Why Do Hamsters Chew Their Cage Bars? Stress, Bored and Teeth

Hamster in their cage

The only thing hamsters seem to like more than chewing on food is chewing on inedible objects. Cage bars are one of the most popular chewing targets. They can harm your hamster though, so it’s important to understand why it’s happening and fix it.

Why do hamsters chew their cage bars? Your hamster could be stressed, anxious, bored or they might be trying to keep their teeth from growing too long. 

Whatever the cause, it’s something you need to get to the bottom of. This article will help you identify the cause and give you some solutions to the underlying problem that is prompting the cage-biting.

Why Do Hamsters Chew Their Cage Bars?

Here’s a list of reasons why your hamster might be chewing their cage’s bars:

  • Stress or anxious
  • Bored
  • Trying to keep their teeth from growing too long
  • Your hamster wants to get out of their cage

Stress and Anxiety

One of the predominant reasons hamsters chew their cage bars is that they are stressed or anxious about something.

Figuring out what they’re actually stressed about can be a challenge, as hamsters can only communicate via squeaking and crying.

To help you solve the mystery, I’ve made this checklist that will help you figure out what the root cause of your hamster’s stress and anxiety is.

  • Your hamster’s cage might be too small. If a hamster does not have enough room to move about and live, they can develop a psychological condition known as Cage Rage. This condition has a number of distressing symptoms, including anxiety, that may lead to cage biting.
  • Your hamster might be unhappy with its roommates. If you’ve placed more than one hamster into the same cage, there’s a good chance they won’t get along as well as you like. The stress caused by this unwanted intruder can lead your hamster to gnaw on its cage bars.
  • Your hamster might have a lot of excess energy that it’s having trouble dealing with. A couple of the easiest solutions to this problem include buying an in-cage hamster wheel or buying a hamster ball that will let your hamster roam outside of the cage for some much-needed exercise.
  • Your hamster’s nutrition might not be adequate for their mental health. Consider adding hamster-safe fruits and vegetables to give your little friend a mental boost.

Boredom

Your hamster might simply be bored, and chewing on the cage bars is a way for it to relieve that boredom.

Here are a few things you can do to give your hamster an alternate outlet for entertainment:

  • Play with your hamster every day. It does live in the same cage all day, every day. Letting it out of the cage for some playtime in a neutral area will add a bit of excitement to its life.
  • Give your hamster some toys. I already mentioned a hamster wheel, and that’s definitely one of the best options because of the exercise factor. You can also buy chew toys, as they’ll provide a safer alternative for your hamster to chew on. Installing some levels for your hamster to climb is another way to provide an active source of fun.
  • Give your hamster some tasty fruits or vegetables. These can provide a break from the monotony of eating the same type of pellet food for every single meal. Just make sure to research what you’re giving your hamster to ensure it’s safe for them to eat.

Tooth Maintenance

It’s hard-coded into hamster DNA to chew on stuff. While it can be annoying for you as a hamster owner, it’s actually essential that they have something to chew on in their environment.

If they don’t, their teeth can grow to an unmanageable length. This can cause a multitude of health problems:

  • Cuts and scrapes inside the mouth. If the incisors grow too large, they can actually bite into the hamster’s mouth when your hamster goes to chew something.
  • An inability to eat. Over-sized teeth make it extremely difficult for your hamster to chew food. This can lead to complications like starvation and illness caused by malnutrition.
  • Broken incisors. If the teeth grow large enough, they can actually break off, which is painful for the hamster to deal with.

The Risk of Cage Biting

Cage-biting can lead to broken teeth. The metal bars are much harder than the other substances your hamster is used to chewing on.

If your hamster bites down too forcefully, bites down at the wrong angle, or bites too often, it can lead to broken teeth.

Cracked incisors come with all of the health risks we talked about in the previous section, which is why it’s imperative you find a chewing alternative for your hamster as fast as possible.

The paint applied to most hamster cage bars can also be a concern. While usually non-toxic, you can never know what chemicals are inside of the paint, especially if the cage is an older one.

As chewing on the cage bars will inevitably lead to ingestion of some of this paint, this is yet another reason you should give your hamster some suitable chew toy alternatives.

For more information on how to stop your hamster from chewing on the bars of its cage, check out knoji’s article. It’s worth the read.

Chew Toy Alternatives

Here are some of the more popular (and safe) chew toys you can give to your hamster as an alternative for biting the cage bars.

  • Kaytee Perfect Chews for Hamster (available on Amazon.com). This toy includes numerous wooden shapes attached to a rope. Easy and safe for your hamster to nibble on. You can also hang it from your cage, which will keep it free of dirt and fecal matter littering the cage floor.
  • Niteangel Wooden Interactive Toy Ball (available on Amazon.com). This wooden, hole-filled toy ball doubles as a chew toy and a jungle gym for your hamster.
  • Pevor Pack of 5 Hamster Chew Toys (available on Amazon.com). This pack of 5 wooden chew toys includes cute little dumbbells and a few different wooden cages with bells inside. Great for hamsters who enjoy making noise (though not so great if your hamster sleeps in the same room as you).

Related Questions:

My hamster has damaged their tooth, what do I do? If the tooth is intact, the incisor should grow back and everything should be okay. If you’re concerned or your hamster looks to be in pain, a trip to the vets for a check-up would be a good idea.

My hamster is also chewing on its water bottle nozzle. Is this a problem? It can be if they continue to consider switching to a water bowl instead.

Charlotte Silcock

Charlotte lives in the United Kingdom and has worked in animal shelters looking after small animals. She owns a hamster as well as a dog and a cat and hopes to spread her knowledge about rodents to help other pet owners.

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