My Teddy loves to just run around all night. But sometimes I wonder if he can even see where he’s going, or he just knows his cage very well. Actually, do hamsters see in the dark ?
Does the nightlight I leave on for Teddy help him in any way ? Is he some kind of super-soldier with night vision and fine hearing ?
My hammy is a bit of a Rambo type, but I went looking for answers on whether hamsters need light to see, just to be sure. Here’s what I found out.
So do hamsters need light to see ?
As it turns out – yes, hamsters do need light to see. Just not very much light, and not as much as us humans do. A hamster’s eye does pick up more ambient light, but not as much as a cat or owl, or most night animals.
As such, a hamster can see better in low-light conditions, rather than the full brightness of daylight. Conversely, hamsters can’t see very well in pitch-dark conditions either. They can see in the dark, but not that well.
Hamsters rely mostly on their sense of touch – paws and whiskers – and their sense of smell, and their hearing to navigate their surroundings.
Should you leave the light on at night for your hamster ?
No, that’s not necessary. Leaving the overhead light isn’t necessary, but a faint light might give your hammy a permanent dusk/dawn conditions, that he can see in.
For example I have for my Teddy – Syrian male hammy – a sort of dim nightlight that has lots of blue, green, and purple in it. It’s a small LED light, and it’s the color range hamsters are most likely to actually see.
Now, the light wasn’t originally for him. In truth, my girlfriend can’t stand complete darkness and she needed a nightlight to at least guess where she’s going through the house at night. The fact that it helped Teddy was an added bonus.
This doesn’t mean your hamster won’t see at all if you give him no nightlight. He can see better than you in the dark, but not that much better.
However his eyes will pick up the light from a streetlight, or the blinking of an electronic’s light, even the small green dot of light on your central heating unit.
Most human homes have at least a faint bit of light, even at night, from all the electronics. That small amount of light makes it easier for your hammy to see.
Does your hamster have night vision ?
No, not really. Hammies don’t have night vision per-se, but they do see better than us when it comes to low light conditions.
If you were to compare a cat, a human, and a hamster in terms of night vision, the cat would obviously win. But the hamster wouldn’t see that much better than us humans.
So, that means that your hamster can’t really see in the dark, but that is not a problem. Hamster use their sense of smell and touch a lot more than they use their vision. Even in their borrows in the wild, their tunnels are pitch black. So they can’t really see where they’re going.
However that’s not a problem since they will feel and smell their way around. That, combined with a memory map of their home, gives them lots of ways to navigate their home.
So do not worry if you’ve turned off the light in your hamster’s room at night – he will be fine, and can find his way even if it’s dark.
Hamsters get scared by sudden movements
If you’ve ever suddenly got up and spooked your hamster, you know what I mean. There could be a sudden Apocalypse raging next to his cage and he won’t care too much, but suddenly getting a glass of water is the pinnacle of terror.
So, why is that ? Well, hamsters have very poor eyesight – more on that soon. That means that they can see well what’s directly in front of them, and that’s about it. They’re near-sighted, and don’t have the luxury of glasses like us humans.
They can’t see too well in the distance, and they’re terrible judges of length, depth, or anything that involves jumping.
Seriously, hamsters will jump from high places to try to get somewhere faster, without realizing they might harm themselves. So it’s best to not get your hammy a cage with high levels.
My Teddy used to be a bit of a pain when he was younger. He was jumpier, and easier to scare. Now he’s a grown adult and knows pretty much every sound and movement in our home.
But when he was young he’d get scared half the time. Whenever I opened the fridge, walked past him, got up, sat down, or even reached over his cage for something. He is fine now, but I still remember when he darted into his hideout because I got up from bed.
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Hamsters see best in low light conditions – like dusk and dawn
So does this mean you should give your hamster low light conditions ? Well, yes, for the most part.
A hamster’s normal daily life includes going to bed/hiding when the sun has risen and it’s very bright outside. This is because his eyes hurt when it’s too bright, and his predators start to come out and hunt.
Then at dusk, when the sun’s light is much dimmer he can come out, because he can see very well at that moment. In the middle of the night, wild hamsters will go back to their burrows and eat, or sleep a bit more, or tidy up their homes.
And finally at dawn, and right before dawn, wild hamsters will come out again. Forage some more, maybe find a lady hamster, run a round a bit, then hide in their burrow again for the rest of the day.
So that means that pet hamsters don’t normally have these conditions, and will adapt to being mostly nocturnal – more on that here, and to know more about what hammies do at night.
If you can replicate the conditions from the wild for your pet hamster, he will be much happier. Like a night light that has a timer to turn itself off after a few hours, for example.
Or, turning the overhead light in your hamster’s room a few hours before you go to bed. Only leave a small lamp on, or something that has barely any light. Then, when you do go to bed you can turn off the lights in the house completely.
This can and will make your hamster a much happier and healthier pet.
Where and how to keep your hamster’s cage in your home
Where you keep your hamster’s cage can determine your hamster’s health and happiness. If the room he’s in is cold and drafty, your hamster will have a host of troubles.
First, because hamsters are very sensitive to temperature shifts – more on that here.
And second, because hamsters don’t respond well to sudden cold conditions – they end up in a state like hibernation, but it’s more of a hypothermia shock than anything else, and can be very dangerous.
Providing your hamster with the best bedding/substrate will help a lot in keeping him warm enough.
Likewise, keeping your hamster somewhere dark all the time isn’t good for him, same as it wouldn’t be to keep him in the light all the time.
So one of the best places to keep your hammy would be your bedroom, or a similar room that has a day-to-night cycle of light. It’s important that the room is also a calm, quiet place so he will not get woken up constantly by children or pets, and can rest well.
A good hamster cage will have plenty of space for the hammy to choose a hiding spot.
A word from Teddy
I hope you found what you were looking for here. I know you might think us hammies need the light on at night, but you’re hurting us more than helping with a bright light.
Best to give us a very dim nightlight, and turn it off after a few hours to make it like our home in the wild.
If you want to know more about us hammies, you can read the articles below for more info on how to take care of us the right way. Like for example how big of a cage we need, how much we can go without food and water, or even why we need to always run.