Why do hamsters fight?

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why do hamsters fight

Thanks to COVID-19 we have all been stuck in the house together for months and months which has, inevitably, led to the kids bickering and fighting much more than usual. This forced imprisonment has made me appreciate why a hamster may prefer to live alone rather than seeking solace with a fluffy hammy mate.

There are some breeds of hamster, such as Dwarfs, that will tolerate sharing a cage with one another. But if you own two Syrian hamsters, then they should always be housed separately as these hamsters are territorial and therefore are known to fight.

The trouble is, how do you know when your hamsters are physically fighting and when they are just enjoying boisterous play? Hamster behavior is tricky to understand at the best of times, but the last thing you want to do is misread the signs and risk the chance of your hamsters getting hurt. Here we will explain all you need to know about hamsters fighting.

Reasons hamsters fight

If you do decide to get Syrian hamsters then they should always be kept in separate cages. These hamsters may be cute to handle but are fiercely territorial over their own space. So, from around six and eight weeks of age, Syrian hamsters need to be housed apart.

In additional to being possessive, the most common reasons why hamsters may fight is because they are limited on space, feel threatened or are stressed out by their cage mate. However, dwarf hamsters are a breed that will happily share their accommodation, providing they are with the same breed but different sex. But remember, they have not chosen their cage mate, you have, and therefore there is always the potential for a fall out.

You should be vigilant and watch out for any signs that your hamsters are fighting, to prevent your pets from getting hurt. You’ll know something is awry because when hamsters fight, they can be very noisy and aggressive.

What to do if your hamsters fight?

Hamsters may look small but they can be fierce and a fight between two hamsters is not for the faint-hearted. Hamsters generally attack using their teeth which enables them to inflict serious injuries on their rivals, with some fights even ending in death.

Therefore it is important that if you see two hamsters fighting that you step in and separate them as quickly as possible.  However, breaking up a hamster fight is easier said than done – especially when they in throes of aggression as there is the chance that you yourself may be injured unintentionally.

Therefore, we recommend that you use gloves or try and place a physical barrier between each hamster so that once they have calmed down you can safely remove one. Once hamsters start to fight it is unlikely that they will be able to cohabit a cage again so they should be separated for good.

Ways to prevent your hamsters from fighting

If you do decide to house two hamsters together, there are a number of things that you can do to encourage harmony between your hamsters, although there are no guarantees that they will become best friends.

  • Separate breeds and sex

Female hamsters are known to prefer the company of others, whilst male hamsters will happily live on their own whilst mixing the sex of hamsters will only lead to the inevitable. You should never attempt to pair up Syrian hamsters regardless of sex, as these are solitary pets and need to live alone.

  • Introduce your hamsters slowly

Every hamster has its own personality and even with dwarf hamsters, there is a chance that they may clash. Therefore, you should never put two hamsters straight in the same environment. Introduce them slowly by placing their cages side by side so that they get a chance to smell one another and interact through the bars at a safe distance. After a number of days or weeks, if you notice them tolerating one another then you can place them in a brand new, scent-free cage. This will allow them the opportunity to get to know each other in a neutral environment, without one feeling more dominant than the other.

  • Size of cage

If you are going to keep more than one hamster in a cage, then it is really important that there is enough room for them to have their own personal space. If the cage is cramped, then there is more chance that your hamsters will fight. It is also a good idea to ensure that each hamster has its own house, bottle, food bowl and toys to prevent any fights over-sharing. Plus, just like children, hamsters can get bored, so either change the layout of the cage regularly or introduce different accessories so that they are stimulated and less likely to scrap.

  • Regularly clean out your hamsters’ cage

Although hamsters are relatively clean pets, when two or more are together in a cage they need to be cleaned out more regularly. Overpowering scents could start to stress out your hamsters so make sure they are spot cleaned daily. For more information on how to clean your hamster’s cage click here.

Hamster squabbles v hamster fights

It’s important to note that squabbles between hamsters are not uncommon, especially in the early days when they are asserting their positions within the cage.

Normal fighting between hamsters is about dominance, and once one hamster puts the other one in their place it generally starts to calm down. Chasing, squeaking, sniffing, and squealing is considered normal behaviour, although it can look and sound upsetting at times.

As long as your hamsters do not come to any harm and they are happy to interact with one another on a daily basis in terms of sleeping, eating, and socializing, then just put the daily squabbles down to a bit of hamster rivalry.

Actual fighting looks very different! If you see your hamsters biting, clawing, chasing, or cornering another hamster to prevent escape then these are signs that there is bullying and fighting going on between your hamsters in their cage.

Conclusion

Hamsters are not like other pets in that they miss having company. Providing your hamster has plenty of human interaction then finding them a cage playmate is not required. If, however, you do want to get a couple of dwarf hamsters, please ensure that you integrate them slowly and watch out for signs of fighting. This way your hamster can make hammy friends without feeling threatened or stressed.

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