Just looking at hamsters with their fluffy fur, cute puffy cheeks, and little pointed ears, you’d never think they’d be aggressive enough to fight each other.
However, hamsters get aggressive and start attacking each other occasionally. If you have two or more hamsters housed together, they’re bound to fight for one reason or another at some point.
There are many reasons why hamsters attack each other, but there are ways to get them to stop fighting.
Why Do Hamsters Fight with Each Other?
You’ve grown used to being lulled to sleep by the persistent sound of the hamster wheel spinning at night. Aside from the wheel turning constantly, all is quiet.
Suddenly, you’re awoken by the angry squeaks of two hamsters battling it out in the night.
If you’re an owner of multiple hamsters long enough, it’ll happen eventually, as they tend to be loners. The only thing you can’t understand is why your hamsters are fighting.
Hamsters have mood swings and bad days, just like us. When you have two or more hamsters in a cage together, some of those moods are bound to clash and lead to fighting.
Here are the most common reasons why hamsters attack each other:
1/ Playing, Not Fighting
It could be that they’re playing when it looks or sounds like your hamsters are fighting.
According to Developmental Psychobiology, as Syrian hamsters (golden hamsters) mature from juveniles to adults, they go from playing to fighting aggressively.
When Syrian hamsters are young, they play fight frequently, with their attacks usually focused on the face and cheeks.
As they mature, the targeted attack areas shift to the flanks, lower belly, and rump.
The play fighting gradually shifts to aggressiveness in the adult hamsters, and the attacks become less frequent.
This is probably why it’s recommended to keep adult Syrian hamsters alone in a cage and not to house them together.
Dwarf hamsters like to play fight, but it usually consists of chasing each other, wrestling, and rolling around together.
If you notice any wounds or bleeding, you should be concerned that their playing has turned to aggressive fighting.
2/ Living Space is Too Small
If your hamsters have started fighting frequently, the reason could be that there just isn’t enough space for them all.
Tempers are sure to flare when too many hamsters are crowded and don’t have room to spread out.
Hamsters can often be territorial, and a fight can break out when another hamster impedes their claimed space.
3/ Opposite Sexes Living Together
When it comes to hamsters, it’s best to house only same-sex hamsters together.
Having males and females housed together can lead to fights over mating. While most would assume it’d be the males that are the aggressors during mating, that’s not always the case.
According to the National Library of Medicine: National Center for Biotechnology Information, as hamsters get close to sexual maturity, aggressive females may fight until dominance is established.
Aside from sexually, fighting could also start because one hamster wants to show dominance over the others in other ways.
Hamsters tend to get along best when females are housed with females and males are housed with males.
Plus, you’d avoid the possibility of your hamsters having unwanted babies, especially if your hamsters happen to be siblings.
4/ Feel Threatened
Your hamsters could start fighting if one of them feels threatened by another. This could happen if you have a more territorial or domineering hamster than the others.
Hamsters may even feel threatened over something as small as having to share a water feeder or hamster wheel.
One hamster may claim something as theirs and fight with others that try to use or come near it.
Hamster Body Language Signs of Fighting
If you watch your hamsters closely, you may be able to tell if a fight may start soon. Hamsters use body language to express their emotions.
Knowing which body language signs indicate fear, feeling threatened, stress, and anger could help you to stop a fight before one happens.
Standing on Back Legs with Paws Up
A hamster that stands on its back legs shows you that something has made it feel threatened, and if that threat doesn’t go away fast, it may get aggressive.
Ears Back with Eyes Narrowed
If you notice your hamster with its ears laid back and eyes narrowed, it means that it’s suspicious of another hamster or a particular situation.
It hasn’t quite reached the point of feeling threatened or getting aggressive, but it’s on high alert and could strike soon.
Rolls onto Its Back and Bares Its Teeth
Your hamster feels threatened or scared and doesn’t want anyone to bother it.
If your hamster is clacking its teeth together, it’s a warning sign to stay away. It usually means the hamster is scared and ready to attack.
Moves Slowly Around the Edge of the Cage
A hamster slowly creeping around the edge of its cage is usually doing so because something is happening in the cage that it’s unsure about.
Staying around the edge of the cage and moving very slowly allows the hamster to keep its eyes on everything going on. It also puts the hamster in the perfect position to attack and not be attacked.
Biting or Nipping
Hamsters biting or nipping at other hamsters are already aggravated, and their aggression is beginning. It may be a warning sign to the other hamster, but it’ll most likely lead to a full-on fight.
Why Do Hamsters Fight To The Death?
Hamsters have been known to fight and kill other hamsters. A hamster that has become very aggressive may attack another hamster and inflict wounds severe enough to cause death.
This extreme aggressiveness can occur if a hamster feels threatened, stressed out, limited in space, or just because they don’t like a particular hamster.
Even among the hamster breeds housed in multiples, not all of them will get along. Maybe one hamster is louder, messier, or more selfish than the others.
Eventually, one of those hamsters is going to get fed up with the actions of the selfish hamster and is going to start a fight with it. That fight could end in one of the hamsters dying from its injuries.
How Do Hamsters Kill Each Other?
When a hamster decides it wants to take out another hamster, it’ll often fight to the death.
A fight between hamsters may start with them chasing each other or with one nipping at or biting another hamster as a warning.
The fighting will escalate to very aggressive bites and wrestling around. If the more aggressive hamster inflicts a bad bite wound in just the right spot, the other hamster could die immediately.
Otherwise, it’s more likely that the seriously injured hamster will die slowly from its injuries after the other hamster has walked away satisfied with its victory.
Occasionally, hamsters may even eat other hamsters. Female hamsters have been known to eat their young to ensure the survival of other hamsters in the group.
For instance, if the food supply is low, a female may kill one of her young so that the other baby hamsters will have enough food.
Other reasons hamsters might decide to eat each other include:
- Being territorial
- Cage rage
- Dietary influence
How Can I Stop My Hamsters from Fighting?
To stop your hamsters from fighting, you need to narrow down the cause of the fighting. Things you can do to stop your hamsters from fighting include:
- Bigger cage: Hamsters fight when living quarters are cramped.
- Separate males and females: Only house same-sex hamsters together.
- Give them extra toys and feeding areas: If too many hamsters need to share one thing, fights might break out, so give them enough to go around.
Trying to stop your hamsters from fighting may be a trial-and-error process. Try different things until something finally works.
You may have a naturally aggressive hamster on your hands, and that hamster should be rehoused away from the others permanently.
Most species of hamsters aren’t social animals, so many don’t like living together. If this is the case, you should give each hamster its own cage.