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What Does It Mean When Your Hamster’s Ears Are Down?

Last Updated on: 24th September 2023, 05:33 pm

Hamsters don’t vocalize often, so their body language lets owners determine their mood. It can also enable owners to identify whether there are any health issues.

Hamsters’ ears go flat as a reaction to stress or fear triggers, such as sudden noises or unfamiliar smells. They have many predators in the wild, so they must remain on high alert to remain safe. Also, folded ears can signify a painful ear infection or injury.

Flattened ears aren’t always a problem, as many hamsters hold their ears down while waking up after a long sleep. However, if they don’t eventually return to being upright and alert shortly afterward, something could be wrong with your hamster’s health or environment.

Why Are My Hamster’s Ears Flat?

Most happy and healthy hamsters keep their ears upright, enabling them to hear things in their environment and explore their surroundings. Hamsters can’t see well, so they rely on their excellent hearing to detect predators and other dangers they need to escape.

Unfortunately, flat ears are unnatural and can signify an environmental or health issue. It’s uncommon for hamsters to lower their ears and keep them down for extended periods, so check on their welfare.

These are the most likely reasons for your hamster’s flat ears:

Fear

Flat ears signify nervousness and fear. As prey animals, hamsters see most things as a threat.

Strange or unfamiliar sounds are a possible danger, but hamsters will fear for their lives and become extremely distressed if they’re constant or prolonged. This fear is amplified when there aren’t enough hideaways or bedding in the cage for them to burrow into.

Animals also cause a significant amount of anxiety. If another pet, like a cat, is nearby, your hamster may lay its ears flat in fear or anticipation of an attack.

Captive hamsters can’t understand that their cages protect them from harm. Cats can also jump on top of cages, so they mustn’t be left around hamsters unsupervised.

Stress

Stress is closely related to fear. Moving into a new environment can be unsettling for hamsters, causing them to hold their ears flat out of nervousness and anticipation.

Most of the time, the ears become more alert as the hamster scopes out its surroundings and becomes more comfortable.

Similarly, if anything in your hamster’s environment causes stress, you must resolve the problem.

As you can’t observe your hamster during the night when it’s awake and alert, set up a night vision camera to understand more about its movements while you’re asleep.

hamsters ears folded down

Tiredness

Environmental issues can cause hamsters to become more tired than they should be or can cope with, especially in busy households.

According to Laboratory Animal Medicine, hamsters are mainly nocturnal as they come out after dark.

However, hamsters are also known for being crepuscular. This means they’re most active in the twilight period, although behavioral patterns vary depending on the hamster’s environment, owner’s daily patterns, and individual personality.

Because hamsters are commonly chosen as pets for children, they’re often awoken earlier than what’s natural for playtime before bed. This causes extreme tiredness and is a common cause of flattened ears.

Less seriously, many hamsters hold their ears back when they first wake up. When they feel more alert, the ears return to their normal upright position.

Ear Infection

Mites cause some infections, while others result from a secondary infection. The most likely type of infection your hamster will pick up is otitis, which is essentially inflammation of the ear. There are many different causes, including:

  • Parasites, bacteria, or fungi.
  • Ruptured eardrum from improper cleaning or trauma.
  • Blockages caused by fur or dead skin.
  • Foreign bodies, such as hay or dusty bedding.
  • Water in the ear from a water bowl.

If your hamster’s uncomfortable, it’ll flatten one or both ears. The main symptoms of an ear infection include:

  • Irritation.
  • Inflammation and redness.
  • Rough or dry skin.
  • Hair loss around the ears.
  • Bleeding.

In extreme circumstances, your hamster may develop a head tilt and walk around in circles. Ear warts are another possibility for your hamster’s ears being held flat, but they’re less common.

Sickness

Ear infections and sickness can cause your hamster’s ears to be folded.

As described by Companion Animal, hamsters hide when they’re unwell to protect themselves from predators. Inexperienced owners may never know their hamsters are sick until too late.

But subtle signs, such as the ears laid flat, can help you determine when something’s wrong. There are several signs of sickness in hamsters. The most common are:

However, any sudden changes indicate that your hamster needs a vet. Hamsters deteriorate quickly once they become unwell, so you must act fast.

Is It Normal for Hamsters’ Ears To Be Down?

It’s not normal for a hamster’s ears to be held back and flat. However, while downward ears signify a problem, it’s not necessarily “abnormal.” There are several triggers for this ear position.

Hamsters are avid explorers, so they frequently encounter things that trigger fear, stress, and unhappiness within their environment. That’s why it’s up to owners to provide a happy, healthy home.

That’s not to say you’ll never see your hamster’s ears down again, and it should happen less frequently as the environment improves.

While you may only view your hamster’s ears as a tool for hearing, their positioning can tell you a lot about how it thinks and feels. Hamsters take a while to become comfortable with their surroundings.