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The Language Of Hamsters

Use these 14 tips to better understand your hamster.

By Erika Sorocco

Page 1 of 2

hamster sitting with hands together
With careful observation, you can learn a bit of hamster language.

Effectively communicating with your hamster doesn’t have to be a challenge. When you’re armed with the appropriate knowledge to get the job done, communication with your hamster can actually be easy.

1. "Slinky Operator" Hamster
A hamster slinking around its cage, acting quite a bit like a cat burglar isn’t in the midst of stealing anything, it’s simply trying to tell you that something is amiss.

“Often when in pain, a hamster may hunch his back slightly, and take very small steps,” said Kerry Kraemer, DVM, of Blum Animal Hospital in Chicago. “He may also be restless, and possibly show difficulties in getting comfortable. If you observe this type of movement, be sure to handle the hamster carefully, as pain may cause the animal to bite.”

2. "Wave Your Hands In The Air" Hamster
When curious, hamsters are known to explore the environment by standing on their hind legs and waving their front paws a bit. Hamsters do not have good eyesight, so they rely on other senses — such as touch, taste, scent — to grow accustomed to and explore their surroundings. 

3. "I Can’t Get Up" Hamster
“Lethargy and reluctance to move indicate illness, and mean that it’s time to see a vet,” said Daniel Henry Johnson, DVM and owner of Avian and Exotic Care, P.A., in Raleigh, North Carolina.

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4. "Burrowing Baby" Hamster
Hamsters burrow when sleeping, hiding food and retrieving previously hidden food. These three activities are completely normal and done regularly. Sleeping hamsters are easily startled if not woken up before they feel your touch. This can lead to a quick nip or bite. 

5. "Hissy Fit" Hamster
“Hamsters hiss when they are frightened or aggressive,” said Jeffrey Jenkins, DVM and owner of Avian & Exotic Animal Hospital in San Diego. “This is a warning. Let your friend settle or be prepared for the consequences!”

Hissing, however, is not the only way that hamsters display fear. Oftentimes, hamsters take on a strange stance, dominated by flashing their teeth and lying motionless on the ground, to communicate that they are feeling fear. 

6. "Pretty Please With A Pellet On Top" Hamster
At a time when your hamster stands on its hind legs with its front paws hanging limply it might appear to be begging, but actually it is being watchful. Watchfulness, in turn, can lead to aggression. And aggression can lead to a bite or a nip. A hamster may look sweet and cuddly in a begging stance, but keep your hands away from it at this time.

7. "Open Wide" Hamster
“A yawning hamster can be stressed or sleepy,” said Byron de la Navarre, DVM, and owner of Animal House of Chicago in Chicago. “Yawning can also indicate displacement behavior or an aggressive display. Yawning is often visible in aggressive, stressed and pre-sleeping hamsters. The best course of action when you see your hamster yawning is to leave him alone. Wait until the yawn is complete and assess the hamster’s body language before handling him.”

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Posted: March 1, 2010, 5 a.m. EST

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The Language Of Hamsters

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Reader Comments
Very interesting!!
Annie, Buffalo, MO
Posted: 2/12/2013 9:32:00 AM
Wery good information about hamsters!
You are true animal person.

Check out also my blog about hamsters:
dwarf hamster, dunno, UT
Posted: 12/4/2012 11:36:45 AM
Great tips!
Galadriel, Lothlorien, ME
Posted: 11/26/2011 11:41:35 PM
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