Behavior and Natural Instincts of a Hamster

Hamsters are solitary by nature:

The hamster is considered to be a solitary animal. Hamsters that live in freedom seek out territory and defend it vigorously against intruders. The female tolerates the presence of the male only for mating and raises her young on her own. She is affectionate and considerate with them for three or four weeks, until they are independent . Then she throws them away from the nest with teeth.

This behavior is undoubtedly due to the poverty of its natural environment.

Hamster are Fierce fighters

The hamster deploys a lot of energy when it comes to defending its territory against its congeners. In the open, fights between hamsters usually end without bloodshed, because the weakest can escape in time. In a cage, on the other hand, it is not uncommon for the hamster that does not have the upper hand not to survive a serious fight.

The following experiment explains the behavior of the animal on its territory:

In a 7.5 m2 enclosure, two male golden hamsters were placed in close to natural conditions, with the possibility of digging in the ground and digging a burrow. During the first week, each animal was left alone in one half of the space, so that it could accustom itself and mark its territory. When the doors were opened, a violent fight broke out. The weaker hamster ended up taking refuge in its half of the pen and therefore had a difficult life. He only ventured into the immediate vicinity of his burrow, it was only possible for him to build up meager food reserves, and he rarely left his mark, and again only near his nest. The strongest hamster moved freely everywhere,

How do Hamsters understand each other?

Due to the fact that their sense of smell is so extraordinary, hamsters have the possibility, by emitting such and such a scent, to express their moods and to send “ messages ” to their fellows. For this purpose, they have glands that produce a particular secretion, with which they mark their territory. After a long sniff, they place their mark of preference where another hamster has already left its own.

The glands , in the golden hamster , are located in the flanks, as is frequently the case in animals that live in burrows. The Chinese striped hamsterIn addition, it has ventral glands, whereas in the dzungarian dwarf hamster only these ventral glands are found. The female in estrus marks her territory with a secretion from the genitals, which she rubs against the ground. The male then said to himself: I can approach this female without too much danger. When she is not receptive, the female also lets it know by depositing on the ground, if a male approaches, other secretions of the genitals. If a male pursues her however, she then deposits her marks repeatedly and at very short intervals, until he either gives up or she feels compelled to intervene “with her paw”.

How do Hamsters defend themselves against their enemies?

By sniffing around them: when a hamster hears a suspicious noise, it stands on its hind legs and sniffs the air. The greater the supposed danger, the more it recovers and the longer it prolongs the examination – sometimes for several seconds. If he does not perceive other signs of danger, he continues on his way or his activities. When leaving their burrows, hamsters always carry out this routine check, they stop, try to detect foreign smells or suspicious noises.

By facing the enemy: in case of danger, the hamster first of all tries to disappear into its burrow. If he doesn’t have time, he stands up on his hind legs and fills his cheekbones with air. Sometimes he succeeds in frightening small adversaries in this way. But a dog , or any large predator, will not be impressed. In this case, he sometimes plays dead. He lets himself fall backwards and does not move. It is sometimes effective.

How do Hamsters get around?

The hamster may appear clumsy. But when he runs away with great strides, he is most agile. On the other hand, if he feels insecure, in an unfamiliar setting for example, he walks cautiously, skimming the ground, which he feels with his stomach. In the evening, hamsters can jump up to 30 cm in height, just “for fun”. They even know how to swim, although they would not enter the water of their own accord. As for the acrobatic tricks, we have already talked about it.

Learning abilities of a Hamster

It is true that hamsters have an above all instinctive way of life and behavior , largely determined by their hereditary skills, but they often act with discernment. They examine every new object, every new situation with curiosity and profit from it. Most hamsters use whatever accessories are available to them for exercise straight away . In addition, they learn perfectly to recognize the person who takes care of them and to distinguish them from others. They remember her voice and her smell. Their reactions to the different people they meet depend on the experiences – good or bad – they have had with them and which are stored in their brain.

Likewise, for example, hamsters spot places where they have frequently been left with treats and come begging just in one place, when they want something. But where they are particularly ingenious and tenacious is when it comes to carrying precious bits of food into the nest. A hamster who wants to bring a carrot back to its cage will simply roll it in front of him.

Favorite Activities of Hamsters

Put up

Hamsters are known to accumulate food in their cheekbones. In freedom, the hamster can only build up such reserves in summer, with a view to winter:  it thus stores more than 30 kg of seeds  and crops in anticipation of periods of scarcity. It is true that in nature, the animal goes into hibernation, but hunger occasionally prompts it to  eat a small snack .


By providing  a crate for it to scratch , you can meet one of the hamster’s basic needs. You will only observe this behavior if he feels  safe and relaxed . It then scratches loudly, sniffs and conceals its muzzle in the litter. This activity is also important for the maintenance of its claws and its coat.


Hamsters have  a marked natural fondness for snacking . His incisors, which constantly grow back, must wear out. During the first two months of its existence, it engages in many gnawings and experiments: later, this intense activity ends up stopping.


The hamster is very concerned about cleanliness . It is especially after waking up, when it leaves its nest, that it does a thorough toilet. With its small legs that it licks and moistens constantly,  the hamster cleans itself from head to rear legs . If he suddenly begins this ritual of the toilet while in embarrassment, this behavior is called a “surrogate activity” in a conflict situation.


This little pet is distinguished by its strong need for movement. In the wild, hamsters travel at least six kilometers each night. If he only has one wheel, he easily spins it a few thousand times before strengthening himself. Some of them then become really dependent on it. However, if this fanatic can get enough exercise out of his cage, he will drop his wheel right away. He is also able to swim, but for this inhabitant of the steppes,  a bath is an abomination that should be avoided as much as possible.

To climb

You may be struck by the fact that  the hamster is constantly looking upwards . Whether it’s a branch, a bed or the leg of its guardian, the hamster must absolutely climb. Guided by his innate need for protection, this little individual always wants to have a good overview. He does not seek anything other than to get to safety vis-à-vis an intruder. However,  the descent is a real problem  : hamsters seem to never remember that once they get to the top, sooner or later they end up falling on their noses. They lack the sense of altitude: they jump, then drop heavily, thus exposing themselves strongly to accidents.


Spending the whole day asleep in his burrow is an activity of choice. At least that’s the hamster’s point of view. It only activates during the first part of the night , then withdraws to gnaw nuts before returning to  doze off in its refuge . A lack of sleep reduces its longevity. Only animals that roam free in the wild go into hibernation, when the temperature drops below 10 ° C.

Sniff and mark the territory

The hamster perceives its environment thanks to a very developed sense of smell. With quivering whiskers, he sniffs loudly and strongly each unknown object and inspects the limits of his territory. By means of the glands located on its sides, it releases secretions, thus marking its domain with this odorous mixture. Above all, sniffing and marking its territory  allow it to exchange information with its congeners. If another hamster leaves its scent trace on its private preserve, our friend  inevitably interprets it as a provocation and eliminates the foreign smell. by replacing it with his own. This olfactory signal is, in a way, his protective shield against attackers. On the other hand, the smell of a female in heat has a different aim: it signals to the male that the female in question is  ready to mate .

Curiosity and playful behavior

The hamster’s reaction differs depending on whether it is confronted with a new object or an already familiar utensil. He goes  cautiously to find it first, slowly approaching it, sniffing it and touching it . This is how he unearths new sources of food and notices hiding places or even a place suitable for making a nest. Apart from his curiosity, in the young hamster  the playful attitude is much more pronounced than in his  adult congeners . The little ones bicker and practice attack, defense and flight, thus arming themselves for adult life.


The hamster’s curiosity forms the basis of its learning . It allows him to adapt to the specific living conditions to which he is subjected in your home. I “saved” one of my hamsters who had been missing for about seven hours. This little leprechaun, who until then was afraid of hands, let himself  be taken without hesitation and put back in his cage . Since then, he only goes out with cheekbones filled to the brim, often lugging food around for hours on end and only resting his riches in the manger when he returns.

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