Why Do Hamsters Bite & How To Make Them Stop
Why do hamsters bite and how to get them to stop?
These lovable rodents come in different colors and sizes from dwarf hamster which grow to around 2 to 4 inches, to Syrian hamsters which grow to about 6 inches, to European hamsters which can grow as large as 13.4 inches.
Whatever the size of your hamster, it may bite and you will certainly feel their tiny but sharp teeth. It’s not a really painful bite, more of a pinch really, but we simply can’t but wonder why hamsters bite and what we can do to make them stop.
Most often, biting is their defense mechanism which gets activated for various reasons.
You may have bought a hamster from a shop where the staff didn’t handle hamsters regularly in order to make them get used to human touch. If the hamster isn’t too old or stubborn, with patience and in time, you will be able to help your pet get used to you.
In the process, your hamster will become more and more trusting and friendly and biting will stop, hopefully. He will also become more comfortable and feel safe in his new home.
In order to handle your hamsters without being bitten, you need handle them with care, and let them adapt to this routine using simple training techniques.
A new home
Whenever a hamster moves in to a new home, he will feel certain and varied fear and anxiety. To help him overcome this, you need to allow your hamster to settle in for few days after you bring him home. You should leave him some time to accommodate, adapt and get cozy before trying to pick him for the first time.
Once his new home gets comfortable and familiar and the pet starts to feel safe and at ease, he will become less aggressive and more open to human contact.
Talk to your hamster whenever you can. They have an excellent sense of hearing and will soon become accustomed to your voice. You will certainly name your pet so gently call him by name when you give him food and water. Talk to him about everything and anything. Give him your sales pitch, tell him about a difficult customer that you had that day, pass on the good news about a new baby in the family or comment on the latest fashion craze – anything will do! Hamsters learn quickly. Unfortunately, they’re also notoriously forgetful so constant verbal interaction is necessary.
Another point is letting them get used to your smell without actually touching them during their adaptation period. All you need to do is sit near the cage for a little while every day, or put a hamper of your clothes that need washing near the hamster’s cage.
All in good time
Hamsters are nocturnal creatures. This means that they will sleep during the day and be active at night. Choose a time in the evening when your hamster is awake, and make a commitment to spend some time, talk to, play with or train your hamster. Set a time and stick to it every day.
If you do this consistently for about two weeks, you will notice the difference and have no trouble handling a very tame and gentle hamster.
Do not wake up your pet in the middle of the day just because you feel like playing with him. Respect their biological clock. If you don’t he will be grumpy, edgy and probably bite. Warn the rest of the family or your guests about the need for the hamster to have a regular uninterrupted sleeping routine.
Handling Your Hamster
Picking hamsters up from their cage
Before trying to pick up your little furry pet, make sure to always to wash your hands. If your hands smell like food, sweets, or anything else with a scent such as cosmetics, your hamster will be much more likely to bite you. An added bonus of washing your hands before handling your pet is that you will keep them safer from germs.
You should avoid sneaking up on them as hamsters get aggressive whenever they are frightened. In order not to startle them, anytime you are going to handle them you need to make sure that they can see you coming. Show them your hands and let them smell you before you try to pick them up.
Contrary to popular belief that hamsters are short-sighted, they are not! They are, in fact, long-sighted. Being hunted by predators, nature has given them the ability to see possible threats from quite a distance, but at their immediate surroundings they don’t see very well. That’s long-sightedness. Because of this, they rely mainly on smell and hearing and that’s why you need to keep your hands clean and without a distinctive scent.
The next step is trying to lure them into your hand using a treat. If you simply reach straight into your hamster’s cage and grab them, they are likely to feel threatened and become defensive.
Do it slowly and hold out a treat. You should wait and allow your hamster to come and take it. With another treat, lure your pet to walk onto the open palm of your other hand and, once he gets comfortable, gently lift him out of the cage.
You must hold your hamster properly if you want him to be calm. The best way is to hold him in one hand with your fingers gently curled under his belly, while supporting his bottom with your other hand. When you pick up your hamster, you should always use both hands for safer handling.
If you follow this way of handling your pet, the likelihood of your hamster biting you will be significantly decreased.
If you need to move them out of their cage quickly, you can also use appropriate scoop. They are readily available in pet shops and are inexpensive.
We reviewed 9 best hamster cages, you should definitely check them out before buying one.
Training Your Hamster Not to Bite
Choose a quiet place to start your training. Once you have gotten your hamster out of their cage, take them someplace small, where they can’t escape and where there isn’t anything that might hurt him. A good place would be your bathroom, for example. Be aware and use precaution on your part, such as making sure the pet can’t access the toiled or drain. You can also make a hamster-proof training site in any of the rooms be securing the training ground, so to speak.
You can then start by setting your hamster on your lap and allowing them to crawl on you. Always interact with your hamster using slow, gentle movements. It is important to avoid making the hamster anxious and aggressive as a result. Every time you play with your hamster, keep your motions during training even and slow. No sudden movements will help prevent biting in fear.
If the hamster happens to come close to biting you, all you have to do to discipline them is blowing in their face. One, brisk exhale into your hamsters face should deter him from biting. This act on your part and the effect which is unpleasant but doesn’t hurt your hamster will be a sufficient form of discipline to show him that biting is a no-no.
If at any time you do get bitten, don’t give up. Their teeth are small and won’t really do any real damage. Simply wash the spot where you got bitten put a band-aid if it bleeds and get back to training. This refers to young hamsters, of course. If you adopt a grown up hamster without previous training you can expect stronger bites.
You need to interact with your pet and train him regularly and always at the same time in the evening when he is fully awake and after he had his meal. About 15-20 minutes will do and then you can gently take him back into his cage. As we said, do this each night for about two weeks.
If you stick to the routine and spend quality time with your pet every night, they will most likely become tame and won’t bite. It will take some patience as they can’t get used to you or acquire good behavior overnight. If at any point you show anger or even frustration with your hamster, they will very much do the same. If you are caring, loving and gentle, the pet will act in the same manner and your worries over biting will be over.
Do males and females behave differently as regards biting?
In a way, yes, they do. For the most part, everything we said so far refers to both sexes equally with some distinctions.
For once, male hamsters tend to fight more against each other and when they are “settling their disagreements”, it’s better not to try to separate them using your hands or they will likely bite you instinctively.
As for females, they can get moody during their reproductive cycles which occur about every 10 days throughout the year with increased frequency during the summer.
If they are not mated, females may go into a period called pseudo-pregnancy, which lasts 1 to 2 weeks. This cycle influences their mood and since they ovulate during the night, females can be very edgy during that period.
You can tell when they are ovulating by changes in their body and behavior. Their private parts swell and females become hyperactive. They run around much more and flatten their nesting material. This phase lasts for about 14 hours and during that time females often attack males as well as bite their owners.
As we said, hamsters learn quickly but they forget what they have learnt just as fast. Because of this, we need to point out once more that constant interaction is the key to good behavior and friendly relationship with their owners.
Often times, children and adults sadly lose interest in their pet hamsters in a month or so. They handle them less and less often and the hamster reverts to its fearful and aggressive nature. The fact that they were was once tamed, doesn’t mean they will be forever if you neglect them.
If you remain patient and devoted, however, you are guaranteed years of amusing and cheerful companionship from your lovable little hamster.