Can Hamsters See In The Dark (Hamster Night Vision?)

Can hamsters see in the dark?

This is a common question many hamster owners have, which dictates the environment you set up for them.

Key Takeaway:

No, hamsters don’t see well in the dark but have limited eyesight.

Whether you’re wondering if your pet hamster can make out your face or if they see color, we’ve compiled everything you need to know about a hamster’s night vision and daytime lighting requirements.

Let’s jump right in and find out what you need to know about a hamster’s night vision…

hamster night vision

Can Hamsters See in The Dark?

Do hamsters see well in the dark? No, they do not.

Like humans, hamsters must receive light in their eyes to define objects. Hamsters, though, see best in dim lighting. They can make out objects more precisely in low light, such as at dawn and dusk.

Some wonder if Syrian hamsters differ, but as far as researchers understand, Syrian hamsters have the same quality of eyesight as other breeds.

Due to their very poor eyesight, hamsters compensate through other senses. For example, their hearing, taste, and smell all help hamsters navigate the world around them.

Other adaptations, such as oversized teeth and whiskers, also offset their lack of good vision.

Should You Leave a Light on for a Hamster?

So, your pet hamster can’t see well, but does that mean they need a light on at night? No. Hamsters are nocturnal animals, which means they thrive in dark environments.

Hamsters eat, drink, and exercise at night. Their nocturnal nature causes an uptick in energy when it’s dark outside. For this reason, giving your pet complete darkness is essential if you can manage it, or at the very least, low ambient light.

You can encourage their nighttime rituals by spending time with your hamster when it’s awake. Cleaning out the cage and bringing it food after the sun sets are two great ways to adjust your habits to fit your pet’s natural rhythm.

What is A Hamster’s Vision Like?

So, what is their vision like if hamsters don’t see well in the dark but don’t thrive during the bright daylight hours? Can they recognize your face? What’s the process through which hamsters see the world around them?

Like all mammals, a hamster’s eye consists of various parts.

Like us, light enters its eyes when a hamster looks at an object. That light passes through the cornea, a transparent layer surrounding the eye that absorbs both visible and ultraviolet light.

Next, the light goes through a round opening called the pupil. This part filters light by shrinking in bright conditions and growing in darkness.

Once it passes the pupil, light moves through the lens, which again filters out some light and bends it to improve focus. Afterward, light moves through a gel-like vitreous body to focus on the retina.

The retina is a surface area at the back of the eyeball. It turns light into electrical signals, which then move to the brain via the optic nerve.

Retinas consist of cells known as cones and rods. These are photoreceptors, meaning they receive light and transform it into signals the brain can understand. In addition to helping create the environment around us, these signals also trigger biological processes, including the circadian rhythm.

In low-light conditions, rod cells help us see more clearly.

Cones are responsible for helping us see in bright light and to see colors and shapes. They contain light-sensitive protein pigments, also known as photopigments, called opsins. Opsins are sensitive to various wavelengths of light. Most mammals have blue and green opsins, allowing them only to see two colors.

For hamsters, their nocturnal habits helped them evolve an excessive amount of rods and fewer cones than humans.

To summarize, your pet hamster can see in the dark but not that well and sees even less well during the day. They do indeed have poor eyesight.

rat night lights

Can Your Hamster See Color?

Historically, it’s challenging to know which animals see in color. Research is difficult to conduct. In general, however, the number of cones an animal has and the way its brain processes information directly affects its eyesight.

Hamster Vision Key Takeaway:

  • Most research indicates hamsters only see white, black, and shades of gray
  • They see better in low-light conditions than in bright light
  • They do not need a light on during the nighttime
  • Some research indicates hamsters may see green and blue colors

Research showed that Syrian hamsters have monochromatic eyesight. Yet, in other studies, hamsters respond to blue and green stimuli. This research leads scientists to believe that your pet hamster likely sees those two colors, even if only somewhat.

A light-sensitive pigment known as rhodopsin is believed to be responsible for this. Rhodopsin multiplies in rod cells during darkness by combining Vitamin A with protein. This then absorbs visible colors and converts them into energy.

However, what scientists are sure of is that hamsters don’t perceive the color red. They only see blue faintly, as well.

Why Do Hamsters Have Bad Eyesight?

Hamsters are born blind. One reason hamsters have trouble with their eyesight is that their eyes are less spherical than ours. This impedes their ability to focus on an object. The distance between the cornea and retina of a hamster is quite large, which leads to blurry vision.

Common Eye Problems In Hamsters

Now that you know about hamsters’ eyesight at night, you might be curious about some common eye problems this rodent faces. Pet hamsters can develop any of the following eye issues over their lifetime. If you notice these issues, get to your veterinarian quickly.


Most humans are familiar with pink eye, but its scientific name is conjunctivitis. This issue is caused when your hamster’s eyes become inflamed and irritated. This infection can lead to eye drainage and caking around the eyelids. Dental issues, unclean cages, and trauma from other hamsters or cages can cause conjunctivitis.


This emergency happens when your hamster’s eye emerges from its socket. This can happen if your hamster is squeezed hard. This can be caused by various things, including an animal attack, rough handling, or even being stepped on.


Finally, corneal ulcers occur when a hamster’s eye is scratched or irritated. Anything that can rub your hamster’s eye can cause injuries or ulcers. You’ll notice clouding in your hamster’s eye or see them holding it shut or rubbing it frequently if they have an eye ulcer. It is a painful and progressive issue you shouldn’t let get out of hand.

Can Hamsters See People?

While hamsters don’t see in the dark well, you’re probably dying to know whether your hamster can see you. Sadly, the answer is likely no. Your hamster will not get to know you by sight.

To get to know your hamster, you should introduce your scent and voice to them. Within the first week of having your hamster, introducing yourself is essential. You can start by holding your hand in their cage for several days. But don’t expect your pet to come near you during that time.

Best Sleeping Environment for Hamsters

Since hamsters have poor eyesight, you may think they’re indifferent to their lighting environment. However, that’s not quite the case. Consider the following tips to set up your hamster’s environment correctly.

Light Requirements

Hamsters enjoy low-light conditions. Their instinctive reaction to daylight is to become sleepy since they’re nocturnal. Reduce their stress levels by working in tandem with their natural rhythm. Don’t try altering their sleep patterns, such as switching from nocturnal to diurnal. Instead, remember that when the sun is out, that’s the best time for your hamster to sleep. Healthy hamsters set their sleep schedules and get plenty of rest.

Natural Light Is Perfect

As nocturnal animals, hamsters do well with natural lighting. Make sure your hamster cage is located in a room with plenty of light without being directly in the sun. Climate-controlled temperatures are also ideal. No artificial lighting is necessary for hamsters.

Why You Shouldn’t Use Artificial Light

Artificial lighting disturbs your hamster’s natural sleep and waking cycles. This leads to anxiety and aggression. Too much light can affect their physical and mental health. Wild hamsters are accustomed to natural light cycles, so keep that in mind as you create the perfect environment for your pet. Artificial lights can also lead to burns and overheating, so simply avoiding them altogether is best.

rat with lights

Protect Your Hamster’s Eyesight

So, can hamsters see in the dark? Not very well. Their poor vision limits their sight at night and during the daytime. Domesticated hamsters enjoy the same lighting environment as wild hamsters, so follow the natural cycles, and you’ll have one happy hamster with healthy eyesight.

Want more insights into your hamster’s health? Stay tuned to the Oddly Cute Pets blog for the most up-to-date information about all the pet rodents in your life!

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