Hamsters make various noises to communicate how they feel. Hissing is a negative sound hamsters make when afraid, threatened, or startled.
Hissing is a hamster’s way of warning off a perceived threat. If the hiss doesn’t work, the hamster will revert to biting, which is a last-ditch defense attempt to survive.
Hamsters require a stress-free environment to thrive. PLoS One explains that hamsters are a prey species, vulnerable to dangers but with in-built instincts that enable them to survive.
Why Is My Hamster Hissing?
Hamsters hiss for the following reasons:
Hamsters are likely to hiss when they first move into a new home.
A new cage feels unfamiliar and scary, so moving home is a significant source of stress. It takes hamsters time to adjust to leaving their mothers and littermates.
Once the hamster explores and transfers its scent to the bedding and cage, it’ll feel more comfortable and should eventually stop hissing.
However, you must provide an enclosure measuring at least 80 x 50 cm, or the hamster will grow stressed due to a lack of space and hiding places.
Scared of Owners
If you’re wondering, “Why is my hamster hissing at me?” it’s likely because it doesn’t know you yet. Hamsters need to know their owners’ unique scent before trusting them.
Also, hamsters use their sense of smell and hearing to determine an owner’s identity.
This involves going through a taming process involving daily handling to enable the hamster to learn who you are. Before this happens, the hamster will see you as a predator and hiss at you.
Similarly, if you’ve mishandled, dropped, or harmed your hamster while holding it, it’ll associate you with fear and hiss at you. You can take steps to rectify this, but you must prove you’re not a threat.
This can be achieved by spending time nearby (without handling) and providing occasional snacks. Given time, the hamster will become less fearful of your presence.
Although this may seem like a contradiction, given that hamsters hiss at unfamiliar humans, they dislike being handled too much or too often.
Hamsters are shy, so incorrect handling or sudden movements make them feel threatened.
Most hamsters are happy with a small amount of contact but prefer being alone to roam and play. Therefore, don’t play with your hamster for longer than it’s comfortable, especially while you’re going through the taming process and haven’t established a bond.
Sickness or Injury
If you usually have a happy hamster that begins hissing without reason, it could be in pain or have a health condition that makes it feel vulnerable.
According to Companion Animal, hamsters instinctively hide signs of illness until it is no longer possible. Consequently, they display defensive behaviors like hissing.
For example, the hamster may have broken its tail or hurt its foot while running on its wheel. So, get the hamster checked over by a veterinarian to see if it’s unwell or carrying an injury.
Nowhere To Hide
Hamsters need access to hiding spaces inside and outside the cage.
They retreat to their hideouts and bedding to protect themselves from threats. If they don’t have enough hiding places, they feel threatened and hiss to warn potential predators away.
A lack of hiding spaces doesn’t only cause hamsters to hiss, but it also causes stress. This is dangerous because it precipitates harmful bacteria, increasing the risk of life-threatening health conditions.
To avoid this situation, provide at least six inches of bedding throughout the hamster’s enclosure and two or more hideouts with holes large enough for the hamster to fit through.
Hamsters are sensitive to loud noises and feel threatened by them.
High-pitched sounds and sudden noises are especially problematic, causing hamsters to hiss out of fear. In the worst cases, they can trigger stress-related diseases like wet tail.
Hamsters kept in noisy environments are more likely to hiss. They need a quiet space to live in, particularly during the day while they sleep.
Keep the hamster away from TV noise, pets, and loud children, and minimize noisy distractions likely to keep it awake.
Dogs with loud barks and cats that stalk hamsters are among the most threatening animals. If the hamster can’t flee danger, it’ll hiss to warn them away and protect itself.
Due to the risks involved, keep other household pets away from the hamster’s environment. Should the hamster escape, it could become injured or killed.
Hamsters have a strong sense of smell and can tell when predatory animals are near, causing distress.
What To Do if Your Hamster Hisses at You
Hamsters don’t hiss unless they feel threatened, so you must move carefully around your hamster to prevent distress. If the hamster hisses at you, give it space and put it back in its cage.
Next, you must understand what’s causing the hamster to hiss at you. If you haven’t done so, you’ll need to begin the taming process. Otherwise, something else is to blame, like a new perfume or aftershave the hamster doesn’t recognize or poor living conditions.
Perhaps you haven’t done anything to trigger the hamster to hiss, but a small cage or lack of hiding spaces has caused distress.
Whatever the reason, improve the conditions to ensure the hamster reverts to a more comfortable demeanor. The hamster won’t stop hissing unless it has a comfortable environment.
Why Are My Hamsters Hissing at Each Other?
Due to their territorial nature, hamsters are strictly solitary creatures.
Hamsters see each other as competition and hiss at each other to warn the other away. Also, hamsters require lots of space, and traditional hamster cages aren’t big enough.
Hamsters only come together in the wild to procreate, which is essential to their survival.
Your hamsters are hissing at each other because they’re not instinctually driven to live with other hamsters. If you don’t intervene and separate them, they’ll fight, with one possibly getting killed.
Hissing isn’t a sound you’ll hear often, but it means the hamster is distressed. Stressed hamsters have shorter lifespans and lead unhappy lives if uncomfortable in their environment.