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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
Thank you this really helped a lot now I can understand my hamster.
Rose, Los lunas
Posted: 7/1/2015 10:58:58 PM
This helped me a lot. I've my hamster Harley for about 3 months now and she always chews at her cage and she'll even escape if we dont put something weighted on the top. So i'm definitely going to get her a new cage and toys ASAP
Ann, north lebanon, DE
Posted: 3/5/2015 4:26:34 PM
Fern: squeaking is a way of getting attention. I've only had two of my many hamsters do it. Both were females past the age of one when they started. One of them was definitely looking for a boyfriend when she did it. If she's otherwise looking alert and relaxed, it's entirely possible your hamster's just calling for attention and, now that you've given it to her, knows you're trained properly and will respond each time she does. Unfortunately for you, hamsters are active at night and so she sees no problem with waking you up to give her attention. Sounds like she's spoiled, and very much loved. You're doing great :)
Tam, Ft. Myers, FL
Posted: 6/29/2014 9:40:07 PM
I am trying to understand why my hamster wakes up between 2 and 3 every morning and starts squeaking loudly. I take her out of her cage and place her in the crook of my arm, talking soothingly to her until the squeaking subsides. Then she started to click gently. I place her on the floor of my room as she is a free roaming hamster at night and she immediately make her way back to her cage and to her bed and goes back to sleep. Is she having nightmares? She was a rescue so I don't know what the previous people or children did to her.
Fern, International
Posted: 5/18/2014 10:55:19 PM
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