The hamsters are delightful animals that have greatly popularized as pets, especially among children. While they require little space and relatively simple care, these rodents need us to pay special attention to their animal welfare.
Because in the wild they are easy prey for many predators, hamsters need to be constantly alert and able to react quickly to escape, defend themselves and thus ensure their survival. Therefore, hamsters are often especially vulnerable to stress and require a very positive environment to feel safe.
In this article of Animal Expert, we tell you the possible causes and the main symptoms of stress in hamsters. In addition, we offer you some tips to offer an optimal quality of life to your rodent and prevent the accumulation of tension from damaging your health and well-being.
Why is my hamster very nervous and stressed?
Stress and nervousness in hamsters can have various possible causes, depending on the character of the animal, the environment in which it lives and the care provided by its guardian. Because there are several types of hamsters and each individual can have a different personality, the signs of stress can vary from one rodent to another. For this reason, it is very important that the guardian knows the character and behavior of his hamster to identify any alteration in his habitual behavior.
In general, any sudden movement, loud noise or strange stimulus can frighten and stress your rodent, since they can interpret that their well-being may be threatened. By trying to catch them abruptly, for example, we can scare them and generate a stressful and very negative situation for our little rodents.
Hamsters that share their home with other pets or live in very noisy environments (people, and especially children can become very loud for a hamster, really!), May feel stressed, especially if they have not been properly socialized, that is, used to the presence of people, animals, and diverse environments, causing them to suffer fear by identifying these stimuli as strangers.
On the other hand, rodents that do not have an enriched environment, with toys and elements that allow them to play, exercise and entertain themselves, have a greater tendency to accumulate stress. In fact, a sedentary lifestyle and lack of mental stimulation are among the main causes of stress in hamsters and also in other animals.
Poor hygiene in their cage, certain times, you can also make your hamster will be more nervous and restless than usual. Remember that these animals are very clean, so proper hygiene and the choice of suitable substrates for your cage are a fundamental part of the care of a hamster.
In some occasions, a nutritional deficit or an inadequate diet can also generate symptoms of hyperactivity, stress, nervousness or depression. Like any other animal, hamsters need to receive complete and balanced nutrition to maintain balanced behavior and excellent health. In Expert Animal, we tell you what are the prohibited foods for hamsters, which you should not include in your rodent’s diet.
Last (but not least), we must remember that some diseases can cause pain and generate stress in hamsters, also causing changes in their habitual behavior. Therefore, do not hesitate to take your rodent to a specialized veterinarian when identifying any change in their behavior or appearance.
Symptoms of stress in hamsters
Each animal is a unique being and its organism will experience and express stress differently. For this reason, it is important to be aware of changes in the behavior and appearance of your rodent, to detect early any symptoms of stress or common diseases in hamsters.
However, with a little attention, it is simple to recognize a stressed hamster and its symptoms. Below, we summarize the 10 most obvious signs of stress in hamsters:
- Hyperactivity: stressed hamsters tend to be constantly hyperactive and will hardly be calm and serene in their cage. They can move constantly, run on their wheel very quickly, be more nervous or alert than usual, climb the bars of their cage, and even reduce their daily hours of sleep. This is a clear sign that the animal has a lot of accumulated tension and that it needs to release it to regain its balance. And if the rodent does not have an enriched environment to spend energy and release tension in a positive way (playing and exercising, for example), it can show numerous behavioral problems, such as destructiveness, aggressiveness, and stereotypes.
- Unusual habits: every hamster needs to live in an enriched environment to exercise their physical, cognitive, emotional and social abilities. If the rodent is subjected to a sedentary routine in a less stimulating environment, he will try to spend energy and relieve stress in other ways, being able to adopt certain unusual and even dangerous habits. One of the unusual habits associated with hamster stress is to bite the bars of your cage, a behavior that can seriously affect your health.
- Stereotyped behaviors: As we mentioned, in an attempt to release the accumulated tension in your body, the hamster can execute certain movements and actions in a compulsive and repetitive way, something known as ” stereotyping .” For example, scratching constantly, gnawing incessantly, turning several times in a tone of its own axis, cleaning your own body constantly, etc. In the most extreme cases, these behaviors lead to self-mutilation, since the hamster can cause injuries and injuries by scratching or nibbling incessantly, being more vulnerable to abscesses and infections. It is essential to be aware of when identifying these compulsive behaviors before they cause major complications in the animal’s health.
- Aggression: stress is one of the main causes of hamster aggression. In addition, we can observe that a stressed hamster is usually more reactive than usual, almost always responding in an exaggerated way to the stimuli of his surroundings. If your rodent puts his ears back, shows his teeth and emits grunts, he is preparing for a possible attack and you should avoid getting close so as not to increase the tension in this situation. An aggressive hamster, with a cluster of tension in its organism, can cause damage to its tutors, other hamsters and even themselves. Therefore, if you perceive that your hamster tries to bite you constantly, shows his teeth or has become more aggressive, we recommend you seek advice from a specialized veterinarian.
- Hair loss: when a hamster lives permanently in a negative and impoverished environment or suffers a sedentary routine, it can end up suffering from chronic stress. At this stage, stress has already become widespread and one of the most common physical signs of chronic stress in hamsters is changes in their fur. A stressed hamster can start losing hair or have noticeably more oily fur. On the other hand, the rodent itself can tear his hair from scratching intensely, generating baldness in his own fur.
- Hamster Noises: Usually, hamsters are quiet and quiet animals. However, when affected by stress, a hamster can emit some characteristic noises. To feel fear, resistance or discomfort in the face of a situation, the hamster can snort. But in turn, if the rodent feels threatened, he can take a defensive stance, emitting grunts and grinding his teeth. In contexts of high nervousness, some moans or shrieks may also appear, which are rare in hamsters.
- Excessive salivation: stress, fear, anxiety and nervousness interfere with the production of saliva. A stressed hamster can present excessive salivation as a physical response of the organism to a context of high tension.
- Insistent escape attempts: a stressed hamster will try to escape from the negative environment. If you see that your rodent has forward ears and inflated cheeks, it means that his body is in a state of alertness, preparing to flee quickly in the face of any danger.
- Muscle stiffness and tremors: when a hamster is very stressed or feels very afraid, the muscles in his body become tenser. In more extreme cases, muscle stiffness is so intense that the rodent can shake.
- Behavioral changes: stress in hamsters can cause changes in their habitual behavior. A stressed rodent may appear more aggressive, more shy, more anxious, sadder or more fearful than usual, for example. Knowing the personality of your hamster, you can easily realize these alterations in his character.
How to calm a nervous or stressed hamster?
To prevent stress in hamsters or calm a nervous hamster, we must follow some guidelines to offer our rodents an optimal quality of life and a calm and positive environment. At the exact moment you observe that your hamster is very stressed, nervous or adopting an aggressive posture, the ideal is to get away and wait for the rodent to calm down and recover a balanced behavior. Afterwards, the ideal will be to take it to the veterinarian to rule out any possible pathology, ensure their health status and try to verify the cause of their altered behavior.
However, it will also be essential to adopt certain basic care to prevent hamster stress and help them maintain balanced behavior. Below, you will find some essential tips to offer an optimal quality of life to your rodent:
- Enriches the environment of your cage: environmental enrichment is key when preparing your hamster’s cage. An enriched cage allows the rodent to exercise and entertain during your absence, preventing behavioral problems and helping to manage a healthy weight. Although the traditional wheel is useful to stimulate your hamster, the ideal is also to provide other toys and accessories to arouse their curiosity and stimulate their cognitive ability. In pet stores, you can find some cages specially designed to provide a “park” for the most active hamsters.
- Socialization: despite requiring relatively simple care, a hamster needs the attention and affection of his tutors to stay active, happy and healthy. Therefore, in addition to enriching your rodent’s cage, it will also need to spend time with its peers, being a gregarious animal. However, if not, you will need to dedicate a special time to play and share quality moments with him.
- It offers adequate preventive medicine: as we have mentioned, some diseases can cause behavioral alterations in your hamster. Therefore, it is very important to offer adequate preventive medicine to your pet to strengthen his immune system. Remember to visit the veterinarian every 6 months, provide a balanced diet, periodically sanitize your cage with enzymatic products and keep it physically and mentally active.