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Why Does My Hamster Scratch So Much?

 
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. July 8, 2018
Why Does My Hamster Scratch So Much?

Hamsters will scratch harmlessly as part of their daily grooming routine. Whether they are scratching themselves, licking to remove dirt or scratching at their cage to move bedding into a more comfortable position, a certain amount needs to be tolerated. However, when this behavior is repeated too frequently and intensely, then it is likely there is an issue. A hamster which scratches all the time might have a disease, allergy or infestation which leads to skin irritation. If the scratching persists, they can cause injury to their skin and even promote potentially life threatening secondary infections.

If you want to know why does your hamster scratch so much, AnimalWised details the common causes of this behavior to see if this may be the case with your pet. We also go into some of the action which is taken to solve these problems and leave you with a happy hamster once again.

You may also be interested in: Why Does My Dog Scratch their Nose so Much?

Is it normal for a hamster to scratch?

As we mentioned in the introduction, it is important to note that a hamster scratching is not always caused by an underlying pathology. This is why we are showing you the most common causes which explain why your hamster is scratching so much:

Hygiene

Hamsters are very clean animals. They spend up to several hours a day partaking in their cleaning regimen. When they are not feeding, playing or sleeping, it is likely you'll observe them carefully preening themselves. During this personal hygiene routine, you will see your hamster scratch gently and use their small legs to get all over their body. This is harmless behavior which is a natural part of their daily ablutions.

Parasites and disease

However, if you see your hamster scratching incessantly, you need to be careful. This unusual behavior can indicate that your pet feels an intense itch and is trying to alleviate it through scratching. Such behavior is likely the symptom of disease or allergies, often caused by fungi or mites. In general, these are more prevalent in rodents with a weakened immune system.

Additionally, hamsters which share their home with other domestic animals such as dogs, cats or birds may come into contact more easily with ectoparasites. These include fleas, ticks and mites. To prevent this from happening, it is important to perform periodic deworming in our pets and adopt sustainable hygiene habits within the home.

If you do see excessive scratching in your hamster, you may be wondering how to tell if they are sick. If you have noticed your hamster has dandruff, it scratches a lot, their hair falls out and/or it loses their appetite, you are probably facing some type of pathology. However, determining the exact root cause is not simple. Your best bet is to take them to a vet, preferably one specializing in rodents, and let them carry out the appropriate diagnostic tests. They will be able to then provide the best course of treatment. Avoiding using home remedies as these have the potential to make the problem worse.

Stress

Alternatively, a hamster's excessive scratching could appear as a symptom of stress or boredom. If your pet does not have an enriched environment which allows them to exercise their body and stimulate their mind, it is likely they will become bored or permanently anxious. If this is the case, you will need to look for a ventilation for this pent up anxiety. As a result, you should see changes in this scratching behavior and incorporating better habits into their routine.

It may happen that, in addition to scratching so much, your hamster will also bite their cage excessively. This is likely another symptom of their stress or anxiety. If nothing is done about it, it may become a stereotypy which is difficult to get rid of. A stereotypy is a compulsive behavior caused by high levels of stress and is unsustainable for the animal.

Why Does My Hamster Scratch So Much? - Is it normal for a hamster to scratch?

How to prevent my hamster from scratching so much

In cases where a hamster is scratching as part of their daily hygiene routine, it is important you know not to intervene or inhibit this behavior in your pet. It is a completely normal habit and doing so could lead to serious problems. However, it is important to take preventative measures to ensure this behavior does not become excessive. If you don't, they may end up hurting themselves and seriously compromising their health and well-being.

It is essential you offer your hamster complete and balanced nutrition. This will ensure they have the best chance of maintaining a healthy metabolism and strengthens their immune system. With this we can prevent many diseases and enjoy a life with a strong, happy and healthy pet. If you want to know more about hamster nutrition, this article on forbidden food for hamsters will give you some context.

It is also crucial for you to enrich the environment of your hamster in order to prevent inappropriate behavior and symptoms of stress. While a wheel can help them to exercise, the best toys are those which awaken the hamster's curiosity and stimulates their cognitive ability. Additionally, if you have the resources, there are specially designed cages which act like an amusement park for these animals. Also, remember to reserve enough time in your day to play with your hamster and show the some affection. The ideal is to socialize with your hamster between 30 and 60 minutes a day, although this does not need to be consecutive.

Hygiene is another important consideration with pet hamsters. This doesn't mean just their cage, but anywhere in the home. Remember to use pet friendly products which are made especially for homes which have pets in them. This is because some standard household cleaning products contain irritants and corrosive substances which can either cause allergies or irritate the mucous membranes of your pet. This is why placing your bets on enzymatic cleaners is wise. These products use non-pathogenic substances which can break down stains and odors without causing harm. Ventilation and letting your pet experience some natural light is also important. Ectoparasites thrive in dark and humid places.

Also, if you have other animals in the home, it is imperative you follow their vaccination schedules, deworm them periodically and take them to the vet once or twice a year for a check up. In this way you can prevent your hamster from contracting infestations and your vet will be able to check for signs of disease.

Why Does My Hamster Scratch So Much? - How to prevent my hamster from scratching so much

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 Why Does My Hamster Scratch So Much?, we recommend you visit our Other health problems category.

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