Happiness in hamsters can be identified through vocalizations. Contented hamsters will squeak (without hissing or screaming, which suggests stress), click their teeth together, and purr and coo.
Physical behavior is a clearer insight into a hamster’s mind. If the hamster is happy, it’ll groom, yawn, stretch in front of you, and want to be held. Hamsters in a joyful state of mind are active and energetic.
Hamsters don’t live long lives, so the time you spend together must be defined by happiness and joy. Learning the signs of a happy is an essential part of ownership.
Do Hamsters Have Emotions?
Hamsters may be small animals, but this does not make them unintelligent.
Neuroscience confirms that hamsters experience a range of emotions, which can be manipulated and enforced by their environment.
As hamsters can experience acute stress, they can also experience happiness, even euphoria.
What Makes a Hamster Happy?
Everybody wants their hamster to be happy, so you need to understand how to bring joy to its life. While every hamster is unique, the following will usually keep a hamster content:
- Appropriate surroundings, such as low lighting and no loud noises.
- A large cage that provides entertainment and opportunities to explore.
- Time outside the cage to exercise and explore at least once a day.
- Good food centered around nutritional balance and occasional treats.
- Deep bedding and substrate encourage digging and burrowing.
- Opportunities to chew and wear down teeth.
- A hygienic habitat that isn’t filled with waste or soiled bedding.
- Limited handling and not being displaced too often.
If you can provide a hamster with these opportunities for contentment, it is likelier to live a happy life.
How To Tell if a Hamster is Happy
Insights into a hamster’s state of mind can be gleaned from two key sources – the noises it makes and how it behaves in and out of your presence.
To ensure a pet hamster has a good life, learn to recognize these signs of a happy hamster.
Happy Hamster Noises
Hamsters are usually quiet pets, so you must listen carefully for any sounds of happiness and contentment. A hamster that makes a loud, abrasive sound is likelier to denote fear, pain, or stress.
All the same, some common hamster noises are considered sounds of joy and excitement. If you hear these noises from a hamster, you meet its emotional and physical needs.
Squeaking is the most common and misunderstood noise that a hamster can make. Hamsters may squeak when frightened or irritated, although this escalates to hissing or screaming before long.
A hamster’s squeak is more readily associated with happiness, especially if it coincides with the appearance of a trusted human. Hamsters squeak with pleasure at the prospect of food or a treat or when they feel they are about to be released from a cage for playtime.
Many hamsters often squeak when presented with a new toy or find that their cage layout has been rearranged. The hamster is excited by the possibility of a new, novel experience.
Bruxing (Clicking the Teeth)
Hamsters always look for ways to wear down their teeth and will chew everything in sight. Many hamsters will also grind their teeth together.
Initially, bruxism can sound as though the hamster’s teeth are chattering. Ensure the ambient temperature isn’t chilly and the cage isn’t in line with a draught. Hamsters hate being too cold.
In most cases, bruxism can be interpreted as a sign of serenity, especially if coupled with or followed up by physical demonstrations of happiness.
Cooing and Purring
If a hamster is extremely content, you may be lucky enough to hear a soft cooing and purring akin to a cat. This sound is as quiet as it is rare, but hamster owners have reported it.
You’re likeliest to hear a hamster make this noise while you hold and stroke it along the back. Cooing and purring are precursors to a blissfully happy hamster preparing to sleep while petting.
Happy Hamster Behavior
While you can tell something about your hamster’s mood through its noises and verbalizations, body language and physical behavior offer much greater insights into a hamster’s state of mind.
If the hamster is depressed, frightened, or stressed, you won’t see much of it. Hamsters in a negative headspace shy away from human interaction and will prefer to hide.
A happy hamster will be more active and showcase certain behaviors. If you’re wondering, “what do hamsters do when they’re happy?” here are some signs it’s feeling good:
Minimal Escape Attempts
Escaping a cage is as natural a hamster behavior as eating, sleeping, and grooming. It’s almost certain that the hamster will escape the cage at some point in a quest to explore external surroundings.
Happy hamsters are less concerned with escape attempts. They may still make a bolt for an open door if an opportunity to run free presents itself, but this won’t become the driving force of their activity.
If a cage meets the hamster’s needs and trusts that you’ll provide playtime when the time is right, the hamster won’t spend every waking moment looking for a way out of its habitat.
As hamsters are so small and fragile, they’ll feel apprehensive around humans. Once you’ve gained a hamster’s trust, it’ll actively approach you and ask to be held, groomed, or petted.
This is the biggest show of happiness that a hamster can demonstrate. Willfully asking to be held flies in the face of every instinct a hamster has, so it’ll only happen when it feels safe and secure.
Yawning and Stretching
A big yawn and stretch upon awakening is positive hamster body language. If it could speak, this action would translate as, “I feel very well rested after a long sleep, and I feel great.”
Yawning, in particular, is a sign that your hamster trusts you. While it involves showing teeth, it’s a sign the hamster feels secure around you.
Hamsters are clean animals and will always work to keep their coats clean and shiny. Unless the hamster is grooming so much it is losing fur, this signifies happiness.
Animal Learning and Behavior explains how grooming is tough to train and enforce in hamsters. It’ll only indulge in this act if it feels comfortable and satisfied, not because it’s looking for positive reinforcement.
Hamsters that groom themselves in front of you, or ask for assistance, are feeling content. Sharing what is considered a personal act signifies that the hamster considers you a source of pleasure.
Eating Well and Storing Food
A happy hamster will always respond with excitement to the prospect of a snack and seem to have a voracious update. You may watch a hamster picking at its food bowl and wonder how it can cram so much food into such a small body.
If the hamster feels relaxed and happy, it won’t eat everything it puts in its mouth. Instead, it’ll be stuffing its cheek pouches to stash food around the cage, most likely the bed.
While hoarding food is an instinctive behavior born of concern that resources will run out, it’s a sign that a hamster is happy in its environment. It suggests that the hamster doesn’t feel the need to eat on the spot through fear that it will not be fed again.
Playing and Exercising
While intense hyperactivity can be a warning sign of stress in hamsters, it is more commonly associated with happiness. An unhappy hamster will be withdrawn and lethargic, while contented hamsters are bursting with energy and zest for life.
If the hamster is running on its exercise wheel and clambering over obstacles throughout the evening, it’s seemingly in a good mood and enjoying its surroundings.
How to Cheer Up a Sad Hamster
Unhappy hamsters live under constant stress, which puts their long-term health at risk.
Let’s look at common reasons why your hamster may not relish its current living arrangements and how you can bring a little more joy into your pet’s life.
Earn or Rebuild Trust
All hamsters need a little time to adapt to a new home. A new life in captivity can be stressful for a hamster born and raised in a pet store. Everything the hamster was familiar with has changed.
Give your hamster time and space to adjust. After around three days, most hamsters will find that nerves and suspicion are overtaken by curiosity. Use this time to familiarize your hamster with your voice and scent, so it learns to trust you.
Keep your distance from a hamster that does not display any outright desire to interact with you. Forcing the hamster into attempted bonding will delay earning its trust. Keep and talk to your hamster from a distance until it starts approaching you.
Move the Cage
The wrong cage location can make life miserable for a hamster.
If a hamster seems unhappy, move the cage to a different room. Consider what’s upsetting the hamster and find a location that offers none of these issues.
The hamster likely finds its present territory too noisy, too busy, or too well-lit.
Change these factors and watch for an adjustment in the hamster’s behavior. If you’ve solved the concern, this will be reflected in how the hamster behaves and vocalizes.
Can you imagine living in a cage or glass tank, watching the world unfold around you but being unable to pass the time by reading a book, surfing the internet, watching television, or indulging in hobbies?
That’s the life of a hamster that lacks in-cage entertainment.
Hamsters can grow bored, especially as they’re most active when their owners sleep. A hamster can never have too many toys, chews, climbing frames, or other ways to make the nights pass faster.
Provide More Outside Time
No matter how large a cage may be and how many toys and tunnels you place within it, all hamsters want and need to exercise outside. Hamsters are driven by an innate desire to explore new territory.
If you’re not letting the hamster out of its home for outside playtime, set up a playpen and give it somewhere else to explore. This change, and a reliable routine, will be beneficial.
Happy hamsters live longer than their stressed counterparts, bringing more entertainment and amusement to an owner’s life. Work with your hamster to ensure it has everything it needs to live a carefree and enjoyable lifespan.