Hamster owners need to cater to all of their pet’s needs – both in terms of the care provided and the environment you home them in. Naturally, you may have some questions about how to provide the right environment for your pet hamster to thrive, including whether or not they need sunlight. This is what you need to know.
So, do hamsters need sunlight? The answer carries a caveat: whilst some light for your hamster can be beneficial, hamsters are typically very sensitive to light, so direct sunlight can be harmful to them. The ideal environment for your hamster will be in a room that has lots of natural light (as opposed to artificial light) but is out of direct sunlight.
Hamsters make entertaining and adorable pets.
Some consider hamsters to be ‘low-maintenance’ pets and compared to a cat or a dog, for example, they might be right.
However, like a hamster owner, diligent care of your pet is vital and constitutes more than just the occasional petting session and feeding.
Let’s now explore the subject in greater detail so that you can best understand your pet and ensure you are meeting all of their needs and requirements to live a long, healthy, and happy life.
Hamsters and Light
It is important to remember that hamsters are generally nocturnal creatures, meaning they are more active during dusk and night hours and sleep during the daytime.
For this reason, hamsters have a very sensitive vision, allowing them to see in hazy and low levels of light.
Some natural light, for example during dusk hours, when the sun is beginning to set, is beneficial to hamsters as they see best in low levels of light.
When it comes to your hammy and exposure to light, it is always best to avoid extremes either way: too bright and it can damage your hamster’s eyes and mess with their sleep cycle, too dark and your hamster is unlikely to be able to see anything at all (we’re talking pitch black!).
Owing to the fact that their eyes are very sensitive and they are typically nocturnal, hamsters tend to rely on their other senses including, smell, taste, touch and hearing to guide them around their environment and sniff out food!
Do Hamsters Need Light During The Day?
Hamsters tend to sleep during daylight hours and be most active around dawn and dusk. Dawn and dusk are typically when a hamster will find food, eat and exercise owing to the low levels of light during these times of the day.
Hamsters will usually sleep during the day. So long as they are in a room that has plenty of natural light and their home is not in direct sunlight, your hamster should be comfortable and feel safe.
It is normal for a hamster to burrow and nestle into their bedding to go to sleep, so the natural light during the day will not be an issue for them.
If however, their home is in direct sunlight, this can make it too hot for your hamster and this can cause problems for your hamster’s health.
Artificial lights on the other hand can be problematic, as they can disrupt your pet hamster’s sleep cycle.
Too much exposure to light and at the ‘wrong’ time of day can cause your hamster to feel stressed and some hamsters may even become aggressive. Stress is not only a problem for your pet hamster’s emotional health, but it can also be problematic for their physical health too.
If your hamster is exposed to stressful stimuli, such as bright artificial lights, repeatedly for prolonged periods, they can become ill and it has been known for hamsters to die from stress-related illnesses in extreme cases.
You do not need to expose your hamster to light or provide light in your hamster’s cage for this reason.
That being said, you should not keep your hamster in the dark either.
This can be as stressful for your pet because, even though their vision tends to be sharper in lower levels of light, hamsters do not have night vision – they cannot see in the dark.
Natural daylight cycles are beneficial for your pet hamster.
Natural light, out of direct sunlight, of course, helps to guide your hamster’s sleep cycle and will allow for your hamster to lead a happy and healthy life.
If your hamster is active during the day, feel free to interact and handle them without worrying about light exposure. Natural light is generally not harmful to hamsters.
Do Hamsters Like Sunlight?
Hamsters like a little warmth and natural light, but insufficient or an extreme amount of light should be avoided.
Hamsters are sensitive to bright sunlight as this can hurt and even cause lasting damage to their eyes. For this reason, exposing your hamster to direct, bright sunlight should be avoided at all costs.
Instead, opt for your hamster’s home to be placed in a room in your house where there is plenty of natural light flooding in during the day, but out of the direct beams of sunlight.
This should also be a room where erratic lighting can be easily avoided.
Erratic lighting, such as bright artificial lights being on during the night and periods of complete darkness during the day can be confusing for your hamster, as light is a good indicator for their sleep cycle.
An interrupted sleep cycle can lead to pet hamsters experiencing confusion, anxiety, and even stress. Side effects of these negative emotions can have harmful effects on your pet’s health and hence should be avoided.
When handling your hamster, they are likely to enjoy the interaction and bonding time with you more than anything else, there is no need to take your pet hamster outside and into the sun.
Instead, if your hamster is active during the day, simply enjoy the interaction!
Should I Cover My Hamsters Cage During The Day?
Being aware of your pet’s needs in order to take the best care of the possible is something that all good owners instinctively do.
Due to the fact that hamsters are nocturnal creatures, sleeping through the daylight hours, you may wonder whether it is a good idea to cover their cage with a translucent or opaque covering to provide them with a little more darkness whilst they’re asleep.
There are several reasons why covering your hamster’s cage during the day is not necessary.
The first is that ventilation of your hamster’s home is important to their health and can reduce any unpleasant odors.
It is usually recommended to house your pet hamster in a well-ventilated cage made of either plastic, glass, or metal bars.
A combination of these materials often works well. The gaps between bars in your hamster’s cage allow for air to flow freely through the enclosure.
Fresh air contains oxygen and other compounds vital for your pet’s respiratory health and can also help to dissipate smells from the cage.
In covering your hamster’s cage, owners are preventing the air from flowing through and this can have a negative effect on your pet.
If an owner chooses to cover their hamster’s cage to provide darkness during daylight hours, this can also be confusing to your pet hamster and impact their sleep cycle.
Hamsters are not known to be able to tell the time by looking at a clock like you or I, instead, their daily routine is often guided by the light that filters into their home.
If hours of darkness are increased this can cause confusion and stress for your pet hamster.
IF you are worried about the amount of light on your hamster’s cage during the day affecting their sleep, you could provide them with some voluminous bedding like this Kaytee Natural Bamboo Nesting Material available on Amazon.
Your hamster will be able to burrow and nestle down into their bedding whilst they sleep and block out any light that is bothering them.
Hamsters are sensitive to light, direct sunlight and bright artificial lights can be harmful to your pet hamster. However, natural light helps to guide their sleep cycle and is of benefit to your hamster for this reason.
There is no need to provide extra lighting in your hamster’s home or cover their cage during the day.
Hamsters are nocturnal and they will be able to regulate their own sleep cycle and behaviors as long as they are exposed to natural light.
You may find your hamster is most active during ‘low-light’ times of day like dawn and dusk.
Hamsters tend to be able to see better in lower levels of light as opposed to complete darkness.
Wondering else what your hamster may need? Well check out my other related guides below:
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.