Why your hamster bites – What to think about
Why does my hamster bite?
A hamster is not by nature an aggressive animal, but just like most other animals, it has defense mechanisms that it uses when frightened. Being bitten is one such defense mechanism. The most common reason why a hamster bites is that it feels scared and insecure.
It is therefore not entirely unusual for your hamster to have one tendency to bite when it has just received a new home. This is therefore nothing you need to worry about, but you usually just need to give your friend some space and time to get to know you and his new home. However, you need to be patient as it may take a few weeks before you have won the hamster’s trust.
The most common reasons why your hamster bites:
- Fear. New environments, mishandling, loud noises, bright lights or sudden movements can trigger bite reflexes in the hamster.
- Pain or illness. If the hamster is sick or injured, it may bite because it is in pain and wants to be left alone.
- Attention. If it is hungry or thirsty, it will gladly try to catch your interest to get food and water.
If your hamster bites you regularly despite training, it is important to take it to the vet to rule out medical causes. In most cases, however, a little patience and training is usually enough for your hamster to reduce its biting.
If you are bitten by your hamster
If you are unlucky enough to be bitten by a hamster, it is important to don’t panic as this may frighten the hamster even more. If you panic, scream or push it away, there is a very high probability that you will be bitten again the next time. This because the hamster then associates you and your smell with fear.
Therefore, try to assess the situation and see if your hamster is just playing or if it is actually trying to hurt you. If it’s just playful nibbling, you can try to gently redirect the attention away from your fingers by offering it a small snack or chew toy.
Get your hamster to stop biting
Nobody likes being bitten, but it can be especially traumatic for a child. It is therefore important to take steps as soon as possible so as not to discourage your child from animals completely.
It is also important to wean the hamster from biting for the sake of its own well-being. Biting behavior creates a lot of stress in the animal and can be harmful to health.
What measures should be taken to get it to stop biting and how can this behavior be prevented?
1. Give it time
When you bring your hamster home, it is important to let it settle in. A new home is a big adjustment for the hamster. It suddenly lives in a completely new cage, with lots of new things that it doesn’t recognize. It also has to get to know all the new people around.
This is a lot for anyone to take on and especially for a small hamster. It is therefore important not to proceed too quickly. Many would like to speed up the process and start cuddling in the first few days. However, this usually frightens the hamster considerably and results in it biting in defense.
2. Get to know each other from a distance
Instead of scaring your pet the first thing you do, you want to build trust between you. You do this by starting by hanging out and talking to the hamster without taking it out of the cage. In this way, your hamster will get used to how you sound, smell and look.
Feel free to do this in the evening because that is when the hamster is lively and alert. During the day, there is a risk that you will wake up the hamster and that it will be angry and grumpy, which makes it more difficult to create a good relationship.
3. Get the hamster used to your hand
After about a week or when you think it feels safe, you can start placing your hand near or right next to the grate or glass of the cage when you interact with your hamster. This is to create a sense of security in the hamster so that it does not see your hands as a threat.
After a few days, you can also stick your hand or a few fingers a little into the cage. But be careful not to use any hasty movements and do not try to pet or hold your hamster yet as this can destroy and prolong the building of trust that the hamster has for you.
4. Give food out of hand
After another week or so, you can start feeding the hamster directly from your hand with small pieces of fruit or fresh vegetables. Some nuts and seeds are also fine. Feel free to bet on some extra good bits of food that it doesn’t usually get. In this way, the hamster associates you and your hands with something positive.
5. Pet your hamster
When it feels safe to feed, you can gently start petting your hamster. Never start by petting it from behind as it may startle it. Instead, pet it when it’s looking at you.
If the hamster seems to be scared or has a tendency to bite, you have to give it a little more time. In that case, go back to the previous step and then give the patting another try a few days later. Have patience!
When the hamster seems comfortable being petted, you can move on to picking it up.
Lifting his hamster
When it comes to handling your hamster, there are a few things you need to keep in mind to ensure their safety and to make them feel safe. It is therefore important to lift your hamster correctly.
How to use:
- Feel free to start with wash your hands properly before picking them up. This prevents the spread of any bacteria or disease. Preferably use one odorless soap so that your natural smell does not disappear. The hamster may then find it difficult to recognize you, which can result in it becoming scared and biting.
- Try to attract the hamster by placing a small “candy” in the middle of the hand. Then gently try to scoop up the hamster by placing one hand on each side of the hamster and form a dome around it. Be careful not to squeeze too hard
- Then lift the hamster up calmly and carefully, making sure to do not lift too high as the hamster can slip away and fall from a great height.
Creating a relationship with your hamster can therefore take time and it requires patience, but with a little work, the probability is high that your pet will be very happy at your home, which reduces the risk of being bitten.
In addition, if you start the work immediately when your hamster has just moved in, the work will be significantly easier because it will have time to process the fear faster.
A hamster that has been understimulated and scared for a long time will be much more difficult to train so make sure to start on time!