One of the most enjoyable aspects of caring for hamsters is providing them with toys, tunnels, and hideaways and watching them bustle about and make themselves at home. Hamsters, however, don’t always see the objects we provide them in the same light that we do. Sometimes they repurpose. Sometimes they ignore.
So, why won’t my hamster sleep in its bed? Hamsters can be very particular about where they sleep. Your hamster may be unsatisfied with the size, design, or material of its bed. It may not feel safe enough there, or it may like another area of its habitat better.
This article will explore all of the reasons why your hamster may be avoiding its bed or using it for other purposes. We’ll discuss the natural instincts behind your hamster’s sleep preferences and provide some pointers on how to provide a hideaway that fulfills your hamster’s dearest desires and is nearly impossible to resist.
Why Your Hamster May Not Like Its Bed
Hamsters can adapt surprisingly well to environments quite unlike their natural habitat. They have learned to run in wheels to satisfy their craving for action, climb through plastic tunnels, and make themselves at home in cages of all materials and designs.
However, the more closely the bed you provide for your hamster reflects the type of hideaway they would make in nature, the more likely your hamster will be to use and enjoy it.
It’s Not Big Enough
Many hamster beds are designed to be more cute than comfortable, which could be why your hammie isn’t interested in sleeping in his or hers. Despite being small animals, hamsters love roominess—both in their cages and in their hideaways.
You don’t want your hamster’s bed to be so large that they can’t fill it with a generous mound of nesting material, but keep in mind that they often prefer a hideaway in which they can build a massive nest and still have room for a small hoard of food.
It’s Not Dark Enough
As nocturnal creatures, hamsters are sensitive to bright light and may not sleep well in a light-colored or translucent hideaway. We humans are the only ones who think those are a good idea. In the wild, hamsters burrow into the ground and make their homes there.
While clear, bright huts are pretty and allow you to see more of your pet, your hamster will feel safer and sleep more soundly in a bed that mimics that underground burrow by thoroughly blocking out the light.
It’s Not Soft Enough
Hamsters like for their sleeping nests to be soft and deep. They especially seem to enjoy burrowing under generous amounts of soft, paper-based bedding, shredded newspaper, or paper towel.
A hamster may choose to build its nest elsewhere in the cage if the hideaway you’ve provided is too small or limits the amount of bedding your hamster can pile up. If the bedding provided is too sparse or uncomfortable, a hamster may have trouble settling in to rest at all.
It’s Not Breathable Enough
Plastic hideaways or huts with only one small opening are commonly offered as hamster beds, but these beds can quickly collect moisture or grow too warm for your hamster, causing it to build a nest in an open corner or somewhere else more comfortable. Adequate ventilation is important if your hamster is going to comfortably use the bed you’ve provided.
Your Hamster Is Using It for Other Things
Another reason your hamster may not be sleeping in its bed is that it has repurposed the bed as a storage area or litter box. Once a hamster has decided to use its bed in one of these ways, it can be somewhat tricky to change its habits, but it is doable.
As a Storage Space
Hamsters are natural hoarders. They will often empty their food dishes the very day you fill them, packing their cheeks with the goodies and storing them away in a hut or corner. While they usually don’t mind sharing their bed with a supply of food—and may even prefer it—a very large hoard can lead your hamster to move its sleeping quarters elsewhere.
As a Litter Box
A hamster that prefers to do its business in one corner or hideaway can actually make things a lot easier for you when it comes time to clean the cage. But you didn’t really get a cute little hideaway for your hamster to turn into a toilet, did you?
Some hamsters just understandably prefer to keep their waste very apart from the rest of their living space, and a hut or hideaway is the perfect option—from their perspective.
How to Discourage Repurposing
With a little patience and scheming, you may be able to get your hamster to switch over from using its bed as a storage space or litter box to sleeping in its bed. First, it’s important to make sure the bed you are offering satisfies your hamster’s qualifications for a good burrow—space, darkness, and a few other aspects we’ll discuss later. Then you can start doing some rearranging.
To keep your hamster from building up huge stockpiles of food—which not only take up sleeping space but can grow stale or spoil—only feed a couple tablespoons of food at a time and make sure it has been mostly eaten before offering more. Clean out any old hoards when you clean the cage and replace them with clean, soft bedding.
Offer Another Hideaway
If your hamster prefers a private litter box, consider adding another hut or hideaway for him to use for this purpose. Remove the soiled bedding from your hamster’s repurposed bed and wash the hideaway thoroughly to remove as much of the odor as possible.
Replace the soiled bedding with fresh and place the hideaway you want your hamster to sleep in in the area of the cage it has chosen for its bed. To encourage your hamster to use its new litter box, place a small amount of the soiled bedding inside.
The hamster dream bed is roomy, dark, and well-ventilated. It has plenty of soft bedding that your hamster can burrow into and shape into a nest. Add a few more hamster-perfect details, and your hammie likely won’t be able to resist tucking in.
All the Comforts of Home
Where you place a bed inside your hamster’s cage may influence your hamster’s desire to sleep there. Hamsters like to sleep close to their food and water but some distance away from where they poop and pee. The bed should be positioned so that it lets in as little light as possible.
The perfect hamster hideaway will have a short tunnel leading up to its entrance, just as a hamster’s burrow in the wild would have. This keeps out the light and helps your hamster feel secure and hidden.
Many hamsters also appreciate a bed that has at least two openings. This not only allows for comfortable airflow, it also makes your hamster feel as if it has an escape route, something its instincts find attractive.
You may spend a fair amount of money purchasing the perfect bed for your hamster. Beds made of wood or another natural, chewable material are a popular choice. It’s also best to choose a hideaway without a floor. This way your hamster can burrow under as much bedding as it wishes, and you can lift the hideaway if you need to find or check on your pet.
You can also make a more budget-friendly hamster hideaway out of things you may have lying around the house. Overturned baskets and cardboard boxes make great hamster beds. You can cut multiple entrances and they are often roomier than the hamster hideaways sold in stores.
Some hamster owners even craft custom hamster hideouts using wood scraps, popsicle sticks, or paper mache. As long as the materials are nontoxic and the design satisfies your hamster’s basic needs, the only limits are your imagination and materials.
With all of this information, you’ll almost certainly be able to fix up your hamster’s bed in a way it won’t be able to resist. Most hamsters naturally wish to snuggle up in a cozy, hidden place to sleep, and once you’ve dealt with any issues that were turning them off of the bed you provided, they’ll likely settle right into it.
Occasionally, of course, there’s a hamster that refuses to be won over and continues to make its bed in the wheel, a tunnel, or the corner of the cage. This is nothing to worry about. It’s just your hamster’s personal preference.
The best thing you can do in this case is make sure your hammie continues to get a good night’s sleep (or day’s sleep) by providing plenty of soft bedding for nest building and keeping the cage in a sheltered area where it won’t be disturbed by too much light or activity.