When hamsters freeze, they become unresponsive and stop blinking.
Depending on what’s caused your hamster to stop moving and how badly it has been spooked, this behavior can last for seconds, minutes, or much longer.
Hamsters most commonly freeze when listening out for predators and other dangers.
This behavior can be due to sudden loud noises, bright lights, fear, surprise, and unfamiliar smells. By remaining still, hamsters are significantly less likely to be hunted.
Hamsters have poor eyesight, so they’ll remain still to listen out for sounds within their environment. If your hamster freezes and appears distressed, keep its environment quiet and calm.
Why Do Hamsters Freeze Up?
Owners often wonder what it means when hamsters freeze. Rest assured, it’s normal for hamsters to suddenly stop moving. It’s an instinct that all hamsters display.
However, it can be frightening for owners to see this for the first time, as it can seem as if the hamsters suddenly become unwell. They can even appear dead after not moving for so long. Hamsters freeze for these reasons:
As explained by Mammalian Biology, hamsters are preyed upon by various predators in the wild, including foxes, birds of prey, and small mustelids. So, hamsters are hard-wired to be on high alert against predators.
Captive hamsters have the same instincts. Even though they’re protected in their cages, their brains can’t compute that they’re safe as pets.
As a result, they listen out for signs of danger while they burrow and rummage through their cages, particularly between dusk and dawn when they’re active.
Sudden noises and movements are signs of danger. Freezing up gives hamsters a chance to remain undetected and gives them a chance of survival. If larger animals can’t see or hear hamsters, they’ll leave them alone.
Noisy or predatory pets, such as cats and dogs, can cause your hamster to freeze through fear. You should keep them away from your hamster’s cage to reduce prey-related stress.
Hamsters are used to running away from dangers and are naturally fearful creatures. It’s not only predators that scare them, but new and unfamiliar sights and smells, such as TV and radio noise, chemicals, or an animated conversation between multiple people, can put them on edge.
Young hamsters are particularly prone to fear-related stress and will freeze more often than those who feel established and comfortable in their environment. Other things that cause stress include:
- Too much cage cleaning, where the bedding’s completely replaced
- Lights being switched on suddenly
- Constant exposure to white light
- Sudden movements
- Loud outdoor noises, such as a car alarm or a dog barking
While some things are unavoidable, don’t expose your hamster to too many things that will scare it, or it’ll likely develop long-term health and behavioral problems.
Hamsters freeze up if they’re surprised or startled. For example, if their owners burst into their hamster’s room too quickly and loudly, the animal will freeze to figure out who – or what’s – in the room.
Once the hamster ascertains that you caused the surprise, it’ll go back to what it was doing before it froze. It may even approach and greet you if you’re well-bonded or frequently feed it treats.
Listening For Sounds
Hamsters are near-sighted and color-blind, so they rely on their sense of smell and hearing to understand what’s happening in their environment. As explained by Physiology & Behavior, hamsters develop their olfactory systems early on in life, giving them a good sense of smell.
Hamsters freeze to listen to the sounds around them. This is also why they suddenly stop, even when they’re in the middle of running on their wheel. As soon as they hear a noise, they stop and freeze up to investigate.
Why Is My Hamster Frozen and Shaking?
Hamsters freeze and shake when they’re on high alert. While it’s not abnormal, trembling can signify that your hamster’s more scared or stressed than usual.
You may not see your hamster shake because the movements will be small due to its size, but if you touch your pet hamster, you’ll feel it vibrate. You must find out what’s caused your hamster to be this scared so that you can improve its environment and minimize its stress levels.
Freezing in place and shaking is also a sign that your hamster’s too cold. Hamsters come from warm regions, so their ideal temperature range Is between 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
When hamsters are exposed to cold temperatures for too long, they go into hibernation, which most captive hamsters never experience. It can also be dangerous, as they’re not equipped to deal with it. Other signs that it’s too cold for your hamster include:
- Lethargy and increased sleep
- Not coming out at night
- Loss of appetite
- The nose, ears, and feet become cold to touch
If you notice any of these things, increase the temperature in your hamster’s room to a more suitable level.
Why Does My Hamster Freeze When I Pet It?
Hamsters will freeze when petted if they’re scared of their owners, which most commonly happens when they haven’t gone through the bonding process. As far as your hamster’s concerned, you’re a predator.
However, if you have bonded with your pet and it feels safe around you, there’s every chance your hamster freezes because it enjoys being touched by you.
Alternatively, your hamster could be in heat. Female Syrian hamsters go into heat once every four days, which is more frequent than other mammals.
They remain in heat for 12 hours at a time, where they become responsive to mating, and each time they’re touched, they freeze, move their bodies close to the ground, and raise their tails in readiness for a male to mate with them.
This behavior is nothing to worry about. Your hamster’s getting ready to mate with a male hamster, even if there isn’t one available. However, you will notice behavioral changes while your hamster’s in heat.
For example, it will become irritable and jumpy. Your hamster may also develop vaginal discharge and a musty odor. These heat symptoms will pass, but they reoccur every time your hamster goes into heat.
Can Hamsters Get Brain Freeze?
Brain freeze is an intense pain in the head that occurs not long after cold food or drink touches the roof of the mouth. It usually lasts for a few seconds but can be more painful than a normal headache.
It’s difficult to tell whether hamsters get brain freeze. However, it’s possible if their drinking water’s too cold or they’re fed too many frozen fruits and vegetables at once.
You can only tell by observing your hamster’s behavior each time it eats something cold. If it appears distressed or uncomfortable, there’s a high chance that it has brain freeze.
Since hamsters have a similar brain structure to ours with numerous nerves and blood vessels, cold food and drink may trigger a pain reaction. Regardless, it’s best to feed hamsters food and water at room temperature.
Why Is My Hamster Staring Into Space?
It’s normal for hamsters to stare into space because they have such poor eyesight. Because of this, they rarely look at anything in particular. Instead, they rely on their hearing and sense of smell to gauge their surroundings.
While doing so, they freeze and remain still while looking into the distance. If you observe your hamster closely enough, you’ll likely find that it rarely makes eye contact because it can’t see you, even though it knows you’re there.
You’ll notice your hamster staring into space more often in bright light, where they’re effectively blind. Hamsters see best in dim light, so they stare aimlessly less often when the lights are out and in a more natural environment.
Similarly, as we’ve touched upon, hamsters remain as still as possible when they believe that danger is nearby. If they move even a bit, they could find themselves prey to a much larger predator. This is another reason why hamsters effectively stare into space without purpose.
You can check your hamster’s behavior after dark by installing a night vision camera in its cage. This will also enable you to better understand your hamster’s natural routine.
While hamsters commonly freeze due to fear and predators, these things are normal, and this behavior will continue for the duration of your pet’s life. That being said, you must ensure your hamster’s environment is safe and comfortable to minimize feelings of stress and anxiety.