Why Does My Hamster Shake?

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Hamsters shake for a plethora of reasons including hibernation, happiness, fright, nervousness, and illness.

Let’s take a look at the ins and outs of this seemingly worrying behavior!

Why Do Hamsters Shake?

#1 They Are Cold (Hibernation Shaking)

Sometimes, your hamster will shake due to the cold weather. If this is the reason, he will go into an extremely low energy state akin to hibernation in wild mammals.

This can be rather scary as they look lifeless. However, they will, of course, still breathe so it’s vital that you carefully watch for these signs.

What To Do If Your Hamster Is Cold?

If you ascertain that your hamster is shaking due to the wintery temperatures, there are some steps you can (and should) take to ease his discomfort. 

Firstly, move him into a warmer space and carefully stroke him to promote blood circulation and heat generation.

As your little bundle begins to warm up, you will notice that his alertness slowly returns. Be mindful that he may continue to shake for around an hour after you’ve started the warming process.

You should be available to keep a watchful eye on him as he continues to turn back into his normal self. Everything should go smoothly but if you notice that he’s having trouble exiting hibernation, you should always call your vet.

#2 They Are Frightened, Anxious, Or Startled

When hamsters are extremely scared or anxious, they will shake (just as people do). This behavior is most commonly seen in hamsters who have only just arrived at their forever home. So, if you’re holding your new little rodent and he’s shaking, this is probably the reason.

Generally speaking, your hamster will show other signs alongside the shaking if they are especially nervous or frightened. These include the following:

  • Avoidance behaviors — Usually, they will hide from you or spend most of their time by the walls, nest box, or under the bedding.
  • Aggressive behaviors — This might be aimed at you or your other hamsters. Typically, a scared/nervous hamster will bite and potentially scratch.
  • Lack of appetite and refusing food
  • Freezing when you walk into the room

Why Is Your Hamster Anxious Or Scared?

There are many reasons for this and largely depends on your particular hamster. After all, they are all unique.

It’s only natural for them to be scared in a new environment with people they have never met before. This will be heightened if you have cats, dogs, or other non-rodent pets in your home too.

Hamsters that have been ripped from their usual routine will also feel anxious, and thus, begin to shake. Disrupting their usual routine comes in many forms:

  • Not having enough exercise opportunities
  • Not giving them enough attention
  • Changing their food or the time you feed them
  • Changing their cleaning rota
  • Welcoming new people into your home

We’d suggest taking your hamster to the vet if the shaking does persist, just to make sure his vitals are all okay.

#3 They Are Poorly

Occasionally, your hamster will shake due to a medical condition.

Unfortunately, it is a very typical indication of a health concern in hamsters so you should take him to the vet immediately.

Some of the conditions that exhibit shaking in hamsters include:

  • Diabetes
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Heatstroke
  • Skin parasites
  • Stroke

All of these problems come with other symptoms. Whether you’re noticing watery stools, weight loss, tangled coat, or nasal discharge alongside the shaking, something serious is likely wrong with your little guy. Get him to the vet!

#4 They Are Happy

Not all reasons for shaking are bad! At times, your sweet rodent will shake to show you that he’s happy.

If you are playing or petting him, he may start to vibrate to communicate his feelings of contentment. You won’t see any signs of anxiety or fright, they will simply be at peace. He will probably want to come and sit on you!

The Signs Your Hamster Is Happy

Aside from the shaking, your hamster will tell you he is happy and healthy in a bunch of other ways. Depending on your little one’s personality, he may do the following:

  • Climb on you
  • Stretch
  • Groom themselves
  • Play with their bedding
  • Want to interact with you and gain your attention
  • Yawning (occasionally)
  • Won’t hide from you
  • Be curious
  • Play with their toys
  • Responds quickly and is alert

The Bottom Line

Overall, it’s always best to take your hamster to the vet if he’s shaking unless you’re certain he’s happy. At least now you know exactly what to look for and can provide the best care to your little bundle of joy!

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Tom Derbyshire

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