Stress Symptoms In Hamsters
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Hamsters have become an increasingly popular domestic pet. Although they require little space and relatively simple care, this does not mean they are invulnerable to stress. These rodents need special attention when it comes to their behavior and animal welfare. In the wild they serve as prey to many predators. Even in a cage, their instinct is to react quickly to danger and flee to guarantee their survival. This natural instinct causes them to be vulnerable to stress and to require a positive environment in order to feel safe.
In this AnimalWised article, we discuss stress symptoms in hamster. We look at the 10 signs of a stressed hamster to help you recognize when your hamster is suffering from anxiety and their well-being is under threat.
Why is my hamster stressed?
Stress and nervousness in hamsters can be caused by several different factors. Such factors depend on the hamster’s personality, the environment in which they live and the care provided by their guardian. The signs of stress may vary from one rodent to another. This is partly because different types of hamster breeds may differ in terms of behavior and care requirements.
For this reason, it is important for the hamster’s guardian to familiarize themselves with their pet's unique personality. This will help them identify whether there are any alterations in their animal’s habitual behavior. If there is, the stress could be due to the following:
- Sudden movements, loud noises or strange stimulus: almost anything out of the ordinary can frighten and stress a hamster. These rodents interpret such environmental alterations as threatening. For example, if you try to catch them abruptly, you can frighten them and generate a lot of stress. This is especially true if they are not used to being picked up. We must remember that in the wild, the only time they are lifted into the air is when a predator has caught them, so they may fear the same even in the domestic environment.
- Poor socialization: hamsters can be picked up if they are well socialized with others in the home. If the hamster does not have previous experience and we force interaction, it can cause them to become stressed as they don't understand the situation. When there are pets such as cats and dogs which can appear as predators, it is understandable they will be stressed in their presence. Accustoming the hamster to others is an important process and neglecting it can mean they are more likely to be stressed.
- Noise and environmental factors: if the hamster's cage is placed somewhere loud and with a lot of traffic in the home, it can cause the hamster stress. Hamsters need peace to relax, otherwise they may think movement represents a potential threat. Ensure the cage is also placed somewhere warm and comfortable, otherwise they can become stressed due to environmental factors.
- Environmental enrichment: hamsters 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. Hamsters need toys and activities to keep them healthy and properly stimulated.
- Poor cage hygiene: if we do not clean the hamster's cage, it can lead to serious stress. This is exacerbated when the hamster develops bacterial infections or other pathologies related to poor hygiene. These animals are naturally very clean, so proper hygiene and suitable cages are fundamental in caring for hamsters. Learn more with our article on how to prepare a hamster's cage.
- Poor diet: on some occasions, a nutritional deficit or an inadequate diet can also generate cases of hyperactivity, stress, nervousness or depression. Like any other animal, they need to receive a complete and balanced diet for hamsters in order to maintain health and well-being.
- Disease: we must remember that some pathologies can cause pain and generate stress in hamsters. Such diseases can also cause alterations in their behavior. Some common disease in hamsters include viral, bacterial or fungal infections, as well as parasite-related diseases. 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 hamsters are individuals. They experience and express stress differently. For this reason it is important to be aware of any changes in your hamster’s specific 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 of hamster stress 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 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, they 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 hamster is subjected to a sedentary routine in an environment that is not stimulating, they 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 hamsters biting their cage.
- Compulsive behaviors: in most animals stress can present itself through compulsive and repetitive behaviors. Examples of this include constantly scratching, gnawing incessantly, turning several times on their back, overgrooming, etc. In extreme cases, such behavior can lead to self-mutilation, resulting in a hamster that is more vulnerable to infections and disease.
- 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 bearing their teeth, moving their ears in a backwards motion or emitting grunts, they are preparing to attack. In these situations, you should avoid your hamster and give them some time to calm down and feel safe. If you notice 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 scratching themselves all the time, generating bald spots.
- Strange noises: hamsters are usually silent and/or very quiet animals. When suffering from stress, these little animals emit characteristic noises. Hamsters emit hisses when in fear, and even screaming when threatened. When extremely nervous, these sounds develop into 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, they will appear with forward facing ears and inflated cheeks.
- Muscle rigidity and tremors: when a hamster is very stressed or feels afraid, their 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 emphasize familiarizing yourself with your hamster’s personality, in order to be able to detect any changes.
How to calm a stressed 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 their environment and give them 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 keep your hamster healthy:
- Enrich their 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 keep 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 their companions 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 their environment.
- Assess their diet: if we give the hamster inappropriate food, have a poor feeding schedule or otherwise don't provide a suitable diet, it can cause the hamster stress. Make sure you are giving your hamster the right kind of food and in the right way.
- Provide adequate preventive medicine: some diseases can cause alterations in hamster behavior. 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 their cage and keep them physically and mentally active.
If we do not act when we have a stressed hamster, it can cause serious problems and even threaten their life. Learn more with our article on the life expectancy of hamsters.
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.