Hamsters are nearsighted, so they can’t see things from afar. Due to their poor eyesight, hamsters primarily navigate the world with their sense of smell and hearing.
Hamsters are crepuscular, which means they’re mostly active at dawn and dusk. Domestic hamsters are more nocturnal than crepuscular, but that’s only because they adapt to the schedule of their owners.
According to Physiology and Behavior, hamsters get limited sunlight each day because they spend most of their time sleeping in underground burrows. Because hamsters get so little natural light, they never developed a need to see things from afar in broad daylight.
Even if hamsters did have good eyesight, they have little visibility when they’re inside their burrows. So, instead of hamsters being able to see well, their other senses are more finely tuned.
What Is a Hamster’s Eyesight Like?
Hamsters are nearsighted, so everything looks fuzzy and unfocused to them.
According to Oregon State College, hamsters have corneas that appear biconvex, meaning that both sides of the corneas appear slightly curved outward instead of completely round.
In reality, hamsters’ corneas are extremely flat; they appear rounder due to the pigment on the palpebrae (muscle surrounding the eyes). It creates the illusion of roundness when hamsters’ corneas are less convex than ours.
The rounder the cornea, the more the eye can focus. When light enters a hamster’s eyes, the convex shape of the cornea bends the light and helps them see clearly.
Because hamsters have flat corneas, their eyes can’t bend light very well, so the image that strikes their retinas looks extremely blurry.
Can Hamsters See Better at Night?
Hamsters see better when the lighting conditions are low. They don’t have night vision like cats or owls, so their vision remains poor in complete darkness.
Because hamsters are crepuscular, they’re active at dawn and dusk. Hamsters forage for food under low lighting conditions, so their eyesight is better during these times.
Hamsters can see well in low light because they have millions of rods in their tiny black eyes. Rods are photoreceptor cells that enable hamsters to perceive light waves.
How Far Can Hamsters See?
At most, hamsters can only see a few inches ahead, but the exact distance is unknown. So, a hamster can see things directly in front of it but struggles to see distant objects.
Are Hamsters Color Blind?
Hamsters can see some colors toward the end of the visible light spectrum, like green and blue. However, they have trouble with warmer colors because they have more rods than cones.
According to Applied Microscopy, 97% of photoreceptor cells in hamsters’ eyes are rods, and the other 3% are cones. Cones are cells that enable hamsters to perceive color. Because they have so few cones, hamsters experience difficulty seeing most colors on the spectrum.
Cones work most effectively in bright light. However, because hamsters’ vision is blurry if the lighting conditions are high, they still can’t see certain colors, even when the color is bright.
Can Hamsters See Infrared Light?
Hamsters can’t see infrared light due to the cones they have in their eyes. According to Retinal Cell Biology, hamsters’ retinal cones have two visual pigments.
The structure of their retinal cells leans more toward the ultraviolet side of the light spectrum.
Cool colors like green and blue (and perhaps shades of purple) are easy to detect because they have a slow wavelength. Infrared has a wavelength (700 nanometers-1 millimeter), so hamsters can’t detect it.
Even though hamsters can’t see infrared light, it can still affect them. According to the study from Behavioral Processes, hamsters’ vision is impaired by infrared light. When exposed to infrared light, hamsters were 5-9 times more likely to make errors.
Hamster Vision Vs. Human Vision
Hamsters’ eyesight is significantly inferior to human eyesight. Hamsters spend their days without much need for sight, so their other senses compensate, enabling them to survive with nearsightedness.
Here are the differences between human vision and hamsters’ vision:
|Species||Cones||Rods||Light Spectrum||Color Spectrum|
|Human||6 million||92 million||380nm-700nm||Full-color spectrum|
|Hamster||293 thousand||9 million||450nm-550nm||Only shades of green, blue, and purple (perhaps)|
Humans are diurnal creatures, so we’ve evolved to be able to see in conditions with bright lights. Our light wavelength detection is better, so we can detect a full-color spectrum.
Because we have more rods in our eyes than hamsters, we can see in low lighting conditions much better than hamsters. If your hamster’s room is dark and you can barely see, you can assume that your hamster can see even less than you.
How Do Hamsters See Humans?
Hamsters can’t see humans well unless they’re close enough. If you stand in front of your hamster’s cage, it won’t recognize you by sight, but it’ll recognize your smell and the sound of your voice.
According to Behavioral Processes, if the object the hamster is looking for is close enough, it’ll rely on its vision almost as much as its other senses. However, white noise or strong smells can hinder how well the hamster locates the object.
Many people believe that hamsters can’t see their owners, and that’s why they get so scared when they’re approached. It appears as though the hamster doesn’t recognize its owner.
However, when a hamster fears its owner, it’s because something is interfering with its hearing or sense of smell. If the owner is far enough away and the hamster can’t see, it’ll think it’s a predator.
If you want your hamster to see you properly, you need to move toward it slowly. The smell of food or a TV sound can make you unrecognizable to a hamster if you’re too far away.
Speak to your hamster clearly, and don’t make any sudden movements. Once you’re close enough, the hamster will show signs that it sees you, recognizes you, and is pleased to see you.
Can A Hamster Go Blind?
You can tell that your hamster is blind if it:
- Has problems finding things a few inches from its face
- Tumbles around its cage
- Bumps into things
- It doesn’t respond to bright lights while in dark rooms
- Eyes are cloudy
Hamsters can be born blind due to genetic problems, or they can develop blindness due to illness.
Eye infections, injuries, and diseases are the most common ways a hamster becomes blind. Among the diseases, a common cause of blindness in hamsters is glaucoma.
Every owner should understand how hamsters’ eyesight works. Because their vision is different than ours, they have certain environmental requirements related to their eyesight. Knowing what colors and how far away they can see will enable you to make your hamster’s life better.