Hamsters are currently one of the most popular domestic pets in many parts of the world. But despite being easy to care for and low maintenance, these small animals require special attention in terms of animal welfare and behavior.
Since hamsters are prey to many predators in the wild, they have a very alert instinct that makes them react fast to any impending sense of danger and escape to ensure survival. This innate instinct of hamsters makes them more prone to stress.
To keep your little pet happy and feeling safe and avoid future complications, it is important that you are familiar with ways how to know if your hamster is stressed. Below are some of the most common recognizable signs and symptoms of stress in hamsters that you should watch out for:
One of the most common causes of aggression in hamsters is none other than stress. A stressed hamster is typically more reactive than normal. If your hamster shows its teeth, emits grunts, or moves its ears in a backward motion, it implies that it is getting ready to attack.
In situations like this, try to stay away from your hamster and allow it to feel safe and calm down in the meantime. If you notice your hamster trying to bite you all the time, showing its teeth, or becoming more aggressive in general, it is recommended to consult your vet.
Changes in Behavior
A stressed hamster may also exhibit changes in his habitual behavior. When stressed, rodents may become more shy, anxious, fearful, sad, or aggressive than usual. It is the reason why it is important to make yourself more familiar with the personality of your hamster so you can detect any changes right away.
Stress in most animals often presents itself through repetitive and compulsive behaviors. Good examples of these behaviors include incessant gnawing, constant scratching, persistent cleaning of the body, and turning a few times on their own axis, just to name a few.
In extreme cases, these behaviors may even result in self-mutilation that can make a hamster more prone to infections and absences.
Nervousness, fear, anxiety, and stress interfere with saliva production. A stressed hamster may experience excessive salivation as a form of physical response to the body tension it feels.
When a hamster suffers from chronic stress, these animals usually experience changes to their fur. Your stressed hamster might appear to have markedly oilier hair or may even start losing hair. Some rodents may also pluck their own fur as a result of insensate scratching that can soon generate bald spots.
If your hamster is stressed, it can become more hyperactive even inside its cage. Stressed hamsters will also move constantly, running on their wheels fast, climbing their cages, and appearing more alert and nervous than usual.
All of these are clear indications that your hamster has already accumulated tension and stress and is now looking for a means to release it. Your hamster may soon exhibit signs of nervousness, aggressiveness, or destructiveness if you don’t surround him with an enriched environment.
Persistent Attempts to Escape
Stressed hamsters will also try escaping from the negative environment. If your hamster is getting ready to flee or is in a state of high alert, he will have inflated cheeks and his ears will face forward.
Tremors and Muscle Rigidity
When a hamster feels afraid or is extremely stressed, his muscles will also become tenser. In extreme cases, the muscular rigidity may become too intense to the point that the body of your hamster will also start shaking.
Making Noises and Sounds
Hamsters are among those animals that are usually very quiet or silent. But if they are suffering from stress, these small animals may produce some characteristic noises. In a state of fear, hamsters may emit snorts and if they feel threatened, these animals may emit grunts.
However, once they become extremely nervous, hamsters may also emit squeals or shrieks, both of which are quite rare for these animals.
All hamsters must live in an aptly enriched environment where they can exercise their physical, social, emotional, and cognitive abilities. When a rodent gets subjected to an environment that is not stimulating and where they are forced to follow a sedentary routine, these animals will try expelling energy and relieving stress in other ways.
Unfortunately, these ways might present themselves through dangerous habits or unusual behaviors. Biting the cage is one good example of these unusual habits of stressed hamsters.
How to Calm a Stressed Hamster
You can follow a few guidelines to calm a stressed hamster or prevent stress as a whole. Once you notice that your hamster is starting to be stressed, step away from their environment and allow them to calm down. You can then consult your vet to help you rule out pathologies and safeguard the health of your little pal.
It is also important to follow basic care and administer preventative medicine to your hamster to achieve and retain a more balanced temperament.
Below are a few tips to help calm your stressed hamster:
Enriching the environment is key when preparing the cage of your hamster. An enriched cage or enclosure will let your pet exercise and entertain itself even if you are not around. This can also help maintain a healthy weight.
While you can stimulate your hamster with a traditional wheel, it is also important to provide other accessories and toys to stimulate cognitive capacity.
Give Proper Preventative Medicine
Hamster behavioral changes may be due to some diseases. Make sure your hamster gets sufficient preventative medicine to strengthen its immune system. Visit the vet every six months, feed a balanced diet, sanitize the cage frequently, and keep your hamster mentally and physically active.
Even if hamsters need relatively simple care, they need the affection and attention of their companions to be active, healthy, and happy. Aside from enriching the cage of your hamster, let your pet socialize with the rest of the animals in their surrounding environment.
Keep an eye out for these signs that your hamster is stressed and learn how to calm him down to keep your pet healthy and happy.