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Are Hamsters Color Blind?

Hamsters are wonderful pets and they can do many amazing things, but have you ever wondered what the limitations of your little furry friend are? Many people are curious about how rodents have evolved, and while they have an incredible sense of smell and sharp ears, a lot have poor vision, and depend upon their other senses to make up for the deficiency. Have you ever asked “are hamsters color blind?” while setting up an activity for your pet?

You might be wondering whether you can train your hamster to recognize specific toys or go to specific areas based on color, but in order to determine this, you need to know whether they can see the color or not. Because hamsters are predominantly active during dawn and dusk, it’s not surprising that they depend on their other senses more heavily than their sight, which is unlikely to be as useful when visibility is reduced.

Color perception can be a complicated subject, and it’s easy to forget that our pets don’t see the world as we do, but it’s important to think about this so you can better understand your hamster’s behavior. Not all rodents are color blind, and indeed, guinea pigs have a very accurate sense of color. In general, however, most rodents do not see the world in color.

Are Hamsters Color Blind?

Hamsters are color blind, but unlike color blind humans, they don’t just see the world in gray and white; they see most of the world in shades of green, possibly with some yellow hues. A hamster only has a small number of cone cells in its eyes, and these are responsible for translating colors, so it isn’t thought that they can see much color variation at all. Your hamster will see green in varying intensities, but it’s likely that it cannot distinguish much else.

In general, a hamster doesn’t have good eyesight; the cones are also responsible for clarity of vision in bright light, and because a hamster’s retina is only made up of around 3 percent cones (97 percent rods), its daylight vision is poor. Even at night, a hamster cannot see well; their vision is most accurate in low light conditions. This is probably because hamsters are crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk), so the time when they are most likely to need their vision to be good is the time when they can see best.

Overall, hamsters don’t depend on their eyes for much, and their other senses are much more important for their survival. Hamsters use their ears to listen for predators, and their sense of smell to find food, rather than their eyesight. They will respond to visual cues, but they rely more heavily on other senses most of the time – so don’t be surprised if your hamster accidentally nips you occasionally because it has mistaken you for food.

What Colors Do Hamsters See?

Testing an animal’s ability to see color can be challenging, but at present far, it is thought that hamsters are able to faintly detect blue and green light. This has led to the belief that a hamster’s world isn’t entirely monochromatic, and it can dimly distinguish between one color and another. The studies so far have been done on Syrian hamsters, and this may vary between the different breeds, so be aware of this if you have a different kind of hamster.

The extent to which hamsters can pick out a particular color may also depend on the light levels; it’s possible that they can better distinguish between colors at dawn and dusk, when their eyes work better, than they can during the day. Just as we struggle to recognize colors when the light levels are low, hamsters may struggle when they are high, and like us, they almost certainly can’t pick out colors when it’s dark.

Further research is needed to better determine what hamsters can and cannot see, but we do have at least some ideas that their color perception is weak. This is likely because they do not actually need color perception for survival, and they therefore haven’t evolved the necessary cones and light-sensitive pigments. It’s worth noting that hamsters also have poor long-distance vision, which again indicates that they don’t depend on their sight for much.

What Colors Can Hamsters Not See?

It’s not yet known whether there are any colors that hamsters absolutely cannot detect, but it seems unlikely that they see any colors with the vividness that we enjoy. You should assume that your hamster can’t really distinguish between any colors clearly. Don’t use color in any games that you want to play with your hamster.

Hamsters probably struggle a lot more with colors that are at the red end of the spectrum, since they are mostly responsive to blue and green light. Interestingly, this is true of many nocturnal animals, not just rodents, so it’s possible that it offers more advantages when operating in low light conditions, and this is why hamsters evolved this way.

Overall, it’s best to assume that your hamster mostly sees the world in black and white, rather than in color. It may be able to pick up on some hues, but this is unlikely to be significant. Your hamster also may not pay much attention to color because the information is poor, so engage your hamster through smell or sound if you want to interact with it, and don’t expect too much of its vision.

Conclusion

So, are hamsters color blind after all? Although there is some debate on the subject, hamsters are thought to be essentially color blind, and to have very poor vision; they can’t see more than about six inches away from them even in good conditions (e.g. at dusk, when light levels are lower and more favorable to the hamster’s vision). Your hamster may have some sense of the different colors, especially on the blue/green part of the color spectrum, but these will be fuzzy and not remotely similar to the way in which humans see them.