Hamsters are active creatures, so they’ll always scurry around, play with toys, and run on their wheels. However, there may be times when a hamster seems abnormally energetic.
Animals rarely run around constantly, so even high-energy dog breeds calm down after a walk or play session. However, hamsters can run on wheels for hours without stopping for a break.
Why is My Hamster Running Around in Circles?
Here are 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 feel restless when stressed or afraid, causing them to jump and scurry around the cage as they attempt to escape the 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.
A hamster is more likely to become stressed if it shares a cage. Most hamster species are solitary creatures. They’re highly territorial and will fight when they live together.
According to Shaanxi Normal University, physical activity reduces the effects of chronic social defeat stress. In this study, it was due to depression caused 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 levels.
If you have two hamsters in a cage, the overactive hamster might have been bullied.
If the 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 the hamster may be running around to find a mate.
When hamsters get bored, they’ll entertain themselves through increased activity.
Hamsters need stimulation, or they’ll grow restless. If a hamster finds its environment boring, you’ll need to play with it more or change how you present toys.
Instead of keeping all the hamster’s toys in the cage at once, switch out the toys it interacts with weekly.
Play with the 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 shoes or a pen.
Sniffing and discovering new things is fun and stimulating for hamsters.
Young hamsters enjoy running around with no goal; they like to move. The hamster should mellow out as it ages, but some hamsters never outgrow their hyperactivity.
Various 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.
When wild rodents get hungry, they forage for food. 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 the hamster is only hyperactive before you feed it, change its feeding schedule.
Why is My Hamster Running Like Crazy During the Day?
Hamsters sleep during the day and are more active at night. They’re crepuscular creatures, so seeing them so active during the day might be concerning.
Although hamsters are crepuscular, they’re also very adaptive. Depending on their schedule, they’ll have a different activity level from other hamsters. If a hamster is accustomed to playing during the day, it’ll adapt and sleep at night instead.
If you used to leave the hamster alone during the day, you might notice this change in activity level if you stay home for more than a weekend. The hamster adapts to this new development, and its activity levels revolve around your schedule.
Although hyperactivity during the day isn’t necessarily harmful, let the hamster sleep during the day. Hamsters are born with a specific circadian rhythm, which you should help them maintain.
Why is My Hamster Running So Fast on the Wheel?
Running fast on a wheel is as exciting to hamsters as going down a waterslide because it’s fun, engaging, and makes them happier.
Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews discusses how running on the wheel stimulates reward systems in the brain. So, daily running on a wheel in pet hamsters is crucial to their health and happiness.
Hamster Running Back and Forth in Cage
If a hamster runs back and forth in its cage, you may need a bigger enclosure.
Hamsters love running around and need 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 a 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 okay for a 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 as possible. Getting a bigger cage can help your hyperactive hamster blow off steam.
What Does It Mean When Your Hamster is Going Crazy?
Hamsters will have moments of intense activity that last up to an hour. However, if you notice that the 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. 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 it itchy. Short bursts of hyperactivity can be early warning signs that the hamster feels itchy and doesn’t know what to do.
What to Do When Your Hamster is Going Crazy
An overactive hamster isn’t a problem if it isn’t due to stress, parasites, or illness.
However, if you want to encourage a hamster to become active during a different time of day, you can do so with light cycle manipulation.
When you want a 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.