Stress Symptoms In Hamsters
Hamsters are rodents that have become very popular as pets. Although they require little space and relatively simple care, these rodents need special attention when it comes to their behavior and animal welfare. Because they serve as prey for so many predators in the wild, these animals are instinctively very alert and able to react quickly in the case of a quick escape. In addition, they are able to defend themselves, thus guaranteeing their survival. Therefore however, hamsters are vulnerable to stress and require a positive environment in order to feel safe.
This is why in this AnimalWised article, we have decided to discuss stress symptoms in hamsters. The 10 signs will help you recognize whether your hamster is suffering from stress related problems and how to avoid such complications in the future.
Why is my hamsters stressed and nervous?
Stress and nervousness in hamsters can be caused by several different factors. These factors can depend on the hamster’s personality, the environment in which it lives or the care provided by its guardian. Because there are several different types of hamster breeds and each individual may differ in personality, the signs of stress may vary from one rodent to another. For this reason, it is important for the hamster’s tutor to familiarize themselves with the specific personality of their pet. This will help them in order to identify whether there is any alteration in their animal’s habitual behavior.
In general, any sudden movements, loud noises or strange stimulus can frighten and stress a rodent. Hamsters interpret such environmental alterations as threatening to their welfare. When trying to catch them abruptly, for example, you can frighten them and generate a stressful situation.
Hamsters that share their home with other pets or live in very noisy environments may also feel stressed. This mainly happens if they haven’t been correctly socialized, meaning, they haven’t been accustomed to other people, animals and environments. They suffer because they experience these unknown different stimuli as threatening.
Rodents that don't have an enriched environment have a greater tendency to accumulate stress. In fact, sedentary lifestyles and lack of mental stimulation are among the main causes of stress in hamsters. Poor cage hygiene can also cause your hamster to feel more stressed. These animals are naturally very clean, so proper hygiene and a suitable cages are fundamental in caring for hamsters. In some occasions, a nutritional deficit or an inadequate diet can also generate cases of: hyperactivity, stress, nervousness or depression. Like any other animal, hamsters need to receive a complete and balanced diet in order to also maintain balanced behavior.
Last (but not least), we must remember that some diseases can cause pain and generate stress in hamsters. Such diseases can also cause alterations in their behavior. Therefore, if you notice any alarming changes in your hamster’s behavior or appearance, we recommend consulting your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Symptoms of stress in hamsters
All animals are unique and therefore experience and express stress differently. For this reason it is important to be aware of any changes in your hamster’s behavior. By recognizing such problems, it will allow for early detection of diseases or symptoms of stress in your hamster.
To recognize whether your hamster is showing any symptoms of stress, take a look at the recognizable signs below:
- Hyperactivity: stressed hamsters tend to be incredibly hyperactive, even in their cages. They will move constantly, run on their wheels quickly, try and climb their cages and appear more nervous and alert than usual. These are all clear signs that your hamster has accumulated stress and tension and is trying to find a way to release it. If your hamster isn’t surrounded by an enriched environment, it will show signs of destructiveness, aggression and nervousness.
- Unusual habits: every hamster needs to live in an enriched environment in order to exercise their: physical, cognitive, emotional and social abilities. If a rodent is subjected to a sedentary routine in an environment that is not stimulating, it will try to expel energy and relieve stress in other ways. These ‘‘ways’’ may present themselves through unusual behaviors or dangerous habits. One of these common unusual habits includes biting of its cage.
- Compulsive behavior: stress in most animals, including hamsters, can present itself through compulsive and repetitive behaviors. Examples of this include; constantly scratching, gnawing incessantly, turning several times on its own axis, constantly cleaning its own body, etc. In extreme cases, such behavior can lead to self-mutilation, resulting in a hamster that is more vulnerable to absences and infections.
- Aggressiveness: stress is one of the main causes of aggressiveness in hamsters. In addition, stressed hamsters are usually more reactive than usual. If your rodent is showing its teeth, moving its ears in a backwards motion or emitting grunts: it is preparing to attack. In these such situations, you should avoid your hamster and give it some time to calm down and feel safe. If you notice that your hamster is constantly trying to bite you, is showing its teeth or has generally become more aggressive: we recommend consulting your veterinarian.
- Hair loss: hamsters suffering from chronic stress often experience alterations to their fur. A stressed hamster may start to lose hair or appear to have noticeably oilier hair. Some rodents even pluck their own hair through insensate scratching, generating bald spots.
- Released hamster noises: Hamsters are usually silent and/or very quiet animals. However, when suffering from stress, these little animals emit characteristic noises. Hamsters emit snorts when in fear, and when threatened they emit grunts. When extremely nervous, they might emit shrieks or squeals, which are normally very rare for these rodents.
- Excessive salivation: stress, fear, anxiety and nervousness interfere with the production of saliva. A stressed hamster could suffer from excessive salivation as a physical response to body tension.
- Insistent attempts to escape: a stressed hamster will try to escape from the negative environment. When you hamster is in a state of alert, or preparing to flee it will appear with forward facing ears and inflated cheeks.
- Muscle rigidity and tremors: when a hamster is very stressed or feels afraid, its muscles become more tense. In extreme cases, this muscular rigidity is so intense that the rodent’s body will shake.
- Behavioral changes: stress in hamsters can cause changes in their habitual behavior. A stressed rodent may become more: aggressive, shy, anxious, sad or fearful than usual. This is why we emphasis familiarizing yourself with your hamster’s personality, in order to be able to detect any changes.
How to calm a nervous hamster
There are some guidelines you can follow when preventing stress or calming a nervous hamster. At the exact moment you notice that your hamster may be stressed, leave its environment and give it an opportunity to calm down. From then, consult your veterinarian in order to rule out any pathologies and to ensure that your hamster is healthy.
In addition, it is essential to always present your hamster with the basic care and preventative medicine in order for it to maintain a balanced temperament. Follow these tips on how to keep a healthy hamster:
- Enrich its environment: environmental enrichment is key when preparing your hamster's cage. An enriched cage will allow the rodent to be able to exercise and entertain itself in your absence. In addition, it will help it manage a healthy weight. Although the traditional wheel is useful in stimulating a hamster, we recommend providing other toys and accessories to stimulate its cognitive capacity.
- Socialization: Despite requiring relatively simple care, a hamster needs the attention and affection of its owners to stay active, happy and healthy. Therefore, in addition to enriching your hamster’s cage, it will need to be socialized with the other animals in its environment.
- Provide adequate preventive medicine: some diseases can cause alterations in hamster behavior. Therefore, it is very important to offer your hamster adequate preventive medicine to make sure that it has a strong immune system. Remember to: visit a vet every 6 months, provide your furry friend with a balanced diet, periodically sanitize its cage and keep it physically and mentally active.
This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.
If you want to read similar articles to Stress Symptoms In Hamsters, we recommend you visit our Other health problems category.