally happens when they are on very high alert and are trying to sense if there is danger nearby.
  • You might sometimes see your hamster with their ears folded back onto their head and their eyes half-closed. This is usually the case when they have just woken up, it is best to leave them to wake up a little before trying to interact with them. 

Worrying Hamster Behavior

For the most part, the things that your pet does are normal and nothing to worry about. However, there may be some things that a hamster does that can point towards a health condition or injury and this will require medical attention.

In the main, your hamster’s behavior will worsen if they are not well with these animals becoming very lethargic and seemingly unable to do much, even the essentials, like eating. If you notice this, you should see a vet as soon as possible. 

Another worrying behavior that hamster owners often see is when the animal bites at the cage bars. This can signify a variety of things including stress (usually when the cage is too small), boredom or that the hamster’s teeth need grinding down.

Related Questions

Is it normal for hamsters to climb?

Hamsters love to climb, some species are more adept at this than others but this is very normal behavior and nothing that you should be concerned about.  However, since they are such curious animals who love to explore, you should always make sure that the cage is secure enough that your pet cannot climb out. 

How do you know when a hamster is happy?

A happy hamster will appear to be full of life. These are energetic animals who love to explore their cages and play. However, it is entirely possible for a hamster to become depressed and this can be seen in their behavior; they will be more lethargic and may go off their food.