Reasons why hamsters chew on cage bars
A persistent rotating hamster wheel is enough to send you insane but equally as annoying is the relentless sound of a hamster chewing on its cage bars. It’s enough to keep you awake at night and disturb you whilst you are watching TV. But is this constant chewing just a bad habit or do hamsters really need to gnaw?
Your hamster might chew and bite its cage bars to keep their incisor teeth well filed or to communicate how they are feeling. Hamsters that are hungry, bored or stressed can often spend all night chewing the bars of their cage.
In order for your hamster to maintain good oral hygiene and mental stimulation, they need to chew. But for your own sanity, and to prevent them from causing harm to their teeth, you should encourage your hamster to nibble on wooden toys and crunchy vegetables.
Below I will explain more about why you should discourage your hamster from chewing on metal and plastic cage bars and other ways in which you can look after their dental health and wellbeing.
Encouraging healthy hamster gnawing
Hamsters like to chew hard materials as it helps wear down their four front teeth which continually grow. But, if your hamster has nothing to chew, then their incisors will overgrow. This can interfere with a hamster’s ability to open and close its mouth, can poke through into the gums and tongue and even collide when your hamster tries to close its mouth.
To lessen the chance of developing overgrown incisors, give your hamster the following to chew on:
- Small, soft wooden toys or sticks for them to wear down their teeth
- Crunchy hard vegetables such as carrots and sweetcorn cobs for them to bite down on
- An untreated block of wood – which can be good for climbing on too
- Cardboard tubes for them to shred
- The odd dog biscuit from time to time – as long as they are not too high in fat
- And, if they like the taste of metal, try giving them a stainless-steel spoon
Is it bad for a hamster to chew and bite cage bars?
If you spot your hamster chewing on the metal bars of its wire cage, don’t be alarmed as this is a perfectly normal habit, although not one that is good for their teeth!
The problem with chewing metal bars, as opposed to other hard objects, is that they can cause your hamster’s teeth to become misaligned. Some metal bars are also coated in a thin plastic, which is easy for a hamster to remove and swallow. As plastic is a difficult substance to break down this can cause your hamster to have internal issues.
If you are investing in a wire cage, then make sure you choose one that is made of galvanized steel. This type of metal is corrosive resistant, won’t rust and therefore won’t fall apart if a hamster gnaws on its bars.
For us, building a bin cage and removing the temptation of metal bars soon encouraged Oscar to seek solace for his gnawing elsewhere. Therefore, if other solutions have failed to work, why not make you own bin cage or invest in a well-ventilated glass tank. Both make great hamster homes and will ensure a more peaceful household.
Hamster chewing habits formed out of boredom
Just like humans, hamsters can become bored and need to release their pent up energy. If left alone for long periods of time, then they may look to fill the silence with the sound made from chewing on their cage bars.
This is why other hamster cage accessories such as wheels, climbing frames, tunnels and hammocks are so vital to your hamsters overall care. You should also give your hamster plenty of lap love and time away from their cage so that they can enjoy some interaction and the feeling of freedom.
Hungry hamsters chew
If your hamster has plenty of things to play on and chew, then the cause of the gnawing could well be something else.
Hamsters are not like humans and do not require three meals a day. However, they do like to constantly snack and will stockpile their food around their cage to allow them to do this. It is important to not only make sure that you have plenty of pellet or muesli mixture to hand but that you can give them a diverse choice of food including fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs to stop them getting bored. Afterall how would you feel about being served the same dish of food day in and day out!
See this article for more information on what you should feed your hamster.
Taking the stress out of cage life
Just like biting your nails, when hamsters get stressed, they instinctively chew. Hamsters are typically nervy creatures by nature and get frightened by sudden movement, loud noises or other animals invading their space. This is why it is so important to place them in a room where they are allowed to rest and play on their own terms.
If you notice your hamster chewing more, alongside other unusual characteristics such as aggressiveness, hair loss, squeaking, excessive salivation or insistent attempts to escape, then these could all be signs that your hamster is stressed, and you should seek veterinary advice.
Our hamster Oscar likes to chew. Luckily, we have a hamster bin cage so are oblivious to the times that he does it. But a shredded cardboard tube that’s been made into bedding, a wooden toy that has seen better days and an empty corn cob are all evidence of his enthusiasm to chew. The biggest indicator, however, is his teeth, that would impress even the best orthodontist.
It is good for your hamster to chew – it’s instinctive behaviour and essential for their dental and mental health. Just make sure that they have a nutritious diet and can relax and play in an enriched environment and you’ll soon find the nibbling of the cage bars become a thing of the past.