When you think of a rabid animal, your mind probably goes to wild animals such as bats, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, and skunks. But our domesticated pets can also get rabies, including hamsters. Now, can you get rabies if your hamster bites you?
You can get rabies from a hamster bite if the hamster is rabid. However, you’re unlikely to get rabies from a hamster bite because hamsters aren’t typically known for their rabidness. The only way you can get rabies from a hamster is if it gets injured by an infected animal. Still, that’s unlikely.
Hamsters are natural nibblers/biters, and animal bites can be infectious. Keep reading as this article helps answer whether or not you can get rabies from a hamster bite. It’ll also discuss how you can prevent your hamster from possibly catching rabies.
Can Hamsters Contract Rabies?
Hamsters can contract rabies, like all mammals. However, the chances of hamsters contracting rabies are very low. That’s because rabies in hamsters is very rare. In other words, a hamster bite is typically harmless.
Though a hamster contracting rabies is rare, it doesn’t mean it’s an impossibility. As mammals, they still have the possibility to contract rabies.
But there’s some good news! According to the United States CDC, hamsters have no history of transmitting rabies to humans. So in the rare event that your hamster gets rabies, you won’t. So no rabies shot is needed for that small love nibble.
Excellent news if you’re taking your children to purchase their first hamster from your local pet store. But say you come across a wild hamster. Is the wild hamster safe to bring home and keep as a pet?
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Wild Hamsters Have Higher Chances of Getting Rabies
If you were shocked to read that hamsters can live in the wild, I’m right there with you. We’re so used to seeing hamsters running around in wheels and stuffing their cheeks full of food that it’s hard to imagine them out in the wild with larger animals.
Luckily for them, hamsters are quick runners, and their ability to dig underground tunnels helps them against larger predators. But if a predator, rabid or not, caught a wild hamster, the hamster is unlikely to survive the bite. If you think about their size versus the size of a fox, the hamster doesn’t stand a chance.
But larger animals aren’t the biggest threat to wild hamsters. The biggest threat to wild hamsters is us. Due to farming and construction projects, their natural habitat is diminishing or becoming a toxic environment for them to habitat.
It’s most unlikely that you’ll see a wild hamster in the United States because, according to the Louisiana Veterinary Medical Association, hamsters were originally from Syria and were only brought to the United States in 1936—those were the first domesticated hamsters.
But if you see a wild hamster and want to bring it home, it’s safe to do so. Make sure to get them checked by a veterinarian.
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If My Hamster Isn’t Rabid, Why Did It Bite Me?
There are several reasons why your hamster might bite you that have nothing to do with rabies.
Your hamster bit you probably because you smelled like food or it didn’t want you to disturb it. If you startle your hamster, it may bite you even if it’s not rabid.
The following discusses some reasons your hamster bites you even if it isn’t rabid.
You Smell Like Food
Hamsters don’t have the best eyesight, so they rely on their sense of smell. If you pick up your hamster and you smell like food, they’ll confuse you for a tasty treat and take a bite. Always wash your hands before interacting with your hamster to prevent any confusion.
You’re Bothering Your Hamster
If you’re one of those people who hits the snooze button a dozen times in the morning, you’ll understand this one. Hamsters don’t like to be disturbed while resting.
Waking them up can make them grumpy and startled, leading to them biting. So if you see the little one sleeping, just let them sleep!
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Your Hamster Wants To Show You Love
Unlike humans, animals can’t use words to express their feelings. All they have are actions.
So if you don’t smell like food and you don’t disturb their slumber, they’re most likely biting you because they love you. These bites will be gentler than a bite done out of fear or hunger. So if you feel a slight nip next time you’re holding your hamster, now you know why!
Your Hamster Doesn’t Want To Be Touched
Some animals don’t like being petted or handled. There’s a possibility that your new hamster is one of those. If you try to hold them and they try to get away as quickly as possible, they might not want to be held by you.
So taking the time to get to know your hamster can help you determine if they don’t like being held at all or if more time is needed to adjust to their new home.
Your Hamster Senses Danger
Hamsters heavily rely on their sense of smell to know what’s in their surroundings. So a new scent can make them feel threatened and scared.
If you’re letting someone new hold your hamster, put some food in their hand so your hamster will feel more secure being in the hands of a stranger.
Or if you’re worried food might make them bite, you can put something with your scent over the person’s hand so that your hamster will think it’s you and be more relaxed.
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Tips for When Your Hamster Bites
Even the gentlest nips can hurt because of a hamster’s sharp little teeth. Although animal mouths are cleaner than ours, there’s always a risk of infection if the teeth penetrate the skin. So if your hamster does bite you, here are some things you can do to avoid that from happening:
- Lower the hamster to its cage or gently nudge it away if it doesn’t let go. Shaking your hamster will likely make it bite you harder.
- Talk to your hamster in a gentle voice. If you yell at the hamster, it’s more likely to bite you again because it’s scared.
- Bribe it with food. The hamster will want the tasty treat more than it’ll want to bite your finger.
If your hamster bites you hard enough to wound you, make sure to clean the wound with antibacterial soap and warm water. Once dry, use a loose bandage to cover it. If you can find a bandaid with an antibacterial solution on it, that’s great but unnecessary.
Check the wound in a day or two to see how it’s healing. If you notice that it has become swollen, go to the doctor for some antibiotics. As long as you get the infection taken care of quickly, there’ll be no long-lasting negative impacts. Also, you might get a cool scar out of it with an interesting backstory behind it.
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How To Prevent Rabies
So far, it seems that hamsters aren’t vulnerable to contracting rabies, and you can rest easier about having one. But you know anything is possible, and you want just that little bit of extra security to ensure the safety and well-being of your pet, yourself, and your loved ones.
There are several ways you can prevent your pets and the people in your life from contracting rabies. These are:
- Vaccinate your pets. Suppose you have other pets also besides a hamster. Having your cats and dogs vaccinated is a great way to prevent them from getting rabies. Even if your cat stays indoors and your dog never goes anywhere without you, vaccination is one of the best ways to prevent your pet from contracting rabies.
- Limit contact with wild/rabid/unknown animals. It’s hard to see a stray animal roaming the neighborhood when all you want is to bring it inside and care for it. However, the animal and its health are unknown to you. So by staying away, you’re protecting yourself and your pets from possibly becoming sick. In these cases, call your local animal rescue, which is more equipped to deal with these matters.
- Visit your doctor. Something happened that led you to become bitten or scratched by a wild/rabid/unknown animal. Going to your doctor to get checked over is your best bet. The doctor can give you rabies shot to help prevent the disease, and in the case of the unknown, it’s better safe than sorry to get it. Because if you start to show symptoms, the doctor can do nothing for you.
In the US, Alaska poses the greatest rabies risks. If you live in this area, you may want to be extra careful in ensuring your pets’ safety. Considering that hamsters usually spend most of their time in their cages, the chances of them getting injured by animals with rabies are extremely unlikely.
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Rabies Symptoms in Hamsters
Life’s unpredictable, and the rare event happened where your hamster contracted rabies.
Knowing what symptoms to look for is essential. Unlike a rabid dog or cat, hamsters have fewer physical signs of rabidness. All their symptoms are physical, so here’s what you should look for:
Your Hamster Shows a Sudden Change in Demeanor
As attentive pet owners, we immediately notice a change in our pet’s demeanor. So if you have noticed your usually happy and energetic furry friend is now sullen and dull before becoming aggressive and frantic, this could be a tell-tale sign of rabies. During this time, they’ll start biting at anything and everything, including you.
This time is their aggression period. Your hamster may start to make strange noises while biting during this time. So if you hear them making noises you’ve never heard them make before—or they become more vocal than usual—this isn’t a good sign.
Your Hamster Has Hydrophobia
How many times have you gone over to your hamster’s cage to see them sitting in their water bowl? It’s the cutest thing when it happens, but also an inconvenience if you need to give them fresh water. If your hamster has a water bottle attached to its cage, you miss out on these delightful moments.
Hydrophobia is a symptom of rabies for both humans and animals. They become irrationally fearful of water and avoid it. Even drinking water can become something they avoid doing.
So if you notice your furry friend is no longer sitting in their water bowl or going near it, and the level on their water bottle hasn’t changed, this could be a sign of rabies.
Hydrophobia can also contribute to the most well-known rabies symptom- foaming at the mouth. If your hamster has excessive amounts of saliva or has the classical foam around its mouth, then you have a rabid hamster on your hands.
Consult your veterinarian if you suspect your hamster has rabies. While there are more than 100,000 vets around the US, you don’t necessarily need to take your hamster to a veterinarian specializing in hamsters—any veterinarian will do. California is a top state for veterinarians, with roughly 7,000 of them available.
Your Hamster Experiences Paralysis
When we wake up and can’t feel one of our arms, we become worried for a moment that our arm won’t wake up and it’ll be useless forever. Imagine how a rabid hamster feels when partial paralysis sets in for them.
It typically starts in their hind legs and spreads throughout their body. Their throat, jaw, and neck become paralyzed.
So if you notice your hamster is still breathing but not moving, this could be a sign of rabies. However, if your hamster hasn’t shown other signs of being rabid and it has been cold in your area, they could be hibernating. So be sure to check that before rushing off to the vet.
My Hamster Has Rabies. What Do I Do?
There’s nothing you can do for your hamster if it has rabies, unfortunately. Because of the aggressiveness of this disease and how it attacks the central nervous system, there’s only one prognosis for rabid hamsters—death.
Related Hamsters articles:
- Why Is My Hamster Biting the Cage
- What Does a Dead Hamster Look Like?
- Why Did My Hamster Die?
- How To Cremate a Hamster?
- Why Is My Hamster Biting Me
- How To Tame a Hamster
Current and future hamster owners, you can breathe easily now. You don’t have to worry about your tiny furry friend becoming rabid. So your hamster, you, and your loved ones can all remain happy, healthy, and rabies-free.
So let them run around in their ball, get dizzy on their wheel, and stuff their cheeks to their heart’s content, knowing that you have one less thing to worry about with them.
My name is Everly. I am a Milwaukee-based mom of 2 and have been a proud owner of many hamsters throughout my life. Like many of us, my introduction to hamsters happened when I was very young. My family saw several hamsters come and go through the years, and I enjoyed playing with them, but I never fully appreciated them until I grew up and my own children decided to jump on the hamster bandwagon. At that point, I was determined to learn all I could about caring for these adorable pets. Read more