Why do hamsters bite?

If you’ve ever been bitten by a hamster you will know that it hurts, and it’s probably not an experience you want to repeat! But why do hamsters bite? And how can you stop hamsters biting?

Hamsters most often bite if they feel threatened; they are naturally prey animals and they need a means of protecting themselves.
We are going to take a look at situations when hamsters may bite, and what you can do to make biting less likely to happen.

The case of mistaken identity

Hamsters don’t see well; they use their sense of smell to navigate. For this reason it’s relatively easy for you to be mistaken for a tasty morsel of food. If you are ever going to put your hand into your hamster’s cage, or touch your hamster, remember to always wash your hands first. This removes any confusing scents you may have on your hands, and reduces the chances of your hamster trying to munch on you after mistaking you for food.

Getting to know your hamster

When you first bring a hamster into your home, there’s a good chance it will not be used to being in close contact with humans. Taking time to get to know your hamster, and importantly letting them get to know you, reduces the chance of you being on the receiving end of a bite. If you don’t get acquainted with your pet before trying to handle it, you may startle your hamster, causing it to bite.

Below, we explain how you can slowly teach your hamster to get used to your hands being inside their cage. However, even this slow method doesn’t guarantee that you won’t be bitten. Our top safety tip is to wear thick gloves – like these ones – when training your hamster. Once your hamster is trained, you’ll be able to stop wearing them, but they’ll keep you safe during the training process.

Teaching your hamster not to bite

When you first introduce your hamster to its new home, leave it to explore for a couple of days before you start to try and make friends. This way it will get used to the scents around it, and feel safe and secure. After a couple of days you should sit close to the cage and speak to your pet, so it gets used to you being close by.

Gradually, you can start to put your hand inside your hamster’s cage. It’s worth noting that you should do this when your little friend is awake and active, so as not to startle it. Put your hand just inside the cage at first; and don’t make any attempt to touch your hamster. You should always leave your hamster to approach your hand. You may want to use treats to encourage your pet to do this; but be careful not to overfeed with treats.

Once your hamster starts to interact with your hand, you can gently touch your pet, and eventually try to pick it up. Never grab your hamster, just cup your hands under its belly, and over its back so that you are holding it gently but securely.

If you follow these tips, you and your hamster should become friends. This will make your pet more comfortable in your company, and mean it’s less likely to bite.

When is your hamster most likely to bite?

Even if you and your hamster are used to each other, there are still certain situations which should be avoided if you don’t want to be on the receiving end of a hamster bite!

Never disturb your hamster while it’s sleeping; if you do it will be grumpy and scared, and it’s likely to bite. And never approach your hamster from behind, as you are likely to startle it.

The best time to handle or touch your hamster is when it’s awake and lively, when it can see that you are approaching, and when the hamster can tell what you are going to do.

What should you do if your hamster bites you?

If you are unlucky enough to be bitten by a hamster, it can be painful. Hamsters have long teeth which can puncture the skin. This does not mean that you should be afraid of your hamster. There are some things it’s useful to remember if your hamster bites you.

  • Don’t shake your hamster to get it to release its grip on you. Just lower it to its cage. If it doesn’t automatically release you, just gently prise it away.
  • Don’t shout at your hamster. This will only scare it and make it more likely to bite again.
  • Clean the wound with warm water, and an anti-bacterial solution, make sure the wound is dry, then use a loose piece of bandage to dress it.
  • Check the wound in day to two to make sure any swelling has gone down; if it’s still very swollen you may need antibiotics.

Hamsters are kept inside your home, and the chances of catching any diseases from them, is extremely low. Hamster bites may be painful, but you shouldn’t worry if you are bitten. And if you follow our tips then hopefully you won’t have to experience a hamster bite first hand!