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Keeping a hamster as a pet can be a hassle when you don’t know how to keep them happy. The tell-tale signs are quite simple: A happy hamster plays around more, moving from one place to another. A happier hamster will also exhibit more energy and enthusiasm, moving about its cage in an attempt to better explore it.
A pet is the best friend who keeps you company in your darkest of days and happiest of nights. So, it’s only natural for you to want to understand how to keep that best friend happy, to better make sure they’re at ease, right? Per se you have a hamster as a pet, now the question still remains; how in the world do I know my hamster is happy?
Pet hamsters can have a lot of varying interests and hobbies. Depending on the kind of hamster you have, their happiness could be reliant upon a number of different things, ranging from your home environment, dietary needs, hygiene, and others.
If you’re still perplexed, worry not! Read on ahead to know more about how you can find out if your hamster is happy or not, what actually keeps a hamster happy, and what things you can change to make sure your pet hamster stays content in the environment that you’ve created.
Signs Of An Unhappy Hamster
Before we tell you how exactly to keep your pet hamster happy, we will teach you how to spot the signs of unhappiness or discontent in your hamster’s everyday behavior.
To know if your hamster is happy, first, you need to learn how to know if your hamster is unhappy. Here are some of the reasons or signs why your pet hamster may be unhappy:
#1 – Your Hamster Starts Biting And Climbing Their Cage
The main problem with keeping small animals as pets is that you have to keep them in cages suited to their size, hence small cages. This leads to the animal feeling uncomfortable or actually caged and suffocated.
Such is the case with hamster cages, some of them are designed to be too small (the reason for this being misinformation on the manufacturer or the pet owner’s part) hence making your hamster feel trapped and suffocated.
Irritated by this, the hamsters start biting their cages, in retaliation, indicating that they don’t like the cage they’re being kept in and want to get out.
No species likes feeling trapped so this might cause your hamster to react in the unlikeliest of ways. This damages their mental well-being and emotional states as well, making your hamster sadder than it normally would be.
#2 – They Try To Escape
Another indication of your hamster being unsatisfied with the cage is that they’ll frequently try to escape the cage they’re in, and if you try you engage with them through the cage, they’ll start biting your hand or trying to claw at it and scurry away.
This need for escape is again caused by the fact that your hamster is feeling trapped in the confinement of the small cage that is labeled to be its habitat. This will lead to your hamster trying to escape by latching onto the walls of the cage or trying to claw at the door, in an attempt to break free.
#3 – They’re Bored Or Depressed
Most of the times humans don’t take into account the fact that animals have feelings as well, their emotional state can take a toll too, they get bored and depressed just like we do from time to time.
As a pet owner, or rather, in this case, a hamster owner, it’s your responsibility to make sure that your hamster gets out of that depression or boredom and returns to normal.
If your hamster’s behavior is getting repetitive, there’s a high chance that they might be bored or quite possibly, depressed. This could be due to a handful of reasons, one of them being the lack of activities for the hamster to do; both inside and outside their cage, leading to them just repeating their mundane daily routines excessively.
One more contributing factor could be the lack of the hamster owner’s interaction with their pet. Pets, just like any other species crave interaction with other species, and they get depressed when they don’t get the connection they deserve. This sort of depression could get severe if left untreated.
#4 – They’re Getting Aggressive Or Displaying Stress
If your hamster reacts violently whenever you try to play with them or take them out for a walk, chances are that your hamster is displaying these aggressive tendencies because of the latent stress inhabiting its mind. If your hamster is actually happy, it would never display such aggressive behavior towards you because you’re the owner and friend.
Another indication or symptom of the stress could be the constant screeching sounds coming from your hamster. Stress, even in animals, can manifest in a lot of ways, hence these unruly noises could mean that your hamster is irritated and stressed.
The causes of this stress manifesting in your pet hamster can be because of a handful of reasons; household noises, other pets your hamster doesn’t get along with, or just bad hygiene.
The environment plays an important part in your hamster’s mental and physical well-being. If your hamster is constantly cleaning or grooming itself that could be a clear indication of their stress-induced behavior as well.
How To Know And Make Sure Your Hamster Is Happy?
Now that we’ve told you all the signs you can spot in your hamster if they’re unhappy, let’s move on to how to tackle the reasons for unhappiness to ensure that your hamster stays healthy and happy.
There are a number of things you can do to make sure your hamster gets the environment that it deserves as your pet, and luckily for you, most of these are quite easy to do!
#1 – A Spacious And Comfortable Cage
Animals, much like any other species living on this earth, don’t like being caged. So it’s important that if you’re putting them in a cage, that it be a comfortable one for the inhabiting animal, in this case being a hamster.
The cage should not be small as to suffocate the hamster, but rather spacious and lofty. For this very reason, the hamster owner must do proper research before purchasing a cage for their pet hamster.
Furthermore, since a cage is the hamster’s permanent residence, the pet owner should make sure that the cage has extra bedding to ensure maximum comfort. The bedding of the cage bottom should be ideally 2-3 inches so that the hamster does not tread about uncomfortably. It’s important that the pet owner does not slack off on how much bedding to use in the cage.
It’s also important to use the right material for the cage bedding. This will make sure your hamster stays healthy and happy by providing them with a comfortable in-cage environment. When your hamster is happy, it will be seen playing happily in the confines of its cage.
According to a journal published at Liverpool John Moores University, the hamsters living in cages full of hammocks and thick bedding showed a significantly positive cognitive shift in their behaviors as opposed to hamsters that didn’t have all the extra things in their cages.
#2 – A Choice Of Various Activities
To counter the boredom that the hamster might feel, the pet owner should make sure to provide a lot of activities or toys to their hamsters. Their cages might also need some reformation, for example, the addition of a hanging rope, a hammock, or more contraptions like the running wheel. The myriad of activities provided will also help the hamsters relieve some stress, resulting in a happier, healthy hamster.
The more the activities, the less bored your hamster will be. The activities and toys will keep your hamster occupied whenever boredom strikes. Hence, they will never be stressed.
Nicola Koyama who studied judgment biases pertaining to animal welfare stated in one of her journals; the extracurricular activities and contraptions that go into a hamster’s cage induce a positive impact on the hamster’s well-being and hence, their emotional state and health.
The hamster owner could also purchase a chew toy for their hamster, which would again help relieve the pent-up stress that their pet hamster is suppressing. The best thing about this solution is that a variety of different forms of chew toys are already available on different shopping sites in the country, at reasonable rates too!
#3 – Better Health And Hygiene
To ensure that your hamster remains happy and in good health, monthly visits to the vet should be done so that no illnesses remain untreated. Hamsters are very sensitive creatures hence they’re prone to getting sick from the most minor of changes, be it in their diet or the environment.
Their hygiene should be well-kempt; hamsters are naturally clean creatures, so they only need a bath once in a while. Pet owners must also do daily cleaning of their cages to remove the waste and excess food that the hamster didn’t eat (if left there the food would rot, causing a bad smell endangering the hamster’s well-being). The bedding of their cages should also be changed from time to time.
#4 – Good Diet And Environment
A research paper published in The Royal Society Open Science, written by Emily Bethel and Nicola Koyama showed the findings of a control experiment done on a handful of Syrian hamsters. The experiment basically concluded the fact that once provided more enrichment facilities, the hamsters were willing to drink normal water as opposed to sugared water (sugared water is used to boost the hamster’s energy and behavior as well as to improve their blood sugar and appetite).
This goes to show that the hamsters become more optimistic and display a positive cognitive-behavioral shift once provided the right environment and activities. A healthy and suitable environment results in a happier hamster.
Since hamsters are nocturnal species, it is important that a good environment be provided to them during the night. This includes no light, a quiet space and environment around their cages, as well as optimum temperatures so that they don’t get too cold or too hot.
As the owner, you must also take care of their dietary needs; making sure they have clean water available as well as dried food (not too much as that will cause them to be overweight).
Hamsters also enjoy vegetables and fruits granted you give it to them in small amounts. This balanced diet will result in a healthier and happier pet hamster.
#5 – Emotional Well-Being
Physical needs aside, it’s also important to look out for your pet hamsters emotional needs.
Like humans, they too need an emotional release and mental peace. Let your hamster run outside for some time during the day in a safe environment and make sure to give them plenty of affection and attention while doing so.
This will make sure they have plenty of exercise and their explorative nature gets a breath of fresh air as well. This will in turn reduce their stress and depression, and all their emotions will be at ease, resulting in a more relaxed and emotionally stable pet.
#6 – Human Interaction
Make sure to spend some daily time with your hamster and play with it from time to time.
A handful of affection can go a long way where hamsters are concerned. They might be animals, but they require company and human interaction, as well as any of us do. This will bring about a positive change in your hamster’s behavior as well as keep them happy.
A happy hamster will trust you more, will acknowledge you as its owner, and will constantly try to engage and interact with you once it sees you.
A healthy and content hamster will also respond to you more quickly and won’t hide from you if you try to interact and spend time with it.