Blind Hamsters: Do they require special care?

female winter white dwarf hamster, 'Nanook', who is blind

This is a topic I've been asked about on more than a handful of occasions: "My hamster is blind, do they require any special care, or special attention to their set-up?". So, let's get into it.

To put it short and sweet: Hamsters are already notorious for having bad eyesight and just horrible depth perception. Even a fully sighted hamster often won't think twice about leaping 3ft off your bed, or 5ft from your dresser. Therefore generally speaking, being blind has no negative impact on your hamsters quality of life and should (generally) not affect how you care for them. They can still have natural enclosures, and often navigate them just fine.

showing enclosure tour for partially blind female Winter White, 'Nanook' .

The only difference that I have personally observed with keeping blind hamsters is that they are often much more mouthy than a sighted hamster. They can be (but not always) also more defensive, and with good reason - they are a prey animal, and can't see a thing around them. Because of this, when interacting with a blind hamster you should always ensure you are talking to them and rustle bedding near them so they can know you are coming. I have also found it useful that before picking them up, you offer them a treat and while they are eating the snack, gently pet them. This way when you do pick them up, it is less of a surprise and they are less likely to act defensively because they know that it is you, and not a bird of prey, coming to say hi. Some blind hamsters prefer no human interaction, and instead prefer to be left to their own doings; if they are happiest left alone, then it is best that these individuals are kept as 'look-don't-touch' pets.

To also lessen their confusion & stress, I recommend that if you ever do need to rehouse them or change up their enclosure, you try to keep all of their necessities in the same place. For example: I keep all my hamsters water bowls on top of their houses so if I were to rehouse them to an entirely different enclosure, I wouldn't then place the water bowl at the complete opposite end to where it usually would be. For any sighted hamster, even though their eyesight is terrible, they can still see and even for them, complete cage changes can be stressful. For a blind hamster, this stress is further amplified so it is important to make an extra effort to keep any changes to their enclosure as minimal as possible.

blind hamster, 'Nanook', foraging for food

In general, being blind does not affect your hamsters life. They can still be scatter fed (hamsters have an amazing sense of smell, and being blind has no affect on this!), have enriching set ups, and do all the things a sighted hamster can do. They can (but not always) be more defensive, and some may prefer to stay in their enclosure vs coming out for play time, but otherwise require no additional or special attention than their fully sighted counterparts.