Stress Symptoms In Hamsters

By Ameera Mills. Updated: March 9, 2020
Stress Symptoms In Hamsters

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Nowadays, Hamsters have become a popular domestic pet. Although they require little space and relatively simple care, these rodents need special attention when it comes to their behavior and animal welfare. This is due to the fact that in the wild they serve as prey to many predators. This gives them a very alert instinct so as to react quickly to danger and flee to guarantee their survival. Their 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 the stress symptoms in hamster. We also talk about the 10 signs that will help you recognize whether your hamster is suffering from stress related problems and how to avoid such complications in the future.

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Why is my hamster stressed and nervous?

Stress and nervousness in hamsters can be caused by several different factors. These factors depend on the hamster’s personality, the environment in which they live in or the care provided by its guardian. The signs of stress may vary from one rodent to another because there are several different types of hamster breeds and each individual may differ in personality. For this reason, it is important for the hamster’s companion 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.

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 life. 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. We can only imagine the amount of stress they feel in such circumstances.

With that being said, it's understandable that 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. In other words, they haven’t been accustomed to other people, animals and environments. They suffer because they experience these unknown different stimuli as threatening. However, when we socialize them from a young age we can help them understand that there is no threat and that they are safe in their home.

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 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.

Lastly, 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. In most animals stress 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 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.
Stress Symptoms In Hamsters - Symptoms of stress in hamsters

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 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.
  • 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 their cage and keep them physically and mentally active.
Stress Symptoms In Hamsters - How to calm a nervous hamster

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.

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I agree with most of this. However, hamsters are solitary animals, and they do not like interacting with other hamsters. You should NEVER put two hamsters in the same area because they will fight. Except for this one problem, the rest of the article is good. :)
Administrador AnimalWised

It will depend on the individual. Some hamsters will enjoy sharing the same space with another hamster, although usually only with same sex pairs.
Thanks for the tips I adopted Angel and trying to get her use to a new bigger house. Only had her 2 weeks but she climbs the bars of her old house and only tonight spent quakity time in her new house
I seem to notice Chubbs scratching too much. I’ve checked her skin and she looks perfectly normal. I don’t see any mites. Should I just go ahead and take her to a vet?she may be playing me bc I spoil her rotten. When she scratches, I get her out of her cage. Is she rotten or what? 🥰
Silver The Hamster
She is probloby just stressed but if she keeps scratching seek immediate vet care. You can expand her cage, add more bedding for borrowing, give her more treats, more toys, and give her some safe fruits and or veggies.
Thank you for the suggestions. I give her treats and fruits and veggies. I def spoil her. She’s so sweet!
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