What Do Hamsters Use Their Whiskers For?

by Hamster Care

Whiskers are important for nocturnal animals such as hamsters. They help your pet hamster in navigation, balance, and smell, and if you look closely, they can even provide subtle indications of how they are feeling. In the wild, hamsters rely on their whiskers as a survival tool, to alert them to potential predators.

Hamsters use their whiskers, or vibrissae, to detect objects and explore their surroundings. While it’s entertaining to watch your hamster twitch their nose, the whiskers themselves are delicate and should never be cut off.

We’ll go over why your hamster has whiskers, what they’re used for, and what happens if they lose or have them cut off.

Why are hamster whiskers important?

Whiskers may appear inconspicuous when perched on the side of your hamster’s adorable chubby cheeks, but they are constantly working as an extra sense for your furry friend.

To compensate for your hamster’s poor vision, their whiskers have nerve endings on the inside and tiny sensors on the outside that send messages back to the brain, allowing them to build up a picture of their surroundings.

The whiskers on your hamster are controlled by tiny muscles at each base that are directly connected to the nervous system. Your hamster can quickly determine where they are, what objects are nearby, and if they are in any danger by “whisking” them (moving their whiskers in a rapid circular motion).

Your hamster’s whiskers should be as long as the widest part of their body to allow them to see if they can fit through gaps and to aid in balance.

What do hamsters use their whiskers for?

Whiskers are an important survival tool for both domesticated and feral hamsters, as they are used to:

  • Guide them: Hamsters constantly move their whiskers in order to detect vibrations and touch. Pet hamsters rely on their whiskers to move around their cage, find their food, hamster wheel, and hamster bedding, and avoid bumping into things. Wild hamsters, on the other hand, use their whiskers to help them tunnel in the dark. By sensing airflow, they can detect walls while burrowing and easily avoid obstacles when visibility is limited.
  • Pick up a scent: Although hamsters have a good sense of smell, their whiskers work in conjunction with their nose to aid in scent detection. Hamsters use their whiskers and nose to detect the presence of other hamsters, their owners, and any predators nearby.
  • Balance: Whiskers play an important role in helping your hamster’s balance. Their long and strong whiskers aid in keeping the body steady. However, if your hamster loses its whiskers, it can become unbalanced, fall over, and stumble around.
  • Show emotion: Your hamster’s whiskers will reflect how it is feeling. If you peek into its cage and see its whiskers relaxed, this indicates that your hamster is relaxed and in a good mood. However, if your hamster’s whiskers are pointing backwards, it could indicate that it is anxious, nervous, or scared. If you notice your hamster’s whiskers pointing forward, they are alert. In the wild, this would also indicate that they believe they are in danger.

What happens if you cut a hamster’s whisker?

Whiskers have sensitive nerve endings around their roots and in the skin, so trimming your hamster’s whiskers is a no-no. The whiskers, like human hair and nails, are made of keratin, which does not contain pain receptors or nerves.

As a result, if you must trim your hamster’s whiskers because they are damaged, overgrown, or causing discomfort, only take a small amount off. Whisker-trimming, while not painful, may be unpleasant for your hamster due to shock waves traveling down the whisker to the nerve endings.

You should never pluck your hamster’s whiskers because it is extremely painful and may result in bleeding.

A life without whiskers would be very upsetting for your hamster because they rely on them to sense their surroundings and could become disoriented, leading to injuries and health problems. However, for a wild hamster, it would be problematic and could lead to death.

Do hamster whiskers grow?

Whiskers, like hair on our heads, are extremely sensitive and thick, making them prone to falling out. Stress, diseases, poor hygiene, parasites, or even old age are the most common causes of hamster whisker loss.

If you notice that your hamster’s whiskers are in poor condition and fall off naturally, this can be a good sign because it indicates that the whiskers are beginning to regenerate.

Although falling whiskers will not hurt your hamster, it could be a sign of a serious health problem such as dermatitis if it occurs on a regular basis. In that case, you should consult with your veterinarian.

Depending on your hamster’s health, it will take between 2-3 months for his or her whiskers to regrow.


Pay close attention to your hamster’s whiskers the next time you see them scurrying around their cage. These built-in GPS systems not only guide them around their environment, but also allow them to detect food and danger. And depending on how their whiskers twitch, you can tell whether they are happy, sad, or playful.

If you want more helpful advice on looking after your hamster, including tips on food, toys, accessories and accommodation, add a comment below to let us know!

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By HamsterCareTip.Com

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