Small pets, like hamsters and dwarf hamsters, are prone to drops, knocks, falls, and other accidents that can cause painful injuries.
If a hamster falls from a high platform, it may experience long-term or life-threatening injuries. Unfortunately, physical trauma can occur, even if you take precautions.
Although some species of hamsters can live together, they’re prone to territorial fights. So, if you keep several hamsters in a single cage, conflict may lead to bites, scrapes, cuts, and other wounds.
Implementing safeguards reduces the chances of injuries, but there’s no guaranteed way to prevent them. Accidents happen, and you can’t observe hamsters 24/7, especially as they’re most active at night.
This increases the likelihood of common injuries such as:
Drops and Falls
Hamsters are curious animals that explore their environment, enjoying jumping and climbing. So, they’ll leap from their owners’ hands when they feel threatened or uncomfortable.
Unfortunately, hamsters rarely consider where they’ll land, a problem exacerbated by a hamster’s poor eyesight. Aside from recklessness, a hamster may not see what’s in front of it.
Leaping from your hands, a table, or its cage without being able to accurately gauge the distance to the ground can be a costly misjudgment.
Injuries sustained from accidental falls or drops can be mild or severe, depending on the height of the fall and the environment.
If your hamster falls, it may walk away harmlessly or have slight bruising. Also, the fall could be negligible if there’s a soft surface, such as a carpet or padding, to break the fall.
If your hamster falls several feet, it may sustain serious injuries, including concussion and fractured bones. This risk increases if a hamster falls onto a hard surface such as concrete, stone, or tile.
Keeping multiple hamsters in a shared cage may lead to aggression and fighting.
Conflict might appear mild since both creatures are so small. However, hamsters have sharp teeth and a willingness to fight to the death.
This can leave the losing hamster vulnerable to dangerous scrapes and gouging bite marks.
Certain hamsters, such as Syrian and dwarf hamsters, can be more aggressive toward other hamsters than others. Sometimes, they may kill and eat their cage mates.
According to Hormonal Behavior, winning fights increases testosterone and androgens in Syrian hamsters. So, fighting isn’t just due to territory and self-defense.
However, species like the Roborovski hamster get along well with others, only resorting to aggression against cage mates when kept in overcrowded conditions.
If you want to keep more than one hamster, consider male-female or female-female pairs. Otherwise, keep the hamsters in separate cages or use a divider to avoid fighting between hamsters.
Enclosure And Toys
Unfortunately, an overeager hamster may bite too hard and chip its teeth. This can lead to pain and chewing problems for several weeks until the teeth grow back.
Also, hamsters can get their feet caught in their exercise wheels. Those with gaps or bars could result in a hamster catching or bruising its feet as it runs on the wheel at high speeds.
Attacks By Pets
As small creatures, hamsters are susceptible to attacks by larger animals. Consequently, leaving your hamster’s cage unsecured will make your hamster vulnerable to other pets.
A cat may injure a hamster as it bats at the creature, and a dog could knock over the cage. That’s not to mention the stress a hamster will endure when it’s stalked near-constantly.
According to Companion Animal, hamsters instinctively hide their pain to protect themselves from predators. Consequently, it can be difficult to identify when hamsters have an injury.
The signs that a hamster has an injury are:
- Open wounds
- Sleeping more
- Squeaks and cries of pain
- Reluctance to use a limb
- Paralysis of the hind legs
- Strained breathing
- Lack of appetite/sudden change in feeding patterns
- Sudden weight loss
- Increased aggression
These symptoms won’t manifest immediately, so you may notice them several days or weeks later.
How To Care for An Injured Hamster
The sooner you treat an injured hamster, the more likely it is to recover. While a trip to the vet may be necessary, there are ways you can assess and treat a hamster’s injury at home:
Assess The Severity of The Injury
Assess any obvious injuries, such as bleeding or broken bones. You may observe bruising and swelling around a hamster’s leg after a fall, so it’ll limp when you set it down again.
For minor injuries, you can place the hamster back in its cage so that it can rest. Provide it with ample food and water, and keep the area warm.
If your hamster is dragging its legs, bleeding from the head, or experiencing convulsions, it has severe injuries and will need to be assessed by a veterinarian.
Schedule A Vet Appointment
A vet will examine the hamster visually and may get x-rays to determine the extent of its injuries.
Often, broken bones or concussions are treatable. The vet may cast a broken bone, clean and dress wounds, provide antibiotics to prevent infection, or prescribe medication to assist with recovery.
In the worst case, euthanasia may be necessary, which is most common if a hamster has internal bleeding, broken bones that can’t be healed or serious damage to the head.
The vet will inform you about your hamster’s health and well-being during the examination and will only recommend putting a hamster down to prevent pain.
Limit Handling Frequency
If a hamster has experienced deep bruising, jostling it around can lead to additional pain. So, a hamster will want to retreat away and recover in solitude. Forcing it to interact with you may fray the hamster’s patience, leading to bites.
Sometimes, you have no choice but to pick up, carry, or handle a hamster. You may need to check it over for injuries, take it to the vet, or administer treatment yourself.
If you need to transport a hamster, use a padded cardboard box that can be shut to keep the hamster’s environment dark, quiet, and safe during transit.
Most injuries can be treated successfully at home or the vet’s office. Injuries cause pain and suffering, preventing a hamster from enjoying its life.
For this reason, it’s better to implement safeguards to minimize the possibility of injuries:
When picking up, holding, or moving your hamster, place one hand beneath it and another holding it around the shoulders. This will enable you to tighten your grip if the hamster squirms and falls.
Only hold your hamster when sitting on the floor, as this will prevent injuries if your hamster manages to escape your grasp and fall. Put a plush blanket, carpet, or pillow underneath the hamster to soften any accidental falls.
It’s okay to allow your kids to play and interact with the hamsters. However, only permit this with your constant supervision or the supervision of another adult.
Keep Pets Away
Hamsters don’t get along well with predatory animals, such as cats and dogs. So, limit interaction between your hamster and other pets, especially larger animals.
Sharp objects, such as metal toys or cracked plastic, can pierce through your hamster’s skin and cause flesh wounds and damage internal organs. So, ensure nothing has signs of extreme wear and tear.
Ensure that a hamster’s wheel is smooth and sealed so that it can’t get its feet caught. Avoid hamster balls entirely, as they’re stressful and dangerous.