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Identify Hamster Body Language And Stress

Hamsters communicate with body language and vocalizations.

By Audrey Pavia

pet hamster nestled in a towel
Hamster Pooch/Courtesy Y. Thompson
Hamsters can't speak, but they can communicate using body language and vocalizations.

Hamsters can’t talk, but they can tell us a lot about what they’re feeling through their body language and vocalizations. If you’re observant, it’s easy to learn what a hamster is trying to tell you.

Here are some examples of hamster body language and sounds and what they mean.

Chewing on cage bars: “I’m bored; please get me some new toys to chew on or put me in a bigger cage so I have more room to run and play.”

Eyes barely open, ears laid back: “I’m sleepy; give me a little more time to wake up or I might bite.”

Grooming: “I need to clean up after play or naptime.”

Running, interspersed with grooming: “I’m agitated, confused or excited.”

Sitting up, ears forward, without moving: “I see something interesting.”

Squeaking: “I’m not happy and I might not feel good. Put me back in my cage.”

Yawning or stretching: “I feel great; I’ve just had a good day’s sleep.”

Like every animal, a hamster needs a safe, comfortable environment to remain free of stress and anxiety, which can lead to health and behavior problems. Hamsters indicate stress by biting, squeaking and overeating.

If your hamster appears to be stressed, take a look at its living quarters to see if changes can improve the environment. Keep the cage and bedding clean, avoid waking the hamster during the day, cage Syrian hamsters or dwarf species that fight with each other separately, provide a running wheel, tunnels and chew toys, place the cage in an area where it’s not exposed to drafts or high temperatures, and provide plenty of food and nesting material for a mother with babies.

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Reader Comments
Thanks for the tips! I just got my hamster (Pinky) and She has shown signs of being sleepy and....
Oh she is asleep already!
Michael, International
Posted: 2/20/2013 5:56:25 PM
Thanks for this. My hamster Fu-Fu passed away because of stress. I think if i had read this earlier he would't have died. But now that I know this i can understand my new hamster's body language.
Ishi, London
Posted: 6/10/2012 8:11:45 AM
Thank you so much, that is very helpful.
Kiki, Naperville, IL
Posted: 8/17/2011 7:02:47 PM
Thanks for all this Info. My hamster Sandy was 1year and 4 months old and she just pasted away this past week. Its so sad I couldn't understand her behavior's recently before she pass. She was squeaking at one time too, and I didnt knew what it meant. I just noticed a huge change in her activity being less active and she fell sick. If I had read this soon then I would have probably keep her alive longer.

R.I.P =Sandy
Angel, Toronto, ON
Posted: 8/17/2011 3:51:21 PM
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