Bites are something that almost all hamster owners in the United States of America must deal with at some point. Biting is part of a hamster’s nature, but if your hamster always bites your hand when you try to handle them, there’s likely something else going on.
Your hamster might be biting you because it’s frightened. To reduce the biting, you must tame your hamster and let it get used to people. Also, your hamster might confuse your hand for food, but you can avoid this by washing your hands before handling them. Usually, hamster bites aren’t dangerous.
If your hamster has never bitten you before, you should take a look at how it gets along with its cage mates. If your hamster is new, then it’s completely normal to have biting problems. Keep reading to learn more about biting in hamsters and what you can do about it.
Your Hamster May Bite You When It’s Uncomfortable
You surely want to know why your hamster bites you, especially when it didn’t do that before. Hamsters are not aggressive animals, so something must have triggered them to use their teeth on people when they start biting.
Below are a few reasons why your hamster is biting you:
Also, check How Long Can a Hamster Go Without Water?
Your Hamster Isn’t Used to Being Handled
Hamsters are prey animals and are easily frightened. We, humans, are giants compared to them, so it’s not completely surprising that many hamsters will be scared of us when they first meet us.
If a hamster bites you when you try to hold it, it’s usually because it feels scared, not because it’s aggressive. Many hamsters will be naturally scared to be touched or held if they haven’t been used to it.
However, when hamsters are socialized and tamed from a young age, they’ll grow to be cuddly and relaxed when they get picked up.
If you just brought a hamster into your home and it bit you when you were trying to handle it, that means your hamster needs more time to get used to its surroundings and being touched.
Don’t try to rush the taming process with a new hamster. A new hamster will need at least a week to adjust to its cage. Then you’ll need to get it progressively accustomed to your presence and to being handled. Check out the next section for more details on this process.
The best period to tame a hamster is when it’s 3 to 4 weeks old. Adult hamsters can be tamed too, although it may take a little more time.
If your hamster has been with you for a while and wasn’t scared of being handled, make sure you’re not startling your hamster or approaching your hamster in a menacing way.
Even if your hamster is properly tamed, the occasional bite can still happen when it gets frightened. A loud sound or a jerk may be enough to make your hamster bite you instinctively.
Just remember that the more trust you build with your hamster, the better results you’ll get.
Also read, Why Do Hamsters Eat Their Babies
Your Hamster Feels Threatened by Its Cage Mates
Hamsters become less tolerant of other hamsters as they grow up, and fights are common among adult hamsters. If a cage mate constantly threatens your hamster, it may carry on this defensive behavior when it’s with you, resulting in bites.
Male hamsters are prone to fighting in almost any situation. Female hamsters fight among themselves, too, especially when at least one of them is pregnant. Male and female hamsters may also fight, except on mating seasons.
If you own Syrian Golden Hamsters (the most common pet hamster breed), then you should have a separate cage for each hamster. These hamsters are solitary by nature and should be kept apart except when they’re nursing.
It’s true for pet hamsters as well as for wild hamsters. An expedition made between 1997 and 1999 found that all examined wild hamsters were living in individual burrows. That’s just how they like to be.
If you own hamsters of a dwarf variety, like Roborovski hamsters, then you can house them together in small communities. However, make sure they live in a spacious cage that allows each one to claim a small piece of territory for themselves.
What To Do if Your Hamsters Fight
Hamster fights usually start with wrestling. They measure each other up by getting their noses under the other’s belly, where scent glands are located. If a hamster is particularly dominant or aggressive, this smell may devolve into wrestling.
When wrestling, hamsters stand on their hind legs and try to throw each other face up to the floor and bite each other’s belly. Suppose one of the hamsters surrenders. Then it’s left at that. However, if none of them surrender, wrestling will escalate to fighting.
Fighting looks like wrestling, but with more aggressive movements and more biting. These bites can sometimes result in serious injuries. Eventually, one of the hamsters will give up and flee. But if the losing hamster doesn’t have enough space to hide, the winning hamster may keep going after them.
If a fight gets to this point, it’s best to separate the fighting hamsters. Distract them by spraying water into them and taking one of the hamsters out of the cage. Use thick gloves to avoid bites and put them in a cup to transport them somewhere else.
After a while, you may take the timed-out hamster back to the cage. If the hamsters fight again, then you probably need a larger cage when they can comfortably stake out their territories without bothering the other.
If the fighting persists, you’ll need to house the hamsters separately. And if you have Golden Syrian Hamsters, they shouldn’t be housed together in the first place!
Read How Long Does a Hamster Live
Your Hamster Thinks Your Hand Is Food
Yes, you read that right. Hamsters can confuse your hand with a snack, and often there’s no underlying issue to it.
Hamsters have very poor eyesight. They barely have any sense of depth and distance when observing their surroundings. That’s why hamsters may walk off a desk or table without knowing how long the fall really is.
Hamsters are small enough not to be seriously harmed by falls, but they know not to rely too much on their eyes. After all, they’re crepuscular, meaning they’re active during the sunset and into the night.
The most developed sense in hamsters is the smell. They use their noses to explore, locate food, and detect danger. Hamsters pair a delicate sense of smell with sensitive whiskers, which they use to navigate their surroundings in the dark (That’s why you should never trim your hamster’s whiskers!).
As well as your hamster may know you, it could confuse your hand for food. That usually happens when you’ve handled food with your hands. Even if it’s faint, the smell may tell your hamster that there’s food in front of it.
The best solution is to wash your hands thoroughly before handling your hamster.
However, it may also be that your hamster isn’t receiving enough clues about your presence.
Hamsters can detect their owners’ presence thanks to their excellent hearing. Their ears are always alert for threats, but they can also recognize their owner’s voice. Make sure to talk to your hamster often so that it can learn to recognize your voice.
Another possibility is that your hamster is hungry. If the biting happens constantly, it might be that your hamster is underfed.
Hamsters usually need 1 to 2 teaspoons of dry food every day. If the food disappears too quickly, you’re likely not giving your hamster enough food. And if the food stays for too long in the cage’s bedding, then you’re probably giving your hamster too much food.
Read How To Clean Hamster Cage
How To Get Your Hamster To Stop Biting You
To get your hamster to stop biting you, you’ll need to have it get used to being handled. Go slowly through these steps:
- Give your hamster time to adjust to its cage.
- Talk to your hamster.
- Move your hand around the cage.
- Offer your hamster some treats.
- Pet your hamster and see if it accepts it.
- Pick up your hamster gently.
Most of the time, hamsters bite their owners because they’re new and haven’t been tamed or simply because they aren’t used to being handled. Hamsters bite out of fear, and the solution is to build a relationship with them so that they come to trust you.
That’s why the process of taming a hamster is so important. If your hamster is already tamed, try to keep these tips in mind next time you handle it:
- Approach your hamster from the front. If you grab it from above, it may feel threatened. Hamsters tend to interpret sudden shadows above them as predatory birds.
- Hold your hamster with both hands. Try to cup your hamster with your hands at both sides, holding its belly. This way, your hamster will feel safer.
- Don’t disturb your hamster while it’s sleeping. Hamsters do most of their sleep during the day. It’s better to bond with your hamster in the evening when it’s most active.
If your hamster hasn’t been tamed or simply isn’t used to human interaction, follow these steps:
- Give your hamster some time to get used to its cage. Most new hamsters will need a week or two just to get used to their cages. Once your hamster feels safe in its space, you can move on to the next steps.
- Talk to your hamster. When your hamster is most active during the evening hours, sit beside its cage and talk to your hamster. Let your hamster get used to your voice and your presence.
- Move your hand around the cage. Before moving on to handling your hamster, let it get used to your hand. Move your hamster around slowly. If your hamster comes near, let it explore it and sniff it, but don’t pick it up yet.
- Offer your hamster treats. Giving treats to your hamster will help it affectionately see you. If you don’t know your hamster’s favorite treats yet, try things like sunflower seeds, raisins, and small slices of apple.
Offer one treat at a time. If your hamster accepts it, try giving it another. After it’s comfortable, try putting some treats in your hand and let your hamster walk over it to eat them. Keep your hand still. Then, do the following:
- Pet your hamster. After your hamster feels more comfortable with having you around, you can move on to petting it. Try slowly and gently petting their head with your index finger.
- Pick up your hamster. If your hamster is comfortable with pets, you can try and pick it up. If it’s still nervous about it, keep at it with the petting and treating until the time is right.
Don’t just grab your hamster by the back. Hamsters can’t find this threatening. Rather, entice your hamster to get into your hand (you can use treats) and then scoop it using both hands.
Read How To Take Care of a Hamster
Are Hamster Bites Dangerous?
Most hamster bites aren’t dangerous. Hamster bites are usually small or superficial, but they can occasionally be deep. Their bites can rarely cause bacterial infection. The bite should be cleaned thoroughly, and antibiotics should be considered if the bite was made on a compromised individual.
Hamster bites can sting, but they aren’t a reason to worry. Since pet hamsters live indoors, they are extremely unlikely to catch any diseases.
As with bites from other small pets, most hamster bites don’t break the skin and don’t require you to see the doctor.
Hamster bites rarely carry any diseases. However, it can still happen. Pet hamsters don’t carry rabies, but there are other diseases that they’re capable of transmitting.
The best thing you can do to keep your hamster free of diseases is clean its cage.
Read What Do You Need for a Hamster
What To Do if a Hamster Bites You
If a hamster bites you, avoid screaming or making sudden movements. Doing this will only scare it more. Lower the hamster to its cage and thoroughly wash the bite. If the bite draws blood, apply an antibacterial solution. If you notice swelling or redness after a couple of days, talk to a doctor.
First of all, if a hamster bites you, don’t scream or shake your hamster. If it has bitten you, it’s likely because it’s scared, and sudden movements and sounds will only scare it more.
Lower your hamster to its cage. If it’s still gripping you, gently push it away.
Most hamster bites aren’t deep enough to break the skin, so they don’t require you to seek any medical assistance. Washing your hands thoroughly with water and soap will be enough prevention.
When bites are deep enough to draw blood, you may want to keep an eye on it. After washing it thoroughly, apply an antibacterial solution. You may want to cover the wound with a loose piece of bandage.
Talk to a doctor if you notice any redness or swelling a couple of days after the bite. You may have a bacterial infection that may need antibiotic treatment.
If you’re an immunocompromised person (HIV and cancer patients, for example), you’ll probably want to go for antimicrobial treatment right away.
Read Why Is My Hamster Not Eating?
Hamster bites aren’t likely to cause any health issues as long as you keep their cage clean. However, contact your doctor if you notice any swelling or redness after a couple of days.
Try to react calmly. Hamster bites can be painful, but screaming and jerking will only make your hamster more frightened and more likely to bite in the future. Put some effort into taming your hamster, and you’ll build an affectionate and trustful bond with your hamster. Even then, occasional bites may occur. After all, biting is part of a hamster’s nature.
Related Hamsters articles:
- Why Did My Hamster Die?
- What Does a Dead Hamster Look Like?
- How To Travel With a Hamster
- Why Is My Hamster Biting the Cage
- How To Tame a Hamster
- Why Is My Hamster Breathing Fast?
- How To Get Your Hamster To Like You
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