Do Hamsters Blink? Eye Sight, Sleeping and More Information

Hamster inside cage

Before bringing a hamster into your home. You might have many different questions. I certainly did before I bought my hamster.

Do hamsters blink? Yes, hamsters do blink but they blink with only one eye at a time. It looks like they are winking.

This is definitely one of the more odder questions when it comes to hamster care. In this article, we will dive more into hamsters eyesight and care.

Do Hamsters Blink?

Yes, hamsters blink, but not like humans. Their blinking is more like winking, so they blink with only one eye at a time. 

Just like us, they do need to occasionally close their eyes in order to remove debris and hydrate the eyeball.    

Blinking is an important way to keep eyes healthy and moist.  All living creatures with eyes need a way to keep them hydrated. 

Do Hamsters Have Eye Lids?

Hamsters do in fact have eyelids. Eyelids are required for blinking and/or winking. I prefer to think of hamsters winking because it sounds adorable.

In order to understand eyelids, let’s talk about what blinking is for. Blinking allows you, or your hamster’s eyelids to come together and then apart quickly, which provides suction in order to spread liquid from the tear duct across the eye. 

This is how eyes stay moist.  If you try very hard not to blink for a long time you might notice your eyes begin to feel dry.  This is why.

Why Do Hamsters Blink with Only One Eye?

Even though your pet hamster is domesticated, they are still closely related to their wild ancestors and share many traits and instincts with them.

Hamsters are prey animals, meaning basically they are the opposite of a predator. Predators are constantly seeking them out as a food source.

A prey animal in the wild must take every precaution.

In theory, while one eye is blinking, the other can still be watching for predators. Prey animals typically have their eyes situated on the sides of their head, while predators have their eyes situated in the front. 

This is so that prey animals can see a wider field of view and can even see almost behind themselves in order to be able to detect something coming after them.

When they do see a predator, they must act quickly, so even blinking for a second can mean the difference between life and death. 

While there are no scientific studies done to prove the purpose of the one-eyed blink but this is likely one of the reasons they blink.

Can Hamsters Blink with Both Eyes at Once?

While I don’t know for certain whether hamsters can blink with both eyes at once, I know that they don’t. As far as we know, they only blink with one eye at a time.

Just like with us, blinking is a subconscious action. 

We don’t usually think about taking a breath and we don’t think about blinking, it is just something that our brains and bodies are hard-wired to do.

If they had to take up conscious brain space thinking about every breath or blink, they would have little concentration left for tasks required for survival, such as looking for food.

So, I imagine that if a hamster could consciously try to blink with both eyes, they might be able to, but they don’t consciously try to blink.

The only important thing to know is that they wink! Pretty fascinating, right?

How Often Do Hamsters Blink?

We don’t currently have a concrete answer to this. We only know what experienced hamster owners have reported, which is that they don’t blink nearly as often as we do. 

Some say only once every minute, while humans blink about 15 times per minute. So don’t be disappointed if you lose a staring contest to your hamster! They will always win.

Hamsters have a lubricant over their eyes which humans lack, allowing them to go longer in between blinks.

They have this in common with other rodents and with rabbits.  Sometimes animals are born with a deficiency in this lubricant, causing dry eye and constant infections.

Artificial tears may be prescribed from a veterinarian if that is the case.

Do Hamsters Sleep With Their Eyes Open?

Hamsters and other rodents must rest their eyes and hydrate them during sleep.

Hamsters have excellent hearing and will wake up fully ready to run if they hear a threat.

Do Hamsters Have a Good EyeSight?

Unfortunately, your hamster is not going to be a painter. They are completely colorblind.  In order to see color, a creature must have color receptors in their retinas.

There is a good reason for this lack of color receptors in hamsters.

Eyes consist of two types of photoreceptor cells. 

Rods and cones. Rods are responsible for night vision, cones are responsible for color reception.  Hamsters in the wild are nocturnal and therefore need more rods than cones.

97% of a hamster’s eyes are rod cells, leaving little room for cones. 

In the hamster’s world, night vision is much more important than colors since they need to be able to see predators coming for them in the dark.

Hamsters are also nearsighted and don’t have very good long distance vision. They can only see a few inches past their nose. 

This is partly why they spook easily.  Any moving object or being coming toward them from a distance just looks like a blur, so it all looks the same to them.

Hamsters do make up for their poor eyesight with their excellent sense of smell and their excellent hearing.

You’ve probably noticed your hamster’s nose constantly wiggling and their whiskers moving around.

Since they can’t see very far, they are always using their nose and ears to be able to tell what is going on around them. 

Their nose wiggling also happens to be one of their cutest features.

I always noticed my hamster wiggling its nose toward me when I entered the room as if to say, “who’s there?”, then once he recognized my smell, he relaxed and went about his business. 

Your hamster will learn to recognize your smell and your voice.

My Hamster has Gunky/Sticky Eyes – What do I do?

There a couple of precautions you can take if your hamster is getting sticky eyes. Usually, this is caused by debris getting in the eyes, which could possibly be coming from their bedding.

Try switching to bedding with less dust. I don’t recommend anything that involves wood shavings or newspaper. 

Newspaper can be very dusty. Wood shavings can release fumes that are toxic to hamsters when they are urinated on. Try a plant-based paper material that is soft and fluffy.

You can also treat the sticky or gunky eyes with a warm compress. Take a cotton swab or soft washcloth and wet it with warm water.

Make sure it is not too hot by testing it on your inner wrist. While holding your hamster, hold the warm cloth or swab over each eye for a minute. 

The moisture and heat will loosen up the gunk and then you can wipe it away gently.

If the problem persists, take your hamster to the vet.

Hamster eye is swollen shut – What do I do?

Sometimes when hamsters have allergies or debris in their eyes, that stickiness can occur.  If it gets out of hand, the eye may become swollen and sealed shut from the gunk.

Don’t panic, it’s fixable.

Try the warm compress suggested above.  If this doesn’t loosen it up enough, take your hamster to the vet.

They may have an infection and need antibiotics, or they may have an allergy to something in their environment.

If it is an allergy, try changing the bedding.

Sometimes you may have to try a few different materials as a process of elimination to figure out what works best for your hamster. 

Some are more sensitive than others. Make sure you purchase something that is in the 90th percentile of being dust free.

Related Questions:

Do hamsters like to be petted? It depends on your hamster. Some hamsters enjoy it more than others. You should always be careful when petting your hamster as they are very small and can be injured easily if you pet them too hard.

Do hamsters pass gas? Yes, hamsters pass gas. To find out more information check out our article here.

Do hamsters have a period? Female hamsters do not have periods but they have an estrus cycle which is very similar. To find out more information check out our article here.

Charlotte Silcock

Charlotte lives in the United Kingdom and has worked in animal shelters looking after small animals. She owns a hamster as well as a dog and a cat and hopes to spread her knowledge about rodents to help other pet owners.

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