Why Do Hamsters Chew on the Cage?

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Like listening to a prisoner yearning for a reprieve, hearing your hamster rattle his cage bars can be a heart-wrenching sound. It can also be incredibly annoying, since he usually decides to noisily chew on the cage wires when he's naturally active in the dead of night. If you can decode the reason he's doing this, you can turn his teeth to another activity.

Battling Boredom

Syrian hamsters live solitary lives, but that doesn't mean they're happy sitting around and doing nothing all day -- or night, as is more likely the case: Most authorities believe hamsters are nocturnal, meaning they are awake at night. Some say they're crepuscular, which means they're awake at sunrise and sunset. Whatever time he's awake, a hamster needs an exercise wheel so he can get in the many miles he would run in the wild. Hamsters enjoy room to explore, bedding in which to burrow, and shredded facial tissue -- without added lotion -- to stuff in their hideaways as nests.

If you keep your hamster in a tiny cage or if you house him with nothing to keep him stimulated, you can expect bar rattling. Review your hamster's accommodations and toys if you see or, more likely, hear this behavior.

Warning

Nothing Else to Chew

Are you providing something safe to satisfy your hamster's natural wood-whittling instincts? Chewing on the bars can be a sign that there simply isn't enough to chew in the cage. Even a wooden sleep hut can provide action for a rodent's ever-growing teeth. Hamsters can be picky, though, and may eschew colorful wooden blocks found in the small-animal aisle at the pet store in favor of a natural willow branch. Try different varieties of chews including apple branches to find which woods your hamster prefers.

Warning

    • Gathering sticks from the yard and giving them to your hamster can bring
      harmful pesticides into his mouth. Give your hamster untreated wood from a
      reliable commercial pet-products source or an organic yard.
    • Hamsters can chew through and potentially ingest plastic cages and on
      plastic platforms or tunnels. For added safety, choose a wire cage with asolid metal tray or an aquarium and use cardboard tubes or wooden shacks for hideaways.

Hungry Hamster

Hamsters learn how to signal when they need sustenance. You may hear the metal tip of the water bottle rattling if the reservoir has run dry. You may hear him nudging the bowl if no food is inside. And he could also rattle the cage bars to let you know.

Your job is to make sure that his messaging never reaches this point. Check the bottle daily and fill it up with fresh water. Use a bottle instead of a water bowl to ensure that bedding and waste do not make his water undrinkable. Regardless of breed, feed him a tablespoon per day of high-quality hamster pellets instead of the commercial mixes brimming with seeds and colorful bits. You can refresh the pellets any time of day, and your hamster will stuff his cheeks with his favorites upon waking in the evening.

Tip

  • Put a few tidbits of food in the hideaway hut after you've cleaned the cage to compensate for destroying his carefully built stash. He'll appreciate the gesture, and he'll gradually rebuild his stockpile.

Getting Attention

If your hamster learns that you come over to the cage and pop a treat in his paws when he rattles the bars, he's going to work that angle. It's hard to look at that cute face and not smother him with attention, but be judicious with the treats.

Give no more than a few tidbits of fresh or dried fruits or greens once a day, and do so when he's not making noise. You can give them in the evening, before he wakes up or before you go to bed; remove any uneaten produce as soon as you get up in the morning.

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