Hamsters have different ways of communicating with each other and with their owners. Every now and then they’ll squeak or grunt, but they more often use nonverbal chemical cues and body language. Understanding this language can help you be a better pet owner and make your rodent a happy camper!
- Signs of a Happy Hamster
- How Hamsters Communicate Fright, Insecurity and Stress
- Signs of Aggression in Hamsters
- Is My Hamster Depressed?
- How to Make Your Hamster Happy
Signs of a Happy Hamster
When your hamster behaves normally, it means it’s relaxed and content. You can rest easy when your furry friend engages in everyday routines and practices healthy habits.
Rodents, in general, are very clean creatures. A hamster will spend a good amount of its day primping and bathing. This is a good sign. It means it feels comfortable enough in its environment to let its guard down and groom itself.
Hamsters have teeth that never stop growing! They need to keep them trimmed, much like people have to trim fingernails. It’s a sign of wellbeing when your hamster is practicing good dental hygiene, chewing and gnawing on harder items like cardboard to wear down their incisors.
Hamsters love having a comfy place to sleep, so don’t be surprised if your pet spends many hours moving bedding around, digging, tunneling and getting everything just right. They’re also nocturnal, so you can expect to see them sleeping much of the time that you’re awake.
Just like humans, dogs, cats and many other animals, stretching limbs is a sign that a hamster is enjoying its time. If you see a hamster yawn while it’s stretching, that means it’s even more comfortable and oh-so-very relaxed!
Hamster Sniffing and Exploring
Continuous, shallow sniffing is something your hamster will do every day. This is part of how it finds its way around, even in an already familiar environment.
Other signs that your hamster is comfortably curious include:
- Frozen, staring at a person or animal with mouth closed and an otherwise-relaxed posture.
- Ears standing straight in their natural position.
- Sniffing and exploring around the middle area of its cage.
If your hamster is only exploring the outer edges of its cage, it might be a sign that it’s searching for security. A hamster will feel safer when it leans against a solid surface.
How Hamsters Communicate Fright, Insecurity and Stress
Sometimes hamsters will be unsure of their surroundings, or something might be causing them to be afraid or anxious. If you notice any of these behaviors in your pet, you should stop engaging it until it calms down.
Ears Back or Forward
If a hamster’s ears are pressed backward or pushed forward, it feels threatened. The unnatural ear position is a telltale sign that something is amiss, especially while a hamster is also frozen, standing up on its hind legs or baring its teeth.
If your pet is hiding or excessively shy, it means it’s overwhelmed by the stimuli around it. This most often happens when it’s startled, so try eliminating whatever is scaring it.
Sudden Movements and Hyperactivity
Hamsters are normally energetic, but if you see them acting overly nervous, shaking, suddenly grooming or emptying their cheek pouches very quickly, they may be scared or anxious.
Signs of Aggression in Hamsters
Hamsters can become aggressive when they feel threatened or insecure. If you recognize signs of insecurity or fear in your hamster, the best thing you can do is leave it alone. Trying to pick it up or calm it down while it’s still frightened could cause harm to you or the hamster.
Here are some possible behaviors your pet might display when it’s angry, threatened and about to lash out.
- Standing on hind legs is a warning sign of attack when coupled with clenched fists, pressed-back ears, or narrowed eyes.
- Baring teeth is a display of aggression.
- Hissing isn’t body language, it’s a vocalization. A hamster will rarely hiss, so when it does, it’s best to take it seriously!
- Teeth chattering is a warning sign to stay away.
- Nipping and biting is a way of communicating boredom or discomfort. If your hamster bites you while you’re holding it, it’s time to put it down.
Is My Hamster Depressed?
Happy hamsters are more optimistic and will engage in more enjoyable routine activities, much like people! A hamster that often exhibits body language of anxiety, fright or aggressiveness isn’t happy in its environment. We have some tips for how to make sure your hamster is entertained.
However, if your hamster is lethargic, acting lazy or is unresponsive, this isn’t just a sign of depression but of more serious illness.
Hamsters engage in plenty of behaviors that are considered completely normal and healthy. But when they can’t stop doing them, that’s another indication that your pet is unhappy or sick.
- Excessively grooming to the point of losing hair
- Constantly trying to escape its cage
- Spinning around
If you notice these behaviors, do what you can to make their environment better and consult your veterinarian.
How to Make Your Hamster Happy
Studies have been done on how important healthy surroundings are for hamsters’ wellbeing. It makes a world of difference for them to have an engaging and positive environment.
- Feed it a well-balanced diet with variety. Always feed them their standard pellets daily, but sprinkle in other tasty treats like sunflower seeds, fresh vegetables and fruits (no citrus), whole-grain cereals or plain boiled eggs.
- Keep its cage clean and safe. Once a week, clean the cage with soap and water, change the bedding and disinfect food bowls and water bottles. Make sure the cage is in a safe place, on a solid surface and in a place with consistent moderate temperature.
- Give it adequate space and activities for exercise and fun. Your hamster needs to be engaged with toys and tools to keep its living environment interesting. It also needs to gnaw on harder items to keep its teeth worn down.
Providing the life essentials is the first step to positive pet ownership. You should see your hamster displaying many of the relaxed-and-content behaviors we explored at the beginning of this article. By offering a healthy, happy home and understanding what your hamster is saying with its body language, you’re giving your furry friend all the love it needs!