Do Hamsters Play Dead? (9 Interesting Facts)

A pet hamster is a pet with high energy. You can see the hamster running and loves to play. Hamsters will provide you with lots of things like crawling through their tubes, running on their wheel, or scurrying around their cage. Even though many of their activities are exciting to watch, sometimes hamsters might shock you by suddenly lying still in their cage.

Do hamsters play dead? Hamsters can play dead when they are anxious, stressed, or frightened by something. Hamsters use this dramatic technique to protect themselves in the wild. Pet hamsters can still do this and become an instinctual behavior they can’t control.

To know anything about hamster behavior playing dead as a defense mechanism, let’s read this article to the end.

Do hamsters play dead
Do hamsters play dead?


Do Hamsters Play Possum?

Playing possum is a term when prey animals use their powerful survival instinct with the pretentious to be dead. But this behavior is not widely known by pet owners.

Sociobiology and behavioral ecology explain the behavior of prey animals when they are pretentious to be dead with the term tonic immobility or death-feigning. It helps prey animals to be kept away from further attacks and reduces the predator’s desire to hunt prey any further.

Do hamsters play dead? Yes, hamsters play dead by reducing their breathing rate to give predators confidence that the hamster is no longer alive.


Do Hamsters Pretend To Be Dead?

Not only hamsters but other small mammals can also play dead to protect themselves from predators. It’s a natural behavior that can make them survive in the wild. Humans can never understand why hamsters can have good acting and trick predators.

Do hamsters play dead? If you witness an animal that looks like it is about to attack the hamsters, your pet will drop its body by sticking out its tongue to the side of its mouth while stiffening. It looks real, and some pet owners are fooled by what their hamsters do.


Can Hamsters Fake Death?

Hamsters can fake their death every time they feel danger from predators. If they are far enough from their predators, hamsters will choose to run or hide. But if there’s nowhere else to run, they’ll play dead. Every pet hamster still has this behavior as their wild instincts.

Do hamsters play dead? Hamsters will enter an immobile state from seconds to hours depending on how long the predator is near them. What hamsters do is slow their heart rate, protrude their tongues, and set their eyes wide open.


What’s It Called When Hamsters Play Dead?

The technical term for hamsters playing dead is thanatosis. It’s a state that hamsters get from resembles death or shock. Hamsters will halt their voluntary body activity and exhibit a rigid posture similar to a dead animal.

Possum is a popular term for this but is more often used for birds, insects, rodents, and reptiles. Pet owners would be surprised if they had never seen this behavior before. You do not need to do any treatment because this is a hamster’s wild instinct.

Do hamsters play dead? Yes, hamsters will play dead when they are cornered. They will continue to do that until they feel safe and there are no predators in their sight.


Why Does Your Hamster Play Dead?

Playing dead is a hamster’s wild instinct or defense mechanism which is always present in the hamster’s DNA. Every domestic hamster also still has this behavior as a sign when the hamster is experiencing extreme anxiety.

If we see hamster predators in the wild such as snakes or birds, they prefer their meals to be moving and alive. It made sense with hamsters’ instinct to play dead when close to their predators. It’s vital to protect hamsters when they can’t hide or are too late to run.

Do hamsters play dead? Yes, when it’s necessary. Hamsters can stay in the act until the predators leave.


Why Are These Hamsters Faking Their Own Deaths?

Thanatosis or better known as possum is a step taken as prey or animals at the bottom of the food chain. Their predators in the wild are quite a lot, such as owls, snakes, and hawks. While domestic hamsters shouldn’t be playing dead, they may do. The table below is some of the possible reasons why hamsters play dead.

Evade predatorsHamsters play dead to outwit predators. They know the desire of predators who only want to hunt their prey that is still moving and alive.
FearWhen hamsters are afraid of other pets, such as cats or dogs, they consider other pets as predators and will follow their natural instinct.
AnxietyLoud noises, strangers handling, bright lights, can make hamsters anxious about things they don’t know and can trigger stress.


Is It Dangerous When Hamsters Play Dead?

Hamsters that do thanatosis will be in a constant state of anxiety and fear. It’s a burden to their bodies, and hamsters shouldn’t play dead too often. Try to learn how to approach your hamster without startling them. Don’t sneak up on them or pick them up right away.

Do hamsters play dead? Yes, hamsters will be playing dead when something suddenly scares them. Don’t scare your hamster with something you do. Move slowly in front of the hamsters until they know you are coming and want to pick them up. Give a sense of security to your pet.


How Long Do Hamsters Play Dead?

Hamsters will play dead for as long as they want. If hamsters sense that there are predators or something they fear around them, they will stay in position for minutes or hours. But some hamsters flee from danger and don’t play dead. It can happen when you give them a hiding place in their cage.

Do hamsters play dead? Hamsters that do thanatosis are those who feel insecure and afraid of predators. If hamsters feel less pressure in their enclosure, they will not play dead. Hamsters in captivity don’t play dead too often when they feel safe in their surroundings.

Do hamsters play dead
Do hamsters play dead?


Do Hamsters Sleep Like They Are Dead?

No. Hamsters sleep with their bodies relaxed and peaceful because they’ve no threats. When hamsters play dead, their bodies stiffen by sticking their tongues out to the side. The hamster will sleep with its eyes closed without doing anything else.

Do hamsters play dead? Hamsters will play dead when anything dangerous to them approaches. They will not suddenly nap during the day unless they are doing thanatosis. Try checking your hamster’s breathing. If your hamster is breathing calmly and relaxed, they are sleeping.


Why Do Hamsters Look Dead When They Sleep?

Sleeping hamsters are not like when they are dead. They will sleep about 6-8 hours daily. If their room has a stable temperature between 68-75 degrees Fahrenheit, their sleep quality is maximized. But if hamsters sleep more than 8 hours, there’s a good chance of hibernating.

The hamster’s metabolic processes will slow down. You’ll notice their heartbeat becomes slower and less frequent. Don’t worry if you still feel a pulse or heartbeat, and consult your vet about what to do when your hamster hibernates.

Do hamsters play dead? Hibernating is different from thanatosis. Hamsters will hibernate to preserve as much heat as possible when the temperature in their room starts to cool. Their sleeping position will be slightly circular and slightly different when they play dead.


Is Hibernating Dangerous For Hamsters?

Hibernating is a process your pet’s body does to match the environment’s temperature. Coldness is not a major concern when a hamster hibernates. Hamsters can sleep longer in winter. What you need to worry about are their eating and drinking patterns.

During the hibernation process, hamsters will be lethargic and have less appetite. Ensure you provide more food to stabilize your body’s metabolism.

Do hamsters play dead? When playing dead will be done until the threat goes away, hibernating can be done every day like usual at bedtime. The difference is a longer sleep time than normal weather. Ensure you can stabilize the room temperature even in cold weather.


Is My Hamster Dead Or Sleeping?

You can gently push your fingers into the hamster’s chest. Stay in the same position for a couple of minutes. If you feel the beat, even though the time is slower than normal, they’re still alive. Hamsters playing dead or sleeping still have a pulse even though they are not as smooth as they are when they are doing their normal activities.

Do hamsters play dead? Hamsters can play dead when they experience anxiety. Keep the hamster in a room that is safe from distractions such as sudden loud noises or too bright light.


Is The Hamster Dead Or Hibernating?

The only way to tell between a hibernating or dead hamster is by their heartbeat. During winter, hamsters will hibernate to match their temperature with their environment. Hamsters continue to carry out their activities such as eating, drinking, or other activities even though they are reduced.

But if hamsters are rigid and unresponsive when they are at warm temperatures, they may die. Check using your fingers for their pulse. Dead hamsters will be stiff and have no signs of breathing.

Do hamsters play dead? Hamsters will rarely play dead when the weather is cold. They focus more on equalizing body temperature with their environment.


How Does A Hamster Act When It’s Dying?

Dying hamsters will have choppy and agitated breathing, and diminishing pulse until they are exhausted. Hamsters may suffer from stiff jaws and tremors. The hamster will start to stop moving and not breathe.

Do hamsters play dead? Dying hamsters are different when they play dead. You can still feel the pulse when your hamster is doing the thanatosis. Dying hamsters will be slowly unresponsive and their pulse will start to disappear.


How Can You Tell If A Hamster Is Dying?

Checking whether the hamster is dead or not is the worst thing that owners do. There are some clear signs when the hamster is dying. The hamster will go to the cage corner and curl up. Their front paws curled into its chest with a bowed head.

When you try to pick your hamster up, it will feel stiff and hard. The hamster’s body will be cool to the touch, and the body will remain in position.


What Are Signs Of A Dead Hamster?

The obvious sign is the hamster’s temperature. Hamsters have a warm body temperature. But if their body is cool to the touch, and your body remains the same temperature, the hamster has probably passed away.

There is no sign of movement from the body or limbs. Hamsters that are still breathing will see their body movements slowly. When hamsters are dying, they will not move any part of their body. You will not see a hamster breathing. Check for more than two minutes to make sure the hamster has stopped breathing or not.


Final Verdict – Do Hamsters Play Dead

Hamsters are prey animals and are at the bottom of the food chain. They have a wild instinct to protect their bodies from the threat of predators by playing dead or thanatosis. Hamsters will drop their body and stiffen their body while sticking their tongue out to the side.

Do hamsters play dead
Do hamsters play dead? Do hamsters play dead often?

This hamster behavior is done to trick predators who prefer prey that is alive and moving. Hamsters not only play dead when there are predators but also when they feel fear or anxiety. Although domesticated hamsters have a slight threat, there is still a possibility that they play dead to protect themselves.

As a pet lover, make sure to learn about pet more and give your pet dog a good and comfortable life!

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