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Why Is My Hamster Shaking? Should I Be Worried?

Nicole Cosgrove

February 16, 2021

Have you ever considered owning a hamster? They are extremely popular pets due to their undeniable cuteness and ease of care. In fact, many parents introduce hamsters as first pets to their kids as a medium for teaching responsibility and nurturing affection.

However, just because they are relatively low maintenance animals doesn’t mean they’re devoid of issues. One of the more common problems hamster owners come across is shaking.

Hamster shaking can be brought on for several different reasons. In this article, we’ll tackle the four biggest reasons why your hamster is shaking and how you can prevent or stop it.

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Is it Normal for Hamsters to Shake?

Shaking and quivering are not normal in pets or humans. Most of the time, this behavior indicates that something is wrong. With hamsters, shaking could mean several different things.

Shaking is a strong indicator that your hamster is under either physical or mental duress. This can be brought upon by health issues such as diabetes or through common life processes such as hibernation. Hamsters will also shake through excess emotional stimulation such as fear or anxiety.

Regardless of the situation, shaking and quivering implies that your hamster is going through a stressful time—whether it’s normal or not.

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4 Possible Reasons Why a Hamster is Shaking

As a hamster owner, it is important to recognize the root causes of why your hamster may be shaking. Some reasons aren’t as critical as others and can be very simply corrected. However, being able to differentiate between an emergency situation and less-threatening shaking is crucial.

1. Shaking Caused by Fear and Anxiety

hamster shaking
Image Credit: Olena Kurashova, Shutterstock

Both hamsters and human beings alike tend to shake when in a frightening or nerve-racking situation. And these situations tend to be everyday occurrences for many hamsters. These little furballs startle very easily. This can be attributed to their diminutive size in a great big world.

However, through regular care and handling, your hamster can grow accustomed to you and become very affectionate. But for many hamsters, this is a gradual process. There’s a good chance they’ll be nervous and uneasy when you first hold them, which can lead to shaking and trembling.

Also, this is likely to happen whenever they’re around new people. Although you may be excited to show off your pet hamster, you’ll need to be aware of your hamster’s comfort level. Most hamsters are only comfortable being around people they already know well through a gradual introduction. If you notice your hamster is shaking while introducing him to new people, ask your friends to refrain from touching. This will help put your little guy at ease.


2. Climate and Hibernation Shakes

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Image Credit: polya_olya, Shutterstock

Your hamster may also start shaking based on the weather and season. When the ambient temperature becomes really cold, hamsters tend to hibernate and go into a low energy condition. You’ll notice this happening when they stop doing their usual activities—running, burrowing, playing, etc.

It may look like your pet is extremely ill; however, hibernation behavior is normal. Sometimes when hamsters hibernate, they look lifeless apart from their breathing. But you can easily perk them right up. Just bring your hamster to a much warmer place. This will get them back up and moving again.

However, the sudden change in their body temperature will cause them to shake and shiver. But don’t worry — this shaking is completely normal.

When their body temperature goes from cold to warm in a short period, it produces a reflex that causes the body the shake. It’s just like what we experience when walking into a toasty home from a colder winter day.

If your hamster starts shaking while getting out of hibernation, there’s no cause for alarm. But you need to monitor their shaking closely. They shouldn’t keep shaking for a long time after warming up. Continuous shaking might be a sign of a health issue. If you see your hamster shaking after an extended period post-hibernation, call your vet immediately.


3. Nervous System Problems

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Image Credit: Olena Kurashova, Shutterstock

Apart from hibernation and anxiety, hamsters can shake due to problems involving their nervous system. This type of shaking can be triggered by excessive stimulation when humans touch them.

The stimulation forces their natural muscle motion to move abnormally causing your hamster to shake and turn their body over. If you notice your hamster shakes whenever it is being held or touched, it is best to handle your little guy as delicately as possible.

Make sure to let your friends and family know about this condition of your hamster whenever you introduce your pet to them. That way, they can also handle your little one with extra gentle care.


4. Serious Medical Conditions

Lastly, shaking in hamsters can be a symptom of an underlying medical condition. Some known medical issues that can cause shaking in a hamster are diabetes, stroke, heatstroke, skin parasites, or congestive heart failure.

Other common signs to look out to determine if your hamster has a condition are nasal discharge, watery stools, weight loss, rough appearance, and glazed-over eyes. If any of these is occurring together with shaking, it could mean that your hamster requires emergency medical care.

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Should I Worry About my Shaking Hamster?

Shaking in hamsters can be completely normal or could mean something more serious. It all depends on the situation. However, if your pet hamster is showing signs of shaking that look out of the ordinary, it’s best to contact your vet or bring it to the clinic right away.


Featured Image Credit: IRINA ORLOVA, 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.