When your hamster is scratching a lot, it can be a cause for concern. After all, hamsters are extremely sensitive animals and are prone to sickness and stress. Any hamster owner is right to feel anxious when they see their hamster scratching so much that their scalp turns red.
The most common reason your hamster is itching is stress, usually due to dietary changes, a change in location, or from being handled or disturbed too often. Additionally, hamsters can suffer from allergic reactions just like humans. Other common causes of hamster itching are fleas and mites.
The above is by no means an exhaustive list of why hamsters itch. For example, some hamsters may have dandruff, while others may simply scratch themselves out of sheer boredom.
Why Is My Hamster Itching?
Read on for more information about why your hamster may be itching and scratching itself incessantly.
1. Itching From Dietary Changes
Sometimes hamsters itch due to dietary concerns. If the hamster isn’t fed a proper diet or isn’t being fed enough, this can result in a lot of scratching.
Hamsters are also sensitive to dietary changes. If a new food is introduced too fast, it can upset the stomach, causing anxiety, stress, and itching.
To avoid itching due to dietary-related stress, here are some tips:
- Introduce new foods slowly over long periods of time.
- Add a small portion of the new food to the old food for a few weeks while giving the hamster less of the old food.
- Continue this for two to three weeks, adding more of the new food and less of the old food until the hamster has slowly adapted to the change.
Other stressors could include moving your hamster to a new location, handling it too roughly or too often, or introducing new toys and other things into your hamster’s habitat.
Additionally, hamsters have an excellent sense of smell, so if you have another animal in the house that could be a hamster’s natural predator – like a cat – smelling that animal could be the cause of your hamster’s stress.
Check out, How To Get Your Hamster To Like You
2. Itching From Allergies
Probably the most benign reason for itching in hamsters is allergies. Most commonly, the hamster is allergic to their bedding or sometimes the air freshener you just sprayed in the air.
Thankfully, all you have to do is remove the hamster from whatever is causing the allergic reaction. The hard part is figuring out what’s causing the allergy!
Discovering the cause will have to be done by process of elimination: first, try different bedding, then try a different air freshener.
The Arm & Hammer Cage Liners (available on Amazon.com) are great alternatives to bedding that won’t trigger allergies in your pet. They’re created in York by a trusted US brand (America’s #1 trusted baking soda brand!) and sold at an affordable price!
Though itching from allergies isn’t nearly as severe as the other causes of itching in hamsters, it’s still important that you keep a close eye on your hamster for as long as its allergic reaction persists. Hamsters tend only to show signs of severe illness right before it’s too late.
If bedding isn’t the problem, food allergies could be. If you’re feeding your hamster fresh food or treats, they could be the cause of an allergic reaction.
In this case, only introduce new fresh foods and treats one at a time. That way, you’ll know which new food caused the allergic reaction.
3. Itching From Fleas
Fleas can be passed between larger pets and hamsters in shared bedding. If you have a cat or a dog with fleas, they can easily pass them on to your hamster.
And if you have another hamster with parasites, it can pass those parasites on through shared bedding.
To give your hamster some relief, you should use a spray designed for hamsters. You should never use a spray intended for dogs or cats on a hamster.
The chemicals will cause the hamster stress, if not physical harm. Your local pet store should have a variety of sprays explicitly intended for hamsters.
To be rid of fleas in your home, here are some tips:
- Use a good pyrethrin spray or powder on the cage and bedding.
- When you clean the cage, throw out all the old bedding and rinse the cage out with warm water.
- Dry the cage and put in new bedding. If there were any perishable toys like cardboard tubes or wooden chews, you’d have to throw them away and replace them.
Finally, you’ll want to vacuum your carpet and wash the bedding of all other pets in the house, including cats and dogs. Treat the carpet with a product that kills fleas.
In this instance, it’s okay to use a product for cats and dogs since you’ll be putting it on the carpet and not directly on or near your hamster.
Adams Carpet Powder (available on Amazon.com) is a flea and parasite killer that targets both adult fleas and eggs, as well as flea larvae and ticks! Because this powder targets fleas at multiple life stages, you won’t have to buy multiple powders. It’s also an affordable price and long-lasting to boot!
4. Itching From Mange
The first sign of itching from mites on a hamster is hair loss and scabbing. It’ll look like bald patches on the skin, with red bites and scratches from the hamster’s scratching and patches of dry skin with smaller patches of scaly, scabby skin.
The mites cause the mange itself. Unfortunately, it’s very common for hamsters to have mites. The skin infection is also very contagious, so if you’re housing more than one hamster together, the infected hamster will need to be isolated.
Mange and mites can’t be treated at home. You’re going to have to take your hamster to the vet for treatment.
Also, be sure to clean their entire cage, including water bowls, food bowls, water bottles, toys, and the actual cage itself. Remove the bedding and replace it with new bedding.
5. Itching From Dandruff
Sometimes a hamster’s itching is a result of dandruff. Dandruff is a condition that causes flakes of dead skin in your hamster’s coat. The condition is typically a symptom of a more serious health problem.
To determine the cause, you’ll have to take your hamster on a visit to the vet. But the most common causes of dandruff in hamsters are the following:
- Old age
- Mites and mange
So, in other words, dandruff is a symptom of a more significant underlying cause for the itching rather than the cause of the itching itself.
Sometimes hamsters are just bored. If they don’t have enough to do in their habitat, it can lead to stress, which leads to excessive grooming and excessive scratching.
To prevent your hamster from injuring themselves, you’ll need to add more toys to stimulate them cognitively.
Now you know why the hamster wheel is so popular!
Hamsters love running, climbing, and exploring! And some fun things for them to do in their cage, wait until the evening and watch them tumble around. Ideal toys include:
- Hide boxes
There are some fantastically elaborate hamster cages that’ll make life an adventure for your hamster. One excellent hamster cage is the Mcage Hamster Mansion (available on Amazon.com).
It has five floors and many running tubes, toys, hide boxes, and wheels. It’s the perfect cage for someone wanting to make sure their hamster is kept happy, healthy, and, best of all, busy!
Aside from climbing and running, hamsters also love chewing and hiding, so find them something to chew on and hide in, such as the BBjinronjy Hamster Chew Toys Set (available on Amazon.com). The set is designed specifically for small pets and has many fun chew toys that hamsters can climb on, hide inside, and dangle from!
It can also help to spend time with your hamster! Your hamster needs love and attention the same as any mammal. Spending at least half an hour to an hour with it every day will keep it happy.
Related Hamster articles:
- How To Care for a Dwarf Hamster
- Why Is My Hamster Sleeping So Much?
- How Long Can a Hamster Go Without Water?
- What Does Hamster Eat?
- How To Tame a Hamster
- How To Calm a Hamster Down
In conclusion, hamsters may scratch excessively due to many factors: stress, allergies, dandruff, dietary changes, parasites, and even boredom. Suppose you can’t figure out what’s causing the itching. In that case, it’s always best to take your hamster to a qualified veterinarian.
It’s usually easier to find a small pet vet in larger cities like Boston, Massachusetts, or Nashville, Tennessee. If you live in a more rural area, you may want to scout out vets before purchasing your hamster to be sure you know where the nearest one is in case of an emergency.
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