Posted in Hamster
Some hamsters chew on cage bars, but it’s not good for them. This article will walk you through some of the reasons your hamster is chewing the bars and how to get your hamster to stop chewing.
Why is it bad for hamsters to chew the cage bars?
- Hamsters can break their teeth on the bars. The cage bars are too hard for them to chew on, so it can cause permanent damage to their teeth and can get to the point where your hamster will not be able to eat because it is so painful for them.
- Hamsters can get “bar rub” or inflamed skin around their noses from chewing on cage bars. This causes additional stress for the hamster and the skin can become infected.
- Hamsters may succeed in breaking open the bars and escaping from their cages.
In order to protect your hamster from harm, follow the steps below.
1. Is your hamster’s cage big enough?
The most common reason that hamsters chew on cage bars is that their cage is not big enough and they are becoming bored and restless being trapped in an area that is too small. The absolute minimum amount of cage space that the average hamster needs is 360 square inches (12″ x 30″). If your hamster does not have a cage with the minimum requirements, it’s time for a new cage. Check out our page on Hamster Cages for more information on how to choose or make an appropriate cage for your hamster.
Even if most hamsters do just fine in a cage that is 360 square inches, your hamster still might find this too small. After all, hamsters are individuals that have individual preferences, and some hamsters just prefer more room. In this scientific study, hamsters that had a smaller cage size chewed on the bars more frequently than hamsters that had a larger cage size. For cages that were 2,500 square cm (close to the 360 square inches recommended as a minimum cage size), this study showed that hamsters still chewed on the bars about 14.5% of their time in their cages. That’s still quite a lot of time on a harmful behavior! The study is not complete in that it didn’t explore the effect of environment enrichment or other factors on bar chewing, however, it does strongly suggest that the bigger the hamster’s cage, the less time he spends chewing on the cage bars. Bottom line is that if your hamster is chewing the bars, a bigger cage is highly recommended, even if you have the minimum cage size for them. Try getting as big of a cage that you feel comfortable with, and see if the behavior continues.
2. Does your hamster have enough to chew on?
A hamster’s teeth will grow continuously during his life, and he will need to chew to grind them down. If your hamster is chewing the cage bars, he might not have any other options that he likes for chewing. Try to redirect his chewing to an item that is more safe.
- Try buying hamster chews that are different shapes, sizes, and flavors. Some hamsters will prefer different types of toys. Some shapes might be hard to hold onto, and some hamsters might prefer chews that can fit in their mouth.
- If your hamster is not interested in chews that you have already, try flavoring them by soaking them in juice. Any type of juice that is 100% juice will be safe for your hamster. After soaking, let the chew dry off so that it will not stick to the bedding in the cage.
- Supplement your hamster’s diet with fresh fruit and vegetables that are good to chew on. Baby carrots can be great for this. Another popular option is dog biscuits, which make great chews. Just make sure the dog biscuit does not contain garlic or any other ingredients that could be harmful to a hamster. Hazelnuts provide a challenging option for a hamster to try to break open. Go to our Hamster Food page for more ideas and information on what foods are safe for hamsters.
3. Is your hamster bored?
Even if your hamster has enough chew toys, he can still be bored with the monotony of cage life. Try adding new toys to keep him interested in his environment so that he doesn’t have time to think about chewing on cage bars. It’s important to add new toys frequently to keep your hamster’s mind busy.
All hamsters need at minimum a wheel to run in and some chew toys, so make sure those basics are taken care of first. If you need ideas for new and interesting toys, check out our Hamster Toys page.
If your hamster enjoys it, it’s also great mental stimulation to take your hamster outside of his cage frequently to expose him to new environments. Try using a playpen and setting up interesting toys and things for your hamster to explore and play with. You can also try taking your hamster out in a hamster ball to explore the world if your hamster enjoys it.
4. Is your hamster trying to get your attention?
Some hamsters really thrive off of human attention and enjoy being taken out of their cage. If you go over to your hamster’s cage when he is chewing on the bars to get him to stop, you might have accidentally trained your hamster to chew the bars to get your attention! If this sounds like your hamster, you can train him that he needs to be quiet in order to get your attention. If your hamster is chewing the bars, ignore him completely. Once your hamster is behaving and is being quiet, give your hamster attention and do something he enjoys to reward him for good behavior.
5. Have you tried the above suggestions already?
If you’ve already tried the above suggestions (and really tried them using lots of different options) and your hamster is still chewing the cage bars, your hamster might just like chewing bars. If your hamster has already established the habit, the habit can be hard to break. You can try one of the following options:
- Weave some cardboard or popsicle sticks between the bars. This will make it more difficult for your hamster to chew the actual bars, and it will encourage them to try to pull the cardboard or popsicle sticks out of the bars. The only risk is that you have to make sure that your hamster will not be able to pull the bars far enough apart to escape.
- Discourage your hamster from chewing on the cage bars by coating them with a taste that your hamster does not like. You can try using lemon. You can also try using a bitter apple spray that is usually sold to get dogs and cats to stop chewing on things. When you use the spray, make sure you only get the cage bars and don’t get it on anything else inside of the cage.
- Buy or make a cage without bars. Glass tanks and bin cages make great cages and are often bigger than the hamster cages that you can buy in the store. Navigate over to our Hamster Cages page for more information on cages that don’t have bars for your hamster to chew on. Sometimes this is the only way to get persistent hamsters to stop chewing the bars. It might seem like an extreme measure, but given that hamsters can hurt themselves badly if they continue the behavior, it’s in their best interest.