Hamsters are active creatures, so your pet may always scurry around, play with toys, or run on its wheel. However, there may be moments when your hamster seems abnormally energetic.
Overactive hamsters aren’t something to ignore, especially if their hyper nature is recent.
Animals rarely spend all day running around, so even dog breeds known for their energy will calm down after a walk. However, hamsters can run on a wheel for hours without stopping for a break.
Why is My Hamster Running Around in Circles?
Here are some of the main reasons hamsters get zoomies or become hyperactive:
Stress and Fear
Hamsters are sensitive creatures that get spooked easily. When upset, their behavior changes.
Hamsters will feel restless when stressed or afraid, and this causes them to jump and scurry around the cage frantically as they try to escape the source of discomfort.
Things that can frighten or stress a hamster include:
- Insufficient sleep
- Contact with another animal
- Sudden movements
- New environments
- Change in their environment
- Loud noises
- Overcrowded cage
According to Shaanxi Normal University, physical activity reduces the effects of chronic social defeat stress. In this study, it was due to depression by exposing naïve mice to aggressive rodents.
Aggression, social rejection, and bullying create a tense environment that unsettled the natïve mice. When the mice voluntarily run on their wheels, it alters their dopamine system and makes them feel better.
If you have two hamsters in a cage, your overactive hamster might be getting bullied.
If your hamster is female, she may be overactive due to her estrus cycle. According to Animal Behaviour, female hamsters show increased activity during pro-estrus and estrus days.
So, in the case of female hamsters, the hyperactivity could be hormonal. During the estrus cycle, female hamsters are receptive to mating, so your hamster may be running around to find a mate.
When hamsters get bored, they’ll entertain themselves by running around.
Hamsters need stimulation, or they’ll grow restless. If your hamster finds its environment boring, you’ll need to play with it more or change how you present it with toys.
Instead of keeping all the hamster’s toys in the cage at once, switch out the toys it interacts with daily or weekly. Buy it new toys every once in a while. Even when the same toy, if it’s a different size or color, it might be different enough to get your hamster’s attention.
Play with your hamster each day. Let it out of its cage and place it in a large enclosure where it can run freely. Present it with everyday items it wouldn’t usually interact with, such as your shoes or a pen.
Sniffing and discovering new things is fun and stimulating for any hamster.
Young hamsters enjoy running around with no goal; they like to move. Your hamster should mellow out as it ages. However, some hamsters never outgrow their hyperactivity.
Multiple studies have shown that animals increase their activity levels when experiencing short-term hunger. Of course, if they go hungry for too long, their activity levels decrease to preserve energy.
In the wild, when rodents get hungry, they go out to forage. In a cage, when a hamster gets hungry and has no food, it can’t go anywhere to find it.
Running around the cage or on a wheel makes hamsters feel like they’re out foraging. If you notice that your hamster is only hyperactive before you feed it, you may need to change its feeding schedule.
Why is My Hamster Running Like Crazy During the Day?
Hamsters sleep during the day and are more active for most of the night. They’re nocturnal creatures, so it might be worrying to see them so active during the day.
Although hamsters are nocturnal, they’re also very adaptive. Depending on their schedule, they’ll have a different activity level from other hamsters. If you’ve accustomed your hamster to playing during the day, it’ll adapt and sleep at night instead.
If you used to leave your hamster alone during the day, you might notice this change in activity level if you stay home for more than a weekend. Your hamster adapts to this new development, and its activity levels revolve around your schedule.
Although hyperactivity during the day isn’t necessarily harmful, you should still let your hamster sleep during the day. Hamsters are born with a specific circadian rhythm, which you should help them maintain. Once you do, you’ll notice that your hamster becomes more active at twilight or around dawn.
Why is My Hamster Running So Fast on the Wheel?
Your hamster may be running fast on the wheel because it likes it. To hamsters, running fast on a wheel is as exciting as going down a waterslide; it’s fun, engaging, and makes them happier.
A study published in Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews discusses how running on the wheel stimulates reward systems in the brain.
Daily running on a wheel in domestic hamsters is crucial to their health and happiness.
Hamster Running Back and Forth in Cage
If your hamster runs back and forth in its cage, you may need a bigger enclosure.
Hamsters love running around and need a lot of space to do it. Physical exercise is important for a hamster’s health and development.
While humans may not mind exercising indoors with limited space, hamsters need more space. Without enough space, the hamster may become dissatisfied with its environment.
Hamster cages are typically 24 x 12 inches. Cages of that size are commonly sold at pet shops, but the ideal size of your hamster’s cage should be bigger than that.
You may be wondering what the perfect cage size for your hamster is, but the truth is, there’s no right answer. As long as it’s more than 24 x 12 inches, it’s perfect for the hamster.
Get a cage that’s as big as your home can handle, as there’s no such thing as too much space. Remember, hamsters are territorial and like having as much space for themselves as possible. Getting a bigger cage can help your hyperactive hamster blow off some steam.
What Does It Mean When Your Hamster is Going Crazy?
Hamsters will have moments of intense activity that usually last up to an hour. However, if you notice that your hamster seems to randomly become hyperactive in short bursts, it could signify a health condition.
Hamsters can get mange and fleas. Mange is a skin condition that causes scabs on the hamster’s skin. Fleas are pests that feed off the blood of animals and live in their fur.
Mange and fleas irritate the hamster’s body and make everything itchy. Short bursts of hyperactivity can be early warning signs that the hamster feels itchy and doesn’t know what to do about it.
What to Do When Your Hamster is Going Crazy
An overactive hamster isn’t bad once you confirm it isn’t because of stress or illness.
However, if you’d like to encourage your hamster to become active during a different time of day, you can do so with light cycle manipulation.
When you want your hamster to sleep and stay still, expose it to daylight or UV light. Exposure should signal to the hamster’s body that it’s daytime and time to sleep.
Likewise, if you want your hamster to be active, put a cover on the cage and keep the room semi-dark to stimulate a hamster’s most active hours.
If you decide to proceed, the light cycle needs to be consistent. An inconsistent light cycle will disrupt the hamster’s circadian rhythm, resulting in poor sleep quality and stress.