Shock rigidity in hamsters: signs and causes
Have you ever noticed that your hamster seems to remain motionless in place?
The reason for this can be a shock paralysis, which occurs quite often.
How can rigidity in a hamster occur?
Rigidity in a hamster can be attributed to fear, surprise or curiosity and is usually not a cause for concern. The behavior is instinctive.
However, if it occurs more often, you need to take action.
Signs of shock in a hamster
As the name suggests, your hamster becomes rigid.
If it was active just a moment ago, for example cleaning itself or eating, it can literally “freeze” in its current posture.
Since often neither ears nor nose move, it seems as if you have pressed the pause button in a movie.
This state can last for several minutes.
Depending on your behavior and the influences in the environment, even up to 20 minutes are possible.
However, shock is often confused with waking and orienting. In both cases the animal becomes rigid. If it is afraid, it does not move at all. If the hamster orients itself in the environment, it changes position before “rigidity” and lifts its nose. In addition, movements of the ears can be observed.
Both can be attributed to the rodent’s instincts. Because even if there are no dangers such as predators in and around the cage or hamster home, certain sounds and smells or movements can trigger the genetically anchored shock.
Causes for shock
The basis for shock is deeply rooted in the instincts of animals and serves an important purpose in nature. This is because some predators are very good at sensing movement, but are unable to distinguish motionless prey from their surroundings.
If the hamster freezes, it makes itself invisible to a certain extent or is at least much more difficult to recognize.
Possible triggers for shock rigidity are therefore influences that are perceived by your hamster as a threat or signs of impending danger.
Movements in front of the cage or in the environment.
For example, a barking dog, a hissing cat, or birds fluttering outside the window can trigger a shock response.
Likewise, you can accidentally startle the hamster if you have to get up again at night and walk past the cage or if the TV is running very loudly.
Especially young and newly moved-in animals get scared more quickly, as they are not yet familiar with the environment and the stimuli associated with it. However, with time and patience on your part, they will get used to it and become less jumpy.
In addition to startle response, another cause of immobility can be found: orientation.
Hamsters are short-sighted and therefore rely much more on their sense of hearing and smell. So if they perceive an unknown sound in the environment, they will stop all other activities and become rigid as well.
This happens so that they can hear the sound better.
As a keeper, you can observe the movement of the ears during this form of “freezing”. They are placed in the direction from which the sound is coming.
Since hamsters have very good hearing, you may not be able to hear the sounds yourself and therefore not understand why your animal is behaving this way.
It is similar with smells.
For example, if you pet a strange dog, your hamster will be able to smell it from a distance and may be frightened.
To get a better view, the rodent can stand up or lift its nose in the air and sniff before it freezes.
Tip: If you take the time to watch your pet closely, you can easily distinguish the differences between the two forms over time.
5 tips – this is how you behave correctly
If you’re not familiar with hamster shock or widtering, the behavior can seem strange.
Especially if your hamster freezes for a very long time or you can’t pinpoint the cause, you may want to help the animal or mean well and want to calm it down.
Unfortunately, there’s a good chance you’re doing it wrong and adding to the stress.
The following tips will give you important information on how you should react.
Tip 1: Calm approach
If your hamster is already tame and associates you with positive influences such as food and petting, you can address the animal calmly and quietly.
This will distract it and give it security. Of course, you don’t have to approach your hamster directly. It is enough if you start talking. Since your voice is already familiar, it will seem familiar and can help orient the rodent.
It is a little more difficult if the animal is new to the environment and does not know you.
Move quietly and slowly away from the hamster while speaking. It is important that you remain quiet and calm. This will not create a sense of threat in your hamster.
As time goes on and your hamster gets used to its new environment, the frequency of freezing should decrease. The animal will be familiar with everyday noises and even movement in front of the cage is usually no longer scary.
Tip 2: Avoid hectic
How much stress your hamster feels and how often it can potentially become frightened and thus freeze depends crucially on its immediate environment.
In close proximity to windows, he may feel threatened by birds. Other pets may cause him to freeze. Children playing, loud music or a noisy TV are also unsuitable, as is a location in a passageway area.
Therefore, choose the location of the hamster home wisely!
Make sure that other pets like dogs and cats cannot get to it. Because these are quickly recognized as predators. Noise sources are also potential problems if they are too loud.
Because of their good and sensitive hearing, hamsters perceive sounds faster and louder. The cage should therefore not be in direct proximity to a loudspeaker.
Tip 3: Do not touch
If your hamster is not moving for a long time, you will want to check on him. If you approach the cage or even reach in and touch your hamster, this will increase his anxiety and stress.
It is therefore better to speak calmly and wait for your animal to move normally again.
You can also try to entice your hamster with food. For example, if you have special treats in a crackling bag or grain food in a box, you can use the sounds associated with feeding to distract the rodent.
While there’s no guarantee that this trick will work, the prospect of food can help your hamster move more quickly from rigidity back to a relaxed posture.
Tip 4: Find causes
If the rigidity occurs very often, you should investigate the cause.
It is best to note down which stimuli you yourself can perceive when your hamster shows this behavior. Keep in mind that for you normal and everyday influences can be frightening for the animal.
The blender in the kitchen, a car honking, or a sudden change from dark to light are all possible triggers for startle, as is a loud argument or frantic walking past the cage.
In some cases, you will probably never find out the exact cause. However, searching can help make the environment more relaxed for your hamster and avoid stressors.
Tip 5: Note duration and frequency
Usually, freezing is a normal behavior that is not a cause for concern.
However, if shock lasts a long time or occurs regularly, there may be a health problem behind it.
If it occurs daily or lasts for more than 20 minutes, a seizure disorder may be responsible. These are not always accompanied by visible convulsions.
Injuries to the brain – for example after a fall – can also cause such episodes. The examination is difficult, but it is essential for any necessary treatment. Documentation of duration and frequency can help determine if the behavior is normal or if a health problem is responsible.
Also, it may be an inappropriate location that is causing your hamster a great deal of stress.
Continued or frequent stress has a negative impact on health. The cardiovascular system suffers, the body’s defenses are weakened, and even brain chemistry can be altered.
Very sensitive animals may even refuse to eat because they are repeatedly frightened and feel mortal fear. This makes the right location for the hamster home all the more important.
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