Thinking about adding a hamster to your family but worried about getting bitten? No one wants to get chomped while trying to interact with their pet. Do hamster bites hurt? What makes a hamster bite? And if you have a hamster that bites, how can you get it to stop?
Let’s have a look at everything you need to know about biting hamsters and how to make sure you can have a peaceful relationship with your furry pet.
Do hamster bites hurt?
Yes, a hamster bite hurts, although you’re generally not going to end up mangled and crying if Hammie decides to chomp your finger. How much a hamster bite hurts obviously depends on their size (a dwarf hamster’s jaws aren’t as powerful as that of the larger Syrian hamster, for example), but all of them are capable of drawing blood if they clamp down hard enough.
Overall, we’ve been bitten a few times and we’re not too concerned about it happening again. It’s usually more of a startle than a truly painful experience. Additionally, there are a bunch of things you can do to avoid receiving a nip! If your hamster is comfortable around you and you handle it in an appropriate manner, you’re unlikely to ever get bitten.
So yes: hamster bites hurt, but you’ll be more spooked than in pain. What’s more important, though, is preventing bites altogether. Below, let’s have a look at how to do so.
Tip: If you get bitten by your hamster and its teeth break your skin, remember to thoroughly clean and disinfect the bite to prevent infection. In very rare cases, hamster bites can provoke an anaphylactic reaction due to allery to hamster saliva. Seek medical help if you feel you can’t breathe properly or experience swelling/rashes.
Why does my hamster bite?
If you’d like to prevent getting bitten by your hamster, the first step is to know why hamsters bite in the first place. They’re not aggressive creatures and won’t bite you just for the fun of it. Instead, they almost always do so because they feel they have no other choice (except in rare cases where you’ve some tasty peanut butter or similar foods stuck to your finger and you get mistaken for a treat).
So what makes a hamster bite?
Your hamster is scared
In most hamster bite incidents, our furry friends are scared and feel they have to defend themselves in order to get out of the situation that’s bothering them. Remember that, being small prey animals, hamsters are startled easily. Don’t be angry if you get bitten: try to see things from your hammie’s point of view.
Avoid situations that might stress your pet out, including:
- Handling an untamed hamster. It doesn’t understand your hands, which appear very big to it, aren’t there to hurt it.
- You’re holding your hamster too high. Stay close to the floor, they don’t like heights!
- A loud noise or sudden movement, like picking it up brusquely, has startled it.
- It’s in a new environment, such as when you’ve just brought it home. Leave your hammie alone for now.
- Other pets, like a dog, are around. This also applies when you’ve touched another pet, which can leave the scent of a predator on your hands.
Your hamster is annoyed
Did you just wake up your hamster during the day? If you try to pick it up for some playtime when it’s fast asleep, you’re risking a bite. It’s important to learn to understand which things hamsters tend to dislike and try to avoid doing them.
Aside from waking up your hammie, this includes:
- Leaving its cage bare and lacking in toys or other items that offer mental stimulation.
- Trying to clip its nails without properly desensitizing it first (they don’t always like their feet being touched and those nail clippers can be scary!).
- Putting too many hamsters in a cage that isn’t appropriately sized. Hamsters are loners.
- Over-handling, like passing a hamster around a group of people or constantly bothering it.
- Holding it in a way that makes it feel trapped or that hurts it.
- Speaking of pain: if your hamster is ill or injured, the pain can make it lash out.
Your hamster is territorial
Yep, hamsters can be quite territorial about their space. This especially applies to Syrian hamsters. If you stick your hand right into its territory, it might respond by giving you the ol’ chomp. This is especially likely if your hamster isn’t tame yet.
One good way to prevent territorial bites is to open the cage and let your hamster come out by itself. Once it’s on neutral ground, it’s likely to be more accepting of you approaching it.
How do I stop my hamster from biting?
Got a biter on your hands? It’s frustrating, we know. It can get to the point where you’re scared to handle your hamster at all. This can cause a downward spiral, with your hamster becoming less and less used to being handled, and more prone to biting, causing you to handle it less, and so on. What to do?
Don’t worry. All is not lost! What we recommend is starting over from 0 with your hammie, as if you just brought it home.
- Step 1: Read up on hamster handling. Make sure you know how to approach a hamster and touch it. Be aware of anything that can scare or annoy it, so you can avoid doing any of these things. Very important: food is the key to making friends with any animal.
- Step 2: Leave your hamster mostly alone for a few days, though be sure to spend time near the cage, maybe gently chatting to it.
- Step 3: Place your hand in the cage, preferably with some food, but don’t approach the hamster. This should be on its terms, not yours! The food will tempt it eventually. No sudden movements, please.
- Step 4: Once your hamster is comfortable sitting on your hand to eat its food, start slowly moving your fingers. If it’s not startled, move on to cupping your hand and lifting it a few inches off the cage floor. Be sure to offer a nice treat every time.
- Step 5: If all this is going smoothly, you can slowly begin to work on taking your hamster out of its cage, always rewarding a successful interaction with a snack.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your relationship with your hamster be. You can work through the steps described here over the course of a few weeks. If your pet seems uncomfortable at any point or you get bitten, don’t insist. Leave it alone for now and try again tomorrow, moving a step backward in the process.
Even when your hamster has been tamed and has hopefully stopped biting, remember to keep it up. Regular handling is the best way to ensure it doesn’t become scared of you again.
Tip: If possible, try to get your hamster from a small-scale breeder or a hobbyist. Newborn hamster pups shouldn’t be handled, but slowly introducing them to human hands from the age of 2-3 weeks can really help with the taming process. Pet store hamsters are often completely untame.
Conclusion: Do hamster bites hurt?
So, do hamster bites hurt? Yes, although the scare is usually worse than the pain. It’s more important, though, to understand why a hamster bites and avoid getting into a situation that might provoke it to do so in the first place. Proper taming and handling, plus understanding that hamsters are skittish prey animals, are usually enough to avoid getting bitten altogether.