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Do Hamsters Need Sunlight? (Too Much vs. Too Little Direct Light)

Something that’s not always considered is whether hamsters need sunlight. Hamsters rarely come out during the day, but that doesn’t mean light isn’t important to them.

Hamsters use sunlight to decide when to wake up and go to sleep. As crepuscular animals, too much or too little sunlight affects their sleeping patterns.

The optimal amount of natural sunlight prevents sleep deprivation. Also, direct sunlight can cause dehydration, stress, and heatstroke.

Keep the hamster out of direct sunlight and provide fresh water. You’ll also need to monitor the cage’s position throughout the spring and summer to ensure the sun’s direction doesn’t change.

Do Hamsters Need Sunshine?

Hamsters need some natural sunlight to remain healthy. However, there’s a fine line between too much and insufficient light.

Hamsters thrive when they have access to indirect or filtered sunlight. If they’re exposed to too much sunshine, they’re at risk of becoming overheated and dehydrated.

Hamsters are active between dusk and dawn and sleep during daylight hours. Once the sun sets, they become active and sleep once the sun starts to rise.

Light gives hamsters their cue to wake up and go to bed, enabling them to adopt a natural routine. Hamsters don’t have a biological clock that tells them when to wake and sleep, so they rely on the light.

As a result, hamsters without access to natural light are more likely to experience sleep deprivation and stress due to a lack of routine.

Similarly, hamsters see best in low light levels. If it’s too dark, a hamster won’t be able to see well enough. Hamsters get light from the moon in the wild, so they need a small amount of light to be safe.

While artificial lights can replicate natural conditions, they’re not an ideal long-term replacement for sunlight. There’s also the risk of forgetting to turn them off when the sun goes down.

Can Hamsters Be in Direct Sunlight?

Direct sunlight can cause hamsters to overheat and dehydrate. They’re sensitive to light, so if the cage is in the position of bright light, it’s more likely to develop:

  • Eye problems.
  • Disrupted sleep cycles.
  • General discomfort.

Glass tanks are likelier to overheat because they trap heat, causing hamsters to become too hot. Providing ventilation and a mesh lid helps circulate cooler air, but never place a glass tank in the sun.

Filtered sunlight is the best way to give a hamster the light it needs.

Use a blind or net curtain to filter the sun’s rays and make the hamster feel more comfortable. You could also use a thermometer inside a hamster’s cage to ensure it remains at a stable temperature.

Covering the hamster’s cage to block out the light isn’t a good idea because it can’t distinguish between day and night. As a result, the hamster would live in permanent darkness, causing long-term health problems and misaligned sleeping patterns.

Is Sunlight Bad for Hamsters?

Hamsters dig underground burrows at night, creating separate tunnels for:

  • Sleeping.
  • Storing food.
  • Escaping predators.
  • Sheltering from unpredictable weather situations.

As a result, hamsters are rarely exposed to sunlight and only need a small amount to feel comfortable during the day. This also means they won’t be bothered by natural sunlight.

If their environment’s too bright, they’ll move underground where it’s nice and dark and cover themselves in bedding. Doing so will block out most of the sunlight.

You can also provide hideouts for the hamster to retreat to and hide from the sun and the subsequent heat. Ceramic hideouts are particularly cool.

However, direct sunlight harms hamsters by producing more heat than natural light filtering into a room. Spring and summer are more of a problem than autumn and winter because the days are longer. You may need to move the cage when the seasons change.

Similarly, if you keep a hamster in its own room, you may not even realize it’s becoming overheated.

Periodically checking on the hamster during the sunniest periods of the day can help you determine which times are most problematic for the cage’s location. 

can hamsters be in direct sunlight?

Can Sunlight Kill Hamsters?

Natural light is unlikely to cause a hamster any harm. However, direct sunlight can become a problem, especially if the hamster is exposed to it for long periods.

According to Laboratory Animal Medicine, adult hamsters must be kept in temperatures between 68–79°F with 30–70% humidity.

Hamsters are adaptable to cooler temperatures, so direct sunlight makes their environment hotter than they like. The following health conditions are most commonly associated with too much sunlight.

Dehydration

Direct sunlight causes excessive amounts of water to be lost through urine, vomit, and diarrhea, resulting in the body’s cells functioning less effectively and eventually shutting down. They also lose essential salts and minerals from the body’s water content.

The symptoms of dehydration caused by sunlight include:

  • Increased thirst.
  • Tight, dry skin.
  • Lethargy.
  • Sudden weight loss.
  • A foul smell.
  • The hamster has no energy to clean itself.

If the hamster becomes dehydrated, feed it small pieces of fruit and veg, such as cucumber or lettuce, to replenish its water levels.

You may want to try placing the hamster’s water in a shallow dish so it can get to it more easily.

To prevent dehydration, move the hamster’s cage away from direct sunlight and keep the room at a stable temperature.

Heatstroke

Heatstroke in hamsters is also known as sleeper disease because it causes them to appear limp and lifeless. They also tremble when touched.

Heatstroke is a serious problem and causes a quick and painful death. The British Hamster Association confirms that heatstroke occurs when a hamster’s cage sits in direct sunlight.

Specifically, the excessive heat from direct sunlight causes the blood to thicken, making it difficult to flow through to their major organs. The main signs of heatstroke include the following:

  • Decreased energy levels.
  • Lack of energy.
  • Excessive thirst.
  • Mood swings.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Weight loss.
  • Floppiness, or “playing dead.”

Water and ventilation are recommended for controlling heatstroke.

Stress

Hamsters become stressed in temperatures hotter than 75-80 degrees F (24-27 degrees C). Stress can make pre-existing health conditions worse and weaken their immune systems.

According to the MSD Veterinary Manual, stress precipitates the bacterium Clostridium piliforme, which is the cause of Tyzzer disease.

Many owners rearrange their enclosures during the summer to create cooler sections. If the hamster seems to be getting too warm due to the sunlight, create a section at the end containing sand and coco oil (or a similar substrate), which doesn’t retain heat as much as bedding.

You could also place a ceramic tile in the cage so the hamster can lie down on it to cool itself.

Hamsters need some natural sunlight. Direct sunlight is a significant issue, affecting the hamster’s quality of life. However, too much shade or darkness can cause problems, so you must strike the right balance.