Do pet hamsters burrow? In this post, we’re going to dive into the fascinating world of hamster burrowing behavior. We’ll explore the natural instincts of hamsters and why they have such a strong desire to dig and burrow.

We’ll also look at the different types of bedding material you can provide for your furry friend to create a comfortable and secure burrowing environment. So, if you’re curious about why hamsters love to burrow and how you can cater to their natural behaviors, keep reading and get ready to become a hamster expert!

What is burrowing?

Burrowing is the natural behavior of digging tunnels or holes in the ground. Many animals, including hamsters, are known for their burrowing instincts. They use their sharp claws and teeth to dig through the soil, creating intricate networks of tunnels.

Why do hamsters burrow?

Hamsters burrow for various reasons. In the wild, burrows serve as their homes, providing safety and protection from predators. Burrowing also helps hamsters regulate their body temperature and maintain a comfortable environment. It allows them to hide and store food as well.

Do all pet hamsters burrow?

While burrowing is a natural instinct for hamsters, not all pet hamsters exhibit this behavior as intensely as their wild counterparts. Some may engage in minimal digging, while others may not burrow at all. It largely depends on the individual hamster’s personality, living environment, and the availability of suitable burrowing substrates.

Types of Burrows

Natural burrows

Natural burrows are the ones hamsters create in their natural habitat, such as grasslands or deserts. These burrows are typically more extensive and elaborate compared to artificial ones. They can consist of multiple chambers, escape routes, and even nesting areas.

Artificial burrows

Artificial burrows, on the other hand, are burrows specifically designed for pet hamsters. These can be found in hamster cages or habitats and are created using various materials, such as tunnels, hideouts, and bedding options.

Do Pet Hamsters Burrow

Natural Burrows

Hamsters in the wild

In the wild, hamsters inhabit various terrains, from the Eurasian steppes to the Syrian desert. They construct their burrows in the soft soil, taking advantage of the shelter and protection they provide. These burrows can be several feet long and have multiple entrances.

Burrowing behavior in the wild

Wild hamsters are highly skilled diggers. They use their front paws, which are equipped with sharp claws, to dig through the soil. They can create extensive tunnel systems, which serve as their homes, breeding grounds, and places for storing food.

Adaptations for burrowing

Hamsters have several physical adaptations that make them well-suited for their burrowing lifestyle. They have strong forelimbs and robust claws, enabling them to efficiently dig through the ground. Their incisors are sharp and continuously growing, which helps them gnaw through roots, twigs, and other obstacles they encounter while burrowing.

Artificial Burrows

Hamster cages with burrowing options

For pet hamsters, providing artificial burrows within their cages is essential for replicating their natural habitat. Many hamster cages come with plastic tunnels, hideouts, or even modular habitats that allow owners to create a network of tunnels. These options provide hamsters with opportunities for burrowing and exploration.

Substrate choices for burrowing

Along with the artificial burrows, the choice of substrate is crucial for mimicking the wild burrowing experience. Bedding materials such as wood shavings, paper-based bedding, or aspen shavings can recreate the softness and texture of soil, enabling hamsters to dig and create tunnels.

Creating a Burrow-Friendly Habitat

Choosing the right cage

When selecting a cage for your pet hamster, consider one that provides ample space for burrowing. Opt for a larger cage that allows them to dig tunnels and create their burrows. Avoid cages with wire flooring, as these can harm their sensitive paws.

Providing enough substrate

To create a burrow-friendly environment, ensure that your hamster has enough bedding material to dig and burrow in. Aim for a layer of bedding that is at least several inches thick. This provides insulation, comfort, and gives your hamster the freedom to dig to their heart’s content.

Adding burrowing toys and tunnels

To enrich your hamster’s burrowing experience, consider adding toys and tunnels to their cage. These can be made of materials such as wood, plastic, or even cardboard tubes. These toys not only provide opportunities for exploration but also stimulate your hamster mentally and physically.

Do Pet Hamsters Burrow

Benefits of Burrowing for Pet Hamsters

Physical exercise

Burrowing is a highly physical activity for hamsters. It engages their muscles, particularly in their legs and shoulders. Digging and tunneling through substrates provides a great form of exercise for your pet hamster, helping to maintain their physical health and well-being.

Mental stimulation

Burrowing also provides mental stimulation for hamsters. It allows them to express their instincts and engage in natural behaviors. The act of digging and exploring tunnels stimulates their curiosity and provides them with a sense of security and comfort.


Burrows offers a way for hamsters to regulate their body temperature. In the wild, hamsters retreat to their burrows during extreme weather conditions, such as hot summers or freezing winters. The burrows provide insulation from these harsh elements and help maintain a comfortable temperature for the hamsters.

Risks and Precautions

Signs of excessive burrowing

While burrowing is a natural behavior for hamsters, excessive burrowing may indicate underlying health or stress issues. If your hamster is constantly digging and tunneling excessively, it is essential to monitor their behavior and consult a veterinarian if necessary.

Monitoring temperature and humidity levels

As hamsters’ burrows also play a role in thermoregulation, it is important to keep an eye on the temperature and humidity levels in their environment. Extreme temperatures or high humidity can affect their health and well-being. Ensure that their habitat is kept within the appropriate temperature range and provide proper ventilation if necessary.

Interaction with Burrowing Habits

Observing and appreciating their natural behavior

One of the joys of owning a hamster is observing their burrowing habits. Take the time to watch your pet hamster as they dig and explore their tunnels. Appreciate their instincts and engage with them in a way that respects their need for privacy and a safe space.

Respecting their burrowing preferences

Each hamster has its own unique burrowing preferences. Some may prefer to dig shallow tunnels near the surface, while others may prefer to create deep and elaborate burrow systems. Respect and accommodate their preferences by providing suitable materials and options for them to create their ideal burrow.

Allowing them privacy while burrowing

Hamsters are naturally solitary animals and often seek privacy when burrowing. Avoid disturbing your hamster while they are in their burrow, as this can cause stress and anxiety. Give them the space they need and allow them to retreat to their burrows whenever they feel the need for solitude.

Problems and Solutions

Difficulty in cleaning cages with extensive burrows

One challenge that may arise with extensive burrowing is the difficulty in cleaning the hamster’s cage. To address this issue, consider using removable sections or platforms within the enclosure. This allows you to clean specific areas without disturbing the burrows. Additionally, providing litter boxes or designated digging areas can help contain the mess and make cleaning easier.

Reducing the risk of escapes

If your hamster’s burrows are close to the surface, there is a risk of them escaping. To prevent escapes, secure the cage properly and ensure that all openings are securely fastened. Regularly check for any signs of damage or wear that could potentially lead to an escape route.

Addressing excessive burrowing

If your hamster’s burrowing becomes excessive or begins to affect its overall health and well-being, consult a veterinarian. Excessive burrowing can sometimes be a sign of stress or underlying health issues. A professional can assess the situation and provide guidance on how to address the problem effectively.


Understanding and accommodating burrowing tendencies is vital for the well-being of pet hamsters. By providing suitable environments, substrates, and toys for burrowing, owners can help their furry friends thrive and engage in their natural behaviors. So, if you’re considering getting a pet hamster, be prepared to provide them with a burrow-friendly habitat where they can dig, tunnel, and explore to their heart’s content.

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