Home » What Do Hamsters Use Their Tails For? (Hamster Tail Purpose)
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What Do Hamsters Use Their Tails For? (Hamster Tail Purpose)

While hamsters have tails, they aren’t prominent. So, the tail is barely visible for long-haired Syrian hamsters. You would be within your rights to question why hamsters have tails.

Hamsters use their tails to protect their behinds. Hamsters love to climb but can be accident-prone due to poor eyesight, so a tail provides padding if they fall.

Hamsters’ tails provide stability when negotiating uneven terrain. Also, female hamsters raise their tails when they’re willing to mate.

A hamster’s tail may not seem an indispensable part of its anatomy. However, the tail is part of the spine, so damage to the tail can have severe repercussions.

Do All Hamsters Have Tails?

All hamsters have tails, although the size is species-specific.

A Syrian hamster’s tail will be tiny, rarely longer than half an inch. You may not even see the tail without moving some fur around the bottom.

Dwarf hamsters have more prominent tails, although they’re always proportionate to their body size. The Chinese Stripe hamsters (Cricetulus barabensis) have a tail that reaches 1 inch long.

Why are Hamster Tails So Small?

Hamsters’ tails are small because they’re part of their spine. In the case of a Syrian hamster, it’ll have up to 44 total vertebrae, 14 of which are found in the tail.

So, hamsters won’t benefit from a prominent tail. Wild hamsters spend most of their days hiding from predators, and a conspicuous tail would make that task more difficult.

A hamster’s tail is as long as it needs to be for its limited purpose.

Why Do Hamsters Have Tails?

Having established that hamsters have tails, we need to know: what are hamster tails for? Unlike other animals, hamsters don’t curl, swish, or wag their tails, so their purpose isn’t immediately clear.

Hamsters’ tails serve three primary purposes:

  • Padding around the rear.
  • Remaining balanced when tackling wild terrain.
  • Used in body language when communicating with conspecifics.


A hamster’s tail’s primary purpose is to protect the rear.

Hamsters burrow underground and squeeze head-first into small spaces, which could expose their bottoms, but the tail provides a measure of shielding.

Hamsters can find life in a cage pretty dull and will look to entertain themselves by embracing their wild instincts. This will often involve climbing or monkey barring across the cage.

That’s fun until they lose their grip and fall. It’ll enjoy a soft landing if you’ve packed the hamster’s cage with bedding. However, a hamster will tuck its tail to absorb the impact.

This doesn’t mean that hamster tails can be used as a shield indefinitely. We have explained how a hamster’s tail is an extension of its spine, so it must be treated carefully.

The tail can take the occasional bump from falling from a height, but there are limits to its endurance.

what are hamsters tails for?

Support and Stability

It would be a stretch to claim that a hamster’s tail provides balance when climbing or traveling.

The appendage is too short to be overly helpful in this way. The tail can provide more stability when crossing unfamiliar terrain.

Most hamsters prefer to move on soft ground. Wild hamsters hail from desert climes, so they’re used to living in and around sand, so we replicate this environment with a substrate in a cage.

A wild hamster may occasionally need to scramble over rougher ground, such as rocks, especially when a predator chases it.

In such an instance, the hamster will use its tail to keep an even weight distribution, ensuring movement does not falter in difficult surroundings.

Communication and Mating

Hamsters use their tails to express body language and communicate with each other. The best example of this is female hamsters during their estrus cycle.

Breeding hamsters take preparation, and there’s no guarantee you’ll succeed. A female lifting her tail dramatically increases the chances of mating success.

If the female is in her estrus cycle, try giving her a gentle stroke on the back. You’ll likely find that she reacts by freezing on the spot, and her tail will shoot straight upward like an antenna.

Why do hamster tails stick up this way?

It’s to announce that the female is willing to mate. Ordinarily, a female hamster might snap at a male that attempts to mount her without invitation. When in estrus, females change their behavior.

By lifting her tail, the female is presenting herself to a male.

Can Hamsters Live Without Tails?

There’s no reason that a hamster can’t function without a tail.

None of the uses of this appendage we have profiled are a matter of life and death. There will still be repercussions for a hamster losing its tail, though.

As a hamster’s tail is part of its backbone, amputating or seriously damaging it will have repercussions. Hamsters can break their tails, which leads to difficulty moving.

Just because a hamster’s tail is subtle and inconspicuous, it doesn’t make it redundant.

How Does a Healthy Hamster Tail Look and Feel?

How a hamster’s tail feels is of more importance than how it looks.

Hamsters are susceptible to a bacterial infection called proliferative ileitis, colloquially known as wet tail. This condition causes diarrhea, which leads to a damp feeling around the appendage.

Wet tail is very serious and should be treated as such. As per Laboratory Animals, just 44% of hamsters recover from the condition without treatment, and many hamsters with wet tail die within 48 hours.

If you notice dampness around your hamster’s tail, especially with low energy, dull eyes, and appetite loss, seek emergency veterinary assistance.

Despite the small and stubby nature of the appendage, hamsters’ tails have a range of uses. As subtle as hamster tails are, they’re reliable barometers of their health and well-being.