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Do Hamsters Have Poor Eyesight? (Hamster vs. Human Vision)

Hamsters are nearsighted animals, so they can’t see things from afar. Due to their poor eyesight and shortsightedness, hamsters navigate the world through their sense of smell and hearing.

According to Physiology and Behavior, hamsters get limited sunlight each day because they spend most of their time sleeping, hiding, and exploring in underground burrows. As hamsters get so little natural light, they don’t need to see things from afar in broad daylight like humans.

Even if hamsters had good eyesight, they’d have little visibility inside their deep burrows. So, instead of hamsters being able to see well, their other senses are far more advanced.

What Is a Hamster’s Eyesight Like?

Hamsters are nearsighted, so everything looks fuzzy and unfocused.

According to Oregon State College, hamsters have corneas that look biconvex, meaning that both sides of the cornea appear slightly curved outward rather than completely round.

In reality, hamsters’ corneas are flat; they appear round due to the pigment on the palpebrae (muscle surrounding the eyes). It creates the illusion of roundness when hamsters’ corneas are less convex.

The rounder the cornea, the better 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 well, so the image that strikes their retinas looks extremely blurry.

how far can hamsters see?

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 sub-par in complete darkness.

As hamsters are crepuscular, they’re active at dawn and dusk. Hamsters forage for food under low lighting conditions, so their eyesight is better at 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, including 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 hamsters have so few cones, they experience difficulty seeing most colors on the spectrum.

Cones work most effectively in bright light. However, hamsters’ vision is blurry if the lighting conditions are high, so they still can’t see certain colors.

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 2 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 vastly 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:

SpeciesConesRodsLight SpectrumColor Spectrum
Human6 million92 million380nm-700nmFull-color spectrum
Hamster293 thousand9 million450nm-550nmOnly 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 the 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 believe hamsters can’t see their owners, so they get scared when approached. It appears as though the hamster doesn’t recognize its owner.

However, when a hamster fears its owner, something interferes 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 the hamster to see you well, 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 the hamster clearly, and don’t make any sudden movements. Once you’re close enough, the hamster will show signs that it sees and recognizes and is pleased to see you.

what is a hamster's eyesight like?

Can A Hamster Go Blind?

You can tell that a 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 illnesses.

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. As their vision is different than ours, they have certain environmental requirements.

Knowing what colors and how far away they can see will enable you to make your hamster’s life better.