Last updated on January 28th, 2023 at 06:26 pm
I often see my hamster digging in the bedding and I wonder why he digs so often, is it a normal behavior or a problem? So I did a little research to find out the reasons for this habit of hamsters.
Is it normal for hamsters to dig?
Yes, the digging of hamsters is a completely normal phenomenon with which they exercise, provides them with greater security, store food, avoid light, and other benefits.
In today’s article, you will learn why it is normal for hamsters to dig, why they do it, and why they sometimes don’t want to dig.
Is digging normally for hamsters?
Yes, digging for hamsters is a normal behavior that, apart from allowing them to store food, be safer, and have similar benefits, digging is their natural behavioral instinct.
Hamsters come from desert areas where they spend most of the day in holes, and only come out when they need to get food.
Although domestic hamsters do not need to behave as if they are in nature, they cannot forget that natural way of behavior when it comes to digging.
So let’s read together what are the reasons for hamsters’ digs and how they help the hamster in his daily life.
Digging gives them greater security
When hamsters dig in the bedding they feel more secure in their surroundings although this is not necessary when living in a cage.
Especially in the beginning when you bring your pet into your home for the first time it will be very scared and nervous and will immediately start digging.
After some time when he gets used to your home, he will gradually stop digging as often, but he will never stop doing it completely.
Digging allows hamsters to have more warmth and security
Hamsters often dig in the bedding because that way they get more security, privacy, and warmth in the cage.
If your room is noisy, digging allows it to reduce the sound around your hamster and allows it to rest and sleep more easily.
When hamsters dig into their bedding and rest, they feel the safest and most comfortable.
When hamsters dig it provides recreation and exercise
Hamsters need daily exercise and running to keep them fit and healthy.
They mostly use the exercise wheel as their primary means of running and fitness, but sometimes that can get boring, so they then dig in the bedding.
In addition to exercise and recreation, digging satisfies the natural instincts of hamsters and makes them calmer and more comfortable.
Digging allows the hamsters to have less light
Hamsters are nocturnal which means they love it when there is less light in their room.
All hamsters like to have less light, but Syrians love it more than anything when it is darker in their home.
Apart from the fact that when there is less light it allows them not to strain their eyes, digging also helps them to feel as if it is night in the bed.
When hamsters burrow into the bedding they have less light and less fear of predators because the darkness protects them much more than the light.
Digging helps them store food
When hamsters dig, they transport food and store it so that they always have enough food supplies.
With the help of their cheek pouches, they all day store food every day by burying it, because that’s what nature taught them.
The hamsters do not know that the next day we will give them food to eat again, they think that they will not get any more food, so they store it all the time.
You just need to be careful to change the bedding regularly, because burying the food spoils and can cause bacteria, and infections and attract insects and bugs to their cage.
How deep do hamsters burrow in the wild?
If we look at how hamsters dig in nature, we will understand why it is so important to them and why they do the same when they are in home conditions in a cage.
When they are in nature, they know how to dig tunnels up to one meter underground and practically enjoy what they do.
Digging in the ground is the main thing that hamsters do when they live in nature besides running for food.
When hamsters in the wild dig and make tunnels, it is a great advantage for them because they have poor eyesight, which when they are in open space is their weakness, while underground is their advantage that saves the lives of these small animals.
Apart from the fact that digging allows them to store food and a comfortable and pleasant place to sleep, digging is their way of protection from predators because hamsters are usually prey animals due to their size.
How to prevent making a mess in the cage when the hamsters dig?
Hamsters do their job, that is, they dig in the cage and in the bedding and often make a mess and throw the bedding only to one side or out of the cage.
To prevent such a mess and unevenness of the bedding at the bottom of the cage, try the following methods:
Use a glass tank instead of a cage, because then the bedding can’t be thrown out of the cage when your pet digs into it.
Partition in the cage
Make a partition in the cage, and put more bedding in one half, and less in the other, so that the hamster cannot always throw out the bedding on different sides of the cage.
He will learn where the bedding is deeper and will always bury himself in it, not constantly making new tunnels all over the cage.
A box with a bottom
Take a tissue box and make a hole in it that the hamster will use for digging. Just fill the hole with bedding and place it in the cage and the hamster will enjoy and be happy because it has an ideal tunnel to dig.
How to choose the right burrowing bedding for hamsters?
As you know, hamsters, apart from digging in the bedding, it is inevitable that they will sometimes eat some of the bedding together with the food that they have previously stored.
That is why it is very important for hamsters to have bedding that does not contain toxic substances that can harm their health.
Here’s what to pay attention to when you choosing bedding:
- The bedding should not have dust, it should be clean because dust can cause problems and irritations to their eyes and nose and endanger their health.
- The bedding should not have additional scents or aromas as hamsters have an excellent sense of smell and any scent or aroma can make them dislike the bedding and run away to the exercise wheel.
- It is very important that the bedding is suitable and of good quality so that it can withstand digging and making tunnels in it, but at the same time, it does not pose a danger for the hamster to be trapped inside the bedding.
An excellent choice for bedding that is good burrowing for hamsters is the following:
- hemp shavings
- softer hay
- shredded kitchen paper
Why does my hamster like to dig in the corners of the cage?
When you notice that your hamster is constantly or occasionally digging in the corners of the cage, it means that it is looking for a way to escape from the cage.
Hamsters always try to escape from the cage, it is normal behavior that they will never stop doing.
To reduce his attempts to dig into corners and try to escape you should allow them to have more activities in their cage, more toys, climbing frames, and more tubes and hiding places.
You must understand that hamsters will always try to escape, it is their natural instinct behavior.
Why do hamsters sometimes not like to dig?
Hamsters always like to dig in the bedding, those hamsters who don’t like to do that are rare.
If your hamster has never wanted to dig since being brought into the cage then this is a rare example of a hamster refusing to do so, then you should not be worried as it is clearly one of those who do not like to dig.
Therefore, when your hamster suddenly does not want to dig, and before that, he always digs in the bedding, then it is due to one of the following reasons:
- due to old age
- insufficient or wrong bedding
Let’s look together at three reasons why your hamster suddenly stopped digging in the bedding.
Due to old age, the hamster refuses to dig in the bedding
Old age causes your hamster to stop digging like it used to, or it may even stop digging in the bedding altogether.
Unfortunately, hamsters have a short life span, when they reach 18-24 months they are already old and begin to reduce their activities, and one of them is digging in the bedding.
As hamsters get older, not only will they stop digging, they’ll start eating less and less, move only when they have to, and won’t use the exercise wheel.
That’s why when you notice such changes due to old age, you can only help the hamster to always have food near him and take care of him as much as you can because he obviously doesn’t have much longer to live.
The injuries prevent the hamster from digging
When your hamster is injured, it stops digging until it heals. To know that the injury is the reason for this behavior of the hamster, pay attention to its behavior.
Signs of injury are:
- bending on one side of the body
- decreased appetite for food
- sleeps more than usual
- does not dress up as usual
- behaves aggressively towards you
- hiding in the cage and tunnels
All these signs indicate that the hamster has an injury and you must take it to the vet to examine it, as it could be a serious injury.
Insufficient or wrong bedding prevents the hamster from digging
When the hamster suddenly does not want to dig since you changed the bedding, obviously something is wrong with it.
If the bedding has a smell that hamsters don’t like and they can notice it very well because they have a great sense of smell, they won’t want to dig in it.
Another reason for them to stop digging is if you have put in insufficient bedding, they want deeper bedding because apart from allowing them to dig deeper, it also provides them with greater safety from predators.
A third reason can be the choice of inappropriate bedding that makes digging difficult and the hamster cannot dig and make tunnels in it.
Do hamsters dig before they die or do they just hibernate?
No, hamsters do not have to dig before they die, it can also be hibernation or torpor.
the best example of that is older hamsters who can’t dig anymore because they don’t have enough energy.
Hamster owners sometimes mistake torpor or hibernation for the hamster’s death.
When a hamster hibernates it is called torpor, and hamsters use torpor when they are cold ie when the temperature is below 43 F, they then bury themselves in the bedding.
But this does not mean that the hamster is dead, although at first glance it seems that it has died.
To know if the hamster is alive when you notice that it doesn’t move and seems to be dead, the easiest way is to take your pet and bring it close to a mirror with its face.
If you notice that fog forms on the mirror, then the hamster is not dead, but obviously breathing and hibernating.
To wake the hamster from torpor, increase the temperature and gently hold and pet your little friend.
Hamsters dig because it is their natural behavior that they inherited from the wild where they dig all the time most of the day.
The digging of hamsters is a normal phenomenon and it should not worry you at all. The hamster digs to store food, protect itself from predators, have fun, and recreate and be warmer.
When hamsters do not dig, it usually happens due to old age, illness, and inappropriate bedding.
When hamsters dig in the bedding in the cage it makes them happy and pleased and reminds them of their natural behavior in nature.