Home » Why Do Hamsters Suddenly Freeze? (What Staying Still Means)
why do hamsters freeze up?
Behavior

Why Do Hamsters Suddenly Freeze? (What Staying Still Means)

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

When hamsters freeze, they become unresponsive and stop blinking.

Depending on what’s caused the 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. Hamsters believe they’re less likely to be hunted and eaten if they don’t move.

Hamsters have poor eyesight, so they’ll remain still to listen out for sounds in their environment. If a hamster freezes and appears distressed, its environment should be quieter and calmer.

Why Do Hamsters Freeze Up?

Owners often wonder what it means when hamsters freeze. However, it’s normal and instinctual for hamsters to suddenly stop moving.

Seeing this for the first time can be worrying because it seems like the hamster is unwell. They can even appear dead after not moving for so long. Hamsters freeze for the following reasons:

Predators

Mammalian Biology explains that hamsters have predators, like foxes, birds of prey, and small mustelids. Consequently, they’re always on high alert for predators.

Captive hamsters have the same instincts. Even though they’re protected in their cages, their brains can’t accept they’re safe as pets.

They listen out for signs of danger while they burrow and explore their cages, particularly between dusk and dawn when they’re most active.

Sudden noises and movements are signs of danger. Freezing up gives hamsters a chance to remain undetected and a chance to survive. If larger animals can’t see or hear hamsters, they’ll leave them alone.

Noisy or predatory pets, like cats and dogs, can cause a hamster to freeze through fear.

why is my hamster frozen and shaking?

Fear

Hamsters are naturally fearful creatures that hide and run away from danger.

New and unfamiliar sights and smells can also scare hamsters. TV and radio noise, chemicals, or an animated conversation between people can put them on edge.

Young hamsters are 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. For example, the bedding is entirely replaced.
  • Lights 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 the hamster to too many things that will scare it.

Surprise

Hamsters freeze up when surprised. For example, if an owner enters the hamster’s room unexpectedly, it’ll freeze and try to figure out who is there.

Once the hamster ascertains that you caused the surprise, it’ll return 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.

Why Is My Hamster Frozen And Shaking?

Hamsters freeze and shake when on high alert. While it’s not abnormal, trembling can signify a hamster is more scared or stressed than usual.

You may not see a hamster shake because the movements will be small due to its size, but if you touch a pet hamster, you’ll feel it vibrate.

You must find out what’s caused the hamster to be this scared so that you can improve its environment and minimize its stress levels.

Freezing in place and shaking can also mean a hamster’s too cold. The ideal temperature range for hamsters is 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

When hamsters are exposed to cold temperatures for too long, they enter hibernation, which most captive hamsters never experience. It can also be dangerous, as they’re ill-equipped to deal with it.

Other signs that it’s too cold for a 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 these issues, 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 happens when they haven’t gone through the bonding process. As far as a hamster’s concerned, you’re a predator at this stage.

However, if you have bonded with a pet hamster and it feels safe around you, there’s every chance it freezes because it enjoys being touched by you.

Alternatively, the hamster could be in heat. Female Syrian hamsters go into heat once every 4 days, which is more frequent than other mammals.

They remain in heat for 12 hours at a time, where they become responsive to mating.

Each time they’re touched, they freeze, move their bodies close to the ground, and raise their tails in readiness for mating.

A hamster’s getting ready to mate with a male hamster, even if there isn’t one available. However, you’ll notice behavioral changes while a hamster’s in heat.

For example, it’ll become irritable and jumpy. A hamster may also have vaginal discharge and a musty odor. These heat symptoms will pass but reoccur each time the hamster goes into heat.

what does it mean when hamsters freeze?

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 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 is too cold or they’re fed too many frozen fruits and vegetables.

You can only tell by observing the hamster’s behavior each time it eats something cold. If it appears distressed or uncomfortable, there’s a high chance it has brain freeze.

Since hamsters have a brain structure similar to ours with numerous nerves and blood vessels, cold food and drink could trigger a pain reaction.

Why Is My Hamster Staring Into Space?

It’s normal for hamsters to stare into space because they have poor eyesight.

For this reason, 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 while looking into the distance. If you observe a hamster closely, 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 a hamster staring into space more often in bright light, where they’re effectively blind. Hamsters see best in dim light, so they’ll stare aimlessly less often when the lights are out.

Similarly, hamsters remain still when they believe a threat is nearby. If they move even a small amount, they could find themselves prey to a much larger predator.

After dark, you can check a hamster’s behavior by installing a night vision camera in its cage.

While hamsters commonly freeze due to fear and predators, these are normal, and this behavior will continue throughout your pet’s life.

Ensure the hamster’s environment is safe and comfortable to minimize stress and anxiety.