Why is My Hamster Running in Circles? Is It Dying or is It Just Playing?

Circular running is not unusual for hamsters. Here’s why! Hamsters are nocturnal and like to explore their surroundings, but why do they sometimes run in circles?

Running around in circles is also called “running” or “wheel running.” The reason why hamsters perform this behavior differs from animal to animal. There are several reasons why your pet may be running in circles, including hunger, boredom, and a need for exercise.

Why is my hamster running in circles?

Hamsters, in short, are always on the move. In a wheel or cage, they spend most of their time running, hopping, and exploring. Thus, they are constantly moving.

A cute hamster tries to escape from its cage

Your hamster may be racing around its cage for no reason other than it has lost control of its legs and can’t walk properly. Seeing you after spending all day alone may make them very happy; they may be playing with a toy.

When hamsters are faced with new surroundings, they usually pace or run in circles to explore their surroundings and find food. Almost all animals will adopt a running pattern within minutes of being allowed to explore an open field without other animals present.

The reason why a hamster is running in circles is important to understand.

Hunger: Hamsters require food for energy. If it is running in circles after eating, it may be searching for crumbs and leftover bits of its last meal. Fresh food is critical for this reason every day.

Exercise: Running around in a wheel provides training for hamsters that can’t get out. If your pet is running in circles after having just eaten dinner, it may be trying to burn off the calories.

Boredom: Hamsters are naturally curious creatures that like to explore their environments. Since they’re small and easily preyed upon by predators like owls, these animals can’t roam freely like cats or dogs. It is possible that your pet is exploring new things or seeking something different when running in circles.

The science behind hamsters’ behavior

If your hamster runs in circles for several reasons, it could be due to several things. It is possible that your pet is anxious or overstimulated and needs less cage space (perhaps it has a wheel for exercise).

Regular exercise is essential

Your pet may be on a wheel, which provides exercise. The hamster might want to rest or sleep if it has been running for an extended period (more than an hour).

Hamsters are nocturnal animals, so they are more active at night when people are sleeping. They may also explore their environment by walking and running.

It may be that a hamster is running in circles because it needs more space. It could be because there are other factors, such as stress, that could make the animal feel overwhelmed. When your pet has plenty of food and water, it should live a long time.


Various studies have shown that hamsters also get anxious in new environments, just like other animals.

As your pet explores any new space and attempts to find food, it might pace or run in circles. There is a possibility that the animal has been running for a long time (more than an hour) before wanting to rest or sleep.

During the dark days of winter, they may suffer from depression.

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Having an illness

Hamsters may not show any symptoms of illness, but it is still critical to monitor their behavior and movements for any changes.

A hamster’s running in circles becomes more pronounced if it’s showing signs of an infection or other disease.

While still eating, the animal may also exhibit loss of appetite and weight loss (or a loss of weight that a decrease in food intake can’t explain).

During hot weather

Hamsters prefer a temperature of 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. It will be difficult for them to regulate their body temperature if they get hotter than that.

It’s looking for a cooler place to sleep and escape the heat, which is why it’s running in circles.

Issues relating to health

A hamster running in circles may also be suffering from an illness or feeling under the weather.

Hamster running around - a cute Syrian hamster

Disorders of the nervous system

Like humans, hamsters can suffer from neurological disease, and many neurological disorders cause symptoms similar to yours.

Among the most common diseases with a symptom like this is distemper, which causes seizures and circling behavior.

Other possible conditions include brain tumors or infections (abscesses). Paralysis can also be caused by botulism, encephalitis, or seizures.

Additionally, this behavior may be related to the hamster’s natural activity cycle. They are most active at night and sleep during the day. It would explain why it circles more when you’re not around.

Your hamsters are likely just active at night if they don’t seem sick or show any other unusual behavior.

Hamsters rarely exhibit intranasal behavior (sniffing), but some may sniff compulsively or excessively move their nose around to smell things.

It may result from an illness such as a respiratory infection or head trauma, but it may also be a stress response. There are three leading causes in this case:

  • The hamster is trying to compensate for his inability to smell.
  • It is fending off the scent of another animal in its territory.
  • They act as if someone sprayed them with repellent.

If you suspect that an illness is causing this behavior, contact your veterinarian immediately.

A disease of the vestibule in hamsters

There is a possibility that your hammy has a head tilt that indicates disease.

The vestibule in the inner ear of the hamster provides balance and orientation for movement. This system can malfunction, causing a head tilt in many forms.

Circling is also a symptom of this condition because they are trying to stabilize themselves by moving about.

The hamster may be running in circles because it is playing.

You can determine if your pet has a disease of the vestibule by looking for other symptoms like head-tilting and circling behavior.

What does it mean if my hamster is running around like crazy?

The hamster may be running in circles because it is playing.

It’s not at peace when a hamster is constantly running around. This behavior can be attributed to many reasons; speaking with your pet and having an appointment with the vet can help determine what’s happening.

Circling behaviors can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

  • Hamsters with vestibule disease.
  • Botulism, encephalitis, or a seizure disorder can cause paralysis.
  • Tumors or abscesses of the brain and disorders of the nervous system (such as distemper). Seizures are more common in older animals.

What does it mean when your hamster runs in circles?

There could be nothing wrong with your hamster, or it could be a sign of an illness.

If your pet is running in circles and showing other symptoms like lethargy or shakiness, your vet may be able to help.

Why is my hamster walking in circles and falling over?

It indicates a problem with the vestibular system, which includes the ear and a part of the brain.

They may suffer from an infection or tumor in one of these areas, a blockage in their middle ear (which is usually temporary), or a brain lesion resulting in vertigo.

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Veterinarians may use x-rays to find cancerous cells in the area of concern.

Depending on how severe the condition is, you might notice your hamster’s walking patterns change. They might be more hesitant to walk and move.

As a temporary fix, you can try giving them some ginger root or peppermint tea with honey every day and see if their symptoms decrease.

A veterinarian should examine your hamster if the problem persists so that a correct diagnosis can be made and you can develop a treatment plan.

What does it mean when a hamster circles around my feet?

Hamsters exercise all the time, so a hamster circling around your feet does not mean that he is dying. If you are concerned about it, you can grab him and see if he runs in the same direction (likely away from his wheel).

My pet hamsters had done this before they passed on. Don’t worry! They ate, drank, and played, just not as often.

Remember that hamsters are fragile animals with little stamina, so you should keep an eye on them if something seems wrong.

The easiest way to do this is to check their food and water bowls every day; if one has been empty for a day or more, you should check on them.

A cute girl holds her adorable pet hamster

Why is my hamster running back and forth?

Three main reasons are likely to be involved:

  • Boredom has set in.
  • There is a lot of stress.
  • There is not enough room in its habitat.

Fixing the first two is easy. For your pet to have more exciting activities, you need to expand its habitat or the opposite.

The third step is tricky, so you will need the assistance of a veterinarian who can check the cage size. Also, they can look for signs of injury related to genetics.

Understanding why your pet repeats a loop, paces in a pattern, or spins in circles will allow you to act appropriately. If its stress-induced behavior results from boredom, you will have to give it some playtime outside the cage and make its cage more interesting.

A small cage can cause stress-induced behavior. To alleviate it, provide your pet with more room or consult a vet who can assess its habitat and rule out neurological disorders that may be linked to genetics.

A veterinarian can rule out genetic disorders related to neurological diseases if the animal is circling because of an injury.

Why does my hamster keep running?

They will run for miles in search of food. It is their natural inclination. A hamster without any activities to occupy its energy can become destructive.

It might be due to boredom and being confined to a cage all day. To stimulate them, you need something more interesting. It would be great if we could come up with an idea for an animal toy.

Why is my hamster running around frantically?

As a rule, it won’t be a sign of a disease, but it can be a sign of pain or fear.

Know the signs of an emergency, and ensure a veterinarian sees your pet if it persists for more than two hours (especially if your hamster is old).

Other possible reasons include:

  • The hamster might need fresh food or water.
  • You may need to move them if they are too hot or cold.
  • There could be a blockage in their gut, which prevents them from pooping.

If you’re worried about your hamster’s behavior, you should call your vet. The following are more details on how to recognize distress:

  • They may be hiding a lot.
  • Observe how they don’t eat or drink.
  • The hamster may start to limp, hold their heads down, have diarrhea, or breathe heavily.

Call your veterinarian if your pet shows any signs of distress that aren’t discussed here.

Last updated on August 22, 2021 by Bruce Paxton

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