When it comes to pet rodents, you can’t go wrong by adopting a hamster (or two)! With their short, round bodies and big, bright eyes, these furry creatures are hard to resist, which is why they’re extremely popular pets.
A hamster’s eyes are quite large, for their petite size, which allows for greater light to filter through. But that doesn’t make too much difference in the quality of their sight.
Newborn hamsters are completely blind and will stay that way until they’re about two weeks of age. Once they do start to see, it will be mostly people and things up close, within a few inches of their face, as hamsters never develop good sight.
As a rule, hamsters are extremely nearsighted – they can’t see anything far away at all. They also have better night vision than they do day vision, but they cannot see in total darkness.
Are hamsters colorblind? Well, not exactly, as it’s believed that some hamsters can see green and blue hues, although they may be few. In general, hamsters have poor vision and not much color vision at all, if any.
Their lackluster vision is compensated by a keener sense of hearing and smell, and the use of their whiskers to feel what’s around them to warn them of potential danger or harm.
Are Hamsters Colorblind?
Color blindness, aka color deficiency, is defined as the inability to see color at all or the inability to distinguish between colors.
Originally, hamsters were thought to be completely colorblind as, for the most part, they were incapable of distinguishing between colors.
However, studies of the Syrian and Siberian hamsters discovered that some of these creatures were sensitive to green and blue light stimuli, indicating the possibility that they can see these two colors, even if only faintly.
So, apparently, not all hamsters are 100% colorblind, as it appears that some are remotely capable of seeing color.
What causes color blindness? It has to do with the light receptor cells found in the retina of a hamster’s eye.
The retina is the part of the eye responsible for receiving and relaying visual data to the brain. Like people, hamsters have two types of light receptor cells in their eyes – cones and rods.
The rods regulate vision in poor light and darkness (night vision) and the cones regulate vision during the day when the light is bright. The cones also regulate color vision.
When studying the retina of hamsters’ eyes, animal biologists have discovered that it’s composed mostly of rod cells, almost 97%, in fact, with the remaining 3% being cone cells, which is why most of these creatures are considered colorblind.
With so few cone cells, it’s understandable that hamsters have little capacity to distinguish colors.
Although hamsters, for all practical purposes, are considered colorblind, that doesn’t mean they only see black and white. Some can apparently see in the green and blue parts of the electromagnetic spectrum.
What Colors Do Hamsters See?
Because there are some cone cells in a hamster’s eyes, their color vision isn’t restricted to just black and white. Some are capable of seeing shades of blue and green, as recent studies have indicated.
The Syrian hamster was documented as being able to see shades of green, while the Siberian hamster could faintly see shades of blue. The Siberian hamster also appeared to have UV vision as well.
There was no indication either breed could see other colors than these. And just for the record, hamsters are by no means blind!
Colorblindness affects a hamster’s ability to see colors, not his actual sight. Hamsters aren’t blind, but they’re extremely nearsighted, which means they cannot see far off.
Your pet hammie can see your smiling face, up close and personal, from a distance of a few inches away. But long distances, like across the room or further, will be a blur for your furry friend.
Hamsters aren’t good judges of heights either and, when released, your pet is apt to walk right off the edge of the stand where his cage is perched and fall to the floor if you’re not there to catch him.
Hamsters aren’t completely nocturnal creatures, but they do see better at night than during the day, as long as there’s some light, as they don’t do well in total darkness.
Hamsters are more crepuscular than nocturnal, meaning your pet is more likely to be active in the wee hours of the morning or early evening hours of dusk, when the natural light is not so bright. During the day, he may spend most of his time sleeping, hiding in his burrow or nesting.
What Colors Do Hamsters Not Like?
Now that it’s been established that hamsters have some color vision, you may wonder if color has any effect on your hammie at all.
It’s well known that color has an effect on people’s emotions and moods, with certain colors triggering feelings of happiness, sadness, anxiety, hunger, etc.
Does it have the same effect on our rodent pet? Hamsters may not have the same capacity to see color as people do, but what they do see apparently does have an impact.
At Ohio State University, animal researchers exposed hamsters to various shades of light to determine if certain colors had an effect on the creatures’ disposition or temperament.
It was discovered that blue light and dimmed white light triggered more mood changes than red light or no light at all. As hamsters can’t distinguish the color red, it’s not surprising that red light had no effect.
According to the results of the study, however, hamsters aren’t too comfortable with dim white or blue colors.
As hamsters are a big fan of sugar water, researchers used sugar water as a catalyst to determine if colors were affecting their subjects’ moods.
Sugar water is to hamsters what ice cream is to children, so if a hamster shows little interest in sugar water, something’s amiss! Researchers gave their hamster subjects access to sugar water while being exposed to dim blue, dim white and dim red light as well as no light at all and documented the results.
When exposed to the blue and white lights, the hamsters showed no interest in the sugar water and even registered signs of depression, whereas there were few signs of mood swings when exposed to the red light or darkness.
Are hamsters colorblind? For the most part, yes, although some hamsters can faintly see shades of green and blue. Being colorblind, however, won’t have any impact on your pet’s health, happiness or disposition. Your pet will do just fine using his sense of smell, hearing and “touch” through his whiskers to get about. Hamsters do have poor vision, which can put your pet hammie in danger when he’s out of his cage, so watch him carefully to protect him from harm.