Hamsters That Bite – Why Did My Hamster Bite Me!

Ron Hines DVM PhD

Hamsters and rats do not require vaccinations and none are approved for use in them. But that does not mean that hamsters cannot on occasion spread diseases. Be clean. To see what other non-domestic animals receive in the way of vaccinations, click on the ark

You are probably reading this because you or your child was just bitten by a hamster – It happens all the time.

Some hamster owners worry if they are in danger from a hamster bite. When I get bitten on the finger by a hamster or another rodent, I wash the area very well with povidone iodine solution from Walt-Mart or 70% isopropyl alcohol in a cup. I squeeze the bite and massage the finger under the solution until it stings and no longer bleeds. Then I forget about it.

But I can not tell you to do that. The only advice anyone can give you is to call your doctor. To the best of my knowledge, there has never been a human case of rabies that was caused by a hamster bite. But there have been a few cases of LCM and Tularemia that were transmitted to humans through hamster bites and a few people who were allergic to hamster saliva. These cases are extremely rare and unlikely – much rarer than your chances of being struck by lightening – but they have occurred.

Why Do Hamsters Bite?

1) If your hamster was not handled at the pet store or breeder, it will be frightened when you try to handle it. Its natural reaction to fear is to bite.

2) Hamsters are deep sleepers. If you wake them up to suddenly or startle a sleeping hamster, it may bite you.

3) If you try to separate hamsters that are fighting, they may bite you without realizing it.

4) If a hamster is very hungry and your hand has the scent of food on it, it may nip your finger.

How Should I Pick Up My Young Hamster For the First Time?

Don’t plan on picking it up at first. Set up its cage with food, water and bedding. Hamsters don’t see well. They use their nose to orient themselves in their environment. So a new cage, and new bedding is going to confuse them for a while. Just put the box the pet came in into its cage. Open the lid, the hamster will come out when it is ready. Keep a cover on the cage so small children can not try to grasp the hamster. Do not keep the cage in your child’s room.

The next day, use the eraser end of a long blunt pencil to gently poke through it’s nest until you find it. Don’t make a lot of racket and don’t shake the cage. Gently stroke the hamster with the eraser until it gets used to being touched. Speak to it in a soft voice. Do this several times during the day. Relaxed, gentle hamsters like to gnaw on small hard stuff – like pencils – do not mistake this for biting. When it ignores the eraser and does not cringe, it is time for the next step.

In a day or two, when the hamster doesn’t appear to fear the pencil, Put some treat into your open hand. A tiny cube of apple works well. Let the hamster come up and sniff your hand and the apple. It may take the apple and leave for its nest with it. Don’t give it a big chunk or it won’t come back out. Do this until you earn the pet’s trust. You can stroke it with the eraser or a Q-tip while it is exploring your hand.

When it come right up to your hand without fear, it is time to pick it up. Slowly cup your hands around the hamster. Move one hand under the pet and the other over it. Keep your hands low in the cage so that if it falls , it won’t fall far. When the hamster stays relaxed in your hands , you can move to a chair. Try to start out with your pet in a room that has no crevices to hide in so you can catch it if it gets away. Do this in a quiet area without distractions or other pets. When it tries to walk out of one hand, offer it the other.

How Should I Deal With An Adult Hamster That Has Not Been Handled?

Hamsters learn rapidly. But they “un-learn” just as fast. Children and owners often loose interest in pet hamsters in a month or so. They handle them less and less and the hamster reverts to its fearful nature. So the fact that it was once tame and trusting, doesn’t mean it is still tame now.

If you accepted a mature hamster that has not been handled or has been neglected, you can begin by scooping it up in a cup, using the pencil to shoo it in. Then you can place a towel on your lap and pour the hamster into it. Keep the towel nest-shaped and use your hands to elevate the towel to the side it is trying to leave. Give it some wrinkles to hide in. Then begin stroking it with the eraser. Be careful, because adult hamsters bite quite hard. Then treat it as you would a young hamster. Each step will just take longer.

How Should I Wake My Hamster Up To Hold It?

Hamsters are nocturnal – they are active at night and sleep during the day. So you will usually have to wake them up to play with them. Gently move their nest to wake them. Do not poke them. Once they wake up, they will come out of their nest on their own if they are already tame. If you are unsure, use the pencil eraser end to gently tease them out of the nest. Give them a minute to fully wake up before you scoop them up or let them walk onto your palm.

How Often Should I Play With My Hamster?

You should handle your hamster every day. The more you handle your pet, the friendlier it will become. If you neglect it for a week or more, it will regress and not be as affectionate as it was when you were interacting with it daily. After a while, you can keep it in your lap or shirt pocket while you watch TV or video. Hamsters like to feel hidden.

When Is The Best Time Of Day To Play With My Hamster?

Late afternoon and evening is often a good time. Hamsters have an internal clock. Their body knows the time of day, and sets its mood and activity rhythms accordingly. You need to find the pet’s “mellow time”. If that time is inconvenient, try reversing or changing the lighting in the pet’s room to “reset” the best time to hold and play with the pet. A good lighting cycle is 13 hours of light and 11 hrs of darkness.

Does My Hamster Recognize Me When It Sees Me?

Hamsters are very near-sighted and use scent and sound to identify you. If they don’t know it is you, they may bite. If you are using strong-scented cedar or pine chip chip bedding, your per may not recognize your scent. Try shredded paper or an unscented recycled newspaper product. Don’t wear perfume or heavily scented colognes when you handle your hamster.

Do Hamsters Have Their Moody Periods?

Yes. Female hamsters have reproductive cycles like every mammal. They cycle about every 10 days throughout the year – but more frequently during the summer. If they are not mated, they may go into a period called pseudopregnacy (pseudocyesis), which lasts 7-15 days. This also influences their mood. They ovulate during the night and can be very testy during that period.You can tell when a female hamster in ovulatory mode because their private parts swell. They often also become hyperactive; running around much more and flattening their nesting material. That lasts about 14 hours. That’s a time they often attack males as well as bite their owners.

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