Can hamsters climb walls?

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Should I be worried about my pet repelling up the walls and escaping?

Hamsters are small creatures with large supplies of energy. In the wild, they dig, tunnel, and run. In fact, they can run for miles each night foraging for food! In captivity they can grow restless without their favorite activities.

Compared to other rodent pets like rats, which rodent can climb better? Can any of them climb walls? Depending on the cage type, yes absolutely, they can climb walls. The evolutionary purpose of their climbing in nature is to escape predators and to collect food. Wire cages, with their obvious gaps between, provide the perfect opportunity for hamsters to climb the walls like a ladder. On the other hand, a slippery surface like a plastic or glass terrarium, where they can’t dig in their tiny claws for grip, will not allow them to climb. It will not, however, stop them from trying, for they are a curious species. An angled surface vs a flat face, like human rock climbers, will also make a difference. 

Anatomy and physiology

Let’s examine the actual foot of a hamster. Hamsters have small, hand-like feet in front that it can use for cleaning and feeding itself. 

The back feet are larger and used for balance and support. In fact, they look a lot like rabbit feet.

Hamsters don’t have opposable thumbs like humans so their ability to grasp things is not the same. 

They have little claws on both front and back feet (like cats) which can help them grip. Only unlike a cat, they can’t retract.

Interestingly, these claws have developed specifically for the purpose of grasping, digging, and clawing. Imagine how handy they would be climbing a tree!

What’s happening out there? Climbing activities

Hamsters are curious and active creatures. Exploring their environment by climbing is natural. There are many ways and many benefits to providing your pet with activity options in their home. 

Running wheels, tunnels, and exercise balls are great options for exercising your pet. 

Inside their cage, you could provide them with a climbing toy, particularly one with a hiding spot attached. 

This is a great way to give your hamster what he or she needs but in a way that keeps them safe. 

Untreated wooden ladders are a good option too. Although they may be aimed at birds, they are safe for hamsters. Like a puppy needs toys to stay out of mischief, hamsters need to be kept stimulated or they will find trouble (not unlike kids too).

Cage type and size considerations

Just like I mentioned above, some cage types will afford them the opportunity to climb and some will not.

You can find our guide on the best hamster cage here.

Plastic cages and glass terrariums might keep them from gripping the sides to climb, it won’t stop them from wanting to climb. 

It’s important that they have outlets like climbing toys and nesting houses if they’re not able to climb their walls. 

Wire cages, on the other hand, are the perfect type of enclosure for them to show you their climbing skills. It is OK for them to do this, but please carefully read about security below if your little friend has made this a habit. 

Security – no escapees!

While we’re on the topic of cages, climbing can turn into escaping so always make sure that your cage is tightly closed and the locks are secured at all times. 

If you’re sure they’re closed, double check it. 

If the cage is new to you and you’re not familiar with its locking mechanism, triple check it. 

If you have small children, quadruple check it. 

I have 2 young children so I purchased tiny metal luggage padlocks for both the doors on my wire cage. Not that I don’t trust them, but I totally don’t trust them. 

If your pet’s home is a terrarium, it will need to have a securely closing cover to ensure your pet does not escape.

Further, a small weight on it will help, too, but don’t cover all the holes in the mesh because this is where their fresh air comes from. 

While exercising your hamster, if he or she gets away from you, it is best not to chase him or her. They will run more to get away, as they would from any predator. It works best to lure them out from under the sofa with a favorite treat. Calmly entice them to come to you. 

Compare and contrast rodent climbers

In terms of comparing rodents and their climbing abilities, rats are much better climbers than hamsters. 

This difference is partly due to their size but also the extreme intelligence rats have. 

Of all rodents, rats are believed to be the smartest. 

As an aside, hamsters, mice, and rats all have pretty terrible vision so gauging distances for jumps can be hard for them. Because of this, they may fall from some pretty high distances. They’re all agile, quick, and land quite well. 

Conclusion

Hamsters can and will climb the cage walls and other available items when possible. This is part of their natural instinct to explore. They don’t climb as well as other rodents. Their home will require secure closures to prevent an escape. 

References

A-Z Animals. Accessed 2019. “Hamster Facts.” 

Caring Pets. Accessed 2019. “Hamster Anatomy and Body Parts.

First Hamster. Accessed 2019. “Do Hamsters Climb? The Funny Truth About Spider-Hamsters.” 

First Hamster. Accessed 2019. “Hamster vs Rats And Mice – Which Should You Keep As Pets?