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Where Do Hamsters Live in Nature?

Last Updated: 27.02.20


You love your pet rodent so much and you know that the proper hamster enclosure should be large enough to offer him/her all the necessary comfort. Also, there are so many hamster accessories that help him/her stay healthy and happy. Hamsters are adorable little creatures that are commonly kept as house pets.

But, these cute little animals can be found outside of your house or pet stores, too. In other words, they have managed to survive in the wild for a long time and they still manage to do it. So, if you were thinking that they are too vulnerable to make it on their own, you should know that this isn’t true. Let’s see where these clever small animals live in nature.



It is believed that the first wild hamsters came from countries like Syria, Belgium, northern China, Greece, and Romania. In the wilderness, they prefer to live in warm, dry places, like steppes, sand dunes, or near deserts. Some hamsters prefer to spend time with their own kind, while others prefer to be by themselves.

According to the Louisiana Veterinary Office Medical Association, the hamsters brought to the USA in 1936 were some of the first domesticated ones. The term “hamster” comes from the German word “hamstern” which means “to stock” which is very suitable for them. Besides hoarding food in their homes, these little animals also stash food in their cheeks.

Hamsters are nocturnal animals which means that they sleep during the day and they are active during the night. Also, they love to burrow and to create networks of tunnels and caves where they spend most of their time. There are multiple reasons why they choose not to make their homes above ground, and they prefer to dig burrows.

The main reason is to protect themselves against predators; since their eyesight is not very good it can be hard for them to predict a forthcoming danger. Also, they store food in their burrows and they can keep themselves cool in hot climates. Wild hamsters hibernate when the weather is too cold, and tunnels will help them stay warm.




When they are born, baby hamsters are blind, deaf, and naked. They are very vulnerable and fragile but their mother will take proper care of them. The number of babies that females tend to have is two to three per year. And, in the wild, hamsters live one to two years, but in captivity, they can live up to three years if they receive proper care from their owners.

When they are born in the wild, nobody touches the babies and the female hamster is used to the way they smell. That is why, if you have a pet hamster that had babies recently make sure you don’t touch them because their mother will abandon them. By the time they are five days old, hamsters will start to have a light layer of fur.

They still don’t see anything but this doesn’t mean that they don’t like to explore their territory. They will start to see when they are about two weeks old – when they begin to open their eyes. But, they still rely on their mother for protection and they are still too young to leave her.

Only when they are between 21 and 28 days, they are big enough to take care of themselves and they will leave their mother. There are species that stay with their mother for a longer time. The Syrian hamsters, for example, continue to nurse from their mother until the 26th to 28th day after they were born.


Burrowing behavior

As we have already mentioned, all hamsters are very good at digging burrows. And when we say that they are very good, we mean it!  They can construct burrows that have multiple entrances and are connected to chambers for various purposes like food storage or nesting. Hamsters have everything they need in order to be able to survive in the wild by themselves.

They manage to build these complex tunnels with their teeth and snouts as well as their fore- and hind legs. Thanks to these amazing physical characteristics, they are able to create a safe place for themselves where they can hide from predators. They might not be strong animals, but they are clever little creatures that have managed to survive for ages.

Let’s take the Syrian hamsters, for example, and let’s analyze their burrows in order to convince ourselves of their amazing digging qualities. These hamsters dig their burrows at a depth of 0.7 m. They have an entrance that is quite steep, about 4-5 cm in diameter, a nesting, and a hoarding chamber, and a blind-ending branch for urination.

So, they don’t just build tunnels – they build complex and clever living spaces underground. When they are in captivity, they still feel the need to burrow, and that is why it is recommended for their owners to provide them with the appropriate bedding.



Nocturnal animals

Hamsters are considered by many people nocturnal animals that are active during the night and sleep during the day. But, since hamsters stay underground in their tunnels during the day, and they are away for about an hour before sundown and come back when it gets dark, some people consider them Crepuscular (active mostly at dawn and dusk).

The American historian, Peter Fritzsche, considers all these small animals primarily crepuscular, although some species are known to be more active during the night. But what about those cold days in the winter, how do these adorable rodents survive?

The Syrian hamsters, for example, have their own way of reducing the need for food during the winter. They can hibernate and allow their body temperature to be almost the same as the temperature of their ambient.  

This thermoregulation manages to reduce the metabolic rate to 5%. These amazing little creatures can hibernate for as long as one week, but they usually do it for 2 to 3 days.



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Irina Ionescu

As a long-term learner and animal lover, Irina helps her readers find the best products and accessories for their pets, as well as the latest training techniques, tips & tricks on how to handle animals.

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