Last Updated on: 24th September 2023, 09:30 pm
Life can be dull for small, caged animals, so hamsters must be entertained.
If you fail to provide enough enrichment, a hamster will find things to do. An example is monkey barring, where a hamster clings to the top of a cage, swinging from bar to bar.
A hamster doing monkey bars risks injury if it falls, so it should be dissuaded from this activity.
Ensure the cage is big enough to sate the hamster’s need for exercise by providing toys and climbing apparatus. If a hamster refuses to stop monkey barring, switch its cage for a plastic tank.
Captive hamsters must indulge their instincts, including wanting to climb and stay active.
What is Monkey Barring in Hamsters?
As stated, monkey barring involves the hamster climbing to the top of its cage and moving from one side to the other. The habit is named after the classic children’s playground apparatus.
Syrian hamsters are the likeliest breed to engage in monkey barring, mainly due to their slightly larger size.
Dwarf hamsters may perform monkey barring occasionally, but many lack the body mass and strength to lift themselves to the top of the cage.
Is Monkey Barring Dangerous for Hamsters?
A hamster won’t struggle to clamber to the top of the cage, and most hamsters enjoy the experience, as climbing comes naturally to hamsters.
Unfortunately, hamsters are at risk of falling while monkey barring, which can cause injury. Hamster bodies have small, fragile bones, so it doesn’t take much impact to cause an injury or fracture.
Protect the hamster by stopping monkey barring within the cage. While 6+ inches of substrate will provide padding in the event of a crash landing, preventative measures should be introduced.
Why is My Hamster Monkey Barring?
Hamsters have an instinct to climb, so they’ll embrace it if they can. If the hamster lives in a cage, clambering using bars on the side and ceiling is the easiest way.
There are three explanations for a hamster monkey barring in its cage:
Lack of Space
The most common reason a hamster monkey bars around its cage is a lack of space.
Wild hamsters are used to running overnight, covering up to 6 miles of ground. A small cage won’t afford this opportunity unless fitted with a running wheel.
The ideal size of a hamster cage depends on the species.
As the largest hamster, the Syrian needs an enclosure of at least 24x12x12 inches, but bigger is better. The more space the hamster has to move around within, the happier it’ll be.
Monkey barring could be an attempt to find a weakness in the ceiling, as they’re skilled escapologists. If your pet hamster finds a hatch in the ceiling while monkey-barring, it’ll seek to squeeze through.
One of the negatives of living in too small a cage is boredom and stress. A cage that lacks sufficient square footage will mean that a hamster will struggle to find ways to keep itself amused.
As crepuscular animals, hamsters spend most of their waking lives alone while you’re fast asleep. They may get an hour or two of free-running time, but they’re restricted to a cage beyond this.
This may not be an issue if that cage has entertainment. If you don’t provide a hamster with toys and other diversions, it’ll make fun, including monkey barring.
If you leap to attention every time your hamster starts monkey barring, a hamster will have no reason to stop indulging in the habit. If you also provide treats, it’ll serve to reinforce the behavior.
How To Stop A Hamster Monkey Barring
There are four ways to approach stopping monkey barring:
Establish a Routine
As discussed, hamsters will never be shy about monkey barring if they think it’ll get them out of a cage. Hamsters love time outside their habitat and won’t pass up a chance to gain a quick exit.
Like cage biting, monkey barring is a stereotypic behavior you shouldn’t ignore. Equally, immediately removing the hamster from its cage when you see monkey barring sets a precedent.
Establish a routine for the hamster that sets its mind at rest.
Alternative Climbing Apparatus
The above approach may stop the hamster from monkey-barring when it first wakes up, but what about later in the evening, after you’ve retired for the night? You still need to sate a hamster’s desire to climb.
Go to your local pet store, and you’ll find a range of climbing toys.
Climbing frames made of natural wood will fit within any cage of appropriate size and allow hamsters to indulge in their desire to clamber and scramble safely.
Keep the Hamster Entertained
A hamster needs other diversions to remain happy in a habitat. Ensure the hamster has the opportunity to exercise and indulge in other instincts, such as foraging, hiding, and grooming.
Essential additions to any hamster habitat include:
- Running wheel to burn off excess energy.
- Chew toys to pass the time.
- Paper and tissue-based toys to destroy and file teeth.
- Tubes to explore.
- Bedding to sate a hamster’s nesting instinct.
- Food dotted around the substrate to encourage foraging.
With these additions, a hamster will unlikely resort to monkey barring to amuse itself.
Change of Habitat
We’ve discussed the importance of size, so upgrade to a larger cage if necessary.
Be mindful when housing dwarf hamster breeds, as large cages have oversized spaces between bars. Tiny hamsters may be able to sneak through these bars and escape or hurt themselves trying to climb.
If the hamster can’t be stopped from monkey barring, do they need a cage with bars? Some hamsters live in solid glass tanks.
Monkey barring comes naturally to hamsters, but that doesn’t mean it’s a habit to be indulged. Learn the risks that arise when hamsters monkey bar across a cage and understand why it’s doing so.