Sometimes, hamsters stop what they’re doing and stare into space. While this behavior appears alarming, hamsters are vulnerable to predators and are driven to remain alert for threats.
When hamsters stare into space, they’re detecting dangers to determine if they should flee and hide.
This behavior can be due to the fear caused by sudden noises and tiredness after waking up. Also, hamsters can space out when they’re old and hide their pain when sick or injured.
Hamsters have poor eyesight, so they’re not looking at anything in particular when they stare out into the distance. Instead, freezing in place gives them a better chance of survival.
Why Do Hamsters Stare?
Staring into space is normal and natural behavior for hamsters for these reasons:
1/ Alert Instincts
Hamsters remain alert due to their status as prey animals. Mammalian Biology explains how hamsters are preyed upon by many animals in the wild, so they face many dangers.
As a result, hamsters freeze and spare into space, remaining as still as possible without making a sound. This is so they can blend into the background and keep themselves safe.
Captive hamsters have the same instincts, despite not being in peril.
2/ Bad Eyesight
Hamsters have poor vision. While staring into space creates the illusion that the hamster’s seen something in the distance, it’s more likely using its advanced hearing to check the environment is safe.
Hamsters have a far better sense of smell than eyesight.
Physiology & Behavior explains how hamsters develop strong olfactory senses when they’re young. When a hamster stares into space, it lifts its nose and sniffs the air to detect and process odors.
Hamsters stare into the distance when they’re tired. This occurs when they first wake up from a long sleep. The hamster will stare in between eating, drinking, and grooming itself.
This is normal, as the hamster will come around in its own time once it’s woken up and feels more alert. You may also find your hamster begins to stare just before it hunkers down.
Not long after, it’ll disappear into its burrow to sleep.
4/ Sudden Noises
When hamsters hear a sudden or loud noise, they stare into space to determine where the sound is coming from. They also determine whether it’s a danger where they must run away and hide.
In most cases, the hamster realizes the sound isn’t a threat and will continue to do what it was doing before stopping and staring. However, it’ll retreat to a hide in its burrows if it feels in danger.
5/ Old Age
As hamsters are so small, their bodies aren’t effective at maintaining biological processes. As a result, the tissue, organisms, and cells inside the body become less efficient, causing them to age quickly.
Once they reach around 18 months to two years of age, they’re considered old and behave differently. They stop and stare more frequently, becoming less active before they die of old age.
6/ Sickness or Pain
Hamsters with a sickness or injury often sit hunched without moving, staring into space while appearing disinterested in their surroundings.
Hamsters hide their pain from predators until they can no longer do so, so it’s common to see them acting lethargic and withdrawn when something’s amiss.
As well as spacing out, ill or hurt hamsters display these symptoms:
- Poor fur quality – greasy or thinning
- Wetness around the tail area
- Runny nose
- Discharge from the eyes
- Lack of movement, including standing in one place
- Aggression, such as biting
A vet must examine hamsters that stare into space and display the above symptoms.
Why Does My Hamster Sit and Stare at Me?
While it may seem like the hamster’s looking directly at you, it’s looking in your direction.
Because hamsters have bad eyesight, they can’t see things clearly and can’t make out human faces. They know you’re there by your smell and the sounds you make.
If you make loud noises near the cage, the hamster will look in your direction.
In this case, it’ll be listening out for dangers and won’t start moving again until it knows it’s safe. This will be when you stop making noise and remain silent.
A hamster is also likely to sit and stare at you if you’re wearing a new perfume or scented body product. As mentioned, hamsters have an excellent sense of smell, so being around their owners frequently enables them to recognize your scent.
However, if you mask your pheromones with an unfamiliar fragrance, the hamster won’t know who you are and will stare at you to gauge familiarity.
Stress is a common yet deadly condition for hamsters because it precipitates existing health conditions and causes secondary infections.
When in the hamster’s environment, be as quiet as you can and wash anything off your skin that’ll mask your smell and make the hamster stressed.
Why Does My Hamster Freeze Suddenly?
As well as staring off into space, it’s normal to see a hamster suddenly freeze in place.
This behavior is largely a sign of fear. All hamsters, including those in captivity, display this instinct as it protects them from danger.
When hamsters freeze, they become unresponsive and stop blinking. They sometimes stand on their back legs to give themselves a better vantage point. This behavior can last a few seconds to a few minutes, depending on what’s causing the hamster to freeze in the first place.
Specifically, hamsters freeze suddenly for these reasons:
- Loud, unexpected noises, such as music or a car alarm
- Predatory pets, including cats and dogs
- Exposure to bright light
- Too many full cage cleans
- Being startled
- Unfamiliar smells
As you can see, staring into the distance and freezing have almost identical triggers. As a result, the two behaviors are linked, and hamsters often stare into space and freeze in place simultaneously.
It’s normal for hamsters to stare into space, but you should keep stress and discomfort to a minimum by keeping the environment quiet and comfortable.
However, a hamster will never lose this behavior because its fear-based instincts are so strong.