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The happy hamster

August 8, 2015



Golden hamsters live alone in the wild, so they don’t show social cues about their thoughts and feelings.  So how can we tell what is going on in the little hamster brain?  Seems it has been very difficult, even if hamster owners try to figure it out for themselves.  Hamster depression?




Scientists took this conundrum to heart and started studying the furry little pouchers.  They needed to know if hamsters kept in captivity were happy, and of course they don’t speculate, they use scientific process.

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

We highlight and address some issues using a laboratory species not previously tested: the Syrian hamster (Mesocricetus auratus). Hamsters were tested using a spatial judgement go/no-go task in enriched and unenriched housing. We included a number of controls and additional behavioural tests and applied a robust analytical approach using linear mixed effects models. Hamsters approached the ambiguous cues significantly more often when enriched than unenriched. There was no effect of enrichment on responses to the middle cue.”

Happy hamsters? Enrichment induces positive judgement bias for mildly (but not truly) ambiguous cues to reward and punishment in Mesocricetus auratus


“enrichment items” included;   deeper aspen substrate and extra nesting material, two coloured transparent plastic huts (10×12 cm), a suspended hamster tent (15×12 cm), four hamster gnaw sticks and a wooden ledge (18×13 cm: all of which increase opportunity for natural and exploratory behaviour. The metal barred wheel was replaced with a larger solid-floor plastic silent running ball-bearing wheel (16.5 cm).


    The authors say in conclusion, “We cannot say whether the hamsters in our study felt happy in their enriched housing, but the changes in cognitive processing of ambiguous cues certainly suggests enriched hamsters became more optimistic about the likelihood of future reward when faced with uncertain information.”

The scientists could have also talked to Mathijs van der Paauw, the author of Happy Hamster.  The cookbook of cooking for hamsters.


  Looks like this hamster is happy to me!

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