What's that sound?  It could be the sound of digging or clawing or the melody of an exercise wheel going round and round. Or it could be the munch-munch-crunch of dinner time. If you’re new to hamsters, these are some of the adjustments you’re probably making to your hamster—and that he is making to you.

Hamsters are nocturnal animals, meaning that they’re active late in the evening and in the middle of the night, sleeping mostly during the day. So if you’re on different schedules, take heart: The operative word is "mostly".  In fact, your hamster should have some active periods while you’re still awake and before you head off to bed.

Since every hamster is different, it’s impossible to predict how often and for how long your hamster might be awake. But if you think that you can force your hamster to conform to your sleep schedule, you’re mistaken. In fact, accommodating your hamster’s preferred sleep time is vital to developing a healthy relationship with him. While he can’t post a "do not disturb" sign on his cage, he'll most likely let you know if your attempts to rouse him are getting on his nerves: He may become stressed and ornery and may even bite you.

If you’re not a night owl yourself, you can make the most of your time with your hamster by:

  • Taking your cues from him. He'll let you know when he wants your attention or wants to play.
  • Cleaning his cage and giving him food in the late afternoon or early evening.
  • Placing his cage in a dark, quiet place so that when he does sleep, he can do so comfortably—and when he’s awake in the middle of the night, he won’t disturb you.
  • Talking to your hamster in a calm, soothing manner if you must change his water while he’s sleeping. You might even convince him to perk up and turn his wheel round and round to amuse you while you’re both wide awake.