Why Do Hamsters Do Backflips? [Star Gazing Explained]

At first glance, the sight of a little cute hamster doing a backflip is certainly entertaining. There are many viral videos you can find on YouTube of owners laughing and enjoying the spectacle of their hamsters doing backflips. Honestly, I don’t blame them. In some cases ignorance really is bliss. Do you think these people ever thought about why my hamsters do backflips though? Most likely not.

The unfortunate truth is that if a hamster is repetitively doing “backflips” there is something seriously wrong. Hamsters that display this repetitive behavior of doing backflips will most likely have a form of neurological disorder. There’s actually a term for it, it’s called “Star Gazing”.

hamster falling on back

The term “Star Gazing” comes from the behavior of the hamster. It starts with a hamster standing on its back two legs then looking upwards, and then falling backward (sometimes doing a flip in the process). It’s likened to compulsive spinning and pacing from side to side. Its widely believed that this is a result of a mixture of things some being genetic, and others involving the conditions the hamster is living in as well as the general health of the hamster.

To summarize if your hamster is repetitively doing backflips there is a high probability it has a neurological disorder. This is known as Star Gazing. Star Gazing can be caused by a number of factors, from genetic deficiencies to being mistreated or injured.

Symptoms of Star Gazing in Hamsters

  • Running in circles – Think of a dog chasing its tail for a long period of time. This is a strong indicator that something is wrong. This is also known as “Waltzing”
  • Compulsive pacing – Consistent running usually along the side of the hamster’s enclosure, manic behavior, non-stop back and forth.
  • Backflips / Falling backward – Losing balance when standing on the back legs repetitively in a crazed fashion.
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Causes of Star Gazing in Hamsters

  • Ear infections – I have to be honest if a hamster is doing backflips it’s unlikely to be an ear infection but let’s not rule it out completely. Ears control balance and an infection can certainly cause a hamster to be disorientated and at times even fall over. Ear infections can be treated at your local vet easily with antibiotics.
  • Brain damage – If a hamster has taken a fall or significant damage to the head there is a high possibility it could have received brain damage and have some form of swelling on the brain. Aside from swelling we also need to consider tumors or the possibility the hamster has had a stroke.
  • Genetic flaws – It’s thought that certain breeds such as the Roborovski dwarf hamster are likely to experience this condition. It’s unknown why or what causes this to be more prominent but this is a common observation that many people have noticed.
  • Boredom, Stress, Mental breakdowns – Like a lot of animals hamsters require mental stimulation to be happy and experience stress when put in the wrong environment. Prolonged exposure to mentally unhealthy conditions can cause the mental health of hamsters to deteriorate at a rapid pace.
hamster stargazing

How to Prevent a Hamster From Flipping on Its Back?

There is no definite way to stop hamsters from star gazing because this disorder can be caused by a number of different things. That being said there are some practical steps that we can take to try.

  • Reduce stress – The reduction or even complete removal of stress from a hamster’s life is a great place to start. Many things can cause stress to hamsters ranging from their environment, certain noises, or even other hamsters who share the same space. A common-sense approach is needed when doing this. A change of environment could be required but also aware that this could also increase stress. Its recommended to try to keep the same layout and keep familiar smells if you do decide to go forward with this approach.
  • Improve mental stimulation – a bigger space or the introduction of some new toys that require a little bit of brainpower could do the trick.
  • Medical treatment – Obviously depending on the situation medical treatment may be the only solution. This has to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to find the root issue. The reality is there’s most likely not a great deal that can be done. However, I suggest you consult a vet for a more informed opinion on that.
hamster dressed as a vet

Why Do Hamsters Do Backflips? The Conclusion

Hamsters that consistently fall backward and do backflips are cause for concern. It may seem like a cute and endearing trick but the reality is not so entertaining. If you’ve had any experience with your hamsters doing this, I’d be interested to know, did you find a solution? Please feel free to email me or leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you. Here is a post from an owner who had some success, so if you are experiencing this problem don’t give up hope.