Why Don’t Hamsters Have Good Eyesight?

When it comes to possible pets, there are a lot of options from which to choose. I remember, as a child, I always wanted to have a pet that was a bit unique. Lots of my friends have cats and dogs.

I wanted to get something different. Our elementary school classroom had a pet hamster. As a result, I decided that I wanted to have one at home. Eventually, I was able to convince my parents to get one. Unfortunately, I quickly realized that a hamster is not able to see very well.

I wondered why this was the case. Why don’t hamsters have good eyesight? There are a few important points to keep in mind. 

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Hamsters Are Nocturnal Creatures

One of the biggest reasons why hamsters don’t have very good eyesight is that they are nocturnal. They spend most of their active time in the wild at night. Even though hamsters are domesticated, they maintain a lot of their wild habits.

While this is one reason why hamsters have poor eyesight, there are several other reasons to consider.

Hamsters Use Their Other Senses To Compensate for lack of Sight

Remember that sight is only one of the five senses. As people, we depend on our eyesight for just about everything. Losing our eyesight is a massive issue for our overall quality of life.

On the other hand, many animals don’t depend on their eyes as much. This means that they have to compensate with their other senses. Similar to dogs having an exceptional sense of hearing, a hamster is no different.

A hamster is going to use all of his or her senses to interpret the world. While a hamster certainly is still going to use its eyes when possible, the other senses are going to play a bigger role.

Thinking About Hamsters in the Wild

When we think about hamsters, we commonly think about them and their small little cages. I know that my image of a hamster is a domesticated one.

When someone says the word a hamster, I immediately picture my childhood friend running on his wheel or drinking out of a small water bottle. On the other hand, it is important to remember that most hamsters live in the wild.

Wild hamsters are burrowing animals. This means that they spend a lot of their time underground. In the vast majority of cases, a hamster will spend its daytime hours asleep.

At night, they tend to come out of their tunnels. This is when they tend to forage for food. Even though hamsters are domesticated, in many cases, they still maintain a lot of their habits from the wild. 

I remember asking my parents while why my hamster is always asleep when I came over to say hi. Then, one night, I heard something crash. I went downstairs to see what happened.

It turned out that something that was on top of the cage had fallen. I had never seen my hamster run so much. This is just one example of a hamster maintaining its habits from the wild and bring them to the domesticated world.

Hamsters Are Nocturnal Creatures

As alluded to above, hamsters are nocturnal creatures. This means that they spend a lot of their time asleep. They tend to be most active at night. Also, hamsters are small creatures.

This means that they have a lot of predators. In order to avoid being eaten, hamsters are going to spend their days hiding. In the wild, hamsters are going to hide in their tunnels.

Even in the domesticated world, hamsters are going to spend a lot of their time hiding in their homes or burrowing underneath the litter and an effort to shield themselves.

Then, at night, hamsters are going to come out to play. In the wild, hamsters are going to run around and forage for food. In the domesticated world, hamsters might jump on the exercise wheel, drink from their water bottles, or eat their food.

Just because hamsters are more active at night doesn’t mean that a light magically becomes brighter. Hamsters need to be able to interpret the world in the absence of light.

This is where a hamster’s other senses are going to play a role. At night, a hamster is not going to be able to use its eyes that well. As a result, they rely on their other senses, such a smell, and hearing.

They are going to listen for shifts in the world around them, and they are going to use their nose to find food. In this manner, a hamster simply relies on other senses more than its eyes.

It’s important to note that a hamster is not completely blind. The hamster tends to have a wider angle of vision when compared to other animals.

For the most part, a hamster actually sees better in dim light. This is because a hamster’s eyes are exquisitely sensitive. A hamster is able to take a small amount of light and extrapolate a lot of information about the world around it.

At the same time, a hamster is also going to be almost completely blind in bright light. 

Think about what happens when you step outside after a visit to the eye doctor. If you had your eyes dilated, then you might be completely blinded by the bright sunlight.

A hamster is like this all the time. If there are bright lights around, a hamster is going to have trouble seeing. 

Keep Hamsters Safe in Captivity

It is important for all pet owners to keep the poor eyesight of their hamsters in mind. It is critical to avoid placing a hamster in a cage with multiple levels.

Because a hamster cannot see very well, he or she is going to have trouble figuring out how high off the ground he or she is. As a result, if there are multiple levels to cages, then a hamster might fall.

This could result in broken limbs, damage to internal organs, or even death if they hamster falls from a great height. Cages with multiple levels are a tremendous safety hazard. 

Furthermore, a hamster should never be allowed to sit on top of someone’s shoulder. Even though there is something cute about having a small hamster on the shoulder, this is a tremendous safety risk for these small rodents.

A hamster might believe that he or she can leap from this position. Unfortunately, if a hamster were to jump from someone’s shoulder and strike the ground, there is a high chance of death.

Finally, hamsters need to be placed in secure cages at all times. If a hamster is able to escape, and he or she might not be able to adequately interpret the world.

Lights in homes tend to be pretty bright, which will completely blind a hamster. The hamster might stumble into a mouse trap or get stuck underneath something, never to be found again. 

Behavioral Problems Related to Poor Eyesight

Hamsters are known to bite. On the other hand, this is also just a hamster compensating for its poor eyesight. Because hamsters cannot see very well, sudden movements in front of them can seriously scare them. As a result, hamsters are going to reach out and try to protect themselves by biting.

Furthermore, a hamster will also bite somebody because he or she cannot see who is in the area. This is a defensive behavior and is used to help the hamster figure out who was in the room. Nobody should ever take it personally if they are bitten by a hamster. This is just a hamster’s way of interpreting the environment.

Therefore, it is important to make sure that hamsters are as comfortable as possible. They should be allowed to spend plenty of time in their cages. At the same time, when it is necessary to handle a hamster, try to be as gentle as possible. Make slow, deliberate movements.

Remember that hamsters have a good sense of smell. They are going to use this sense of smell to learn more about the world around them. Similar to dogs learning the scent of his or her owner, a hamster is going to do the same thing.

It will take a couple of weeks for a hamster to get used to having the same person come in and out of the room. Therefore, everyone should take their time when it comes to handling a hamster. Once a hamster gets used to someone being in the room, he or she is going to be less likely to bite. 

When a hamster is in his or her cage, it is important to keep the room relatively dark. When a hamster comes out to play, he or she will want to see. Remember that a hamster sees better in dim light. Therefore, try to keep the room dark to make sure the hamster feels invited to come out and play.