While Hamsters appear innocent and cute, they can nip and cause pain and discomfort. If you have a pet Hamster that has started biting all of a sudden, then you’re going to want to find out the reason why. This question has been on my mind for some time, so I have decided to research the topic. I would like to share my findings with you in this article today, providing you with some actionable insight as to why this might be happening and what you can do.
So, why is your hamster biting you all of a sudden? Hamsters bite to communicate with their owners that they are uncomfortable with the situation that they are in. Even if your hamster has been completely friendly up until this point, this is the reason why it might begin to bite all of a sudden. Although it may seem they are biting you for no reason, it is likely that they feel threatened, are hungry or trying to hide an insecurity or illness from you.
Hamsters are a classic family pet. Their comparatively low maintenance and cost make them a rather appealing option for parents. Additionally, kids love them! You see them all over TV and their cute little faces give off the impression that they’re cute and cuddly.
Sadly, this portrayal can be a bit misleading and disappoint pet owners. Not to say that they are naturally aggressive, but biting behavior is not uncommon.
There are quite a few things that would upset a hamster enough to instigate biting behavior. Learning where their outbursts come from can help you learn how to read and correct their future behaviors.
Why Do Hamsters Bite And How To Stop And Prevent It?
When we get upset or are in pain, we will often let the outside world know by crying or moping. We look to our peers for compassion and understanding. In the more extreme cases, it would be difficult, and a little strange, for us to try to hide a broken leg or stomach ache.
In contrast, Hamsters would find this attitude strange. By nature, hamsters are strictly solitary and are most happy when they live alone. This is why it is rather difficult (and highly discouraged) to ever house more than one hamster in a single cage.
Once they are adults, they become a lot less tolerant of roommates. They see additional hamsters as competitors in the best case. In the worst case, they see them as dangerous and find their presence threatening.
This constant threat can lead to a lot of stress making your hamster much less excited about getting handled. If you have two hamsters in the same cage, this could therefore very well be the reason your hamster is biting you.
If you happen to notice this biting behavior happening with hamsters in a shared cage -separate your animals immediately. If you don’t, they may turn that aggression towards each other – and they do a lot more damage to another hamster than your hand. In this situation you should look to getting a second cage, or even look for one that is extra large where they can live side by side yet separate from one another (like this highly regarded cage on Amazon).
While this is one of the more obvious explanations due to their solitary nature, there are even more you need to be aware of.
When animals are inclined to find others threatening, they never want to appear weak. Even if they are all alone and you have never given them any reason to doubt your loyalty, they will still feel inclined to hide injuries or sicknesses from you.
Try to notice if your hamster is sporting a limp or acting a little strange overall. This biting my be their way of telling you that they feel uncomfortable. You can try to find a vet that works with small animals in order to see if they need treatment.
An easier fix that doesn’t even need a vet involves their appetite. If your hamster is hungry, it may resort to trying to take a nibble out of your hand. Even if they aren’t hungry- any lingering scents on your hand may prove overwhelmingly appetizing for them.
First, make sure that their bowls are full and they are eating enough. If it seems they aren’t eating so much of their food but they are otherwise healthy, consider changing brands (maybe your hamster is bored with their food). This is the brand I often like to purchase which has since overcome the biting issue with my hamster. Its also cost-effective as you’re buying it in bulk.
It is also a good idea to wash your hands thoroughly before you touch your hamster. Their sense of smell is very good. Even if you think that you have washed away all evidence of your recent snacking or handling of food, it may not be true.
It is good practice for hamster handling anyways as it helps limit the spread of disease and washes away traces of other scents that may encourage biting (such as the smell of another animal).
There also may be times where they actually view you as a threat. Unfortunately, this is the most probable cause of a hamster biting. When you stop to think about it, you are gigantic compared to them.
It is easy to see why they might consider you scary. Because they are less prone to bites as babies, them biting as adults may just be them telling you they were unhappy with being touched all along. Gaining their trust is the only real solution to this problem.
How Do You Gain A Hamsters’ Trust?
Gaining a hamsters’ trust involves a lot of patience. For one thing, you need to persist. Irregular handling is one of the things that promotes biting in the first place.
Try to handle them regularly, despite them nibbling now and again. When they do bite, never punish the hamster. Screaming, dropping, or hitting them will just reiterate the fact that you are a threat.
Be aware that returning them immediately after they bite will condition them to bite when they want to be put down rather than as a rare stress response.
Instead, try to train the hamster to come to you on their own accord. Always be quiet and slow. Never approach them when they are sleeping.
Start by just offering your hamster your hand to sniff from the other side of their cage and allow them to approach you. Once they seem comfortable doing that, try offering them treats.
Start by handing them treats wherever they are, then try luring them out of their hiding hole. Eventually, you should be able to lure them right onto your hand. After a while the will be safe to handle and happy to have you pet and hold them.
Sadly, some hamsters -especially those who have never been handled as a baby- never seem to come around. In more extreme cases, you can encounter hamsters that are extremely aggressive. This is an individual difference that is unavoidable.
In this situation, handling might be one of those things that are just not possible for you and your hamster. Unless of course you are willing to take a nip or wear protective gloves.
What Are The Friendliest Breeds Of Hamsters?
There are some ways to predict the chances of a hamster biting. Different breeds have individual differences. Some hamsters are naturally more friendly than others. While this does not speak for every animal, learning the expected temperament of the breed can be a great advisory tool. Consider the following popular breeds of hamster.
Syrian: These are the largest variety and often regarded as the friendliest. They really appear to form a bond with their owner rather quickly and are the slowest. They need to be housed alone, even if they were raised with same-sex siblings.
Chinese: These are a tiny species of hamster that have a surprisingly long tail compared to their other relatives. While some people consider their resemblance to a mouse off-putting, these guys are the calmest of tiny hamsters. They are less likely to get aggressive – even with other hamsters in their cage. Just be away that they are still solitary creatures, but they will rarely bite their owners in comparison to other small hamsters.
Russian Dwarf: Many report that these cute little guys can become great pets when tamed. They are the most common dwarf variety to be found in a pet shop. Be aware that these guys are a lot faster than their other cousins so get away easier. They also require more effort to train.
If you were wondering why your Hamster is biting you all of a sudden, then it is most likely feeling under threat. Why that is now and not another time is something you will have to think about and consider. Then you can take an appropriate course of action to reduce and prevent it – hopefully for good.
One of the best things that you can do is to make sure your Hamster feels safe and secure in its environment. If your Hamster is still quite young be patient and be willing to take it slowly. Sometimes with a little bit of time Hamsters will stop biting on their own accord.
Hamsters are ultimately like humans and other animals – each have their own little personality and behaviours. The more time you spend with them and observe patterns in the behaviour the more you can anticipate and look out for things like biting.
Be careful, patient and proactive. Then its just a matter of time before your Hamster trusts you and the biting resolves.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.