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5 Reasons Why Hamsters Bite and How to Stop It

Nicole Cosgrove

June 30, 2021

Hamsters are so cute and adorable you just wanna gobble them up. However, there’s a much higher chance of things happening the other way around. Getting bitten by a hamster can bring anyone’s eyes to tears.

It might not be too physically painful, but the sheer surprise can be enough to make you wince.

Normally, hamsters are very cuddly and affectionate. However, if they get triggered, they have been known to bite.

Fortunately, hamsters can be trained to stop biting. Once you understand the different reasons why your pet hamster bites, you can take measures to prevent it from happening again.

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Why Hamsters Bite and What to do About It

Knowing why your hamster is biting is the first step towards preventing them from lashing out. Hamsters will bite for several different reasons—each of which has its own preventative measures. Identifying the root cause of your hamster’s aggression will ultimately bring about a more peaceful and healthy relationship.

1. Your Hamster is Scared and Irritated

person holding a hamster
Image Credit: Akkalak Aiempradit, Shutterstock

Hamsters are usually nice and love to cuddle. However, when they are scared, they might feel irritated and become aggressive.

But how do you know if your hamster is scared? You can tell this by how they react to you when they see you nearby. If you notice them giving you a frightened look, that means you have scared them somehow. They’ll be wary of your motions and may begin searching around for an escape route.

Even if your hamster is normally comfortable with you around, you can still spook or annoy them. Maybe you suddenly woke them up from their sleep and they grew frightened. Or perhaps they were having a peaceful time alone and you suddenly startled them.

These kinds of actions can build up aggression and cause them to lash out.

What to do:

When walking towards your pet hamster, move quietly and slowly instead of in a hurry. By doing so, they’ll feel more assured that there isn’t any danger approaching. This will also make your hamster feel safer and calmer. And if you approach them with treats, they’ll react even better to your encounter.


2. Your Hamster is Hungry

hamster biting finger
Image Credit: finger_katfox.art, Shutterstock

Another possible reason why a hamster may bite is that they’re telling you it’s feeding time. If it’s been a few hours since you fed your hamster, your hamster may be very hungry. They can have voracious appetites.

If you approach your hamster and they smell food on your fingers, it may think you have food in your hands meant for them. And this can lead to biting.

It doesn’t mean that your hamster is angry, but it’s a signal to let you know he is hungry. Although this isn’t an outwardly aggressive action, this isn’t good behavior and needs to be corrected.

What to do:

Wash your hands thoroughly before handling your pet hamster. Avoid any fruity soaps or anything that has a strong smell. This way your hamster won’t smell any food that will prompt them to try to eat your fingers.

Another trick is to create a feeding schedule and adhere strictly to it. Determine how much food your hamster needs every day and stick with it. Even if you’re giving them treats, try to do so on a coordinated schedule.

More so, if your hamster is busy eating, don’t try to touch or hold them. It’s good practice to not bother any animal when they are eating—even your hamster.


3. Your Hamster Notices an Unfamiliar Scent

dwarf hamster bites finger
Image Credit: Gecko Studio, Shutterstock

This normally happens when first introducing your hamster to other people. Since hamsters have an exceptionally strong sense of smell, they will immediately know that a stranger is approaching.

If someone your hamster is not familiar with tries to touch them, it may bite defensively, thinking they are being attacked.

What to do:

Don’t invite everyone to touch and hold your hamster when they see it for the first time. Instead, just let them watch you handle your pet from a distance. Your hamster needs to see a person several times and become familiar with their scent before feeling safe around them.

Only once your hamster has grown accustomed to someone new should you start letting them hold your hamster. Just ensure they are doing so with care.


4. Your Hamster Doesn’t Like the Attention

hamster in a hand
Image Credit: Pixabay

Some hamsters just don’t like receiving tons of attention no matter how much you train them to be friendly. Every pet has its own personality, and there’s little you can do to change it. Some hamsters may actually try to bite anyone that holds them—including their owner!

What to do:

If you find yourself with a not-so-friendly hamster, be nice to them anyway. Give your hamster some time to warm up to you. Be caring and gentle whenever you approach it and keep treats handy.

If your hamster does decide to bite during play, then stop. This will help reinforce that biting is negative behavior. The more familiar your hamster becomes with you, there’s better of a chance of holding them and less of a chance of biting.

The biggest rule here is to not smother your pet with affection and allow it to adjust on its own.


5. Your Hamster is Telling you to be More Gentle

hand holding hamster
Image Credit: Gecko Studio, Shutterstock

To most animals, biting is a defense mechanism—and the same principle applies to hamsters. Whenever they feel threatened and scared, their natural reaction is to bite. This behavior stems from being a prey animal, and biting is how they protect themselves.

When you aggressively handle your hamster, it may feel as if it is being attacked. And their first instinct might be to chomp down.

What to do:

Whenever you hold your pet hamster, do it with the gentlest touch. If you are about to hold your hamster for the first time, don’t grab it right away. Instead, start by petting it on the head.

Once you feel like your hamster has warmed up on your petting, slowly try to hold it in your hand, with a loose grip. If you notice your hamster doesn’t like it, just let them go gently. After a few minutes, repeat the process and see if they have warmed up to you. Your hamster probably won’t bite once it recognizes you as a gentle and caring friend.

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Preventing Hamster Bites

To prevent becoming a target of hamster aggression, you need to take appropriate precautions. Fortunately, these precautions are all a standard part of handling a smaller animal.

Being gentle and moving slowly is how you should handle your hamster. And this will prevent the majority of most hamster bites. They may accidentally nibble every now and then. But by following these simple preventative measures, you’ll be able to handle your hamster without fear of repercussions.

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Featured Image Credit: Satya Putra, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.