Why Is My Hamster Breathing Fast? - HamstersInfo.com (2023)

Hamsters are active, energetic pets and don’t usually breathe fast. If you notice your hamster’s breathing pattern has changed, you may be wondering what’s causing it. Be sure to keep an eye on your hamster and call a vet if the condition doesn’t improve.

The most common cause of fast breathing in hamsters is an illness, such as pneumonia or any other respiratory infection. Other things that can cause your hamster to breathe fast may include heat, being scared, or being injured. If the condition doesn’t improve, consult with a vet.

This article will explain the different things that could be causing your hamster’s fast breathing in greater detail. It’ll also present other symptoms to look out for, so be sure to keep reading to learn more.

Table of Contents

Is It Normal for Hamsters To Breathe Fast?

Generally, it isn’t normal for hamsters to breathe fast. Breathing fast is a sign of illness in many cases, so you should call your vet as soon as possible if the condition doesn’t improve. Hamsters are small and delicate, so infection can be fatal if not treated promptly.

If you notice your hamster breathing fast for a few moments, but then it starts breathing normally, there’s likely nothing wrong. It might have simply been scared or confused.

You should, however, keep an eye on it for a while to make sure it’s okay.

Read How To Empty Hamster Cheek Pouch?

The Main Things That Cause Hamsters To Breathe Fast

Although respiratory illnesses are the most likely cause of your hamster’s fast breathing, other things could be causing it as well. These things include being too hot, being too cold, being scared, or having an injury.

Why Is My Hamster Breathing Fast? - HamstersInfo.com (1)

Below, I’ll talk about all the main things that might be causing your hamster to breathe fast in more detail.

Respiratory Illness

Respiratory illnesses are one of the most common problems that hamsters experience. In most cases, your hamster will contract a respiratory infection if it’s in a cold room. Alternatively, it may have come into contact with another sick animal or human.

Like humans, respiratory illnesses in hamsters can also lead to more severe conditions like pneumonia. To prevent this, take your hamster to the vet as soon as possible. If the infection is bacterial, the vet will prescribe antibiotics in most cases.

Other than fast breathing, other symptoms of a respiratory infection include:

  • Excessive sneezing
  • Mucous in the nose and eyes
  • Sluggishness and tiredness
  • Shaking
  • Loss of appetite

Also, read, How To Clean Hamster Cage


If your hamster gets overheated, it may start breathing heavily. Try to leave your hamster in a cool room if you live in a warm country and make sure it has plenty of water.

Leave windows open and make sure there’s plenty of ventilation for your hamster. If it gets too hot, your hamster may be susceptible to heatstroke, which is potentially fatal.

Other than breathing fast, other symptoms of heat stroke include:

  • Fast, heavy breathing
  • Drooling
  • Change of color in gums and mouth
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Dehydration

If you suspect your hamster has heatstroke, you should consult with a vet immediately.


Just like being too hot, being too cold can also affect your hamster’s breathing. If its cage is in a drafty, cold room, your hamster may get sick.

Ensure your hamster is in a room with an appropriate temperature. The most suitable temperature is between 75-85 °F (23.89-29.44 °C) for most domestic hamsters. Additionally, the ideal level of humidity for hamsters is between 40%-60%.

If your hamster lives in chilly conditions, it’ll likely catch a cold or other infection. It could eventually lead to severe diseases like pneumonia, so it’s essential to care for your hamster and ensure it’s living in a room with the correct temperature.

Read Why Is My Hamster Squeaking?

Being Scared or Stressed

Hamsters that are stressed or scared are prone to fast breathing. The main thing that causes your hamster to get scared is if you frighten it, so make sure you’re gentle around it.

If your hamster is sleeping, don’t wake it up; this is a common reason hamsters get scared. When they get startled, it can cause them to breathe fast. However, this shouldn’t last for more than a few minutes.

Your hamster may be experiencing stress if it’s in a new environment or still in its typical environment, but certain things have changed, i.e., it’s in a new cage, or there’s a new pet in the home.

Along with fast breathing, other signs of a scared or stressed hamster include:

  • Moving around more than usual
  • Shaking
  • More reactive and alert than usual
  • It might try to bite you

If your hamster has been breathing fast for more than a few minutes, it’s likely due to something else other than being scared, so you should consult a vet.

Read How Long Does a Hamster Live


Your hamster may be injured, which can cause fast, heavy breathing. One common cause of a hamster injury is improper handling. Since hamsters are so small and delicate, you must ensure you’re handling yours with care.

Another way your hamster may get injured is if it gets caught in a wheel or a part of the cage; this may even cause broken bones, which can be difficult to treat on such small pets.

Panting and heavy breathing is common when there’s an injury because it’s a coping mechanism. Other than heavy breathing, other signs of a hamster injury include:

  • Bleeding
  • Crying, squealing, or whelping
  • Agitation
  • Limping
  • Swelling
Why Is My Hamster Breathing Fast? - HamstersInfo.com (2)

Check out, Difference Between a Hamster and a Gerbil

Continuous Fast Breathing In Hamsters Should Always Be a Cause for Concern

In general, it’s safe to assume that fast breathing in a hamster should always be a cause for concern. If your hamster is breathing fast for an extended period and isn’t showing signs of improvement, it’s essential to call a vet.

Catching a respiratory illness or other infection as soon as possible is vital for the best outcome, so act as quickly as you can.

Read Why Do Hamsters Eat Their Babies

Does Fast Breathing Mean My Hamster Is Sick?

In most cases, fast breathing indicates that your hamster is sick. Rapid breathing is likely accompanied by other symptoms such as lack of appetite, sluggishness, wet tail, sneezing or wheezing, and diarrhea. A behavior change is also a sign that your hamster is sick.

If your hamster is experiencing any of the above symptoms, or if it’s behaving differently, it’s best to assume that it’s ill. Calling a vet is the smartest thing to do in this instance.

What Does a Sick Hamster Look Like?

A hamster’s appearance is a tell-tale sign as to whether it’s sick or not.

If your hamster is experiencing fast breathing, some physical things to look out for include:

  • A wet tail
  • Fur loss
  • Bumps on the fur and skin
  • Grayish or dull-colored fur
  • Dirty, matted fur
  • Odd posture
  • Mucous and discharge

Will My Hamster’s Fast Breathing Slow Down by Itself?

Your hamster’s fast breathing won’t slow down by itself in most cases. The most common cause of rapid breathing in hamsters is an infection, so it won’t get better without medical attention. However, if worry or stress causes fast breathing, it should slow down by itself.

Since infections cause most cases of fast breathing, medication is usually needed to help make a hamster better. Without medicines and the proper medical attention, your hamster will suffer.

If you choose to wait and see if the fast breathing will subside by itself, you may be risking your hamster’s health.

Read Why Did My Hamster Die?

Why Does My Hamster Breathe Fast When Sleeping?

It’s common for hamsters to breathe fast while sleeping. If your hamster breathes fast when it sleeps but breathes normally when awake, it shouldn’t be a cause for concern. However, if fast breathing occurs during the day and the night, it can indicate a deeper issue.

Much like how some humans breathe deeper and faster when sleeping, hamsters are the same. However, if you feel like your hamster may be in distress or if you notice wheezing of any kind, you should consult a vet.


Several things could be causing your hamster’s rapid breathing, but the most common cause is a respiratory infection. Other things that may be causing fast breathing may include:

  • Being scared, worried, or stressed
  • Being cold
  • Being too warm (heat stroke)
  • An injury

Once a hamster is ill, it can get even sicker quite quickly. Therefore, it’s essential to speak with a vet (available all around the United States of America) if your hamster has difficulty breathing for an extended period. If you get your hamster treated early, there’s a higher chance of a full recovery.

Related Hamsters articles:

  • What Do You Need for a Hamster
  • Why Is My Hamster Trying To Escape?
  • How Far Can a Hamster See?
  • What Does Hamster Eat?
  • How Big Should a Hamster Cage Be?
  • How Long Can a Hamster Go Without Water?

Why Is My Hamster Breathing Fast? - HamstersInfo.com (3)


My name is Everly. I am a Milwaukee-based mom of 2 and have been a proud owner of many hamsters throughout my life. Like many of us, my introduction to hamsters happened when I was very young. My family saw several hamsters come and go through the years, and I enjoyed playing with them, but I never fully appreciated them until I grew up and my own children decided to jump on the hamster bandwagon. At that point, I was determined to learn all I could about caring for these adorable pets. Read more


Is it normal for hamsters to breathe fast? ›

In normal conditions, hamsters breathe pretty fast, between 34-114 bpm, so it's hard to know when they have a problem only judging by their breathing rate, but if they have other symptoms we talked about, you have to get your hamster to the vet.

Why is my hamster hyperventilating? ›

If your hamster lies down when he would normally be active, and if he keeps very still, and/or hyperventilates, he could be suffering from dehydration. Get your hamster out of the heat asap, and gently rub a little cool (not icy) water onto them to cool them down.

Why is my hamster shaking and breathing fast? ›

Your hamster may be shaking due to physical duress coming from weather and hibernation effects. It may also be due to psychological factors such as dominance, fear, stress, and anxiety. In some cases, hamsters shake due to health issues, especially in the nervous and respiratory systems.

Why is my hamster breathing fast and squeaking? ›

Respiratory Infections

If your hamster is coughing, wheezing, sneezing, has a runny nose or eyes, or is having difficulty breathing, then it may be suffering from a respiratory infection. These problems need veterinary treatment as soon as possible, because they can hinder your pet's ability to breathe.

Why is my hamsters heart beating fast? ›

In the early stages of congestive heart failure the hamsters have respiratory distress and move about erratically. The heart rate and pulse rate escalate to dangerous levels. Eventually, the skin may begin to take on a blue tint, a sign of cyanosis.

How many breaths per minute should a hamster have? ›

Table 2
Respiratory rate (breaths/min)60–230100–250
Tidal volume (mL)0.09–0.380.91–1.4
Minute volume (mL/min)11–3664
Oxygen use per hour (mL O2/g body weight/h)1.63–3.50.6–1.4
2 more rows

What does a hamster struggling to breathe sound like? ›

Your hamster may wheeze when it breathes, causing its chest to visibly widen and contract with each breath. You may be able to hear the wheezing, along with possible rattling or crackling noises, when your hamster breathes. Detect sneezing. If your hamster has a respiratory illness, it may start sneezing.

What are signs of stress in hamsters? ›

They don't show outward signs of pain, so may suffer before you realise. Stressed hamsters are likely to become ill, so keep a close eye on them and look out for them behaving differently - such as developing repetitive behaviour - as this can show that something's wrong.

Is my hamster happy or stressed? ›

If you find your hamster full of energy and moving around a lot, it's a sign they're comfortable and content in their environment. An unhappy hamster will be slow moving or not move a lot at all.

How do I know if my hamster has a respiratory infection? ›

  1. Fever.
  2. Dull and depressed appearance.
  3. Loss of appetite and subsequent weight loss.
  4. Constant sneezing and/or coughing.
  5. Respiratory distress.
  6. Mucus discharge from the nose and eyes.
Jul 9, 2010

What to do if my hamster has a respiratory problem? ›

Because of their small size, lung and other airway disorders in hamsters can quickly become serious. If you notice your hamster is wheezing or having difficulty breathing, see your veterinarian promptly.

Why did my hamster bite me? ›

Biting is a defense mechanism. Hamsters bite because they're scared or feel threatened. It's actually a natural reaction, and stems from them being prey animals; they need a way to protect themselves.

Why does my hamster bite the cage? ›

Indication of stress or boredom - Bar chewing can occur as a symptom of boredom or anxiety. Allowing your hamster to be chronically stressed or bored is not healthy or fair and can lead to bigger behavioral or health problems. You should be looking to better manage their environment to avoid this issue.

What do hamster noises mean? ›

Squeaking: Hamsters tend to make a squeaking sound if they're feeling distressed or scared. You may notice this noise when you move your hamster into your home for the first time, although they might also vocalise in this way at any time that they're feeling agitated.

What is heat stress in hamsters? ›

Heat stroke in hamsters is sometimes called sleeper disease as it can cause hamsters to appear lifeless and limp or tremble when touched. Guinea pigs, mice, rats and chinchillas are also susceptible to heat stroke.

How do you check a hamster's heart rate? ›

Check your hamster's heartbeat

This can be difficult to find, but to do this, simply place your forefinger and thumb on either side of the hamster's chest just above the elbows. Apply the same amount of pressure as you would if you were trying to stop your hamster running away without hurting it.

Do hamsters get heat stroke? ›

“Pocket-pets,” such as rabbits, hamsters, and guinea pigs are extremely prone to heatstroke and can die just from lying in their cage if the sun moves and leaves them without shade.

How often should you hold a hamster? ›

Interact with your hamster(s) every day, and handle them as often as you can, but respect their sleeping pattern. Hamsters should not be handled when they are resting or sleeping, unless absolutely necessary as they can find this stressful.

How do you check hamster breathing? ›

To determine if a hamster is dead or in a state of torpor, hold a mirror or spoon directly in front of the hamster's nose. If you see a slight fog, your hamster is breathing.

How much rest does a hamster need? ›

Hamsters require around 6-8 hours of sleep, and can often be achieved with multiple sleep cycles. Hamsters are nocturnal creatures, which means they will sleep during the day and be awake at night.

Can hamsters get COVID? ›

People can spread SARS-CoV-2 to animals, especially during close contact. Companion animals, including pet cats, dogs, hamsters, and ferrets.

Can I give my hamster a cold? ›

Wash your hands. That's really what you do. So, yeah, your hamster can catch your cold. But as long as you take precautions to keep yourself away from them as much as possible and keep an eye on their symptoms, ya'll should both be fine in a few days.

What are the symptoms of respiratory infection? ›

Respiratory tract infections (RTIs)
  • a cough – you may bring up mucus (phlegm)
  • sneezing.
  • a stuffy or runny nose.
  • a sore throat.
  • headaches.
  • muscle aches.
  • breathlessness, tight chest or wheezing.
  • a high temperature.

How do hamsters act when they are sick? ›

Hamsters with colds will often display the same symptoms as people. Your pet may sniffle or sneeze, and his little nose might run. You may also notice your pet seems a bit lethargic: he may just curl up to sleep, and not want to do much. His little body may feel warm to the touch, and he may be thirstier than usual.

How do I relax my hamster? ›

Here are a few things you can do to help keep them stress free and happy.
  1. Keep them in a quiet room. ...
  2. Give them a large cage! ...
  3. Leave them alone to settle in. ...
  4. Fill the cage with more to do! ...
  5. They get cabin fever! ...
  6. Set a routine! ...
  7. Stop full cleaning! ...
  8. Get a calming kit.
Mar 13, 2021

How do you bond with a hamster? ›

Patience, regular feeding, lots of out-of-habitat playtime, and soft talk will go a long way in helping you bond with your hamster. Make sure to always approach your pet slowly and talk to them in a conversational manner.

Is it cruel to keep hamsters in cages? ›

Hamsters Need Large, Secure Homes

To help prevent animal companions from harming one another, it's imperative that hamsters have a safe, spacious, and sturdy enclosure to call home. Cages sold at pet stores are woefully inadequate to meet a hamster's unique needs.

Do hamsters like being held? ›

They do not like to be held. They are more prone to bite if they are startled or woken from a deep sleep, or if your hands smell like another animal or food. Handle your hamster gently.

Does my hamster have feelings? ›

Like all animals, hamsters have the ability to communicate with one another and with their owners. They use body language much like we do and can display a range of emotions that include being happy, afraid, threatened, curious, startled, angry and many other emotions.

Can hamsters have blankets? ›

Giving your hamster that extra-cozy, plush bedding may seem like a good idea; however, the artificial fibers used to make fluffy bedding can harm your hamster — this is especially true if she likes to chew on her bedding since it can be hard for her to digest.

Can a room be too hot for a hamster? ›

Hamsters are most comfortable in 65-75°F (18.33-23.89°C) temperatures. If it is any warmer than that, you should make sure your hamster stays cool. Hamsters cannot sweat like humans, so it is up to you to make your pet happy and comfortable during hot weather.

How do you wake up a peacefully hamster? ›

How to Wake up a Hamster
  1. Move slowly.
  2. Adjust their environment.
  3. Offer them a treat.
  4. Talk softly or humorously.
  5. Gently blow on your hamster.
Apr 4, 2022

What do you give a sick hamster? ›

Keep him warm.

Sick hamsters often lose body heat and feel cool to the touch. You can try standing the cage on a hot water bottle so that he gets under floor heating. Also try wrapping a small hot water bottle in a towel and rest the hamster on it.

What is agonal breathing in hamsters? ›

Many dying hamsters have troubles regulating their body temperature. One aspect about dying that isn't often shared is “agonal breathing”. Essentially this happens as the brain fires off reflexively. This can look really disconcerting for owners, as the hamster may begin to gasp or have very laboured breathing.

How do you hold a hamster? ›

Always pick up your hamster with both hands and put one hand under its bottom for support. Always lift the hamster facing toward you rather than away from you. Being lifted in midair is disorienting. If your hamster is looking at you it has some frame of reference and is less likely to jump.

How do you pick up a hamster? ›

The best way to pick up a hamster is cupped in the palm of your hand with the other hand over its back. It is best to begin picking your hamster up just above your lap or some other soft surface in case it falls or jumps.

Do Syrian hamsters need sand baths? ›

Hamsters and Degus will benefit from a sand bath several times a week. Unlike chinchillas their use is not essential, but they are wonderful treats and help keep their shiny healthy coats. Top Tip: It's best not to keep the sand bath in their cage all the time, as overuse can cause drying out of their skin.

Can hamsters eat cheese? ›

Many hamsters love the taste of cheese, but its high fat and sodium content is not especially healthy for hamsters. If your hamster enjoys cheese and seems to tolerate it well, you can offer it occasionally in small amounts. Hamsters should get no more than a pea-sized amount of cheese just once or twice a week.

How do you play with a hamster? ›

Tips for Playing with your Hamster

Handle your hamster very gently and with lots of care. Don't overhandle them. Keep any play area secure so your hamster can't escape. Always ensure playtime is supervised.

Are hamster balls safe? ›

The hamster ball is an exercise device for hamsters. The hamster is enclosed in the ball and can then exercise/run in the ball which then rolls around on the floor. There are concerns that such products may, in fact, be stressful for hamsters and so the RSPCA does not recommend their use.

Can hamsters hear you? ›

But hamsters have incredible hearing, which can detect ultrasonic sounds and can be quite irritating for them.

Can hamsters eat grapes? ›

Foods for Hamsters FAQs. Can Hamsters Eat Grapes? Yes, but in moderation or just as an occasional treat because they are high in sugar.

Do hamsters like being out of their cage? ›

Never give your hamster access to cracks or holes. Since they love to escape and explore, they will run towards these places. If they get into tight spaces they are likely to get trapped, injured, or lost.

Is My hamster sick or tired? ›

You may also notice your pet seems a bit lethargic: he may just curl up to sleep, and not want to do much. His little body may feel warm to the touch, and he may be thirstier than usual. Watery eyes, matted fur, and discharge from the eyes or nose are also indicative of colds in hamsters.

Is my hamster having trouble breathing? ›

Signs of a respiratory infection include sneezing, discharge from the eyes or nose, wheezing, and labored breathing. 1 Occasional sneezing is not too worrisome, but if there is any loss of appetite, decreased activity, wheezing, or difficulties with breathing, immediate veterinary attention should be sought.

How do I know if my hamster feels safe? ›

HOW CAN I TELL IF MY HAMSTER IS HAPPY? Watch your hamster closely and check out their body language. A yawning hamster is pleasantly sleepy and comfortable. Relaxed grooming, stretching, burrowing in the bedding, collecting food, and lively acrobatics in the cage are all signs that life is good for your hamster pal.

How can you tell if a hamster is in pain? ›

Hamster health checks

They don't show outward signs of pain, so may suffer before you realise. Stressed hamsters are likely to become ill, so keep a close eye on them and look out for them behaving differently - such as developing repetitive behaviour - as this can show that something's wrong.

Can hamsters get sick from dirty cage? ›

Regular cleaning of a hamster's cage can help prevent the spread of pathogens such as lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus and Salmonella. A hamster cage should be thoroughly cleaned at least once per week, including removing all of the bedding and disinfecting of the cage itself.

How do I know if my hamster is cold? ›

Warning Signs

If Hammie gets too cold, he may start shivering, or lose interest in his food and water. He could also seem lethargic. If your tiny furball's tiny feet, ears, or nose feel cold, he's probably too chilly. Your little pal may also begin to have trouble breathing if he gets cold.

Can a hamster recover from being sick? ›

this can worsen symptoms. Put some extra bedding in the cage to make them feel more comfortable. They'll appreciate it, and should recover in a couple of days. If they're not feeling more chipper in a few days, you should head to the vet, as antibiotic treatment may be recommended.

Why is my hamster not waking up but still breathing? ›

What might be the cause? Hamsters occasionally enter a form of hibernation, where their heart and breathing rate drops, and they are deeply asleep. It can be difficult to tell if they are in this state of hibernation or if they are dead.

How often should you clean hamster cage? ›

Ideally the hamster's cage should be cleaned once a week. In some cases it can be once ever two weeks. This is for a single hamster, if you've got two or more living in the same cage, you won't be able to leave it for 2 weeks.


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