Do Hamsters Play Dead? And Why They Do It

Last updated on January 22nd, 2023 at 07:13 pm

Hamsters sometimes pretend to be dead, but why do they do it, what is the real reason for their behavior? The most common reason for this behavior in hamsters is depression, stress, fear, or anxiety.

Also sometimes if the hamster is very tired when running all day, it can be a reason to play dead.

The hamster pretends to be dead because of its past because when hamsters are in the wild they have to find a way to survive.

There are many predators in the wild that little hamsters can definitely not cope with, so playing death is their only hope of survival.

When a hamster plays dead

Let’s find out when a hamster plays dead and how to deal with it.

1. Anxiety is the reason a hamster plays death

As we said at the beginning the hamster when under stress, anxiety or fear defends itself by playing dead.

That’s why it’s best to know the reasons why he is so upset so that we can prevent him from playing dead ahead of time, and help him deal with anxiety more easily.

Symptoms of anxiety in hamsters:

  • when his ears are down and his eyes are narrow
  • when he shows his teeth
  • when lying on his back
  • if his teeth tremble
  • when the ears are forward and the cheeks are swollen and the mouth is open
  • when hiding
  • when behaving shyly

How to help a hamster deal with anxiety

The hamster is visibly upset, and you, too, because he is your pet and you love him very much, should help him with some simple method.

Maybe there is something in the cage, so check the cage, or eventually, you may need to change the cage.

Someone who is currently in your home, a friend, or someone else may be scaring the hamster.

He will show himself what is scaring him, whether something inside or outside the cage, you just have to observe him and see what he is so afraid of.

2. The hamster plays dead when scared

Hamsters are scary pets, they play dead when scared. They can easily get scared, even though playing dead is his last resort.

When your hamster plays dead he is in a trance state, so we can not know if he is really dead or just playing, because he does it too convincingly.

When a hamster is in a new company of other hamsters, if it gets scared it plays dead again.

When we take him in our arms if he gets scared then again he can feel threatened and you have to let him go immediately because he will play dead again.

All this can and does not always happen, however, it is individual and depends on the hamster itself.

read more: Can Hamsters Eat Bananas? 6 Advice How to Eat

3. Hamsters play dead if attacked by a predator

Hamsters play dead when attacked by a predator, but only when they have no other way out. If they play a dead hamster can be an easy target for potential predators, so avoid doing so.

At first, the hamsters try to instinctively run away or hide somewhere. Even they will try to resist the predators by biting, scratching in order to save themselves from the opponent.

However, playing dead is the ultimate solution, which is not a sure way that the hamster will be saved from the hamsters play dead

4. The hamster plays dead when it is tired

The hamster plays dead when it gets tired after a lot of running or exercising. We must admit that this is also a very common occurrence in your pet.

This phenomenon most often occurs in younger hamsters.

Although it seems quite true, his playing dead should not immediately upset you, you should watch him better and let him rest.

If after a while he does not start moving, you should just check his breathing and his heart to work.

5. Hamsters play dead when they are cold

This is exactly how hamsters play when they are cold.

Specifically, when he is cold, the hamster may hibernate and we may think he is dead, he will not move and will look like he is dead.

His breathing will also be slowed down, more precisely one inhalation per minute.

To avoid such a situation, the temperature in the room where the hamster is located should never be less than 20 degrees.

If you have already cooled the room for various reasons, then gradually increase the temperature and the hamster will wake up again in the following days.

Hamsters play thanatosis

What is Thanatosis?
The condition called Thanatosis comes from the Greek noun θανάτωσις meaning execution, it is a process when the animal pretends to be dead to avoid unwanted attention.

Using thanatosis helps your hamster pretend to be dead. At such a moment the hamster is able to stop moving, lying down, and pretending to be dead.

read more: Why Does Hamster Bite Bars in a Cage – Here is the Answer

Is the hamster dead or just playing?

Sometimes when we see our pet not moving at all we are not sure if he is playing or maybe he is really dead.

You should know that when a hamster sleeps in its safe cage, then it feels safe and therefore sleeps for hours without moving.

But how do you know if a hamster is asleep or not?

It is best to simply check that the hamster is breathing and that its heart is working.

How long does the hamster play dead?

It usually depends on the hamster itself, everyone has an individual time how much your hamster will play dead.

However, from experience, the hamster usually plays dead for about a minute.

So wait and do not panic, but if more than 5 minutes have passed since his game and the hamster does not move then you must check that everything is fine with your pet.

How much do hamsters sleep a day?

Hamsters like to sleep, so if they are not asleep then they are very nervous and anxious. Hamsters sleep about 7-8 hours a day.

These cute pets can sleep for more than 8 hours, but this happens in the winter when they hibernate.

In such situations, your hamster’s metabolism slows down, and normally all of its functions.

That is why hamsters rest for a long time, and we think they are dead.


Hamsters play dead when they are scared when they are stressed when someone attacks them if they are cold and in other situations.

They play dead because that is what mother nature taught them, as a way to protect themselves from the environment and from possible predators.

Sometimes they can play dead if they run all day and get tired. These cute pets are very sensitive, especially to strangers.

Finally, you need to pay close attention to his behavior in order to recognize when he is scared, when he is nervous, in order not to get into a situation where he is playing dead.