The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care.
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The worst possible thing that most hamster owners can think of has happened, my hamster is not moving. Why is my hamster not moving, and how can I help it?
These are the questions that I was forced to ask a few months ago when I saw my hamster was not moving. I was devastated and thought the poor thing had passed away, but I was wrong.
It’s very worrying if your hamster is not moving. A few of the reasons your hamster is not moving include being in torpor or hibernating. Your hamster might be sick or in pain, it might be playing dead, or it has unfortunately passed away. If you are unsure, it’s best to contact a vet.
I had not realized the heating pad in my hamster’s cage had stopped working during the night, and my hamsters’ body was reacting to the low temperatures.
After it warmed up, he was doing much better. That led me to wonder about all the other reasons a hamster might stop moving.
Why Is My Hamster Not Moving?
One of the most terrifying things for any pet owner is discovering their pet is not moving. We human beings will immediately think that our beloved hamster must be dead. But is it? There are reasons other than death that cause hamsters to stop moving, but they are still alive; here are a few of the reasons we will discuss later in the post:
- Your hamster is in torpor
- Your hamster is in hibernation
- Your hamster is overheating
- Your hamster has unfortunately passed away
- Your hamster is sick
- Your hamster is playing dead
- Your hamster is old
- Your hamster is in pain
1 – Your Hamster Is in Torpor
Your hamster could be in torpor. It might sound like the magic words you find in Harry Potter movies, but torpor is a form of hibernation. Torpor is not true hibernation; hibernation can last for weeks or months in most animals. In hamsters, they don’t go into total hibernation immediately; they go into torpor first.
Torpor is a state where your hamster’s body has slowed down its metabolism and vital functions to protect the hamster from an outside condition, like a mini hibernation. Torpor can last anywhere from a few hours or a few days. In this time, your hamster will lie still, possibly curled up, and have shallow breathing and a very slow heart rate.
Some hamster owners don’t even know their hamster had gone into torpor for a few hours. That is why closely watching your hamster’s enclosure conditions is crucial to keep your hamster healthy.
What Causes Hamsters to Go into Torpor?
Torpor is not too bad if you catch it in time. If this condition goes unnoticed, your hamster could pass away or go into full hibernation; that is where the real danger lies. Most hamsters go into torpor because the temperature has dropped below 59F.
Hamsters can’t handle extreme temperatures well, so their bodies will protect them by going into this temporary form of hibernation. It will slow down all the vital functions to try and raise the hamster’s body temperature. Signs that your hamster has gone into torpor include:
- The hamster is not moving, but there is slight whisker movement
- It will be breathing, but very slowly, so you will see its chest move up and down at least once every two minutes
- Your hamster will be cold to the touch
If you suspect your hamster is in torpor, you need to raise the temperature in its surroundings slowly. Don’t be alarmed if your hamster stumbles or is a bit sluggish after it wakes up; the motor functions take a while to catch up with the rest of its body. If you don’t see an improvement, you must take it to a vet.
2 – Your Hamster Has Gone into Hibernation
If you did not notice that your hamster has gone into torpor, it might move into full hibernation. Hibernation happens when the temperature falls below 59F and doesn’t go back up for a few days. Your hamster will double down efforts to warm itself up with hibernation if the temperature in its enclosure is not brought back to safe levels.
It is dangerous as most domesticated hamsters will not hibernate; their bodies can’t handle an unexpected prolonged sleep cycle. Here are some signs that indicate hibernation in hamsters:
- Slow breathing; taking only one or two breaths every 2 minutes
- If your hamster is not moving and curled in a sleeping position
- If your hamster has a slow heartbeat
- If your hamster feels cold to the touch
- If you noticed your hamster has been eating less
- If the temperatures have suddenly dripped below 59F
As mentioned in the section above, if you notice these signs and have tried to wake your hamster up, but your hamster still seems not to be fully awake, your next call should be a vet. The vet will be able to tell if your hamster is still in torpor or if it has gone into hibernation.
Hamsters that go into full hibernation will require a lot of fluids but little at a time, so the vet will slowly raise the body temperature of the hamster and give it intravenous fluids at the proper pace.
3 – Your Hamster Has Heatstroke or Is Overheating
If your area is going through a heatwave or it’s just hot in general, your hamster might get heatstroke or overheat. One of the signs of a hamster overheating includes not moving. You need to keep your hamster out of direct sunlight. If temperatures exceed 78F, your hamster will overheat and have trouble breathing, leading to other medical issues.
4 – Your Hamster Has Unfortunately Passed Away
If your hamster is not moving, one of the reasons might be that it has passed away. It’s heartbreaking, but you still need to be sure your hamster is genuinely dead before you want to put it in a shoebox to be buried. Here are some unmistakable signs that your hamster has died:
- Your hamster feels cold to the touch
- Your hamster is not moving at all
- Its eyes are not opening, and lids are not moving
- Its whiskers are not twitching
- Rigor Mortis has set in, and its muscles are stiff and won’t bend
- There is a big wet patch in the cage near your hamster
- You see no signs of breathing after 5 minutes of careful observation
- You feel no heartbeat or pulse
- If you lift its eyelids and its eyes are glassy and dull
5 – Your Hamster Is Sick
If your hamster is sick, it won’t move at all or very little. Hamsters can have respiratory problems such as pneumonia or upper respiratory infection. If you see your hamster is not moving but is taking short labored breaths, it might have a breathing condition and should see a vet.
The other medical issues that might cause your hamster to stop moving are arthritis, paralysis, or injury. Heart issues can also be a health issue that hamsters have to deal with, but sudden cardiac arrest will be unexpected and fatal in most cases.
One ordinary issue hamsters have intestinal issues. Hamsters like to chew, and if it chews something that it can’t digest or disagrees with its digestive system, it will be too painful to move. Check to see if your hamster is bloated, swelling in its abdomen or if it feels hard and stiff. If you find an issue, you need to contact your vet for further instructions.
6 – Your Hamster Is Playing Dead
Hamsters are very sensitive critters, and because they are small, they get frightened very easily. In the wild, when they see a predator, they will fake death because the predators that hunt them don’t eat dead prey. It’s a natural defense mechanism.
Domesticated hamsters also have this instinct, and it will kick in when the hamster has a sudden scare. Just like your that, your hamster will involuntarily turn into an Oscar-winning actor with its eyes closed and body still; it will seem as if your hamster is well and truly dead.
It might confuse you, so pick it up and remove it from the room. When the hamster senses that the danger has passed, it will go back to normal. You need to figure out what caused its sudden fright.
Stuffed animals, loud noises, big pets, or pets it might mistake for predators and sudden movements will all trigger this false death defensive strategy. If you have found the offending scary monster that scared your hamster, please remove it from the hamster as prolonged stress and anxiety might lead to sickness or heart failure in your hamster.
Why Is My Hamster Not Moving But Breathing with Its Eyes Open?
It’s one thing for a hamster to stop moving and another if it’s not moving, but its eyes are open. A few of the reasons why your hamster is not moving but its eyes are open include:
Your Hamster Is Old
As hamsters get older, they get thinner and weaker as we humans do, and they also move a lot slower. Some hamsters will get to a stage where they won’t move at all, but their eyes are open. So if your hamster is older than three years and it has no other symptoms, it might just be getting old.
You can get joint supplements to see if that will help and might do wonders for the mobility of your hamster if you catch it early on. That is why regular vet visits are essential to keeping your hamster happy and healthy.
Your Hamster Is in Pain
If your hamster stops moving, it might be in pain. It all depends on what is causing the pain. Some indicators of pain other than not moving are:
- Squealing when it tries to move, or you pick it up
- It won’t want to eat
- Flinches when you come near it
- It will have little or poop droppings in its cage
- It’s wet around the tail area
- Chewing on itself/self-harming
- Stops drinking
- Isolates itself and stays immobile
Some of the leading causes of pain in hamsters are fall injuries, ingrown teeth, intestinal pain, to name a few. Only a vet specializing in small mammal care will be able to diagnose why your hamster is in pain.
Your Hamster Is Scared Stiff
One other reason your hamster might have stopped moving is it’s scared. Some hamsters won’t immediately play dead but will freeze with a look of shock and fright on their furry faces. They won’t move until they have calmed down and the object of their fear is gone.
Your Hamster Is Stressed
Not many people realize that hamsters get stressed very quickly. Stress can cause severe problems for hamsters; they will start to chew on the cage, they might even start to rip pieces of fur off their bodies. One sign is not moving but with its eyes open and isolating itself.
If you suspect your hamster is stressed, you can look at the following to see if it might be the cause:
- Hamsters get stressed when they have low-quality food; you can try giving it more fresh veggies and fruits; the extra nutrition will help.
- Not enough open space to run in the cage; hamsters need at least 6000 square inches of uninterrupted floor space. The space on a second level doesn’t count.
- Housing with other mammals; hamsters don’t like being in the same enclosure as other pets; they get stressed quickly and need a cage of their own.
- Changing its environment; hamsters get stressed when you change the layout of their cage or give them a new cage. It will take a few days, but they will get used to the new setup.
- Boredom will easily stress your hamster out; it needs to have all kinds of hidey-hole and toys. Things like a hamster wheel will also help a lot.
Hamsters are notorious for being highly active rodents, so the last thing we want is a hamster that is not moving because we know something is wrong. If you can’t find the cause of your hamster not moving, you must take it to the vet for a check-up as it might be a medical condition or hibernation.
The best-case scenario is your hamster got scared, and its body reacted by playing dead, and you have a little actor on your hands. I hope this post helped explain the reasons why a hamster might stop moving.