Digging Deeper: The Natural Behavior Of Hamsters

Are you the proud owner of a hamster? If so, you may have noticed that your furry little friend loves to dig and burrow. But did you know that this behavior is not just a cute quirk, but instead is a natural instinct for these small rodents?

In the wild, hamsters spend the majority of their time underground, creating complex networks of tunnels and burrows. Even captive hamsters will exhibit this behavior, as it provides them with a sense of safety, privacy, and an opportunity to hoard food.

Understanding your hamster’s natural behavior is important for providing them with a happy and healthy life. In this article, we will explore why hamsters love to burrow, the requirements for providing them with a safe and appropriate environment for digging, and other concerns and facts you should be aware of as a hamster owner.

By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of your hamster’s needs and how to meet them, allowing you to provide the best possible care for your furry friend.

Why Do Hamsters Burrow?

You may be wondering why hamsters like to burrow, but it’s actually a natural behavior for them that serves various purposes.

One of the benefits of burrowing is exercise and recreation. Hamsters love running through tunnels and creating new ones, which provides them with a fun and stimulating activity.

Additionally, burrowing can be a way for hamsters to stay safe and maintain privacy. By digging underground, they can avoid overstimulation from their environment and feel more secure.

Finally, burrowing is an instinctive urge for hamsters to bury and hoard food supplies, which helps them survive in the wild.

Common burrowing behaviors include digging tunnels in their bedding, creating nests, and hiding food. Hamsters are incredibly good at creating a complex network of tunnels underground, and they’ll spend up to 23 hours underground per day in the wild.

In captivity, most hamsters will be driven to burrow, and it’s important to provide them with the proper substrate to do so. Shredded kitchen paper, hemp shavings, or soft hay mixed with a bedding topper are all good options.

Remember, a lack of burrowing isn’t a cause for concern, but any sudden behavioral changes should be monitored as they may indicate an injury or illness.

Requirements for Burrowing

To provide a suitable environment for your hamster’s burrowing instincts, it’s important to use non-toxic substrate. Types of safe substrate include shredded paper, hemp shavings, and soft hay mixed with bedding topper. These materials provide a comfortable and safe space for your hamster to dig and burrow in. Using toxic substrate can be harmful to your hamster’s health and may cause respiratory problems.

Another important aspect to consider is the importance of enrichment activities. While burrowing is a natural behavior for hamsters, it’s crucial to provide them with different types of activities to keep them mentally stimulated and physically active. This can include adding tunnels, climbing structures, and different types of toys to their enclosure.

By providing a variety of enrichment activities, you can help prevent boredom, depression, and other health problems in your furry friend.

Concerns and Other Facts

If you notice a sudden change in your hamster’s burrowing habits, it’s important to take note and observe for any potential injuries or health concerns, as any sudden behavioral change in your furry friend can be a cause for concern.

A hamster that suddenly stops burrowing may have an injury, and it’s important to check for any signs of discomfort or pain. Additionally, certain substrates may cause burrowing injuries, so make sure to use safe, non-toxic bedding materials for your hamster’s enclosure.

As hamsters get older, they become increasingly sedentary, which may result in a decrease in burrowing behavior. However, it’s important to continue providing a safe and stimulating environment for your elder hamster to prevent any injuries or health concerns.

Hamsters are also good at escaping and frequently seek a way out of their enclosures, so make sure to regularly check for any potential escape routes and ensure that your hamster’s enclosure is secure.

Overall, understanding the natural behavior of hamsters and providing a safe and comfortable environment is key to ensuring their health and happiness.


Congratulations! You now have a better understanding of why hamsters love to dig and burrow. This behavior isn’t just a quirk, but an instinctual need for safety, privacy, and food hoarding.

Providing your hamster with a safe and appropriate environment to satisfy this urge is crucial for their overall well-being. One interesting statistic to note is that in the wild, hamsters can create burrow systems that span up to six meters in length and two meters in depth.

This highlights the importance of providing your pet hamster with enough substrate to burrow in, as well as tunnels and hideouts to mimic their natural habitat. By understanding and catering to your hamster’s natural behavior, you can help them lead a happy and healthy life.