Hamster gnaws on the bars – 10 common causes and proven prevention
Have you noticed in the recent past that your hamster is gnawing on his bars?
This can be an alarming sign of trouble!
In this article, we’ll reveal 10 common causes of gnawing and also give you tips on how to stop it and prevent it in the future.
In addition, we answer exciting questions: Can hamsters actually bite through their bars?
The answer is now available!
Why do hamsters nibble at the bars – 10 common reasons
- too small cage
In their natural habitat, hamsters travel great distances night after night. While foraging, they need to be aware of their surroundings and possible predators. They dig burrows and lay in stores.
As pets, they wait for daily feeding and always have fresh water available.
On the other hand, they also have much less space available: very small cages do not offer the possibilities to dig extensively and to dig tunnels. Long distances cannot be covered in them either.
If your hamster starts gnawing on the bars in a small cage, this is a clear indication of frustration and under-occupation.
If the hamster cage lacks employment opportunities and variety, your pet will seek them out on his own. Since gnawing is part of the hamster’s natural repertoire, biting the bars is therefore not surprising and in this case stems from boredom.
- wearing down of the teeth
Hamsters have rodent dentition. This means that the teeth grow continuously.
In order to continue eating, the edges of the teeth must be able to wear down. If your hamster does not have suitable materials for this, the bars of the cage are used for other purposes.
Unfortunately, these are too hard for your hamster’s teeth, but do not help with the targeted and necessary abrasion of the tooth substance.
- fear and stress
Loud noises, other pets, birds and children can put hamsters in a state of constant stress.
They try to relieve the resulting psychological pressure by gnawing. Even the bars of the cage are not safe from this. However, this problem can usually be solved easily.
Hamsters want to be able to orientate themselves in their environment and observe processes.
Climbing to higher positions gives them a better view, and they may hold on to the bars with their teeth or gnaw on them. If this occurs only rarely, it is not problematic.
- attract attention
If your hamster has positively linked you and knows that you bring food or rearrange the cage, it may become impatient, especially at typical feeding times, and try to get your attention.
If the animal has learned that you will come to the cage when it is gnawing on the bars, it may take advantage of this as well.
Possible reasons include an empty food bowl or lack of water.
Boredom may also be a reason.
Just as with humans or other animals, the hamster may have habits that are difficult to explain and discard.
You should only consider this possibility when other potential triggers are out of the question or the gnawing does not stop despite extensive changes in husbandry.
As rodents, nothing is safe from hamsters.
Like infants and toddlers, one of the ways they “understand” their environment is by licking, chewing on, or putting objects in their mouths.
Since metal bars are the boundary of the hamster’s immediate environment, this obstacle can be particularly interesting to the animals.
In some cases, hamsters gnaw on the bars because they want to get out of the cage. So they try to remove the obstacle.
Several factors may be responsible for this. These include:
Stress in the cage
lack of exercise
food sources nearby
Congeners in the environment
The escape attempt is not always due to the fact that your hamster does not like the cage. There may simply be interesting opportunities in the area that he wants to get to.
- mating season
With one exception, hamsters live alone outside of mating season. However, they are always on the lookout for a suitable mate, even in the wild.
So if you keep several hamsters of different sexes, they may try to get to each other. Even without this direct enticement, however, it is possible that the sex drive will lead to unruly behavior and biting of the bars.
Can hamsters bite through bars?
Hamsters belong to the rodents and have a mouse-like dentition. In this, there are a total of 16 teeth. Of these, twelve are molars and four are nail teeth. When gnawing and biting, the lower jaw is moved sideways or crooked.
Only the nail teeth grow back for life.
This feature ensures that hamsters gnaw continuously. Wood and bark, hay, straw and harder chunks of food are well suited for this. This is because these varieties ensure a high abrasion and thus shorten the nail teeth without harming them.
Due to the frequent gnawing and chewing, the hamsters’ muscles in the jaw area are strong and well trained. If you have ever been bitten by a hamster, you were certainly unpleasantly surprised by the unexpected strength.
Nevertheless, the biting force is not sufficient to cut through sturdy metal bars. This is because the material is too hard and given in too great a thickness.
The situation is different with wood, plastic and very thin wire mesh, which can also be cut easily with household scissors, for example.
Is nibbling on the wire mesh dangerous for the hamster?
Yes, nibbling and biting the bars is indeed dangerous for your hamster.
Since the metal bars are too hard for the dentition, there are several risks:
Breaking of the teeth
Ingestion of toxic substances
Cracks in the teeth
Injuries to the gums or jaw
Displacement and misalignment
While encased bars can lead to poisoning, there is a risk with all variants that the teeth will shift, or be literally pushed out of place.
As a result, your hamster’s teeth will not be able to wear properly afterwards.
The growth is no longer restricted. The teeth can hinder eating or even lead to injuries of the jaw. If necessary, the teeth will have to be surgically shortened again and again.
So it’s in your hamster’s best interest to prevent him from gnawing on the bars and offer healthy alternatives.
How to keep your hamster from biting the bars
For a targeted approach, you first need to investigate the cause. Check the housing conditions available to your hamster. First and foremost, cage size and equipment are critical to your pet’s quality of life.
Select and equip the cage correctly
Commercial hamster cages are usually much too small.
This applies not only to the footprint, but also to the height. A minimum size of 100 x 50 centimeters should be given.
Bigger is better!
If you don’t have a lot of space for the cage, choose a variant with several floors.
This makes sense anyway, because you can provide the “first floor” with a 30 to 40 centimeter high layer of bedding. Extensive digging and the creation of corridors and storage chambers is thus possible. This provides an important and natural occupation for the animal.
Different designs of the floors can include climbing opportunities and hiding places.
As an alternative to a normal cage for the hamster, hamster homes are available. These are usually made of wood and Plexiglas. On the one hand, this makes them more visually appealing and also prevents litter from spreading in the area.
On the other hand, there are no bars and the problem of gnawing is solved immediately or can not occur in the first place.
Even small hamsters travel several miles per night. In a cage or hamster home this is hardly possible.
However, you can offer your hamster a running wheel. These are always controversial and are suspected by some of causing addictive behavior.
They allow the animal to move and run for long periods of time. When doing this, you can often observe that your hamster will run, stop and look around, and only then continue running. This is consistent with a natural behavior that wild hamsters exhibit.
Pets mimic this in their search for food, water, and sexually mature mates.
So this is not a cause for concern.
However, care must be taken when selecting a wheel to ensure that it is suitable and safe. The bigger it is, the straighter your hamster can run. This protects the back and prevents injuries.
In addition, there should be no gaps in the wheel. During the race, a paw or leg could slip in and be broken. Easy to clean and continuous molded plastic is the best choice.
In addition to exercise in the wheel, you should give your hamster other variety and occupation. Leaves, twigs and wooden toys are ideal for this. Food hidden in new places over and over again encourages searching and digging.
In addition, a small obstacle course or a climbing corner can be introduced. Alternate between the different possibilities, so that no boredom arises with your hamster.
Choose the right location
Anxiety and stress in hamsters is often caused by the wrong location of the cage and associated stimuli.
These include, for example:
loud, playing or crying children
other pets, such as cats and dogs
birds visible and audible through the window
Constantly walking past the cage, loud conversations or music can also cause stress to the animal.
A quiet location that is away from transit areas and not right next to a window is best. Small children and other pets should not be able to access the cage or hamster home unsupervised. Therefore, an elevated location may be appropriate.
If you keep several hamsters, a spatial separation is also recommended. Because at the latest with the onset of sexual maturity, the interest of the animals among themselves will increase significantly.
Satisfy gnawing urge
Twigs, bark, nibble sticks, herbs, hay and straw are ideal for selectively sharpening the teeth.
High-fiber foods necessitate extensive gnawing and biting. This is exactly what is needed for employment and health. It also benefits digestion.
Permanently stop gnawing on the grate: Make bars inaccessible
If your hamster continues to gnaw on the bars despite all your attempts, you have only one option left: make them inaccessible or get rid of them.
By covering the side walls with Plexiglas, you can prevent the hamster from continuing to reach the metal.
But it is even better to choose directly a shelter without bars. Wood with glass or Plexiglas inserts gives you and your hamster a clear view, keeps the litter in the hamster home and also provides protection against drafts.
My name is Mark and the senior editor
I take great pride in being the best possible author and giving you the knowledge that i have on all different types of animals!
I have spent a lifetime learning about pets and animals, and have worked in the pet and vet industry for over 20 years now!
The website will draw have authors who are vets, pet owners, and local pet breeders. All who will contribute their fantastic knowledge which in turn will be able to help you i hope.
There is a lot of information on the internet so it may be hard to know where exactly is the best place to start learning. But we will write articles that get straight to the point, and give you all the information that you need with no fluff!
If you have any questions please leave a comment on the article, and i will reply to you!