Why Doesn’t My Hamster Burrow? Let’s Find Out

Burrowing is something that most people do not know hamsters will innately do when left to their own devices in […]

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Burrowing is something that most people do not know hamsters will innately do when left to their own devices in the wild. However, after doing a ton of research on hamster behavior, you find out that they do, in fact, burrow, but your hamster is not doing so. Why is this?

A hamster will not burrow because it is hardly given enough room or you have not provided the hamster with proper equipment to facilitate burrowing in the first place.

Assuming you want your fluffy little friend to embrace the rules of nature and get back to its roots, you will make a few subtle (and admittedly expensive in some cases) changes that will ultimately give your hamster a better life.

However, we will initially discuss why they will not burrow more in-depth so you can have all the information provided. Continue reading for more.


Why Will My Hamster Not Burrow?


In most cases, hamsters will not burrow because they need more room. Getting your hamster in the mood to do so can be as easy as changing their enclosure, but you will need to get a bedding type that will allow them to easily shape it into a burrow. Never mind that the bedding may not be strong enough to hold up after properly shaping it. Here is a video further explaining why they will not burrow, along with some explanation below.



1. The Depth of Bedding Provided


It has been documented that hamsters are more likely to burrow the deeper they can actually go. The general consensus is that a hamster should have a minimum of 10 inches of bedding in order to “begin” the burrowing process.

Hamsters that have 15 inches of bedding or more have been shown to indulge in the act itself and become less inclined to chew on their cage or even use wheels as they get their exercise in a more natural way.


2. The Type of Bedding


Different strokes for different folks are not just phrases that pertain to humans; hamsters believe in this narrative just as well. While you can get some relatively plain bedding types, most of these will not hold up well over time and can be either too challenging to burrow through or not resilient enough to maintain their shape.

One of the best bedding types for burrowing is a simple paper blend that will hold its structure nicely but not prove too much of a challenge for your hamster to dig and rummage around in.

Another critical aspect to remember is that when you place the bedding, you will need to pat it down and compress it. This further adds to the stability of burrows and helps further the hamster’s desire to burrow.


3. Not Enough Room to Burrow


As noted above, having enough room to burrow is a critical component if you want your hamster to start burrowing. If your hamster has lived in a relatively small cage (not the overall size of the cage, but one that isn’t specifically designed to allow burrowing), then your hamster may have lost the desire to burrow entirely.

Purchasing a cage without prior knowledge of burrowing will probably mean you need to invest in a new one, which may be hard to justify when you consider there is technically nothing wrong with the one they are currently in.

Still, a larger cage can allow your hamster to feel better about its life and, by association, extend it, so a little investment in your little fluffy friend can go a long way.


4. Their Personality Type


All hamsters are different, and while this can be something as simple as a hamster-to-hamster perspective, the specific species of hamster you have might be less inclined to burrow in the first place. For instance, smaller species of hamsters are more prone to take residence in “pre-built” burrows or ones that other animals make.

Some hamsters do not like burrowing as much as others. Because of this, you might find it comforting knowing they like sleeping on top regardless of how much bedding you put in their cage. 

How Can I Encourage My Hamster to Burrow Better?


You can encourage your hamster to either start burrowing in general or help aid its journey by making a few different changes that will either accommodate the act itself or make it easier for your hamster to do so. It’s worth noting that these behaviors are easier to bring about when the hamster is younger. While it is not impossible with older hamsters, it may be a game of trial and error before you find success.


1. Provide Better Bedding Stability


Burrows’ stability is heavily influenced by the following:


  • The bedding being used.
  • How compact the bedding is.
  • Whether you are using additional layers of hay for even more stability.


Think about how you would make a lasagna: paper bedding, then a layer of hay, and another paper bedding layer. This is how you will make your fur baby bedding each time you change it out. By doing so, you allow the entire cage to become a proper burrowing environment and help prevent their tunnels from collapsing.


2. Compact Your Bedding


Compacting the bedding will make it easier to create caves and stronger under pressure and movement, essentially making the entire process easier and safer for your hamster.


3. Invest in Burrow Starters


While the old adage Rome wasn’t built in a day is true, that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case for your hamster. Burrow starters are pre-built tunnels or stationary placements that mimic natural burrows, and when used properly, they can help push your hamster into making burrows of its own.

Here is an example of one that will help your hamster go down below into their sanctuary. It is not chemically treated and made out of natural wood. It provides your hamster with a great hiding space while encouraging them to create their burrows. Niteangel has a tunnel that is great for hamsters learning how to burrow as well.


4. Leave the Bedding as Is


Suppose you had someone constantly coming into your house and rearranging your furniture when you’d spend hours meticulously positioning everything to your liking. In that case, you’d become less and less prone to placing things back, and to that end, hamsters are very much the same.

Changing their homes and burrows constantly makes them slightly agitated and much less inclined to burrow or engage in their home, as they will expect to change more than they would expect their home to be a reflection of their preferences.


5. Invest in a Deep Enclosure That Allows Ample Space


Everyone should take the time to do research and invest in a deeper enclosure when initially purchasing a hamster. Still, this understanding is rare, and even the most versed pet sellers don’t usually volunteer such information.

An initial investment into a deep enclosure for your hamster will allow your hamster to have the option of burrowing and, by association, a more fulfilling life. It might be expensive on the front end, but a lifetime of happiness for your furry friend is well worth the time and money.

Here is an example of a deep enclosure. This specific space allows your hamsters to burrow in this 20-inch deep enclosure anywhere between 10 and 15 inches deep, depending on what you want your enclosure to look like. For example, if you wish to some caves on top, leave enough space for said caves to be on top. Here is another 20-inch deep sanctuary that will fit well with your hamster as well.


6. Use a Bedding That Holds Burrows


Bedding can be made of either cheap or expensive materials. Still, it is essential to purchase bedding that is structurally sound enough to withstand burrowing but also light enough to be comfortable to rummage through.


Paper bedding is one of the best options you can get, as it is relatively cheap, makes for excellent burrowing material, and when layered, you will get all the structural stability you need and more.

We recommend Carefresh bedding, which is made of natural white paper and 99% dust-free. This particular bedding comes in many sizes and is highly affordable. Not only that, but you can create an exceptionally comfy space for your little rodent!


7. Invest in Stilts, Platforms & Levels


Purchasing a larger enclosure will innately mean you’ll need some additional support in the form of stilts, platforms, and layered levels if you want to get the most out of the larger pens. Doing so will allow your hamster to not only customize its burrows but also have greater flexibility for its builds and, more importantly, offer a nice layer of safety for your hamster.

It’s imperative to understand that while you don’t necessarily need to invest in such things, it would be wise. After all, even professional athletes wear protective equipment, and while it may not be required, and they are trained for their jobs, a little layer of safety goes a long way. 

Final Thoughts 


Ultimately, not every hamster will burrow, regardless of how large their enclosure is, how nice the bedding you’ve purchased feels, or even how many stationary tunnels you add to it, but if you want your hamster to have a whole life, you owe it to your hamster to at least try.

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