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can you cut hamsters whiskers?
Questions And Answers

Do You Need To Cut Hamsters’ Whiskers?

Whiskers are vital for enabling hamsters to navigate their surroundings in the dark, maintain their balance, and detect obstacles, predators, and other objects.

Cutting a hamster’s whiskers causes stress, loss of balance, and a diminished sense of smell. Also, it prevents hamsters from judging the size of the gaps.

Trimming is likely to be an uncomfortable experience due to the sensitivity of the vibrissae. Whiskers naturally shed and fall out over time, so trimming them is unnecessary.

Can You Cut Hamsters Whiskers?

Scientifically known as vibrissae, hamsters rely on their whiskers for various reasons.

While you can cut through their whiskers with sharp scissors, you mustn’t trim them under any circumstances, not even to take the ends off. Here’s why:

Risk of Injury

Whiskers are regulated by tiny tactile receptors directly attached to the nervous system.

The whiskers vibrate backward and forward around 30 whisks per second. This behavior is known as whisking and is vital in helping hamsters ascertain their surroundings and avoid danger.

The absence of whiskers prevents hamsters from navigating their environment, exposing them to dangers they’d easily avoid with whiskers.

Behavioral Changes

A sudden absence of whiskers causes behavioral changes due to disorientation.

Your hamster will hide in its hideouts or burrows, refusing to come out due to fear and insecurity caused by not having whiskers.

Hamsters are also less able to detect predators, causing stress and anxiety.

what happens if you cut a hamsters whiskers?


Hamster whiskers are comprised of keratin. While they have no nerves or pain receptors, they have sensitive nerve endings at the roots.

It shouldn’t hurt to cut a hamster’s whiskers, but it may feel uncomfortable due to the shockwaves that travel down the length of each whisker.

Why Are Hamster Whiskers Important?

As we’ve touched upon, hamsters rely on their whiskers to survive.

Because hamsters have poor eyesight, they use their whiskers as an additional sense, helping them pick up cues about the world around them.

Without whiskers, they’d struggle to stay alive in the wild and have difficulty moving around crowded enclosures in captivity.

Hamster whiskers perform the following functions:

Sense Surroundings

As described by Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, all small mammals use facial whiskers as tactile sensors to guide navigation.

They do this by constantly moving their whiskers around to sense vibrations in the air.

As hamsters are nocturnal, their whiskers are densely packed, enabling them to move forward without collision while protecting the area in front of their snout.

Having whiskers also allows hamsters to prepare for a safe landing should they fall. Not only that, but whiskers help hamsters forage in complex habitats, which is particularly useful in scarce environments.

In captivity, whiskers help hamsters move about their cage, find their food, and locate their wheel. The whiskers detect airflow in their burrows, enabling them to avoid obstacles while digging tunnels.

Check Size and Dimensions

Hamster whiskers are as long as the widest part of their bodies, allowing them to gauge the size of an opening, which they’ll only enter if they know they can fit.

The Journal for Neuroscience explains how rats have been found to determine opening sizes using their whiskers with an accuracy of 5-10%, suggesting hamsters have a similar degree of accuracy once they have full-sized whiskers.

Maintain Balance

Whiskers help hamsters remain balanced by keeping their bodies steady. Without them, hamsters become unstable and unsteady on their feet and struggle to move around without falling over.

This is even more dangerous in enclosures with multiple platforms that hamsters could fall from.

Detect Scents

Hamsters have an excellent sense of smell, partly due to their whiskers.

The whiskers work alongside the nose to pick up scents like other hamsters, predators, and humans, altering them to dangers.

Not only that, but whiskers enable hamsters to see better. That’s because whiskers are in constant motion, transmitting messages to the brain to help them develop images of their environment.

Display Emotions

Hamsters use their whiskers to convey emotions. Depending on how closely you observe a hamster, you’ll be able to tell how it feels. Here are the most common hamster whisker positions:

  • Relaxed: Whiskers fixed in a neutral position mean a hamster is happy and comfortable.
  • Pointed backward: This is the position of an anxious, nervous, or scared hamster.
  • Pointed forward: Forward-facing whiskers indicate that a hamster is alert, checking for dangers.

What Happens if You Cut a Hamster’s Whiskers?

As explained, hamsters need their whiskers as they’re vulnerable to obstacles, predators, and other dangers without them.

While captive hamsters have few threats to worry about, including predators and a lack of food, they don’t have the mental capacity to understand that they’re safe from harm in their enclosures.

Cutting your hamster’s whiskers causes the following problems:

Loss of Balance

A lack of whiskers also affects balance by disorientating the hamster.

Hamsters would struggle to find their footing, increasing the likelihood of an accident. Hamsters have small, fragile bodies, which is likely to lead to injuries, some of which are fatal.

Risk of Getting Stuck

Moreover, hamsters with their whiskers cut short are likelier to get stuck in small gaps because they don’t have their whiskers to judge what spaces can fit through.

For hamsters that burrow, they’re likely to get wedged into small gaps they can’t escape.

This can lead to suffocation, dehydration, or starvation in extreme circumstances, depending on how long they get stuck. Cutting a hamster’s whiskers hinders its ability to carry out natural functions.

do hamsters whiskers grow back?


Not having whiskers leads to stress, which significantly shortens hamsters’ lifespans.

Without whiskers, a hamster will likely become sick from avoidable health conditions, such as Tyzzer’s disease or wet tail. Both of these are fatal if not detected and treated early enough.

Do Hamsters Whiskers Grow Back?

Hamster whiskers grow back within 2-3 months after being cut. Because whiskers are made of keratin, they continuously grow throughout a hamster’s life.

That said, your hamster will face several behavioral difficulties while they grow back.

While it’s not a good idea to cut whiskers, whiskers naturally shed and break off. Injuries, trauma, and stress are the main culprits, but older hamsters more commonly experience whisker loss.

This doesn’t usually cause any problems, as the remaining whiskers continue to help coordinate the hamster’s balance and movements.

Hamsters need their whiskers, so you must leave them alone. Even touching them can be a stressful experience due to how sensitive they are.

If you’ve trimmed your hamster’s whiskers too short, leave them to grow back and ensure that the cage is safe, removing any obstacles or high platforms.