How Smart are Hamsters? Feelings, Name and Memory

Hamster in Sock

Hamsters can make great pets for all ages and are relatively clean, friendly animals. Before buying a hamster you might be wondering whether they’ll be able to remember their name or recognize their owner.

How smart are hamsters? Hamster can memorize very basic everyday objects and routines. Hamsters will be able to remember who their owner is and if you train them they can remember their names by the tones and pitch you use.

Hamsters have the ability to learn several different tricks. In fact, you may be surprised to learn just how clever these little creatures are!

How Good is Hamsters Memory?

Hamster in their cageHamsters can remember positionings of objects in their cage, what their name is (after training them), who their owner is and what their favorite food is.

Hamsters memory is still up for debate but scientists have done studies to see how good their memory is.

In one study scientist work to see how hamsters identify the time of year.

This study targeted learning how hamsters recognized when it was both time to begin breeding and time to begin hibernation for the winter.

The hamster showed that they had a long term memory good enough to recount the length of sunlight. When there was more sunlight they would begin to breed or at least get ready to.

When there’s less sunlight the hamster would get ready to hibernate. This shows that a hamster is developed enough to have a long term memory that lasts for months to years.

It should also be stated though, that many studies have pointed towards memory being used for survival.

In another study, it was proven that hamster put into a maze would remember where the food was at even after weeks of not running the maze.

This spatial memory helps them to survive in the wild but seems to be triggered by elements such as smell and light changes.

When it comes to the short term memory of a hamster or the learning of an insignificant piece of information, they tend to have a terrible memory.

Can They Learn Their Name?

Hamsters can learn their name but can take quite a bit of training to get your hamster to recognize their name.

Hamsters don’t latch on to simply being called a word or a name by their owner every day. Instead, you have to use a reward system to entice them to respond.

This takes daily interactions and can go amiss if you don’t interact with them for several days during the learning process. In fact, spaced out interaction can reset the training completely.

Once you have successfully gotten your hamster to respond to their name you should also note that they don’t fully understand what a name is.

The hamster associates the sound you are making with a reward. Generally, this reward is a treat that the hamster enjoys snacking on.

The hamster will also latch onto the pitch of voice you use when you call for them. Changing pitch can confuse some hamsters causing them not to approach you.

You should keep in mind that hamsters rely a lot on familiar sounds to survive in the wild. Changing the tone of your voice to something they don’t recognize isn’t a good move.

Can They Recognize Other People?

Hamster standing up on its two feetHamsters can recognize people, but it takes some time for this to happen. Due to the bad short term memory of a hamster, you shouldn’t expect them to memorize your friend.

Hamsters have poor sight, to begin with. Most hamsters can’t see far in front of them and rely on a combination of sights and sounds to guide them.

This means that your friend who is sitting across the room from them isn’t going to be a major part of their memory. In fact, even if your friend feeds them they may not develop a memory.

This is because your friend doesn’t contribute much to the hamster’s survival. Therefore the hamster’s brain puts your friend’s identity in with other non-important information.

The good news is this means the hamster will be able to tell you from your friend. WIthin the first few weeks of owning your hamster, they will begin to recognize you.

This is because you bring substance to your pet and interact with them daily. This is also because they can become more familiar with your scent living in your home.

A hamster can recognize multiple people as well, but they need to interact with them regularly. This will trigger the hamsters long term memory to add them in as important information.

Can You Train Your Hamster?

Almost any pet can be trained including the basic goldfish to an extent. Like with anything involving an animal though it needs repetition and daily interaction.

The extent to which you can train a hamster is entirely up to the amount of time and work you want to put in. Some people just enjoy their hamster knowing their name.

Other want to teach their hamster little tricks or more advanced ways to interact with themselves and their families.

It’s important to also note that each individual hamster is going to have a different capacity for training regardless of their breed. Some breeds may be harder to train than others though.

For example, the energetic Robo hamster is going to be harder to train due to the fact that they are always on the go. It can take much longer to get them to latch onto tricks.

Syrian hamsters, on the other hand, are the favorite pick of people who want an easy to handle hamster who can learn more easily.

If you’re picking out a new hamster then look for social queues that will let you get a glimpse into how friendly the hamster is.

If you pick the hamster who is hiding behind his log in a corner from shoppers you may find it a little harder to train then the hamster who is happily darting all around the cage.

Train Your Hamster to Use a Little Box

Litter boxes make keeping a pet so much more simple. By containing the droppings of an animal it’s much easier to keep their environment clean and save you time.

To many hamster owners surprise, yes, you can train them to go into a litter box. In fact, this may actually reduce stress by keeping your pets environment cleaner.

To train a hamster you will need to pick up a hamster potty at your local pet store. You can also make them out of small cardboard boxes, just be aware these need to be changed more.

You will also need to purchase actual litter to place inside the litter box. This can be found at most pet stores as well and come in a few different varieties.

Many experts recommend using pelleted litter as it’s easy to clean and is a much different material than the shaving in your hamster environment.

You will want to observe your hamster see where in his cage he prefers to eliminate. Once you have identified this spot insert the litter box in the exact location.

Most hamster will continue to use this designated area even after the insertion of the box. You can also take some soiled shavings and place them inside to make the scent more familiar.

It’s also important to have the proper size cage and a sleeping area for your pet. This will keep your hamster from seeing the new box as a bed.

Can You Train Your Hamster to do Tricks?

With the right amount of dedication and persistence, your hamster can be taught quite a few tricks. Of course, the rate each hamster learns tricks will be different.

Some basic tricks that just about any hamster can learn are stand, spin, and jump. In more advanced training sessions you can even teach your hamster to run obstacles.

To begin with, use stand one of the simplest tricks a hamster can learn. You can teach this both in the cage and while holding your pet.

All you need to do is say stand and hold a treat above their head. Make sure the treat is high enough that they have to stand up on their back legs to get it.

Over time your hamster will learn to do this as soon as it sees the raised treat. Next, you can teach your hamster how to spin or do circles.

To teach them this trick simply take a treat and start at their nose. Move the treat in a circular motion wide enough for them to make a complete circle in.

For this trick, it’s best to use an extra enticing treat to make them want to chase after it. Lastly, you can teach your hamster to jump for a treat.

This is a little harder to teach a hamster since they may not understand the movement or may just try to stand to snatch the treat from your fingers.

In fact. You will want to use a hoop or stick to encourage your hamster to jump over it. Block the path to the treat other the stick or the hoop.

With enough luck, your hamster will learn to jump over the obstacle in order to obtain the reward. For this trick, you will also want to use a more enticing treat than normal.

What can hamsters learn?

Hamster with Rubix CubesHamster can learn a plethora of things that help them in their everyday life. Like mentioned above they can learn everything from their names to how to use a litter box.

While hamsters can learn this information it is entirely up to you to make sure it sticks. Daily interaction is needed to keep specialty training in your hamsters memory.

If possible it’s best to run a refresher course on tricks weekly to keep your hamster up to speed on their training.

As for additional things you can teach your hamster, there are behavioral training methods that have been proven to help move your hamster sleeping times.

There are also ways to teach your pet to walk on a harness so that you can take them out with you. These types of training are much harder and depend heavily on the hamster.

Some people may even feel that modifying your hamsters sleeping times may not be healthy for your pet.

If you want a more active and challenging type of training that won’t affect your hamster natural state then try obstacle courses.

Hamster Obstacle Courses

Teaching a hamster to run an obstacle course can be a fun and rewarding experience for both of you. This advanced training will take a bit of work and desired treats.

In the course use practical obstacles like tunnels, see-saws, and poles. Teach each obstacle to your hamster individually before moving on to the next.

In the beginning, your hamster will probably try to cheat in order to get the treats. Gently set them back at the obstacles beginning when this happens.

After enough times being set back down your hamster will eventually get the obstacle. Be sure to give your pet plenty of breaks and don’t drag the training on for too long.

Each time you master a trick move add on a little bit more of the next one. As long as you take your time with each obstacle you can have your hamster run a full course in no time.

How smart are hamsters compared to other rodents?

To begin with, remember that the rodents family is quite large and even includes rabbits. We will take a look at many popular rodents level of intelligence when compared to a hamster.

One of the most popular animals to compare to a hamster is a rat. Rats, in general, have a superior amount of intelligence in comparison to their size.

This puts rats above hamsters in both social and mental intelligence. Hamster needs far less stimulation than a pet rat does in order to keep off boredom and be content.

Gerbils appear to be on a similar mental level to a hamster, although they prefer more social interaction to keep happy.

Mice seem to be a little less intelligent than a hamster and can be much harder to train. They are simple pets with simple needs.

The larger pets seem to have more mental capacity and room for learning than a hamster. These pets include chins, rabbits, and guinea pigs.

Chinchillas especially are needy animals that have to have constant change and the addition of toys in order to keep from boredom.

The larger rodents like rabbits though can still be harder to train thank to their cautious and skittish nature.

Related Questions:

Do hamsters know their names? Hamsters can be taught their name by repetition and using a reward system such as giving them treats.

Do hamsters have feelings? Hamsters have different moods (angry, sad, happy and more) which suggest they have feelings.

Do hamsters recognize their owners? Hamsters don’t have a very good eyesight but they can recognize their owner by smell and vocal tone.

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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