Where do hamsters like hiding when they escape? A hamster loose in the house is distressing for all involved, but there are a few common places to search for them. Hamsters like small, dark, warm spaces. So, it’s a good idea to check underneath furniture, inside shoes and handbags, or in any little holes that you might find.
Hamsters are escape artists. When searching for your hamster, try to keep noise to a minimum. Not only will this help you avoid startling your little pet further, but it will help you hear any of their movements!
Do Hamsters Like Hiding?
Wild hamsters can be found living on dry, rocky plains or on lightly vegetated slopes. In these areas, they will dig burrows to live in. These burrows tend to be around 20 inches deep, on average, but could be anywhere from 14 to 41 inches in depth. Most often, burrows consist of a primary burrow and nesting area, with secondary burrows coming off, acting as escape routes, or areas to keep waste and food.
Studies have found that domestic hamsters enjoy the added enrichment of hiding places and nesting areas in their cages. Burrows in the wild and nesting pipes or boxes for domestic hamsters can offer feelings of protection from predators and the outside environment.
This all suggests that our hamsters enjoy hiding – in fact, it’s a natural behavior. So, if your hamster has escaped their cage, they will likely be hiding somewhere in the house. Knowing hamster hiding preferences can help you find them faster, and return them to safety.
Where Do Hamsters Like to Hide in the House?
Most hamsters will naturally gravitate to warm, dark, and enclosed hiding spaces. Here are some common places that hamsters may choose to hide if they escape from their cage:
- Clothes, shoes, or handbags that have been left on the floor.
- Underneath large items of furniture, such as couches and TV stands.
- Underneath kitchen appliances, like fridges and dishwashers.
- Inside furniture or appliances – if these items have holes or are made of easily chewed material.
- Closets and shelves – hamsters are surprisingly adept climbers.
- In blankets and bedding, or curtains that reach the floor.
- In the bathroom.
- Kitchen cupboards, pantries, or anywhere else where nice smelling food is kept.
- Warm places, perhaps somewhere with a heater, or with underfloor heating.
- Dark spaces, like basements.
It’s a good idea to also check their cage, as many hamsters will return to it if it is easily accessible.
How to Find an Escaped Hamster
It’s easy to panic when your hamster gets loose in the house. But, it’s equally important to stay calm and be quiet in your search. If you make lots of noise, your hamster will likely become more stressed, and may retreat further into their hiding place, making it harder to find them.
Start your search near their cage. There’s a high chance that your hamster hasn’t gone too far. After all, the house is a very new environment, so there’s a lot for them to explore. You may need to move furniture, but be ready to catch your hamster if you see them. And, if you move furniture, make sure you don’t hurt your hamster in the process if they could be hiding underneath or within.
What to Do if You Can’t Find Your Hamster
If you’ve searched all of the above places for your hamster and have still failed to find them, there are some other things you can try. Don’t give up hope yet! Firstly, there is some disagreement about when hamsters are more active. Whilst some studies suggest these little creatures are nocturnal (active at night), others suggest they are crepuscular (active at dusk and dawn). So, try looking for your hamster later in the evening, or at night.
In the wild, hamsters spend the majority of their time hidden in their burrows. One study found that wild hamsters spent as little as an hour, on average, outside of their burrow to forage. So, be patient – it’s likely that your hamster is hiding, especially if they are scared or stressed.
Leave out some food or treats for your hamster, and some water. You could place a dusting of flour on the floor overnight to see if footprints appear and guide you to your hamster’s hiding place. Or, place sheets of aluminium foil down and listen carefully for movement. You can try setting bucket traps for your hamster, using tasty treats to entice them in, but your hamster’s safety should be a priority. Make sure the trap won’t hurt them.
And, let family members know they need to keep a look out for the hamster!
How to Stop My Hamster Escaping
Once you’ve safely caught your hamster, you should plan to prevent further escaping. Usually, the best way to do this is by changing their cage type. Wired cages and plastic cages are the easiest for hamsters to escape from. Wire doors are easily opened, or left open accidentally. And, plastic is very easy for hamsters to chew through. Plus, plastic attachments can easily fall apart if not put together properly.
Consider investing in a breathable glass home for your hamster. These tanks are available in most pet stores. The bigger the better, as a greater depth will provide plenty of space for your hamster to burrow in their sawdust. And a greater surface area offers more space for enrichment objects, like a larger wheel, or things to hide in and climb over – items to mimic their natural environment.
There’s a chance your hamster is trying to escape from boredom or stress. Studies have shown that hamsters in smaller cages showed stress behaviors, like gnawing on wires, more often and for longer than those in larger cages. So, a larger home with more opportunities to entertain themselves can make it less likely that your hamster will attempt to escape.
Where Do Hamsters Like to Hide?
We wish you luck if you’re searching for a hamster in the house. Take a look in the places we suggested above, and don’t lose hope if you can’t find your hamster immediately. There are plenty of people who have ended up finding their hamsters days, and even weeks after they went missing. So, put down some food and water, and stay vigilant!
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References and Resources
- Gattermann, R. (et al), ‘Notes on the Current Distribution and the Ecology of Wild Golden Hamsters (Mesocricetus Auratus)’, Journal of Zoology (2001)
- Winnicker, C. & Pritchett-Corning, K. ‘Behavioral Biology of Hamsters’, Behavioral Biology of Laboratory Animals (2021)
- Larimer, S. (et al), ‘Foraging Behavior of Golden Hamsters (Mesocricetus Auratus) in the Wild’, Journal of Ethology (2011)
- Reebs, S. & St-Onge, P. ‘Running Wheel Choice by Syrian Hamsters’, Laboratory Animals (2005)
- Veillette, M. & Reebs, S. ‘Shelter Choice by Syrian Hamsters (Mesocricetus Auratus) in the Laboratory’, Animal Welfare (2011)
- Partrick, K. (et al), ‘Acute and Repeated Exposure to Social Stress Reduces Gut Microbiota Diversity in Syrian Hamsters’, Behavioral Brain Research (2018)
- Fischer, K. ‘Behavior of Golden Hamsters (Mesocricetus Auratus) Kept in Four Different Cage Sizes’ (2005)