Why Don't Hamsters Have Good Eyesight?

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Your hamster can't see as well as you.
Your hamster can't see as well as you. (Image: Hamster image by Annekathrin Kohout from Fotolia.com)

When you adopt a hamster, you may not realize that they have very poor eyesight. The color of your hamster’s eyes can indicate just how poorly its sight is. Hamsters don’t see well, but their other senses are very keen.

Facts

The large, bulging eyes of a hamster would lead you to believe that they have very good eyesight. In fact, they have very poor eyesight. Hamsters are very nearsighted, which means they can only see things that are close to their faces. Hamsters do enjoy good peripheral vision, allowing them to see things, such as other hamsters or predators, moving when they are farther away.

Further Complications

Some experts believe that hamsters are also color blind, only being able to see in different shades of black and white. Additionally, hamsters are thought to be blind when in bright daylight. Hamsters with red eyes may have even poorer vision than those with black eyes.

Hearing Compensation

While the hamster does not have good vision, it compensates through a very acute sense of hearing. Hamsters can pick up sounds both loud and very quiet, including ultrasonic frequencies. Their keen sense of hearing helps hamsters to communicate with one another, which can protect them from predators.

Compensation for Poor Vision Through a Sense of Smell

Hamsters also have an acute sense of smell. This allows hamsters to easily differentiate between different odors. Hamsters recognize one another--and their owner, if they're handled enough--by smell.

Risks

Never allow a hamster to perch on your shoulder or hold them without protecting them from falling or jumping. Their poor vision results in poor depth perception, which can cause tragic falls and jumps, if you're not careful.

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