Do Hamsters Play Dead? {3 Reasons Why}

Have you seen videos and compilations of hamsters being shot with a finger and playing dead? Is this dangerous, risky or acceptable? Do hamsters play dead or are they suffering?

Find out what happens and why they may play dead, slip into torpor and much more in this helpful article.

Do Hamsters Play Dead?

Yes. Playing dead is a protection tactic used to fend off predators. A hamster may freeze, close its eyes, and remain motionless for many minutes when it feels threatened, giving the impression that it has passed away.

Many animals engage in this practice, known as thanatosis, a common defense mechanism, to avoid being attacked.

A hamster may emit a pungent fragrance while acting dead in order to scare off predators even more. The hamster normally resumes usual activities when the threat has passed. It’s crucial to remember that not all hamsters will play dead, and some may react to perceived dangers in various ways.

How Do I Know If My Hamster Is Playing Dead?

Here are a few things you may do to evaluate your hamster’s attentiveness if you have reason to believe that he or she is acting unresponsive:

1. Breath

Check for evidence that your hamster is breathing. If it is breathing, you should be able to see the chest of your hamster rising and falling. Place your hand close to the hamster’s snout and test to see whether you can feel it breathing by holding your hand there.

2. Movement

Check for movement by trying to stimulate your hamster’s whiskers or feet with a light touch to see whether it moves in response. When acting dead, a hamster would often stay motionless and unresponsive to its surroundings.

3. Wait

If you are still hesitant, you should wait and observe for a few minutes to see whether your hamster will start moving on its own after you have given it some time.

How Do I Know if My Hamster Is in Torpor?

Hamsters are known to enter torpor, which is a state of decreased activity and lowered body temperature that helps them conserve energy when resources are scarce. Here are some signs that your hamster might be in torpor:

  • Decreased activity: Your hamster may move less and be less active than usual.
  • Decreased breathing rate: The hamster’s breathing rate may slow down, and they may take longer pauses between breaths.
  • Lowered body temperature: Your hamster’s body temperature may be cooler than usual.
  • Stiffness: The hamster may be more rigid or stiff than usual.

If your hamster is in torpor, it is important to provide them with a warm and quiet environment, as disturbing them can cause them stress and prevent them from entering or maintaining torpor.

Is My Hamster Dead or in Shock?

If your hamster is experiencing shock, it will appear limp and its eyes will have a confused expression to them. Its core temperature will decrease if the blood cannot circulate effectively throughout the body.

  • A hamster will feel chilly to the touch and may even begin to tremble as a result.
  • A fast pulse and shallow breathing are two more clinical indications that can be seen in someone who is in shock.

It is conceivable that your hamster has passed away if it looks to be dead, is not responding to you, and is not breathing normally.

On the other hand, there are more symptoms to look out for in order to assess whether or not your hamster is experiencing shock or another health problem. The following are some of these signs:

  • rigid or labored breathing combined with gasping for air
  • shivering either of the limbs or the body
  • weakness or the inability to move
  • a shallow or erratic breathing pattern
  • pale or discolored skin
YouTube video

Why Do Hamsters Pretend to Be Dead?

Hamsters may enter a condition of shock or freeze in place when they feel threatened or afraid, which can make them appear to be dead.

Many animals engage in this activity as a natural protection strategy to avoid being noticed by predators. The animal may blend in with its environment and prevent calling attention to itself by keeping calm and unmoving.

Thanatosis, sometimes known as “playing dead.” is this behavior. Hamsters are prey animals and are readily alarmed. They could go into a state of thanatosis to defend themselves if they feel threatened.

Many cues might cause this response, including:

  • loud noises
  • abrupt movements
  • presence of a predator

Provide a peaceful and secure environment for your pet hamster if you have one and you see this behavior in order to lessen tension and worry.

What is Hamster Thanatosis?

Certain hamsters will engage in hamster thanatosis, commonly referred to as “playing dead” or “playing possum,” in reaction to a perceived threat.

A hamster may freeze, stop moving, or even seem to be dead when it senses danger or harm. This activity is an adaptive reaction that the hamster uses to keep from being seen by potential predators or other hazards.

The hamster’s respiration and heart rate may slow down while it remains immobile, and it may look limp and unresponsive. The hamster is still cognizant, though and may swiftly return to its usual behavior if it decides the threat is no longer there.

How Long Do Hamsters Play Dead For?

A hamster that is acting dead will stay motionless and unresponsive for a number of minutes to many hours.

Depending on the specific hamster, its degree of stress, and the type of the perceived threat, the length of this activity may vary.

While some hamsters might just play dead for a few seconds or a minute, others might do so for a lot longer.

Is It Dangerous For Hamsters to Play Dead?

Sometimes. Although acting dead might be amusing, you shouldn’t ever try to make someone act dead on purpose.

It puts them in a perpetual state of worry and anxiety and is extremely demanding on their bodies. We shouldn’t make our hamsters feel that way since none of us enjoy those feelings.

Learn to walk carefully so your hamstring is aware of your approach. Do not sneak up on it or make an attempt to startle it.

The other problem is that if you purposefully shock your hamster when you’re not sure where it is and it’s busy climbing, it can fall and get serious injuries since its body freezes in place in response to the fear.

When Do Hamsters Play Dead?

Here are 3 times when hamster play dead.

1. Run from predators

As already established, hamsters frequently pretend to be dead to avoid predators. But, it’s more likely to happen in the wild when they’re unable to flee and are most at risk of being eaten.

Even though hamsters kept as pets don’t have to worry about predators, their instincts warn them to stay vigilant. As a result, provide your hamster’s cage with several hiding places so that it has a way to get away if it feels threatened.

2. Fear

Predators are the biggest culprit, as already noted. In captivity, cats, dogs, and other creatures that are curious about your hamster are to blame, therefore you should place the hamster in a separate room.

Similar to this, if you haven’t tamed your pet, it will probably act dead if you stick your hand inside its enclosure since it is afraid. Although taming takes time, you should wait to pick your hamster up until it is at ease around you.

3. Anxiety and stress

Hamsters become anxious and stressed out. They are continuously on the alert for threats since they are prey animals. Stress is brought on by a variety of factors.

Is My Hamster Hibernating?

No. Your hamster is probably not hibernating because hamsters aren’t real hibernators. Torpor, a short reduction in metabolic rate and activity level, can occur if the temperature in your hamster’s surroundings falls drastically below 20°C (68°F).

Hamsters will emerge from torpor rather fast when the temperature increases or they smell food or water, thus this is not the same as hibernation. The recommended temperature range for hamsters is 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Some hamsters will go into torpor if the temperature stays this low for 24 hours. To enter hibernation, hamsters need to be exposed to the cold continuously for 1-2 months which would probably cause them to die in captivity.


Playing dead is a recognized survival tactic used by hamsters when they feel threatened or under pressure. Several things, including abrupt loud noises, changes in the surroundings, or handling, might cause this behavior.

In order to avoid conflict with other animals or predators, hamsters may even pretend to be dead. Although hamsters in the wild can employ acting dead as a protection tactic, pet owners may find it unsettling and mistake it for a serious medical condition.

It’s crucial for hamster owners to be aware of this behavior and know how to distinguish between when their pet is acting wounded or ill and when they may genuinely be unwell.

Hamsters are intriguing animals with distinctive instincts and actions. We can better comprehend and care for these cherished creatures if we are aware of their natural behavior.


Thank you for visiting for the best information to help you enjoy the life of your pocket pet companion in a fun, safe & healthy way.


My name is Anna and I work full time in my local pet shop where we sell many animals that I write about on this site. I love all animals and love writing about them.