Why Do Hamsters Freeze?
Hamsters are incredibly cute, small and fuzzy creatures, but if you’ve ever tried to cuddle with one, you may have noticed that some of them can suddenly freeze when they’re scared. Here, we will look at why hamsters behave this way and how best to help them.
Hamsters’ Natural Instincts
Hamsters have natural instinctive responses to certain situations, freezing is one them. When faced with a perceived threat, a hamster may go into a kind of shock called “immobility response” where they remain motionless and often breathless. This is an evolutionary trait used by small animals as a kind of last resort defense against predators. Statuesque and quiet, they are hoping to remain unnoticed and avoid being eaten.
When Do Hamsters Freeze?
This motionless behavior may be seen in hamsters when:
- They sense danger – Hamsters can freeze when their environment suddenly changes or if they sense a predator nearby.
- They are overly excited – Hamsters can become too excited when playing with their owners, don’t be alarmed if your pet freezes momentarily to calm itself down.
- They fear a stranger – If your hamster is scared of a new person, it may become incredibly still, as if nothing has happened.
When Should You Worry
If your hamster is motionless for more than five minutes, it is best to take it to a vet as soon as possible to make sure they are healthy. Motionless behavior can indicate an underlying health issue and should be checked out by a professional.
Using Positive Reinforcement to Help Your Hamster
When you notice that your hamster has gone into the “immobility response,” the best thing to do is to back away from it and give it some time to relax. Once it has calmed down, you can try to make it comfortable by providing it with a safe environment (a pet tunnel or small darkened space). Positively reward it with treats and make sure that it has plenty of food and water to eat.
To help make your hamster less fearful of potential threats, it’s helpful to get it used to handling in a formal, gentle way. When you handle it, avoid quick movements or loud noises, and gradually work up to longer periods of contact. Over time, your hamster should become more comfortable in your presence, and the freezing behaviour will become less frequent.
Hamsters freeze as a natural instinct when they sense danger, but this behaviour can also be triggered when a hamster is overly excited or scared of someone. If your hamster stays motionless for more than 5 minutes, take it to the vet to make sure that it is healthy. To help them get used to humans, you can use positive reinforcement and work up to longer periods of handling.