If you choose a cage with metal bars, you’re in for a possibility of dealing with a hamster who will be into bar biting at some point. Some hamster owners opt for a glass aquarium or bin cage because they want to avoid bar biting, but for many, getting ready to use the cage is more suitable – and that’s not a wrong choice.
In this article, we will discuss the reasons why hamster tends to bite cages and how to stop your hamster from chewing bar cages or how to lessen this behaviour.
ALSO READ: Common mistakes new hamster owner make
IS BAR BITING BAD FOR HAMSTER & HOW TO STOP HAMSTER BITING CAGE
I remember when my dwarf hamster started biting on bar cages, I thought it was cute. Her tiny nose squeezed in the bars between her, her two teeth were showing, and she was making weird noises.
But she was doing it way too often, so I started my research and discovered that it is unhealthy and dangerous behaviour.
Is it normal for hamsters to bite their cage? Yes. But the main question is, should a hamster be biting the metal bars? With that, the answer is no.
Hamsters that bite on cages long-term cause baldness on their nose, while others even break their nose in the process. Another bad side effect of bar biting is the tendency that your hamster will swallow the paint from these metal bars, which can be very toxic. Biting on metal bars can also break your hamster teeth which is something you don’t to avoid at all costs.
Chewing is something that hamsters evolved with. It’s not something that they can control, it’s like an itch that they can’t stop scratching. But as a hamster parent, your job is to keep your hamster safe, comfortable, healthy, and have their needs met.
WHY HAMSTER CHEW BAR CAGES
There are many reasons why hamster chooses to chew on bar cages. If your hamster goes down this behaviour, don’t panic, it’s not always your fault, but you can do something about it. Here are the main reasons why your hamster starts biting his or her cage:
- small cage
- want to get out of the cage
- want to get your attention
- teeth are too long
Let’s talk about these reasons for you to understand it more and things you can do on how to stop hamster biting cages.
Not Enough Chew Toys
One of the biggest reasons your hamster started chewing the bars of its cages is the lack of chew toys. Since hamsters’ teeth grow forever, they evolved and developed a habit of chewing things to keep the teeth at a reasonable length, sharp for eating, and clean. Overgrown teeth can be painful or even fatal.
Hamsters can chew on wood or a tree branch, but if you are bringing wood or tree branch from outside, they might be carrying insects or unsanitary organisms that can harm your hamster or infect the hamster cage.
What you can do
If you want to bring a piece of wood or a tree branch as a chew toy, make sure to disinfect this and boil it as much as you can, then dry it properly before giving it to your hamster.
Although the safest way to solve a hamster who needs a chew toy is to simply buy some. They are reliable and cheaper, and there are plenty of options to choose from.
You can also simply use toilet roll tubes, my hamster loves to chew through them, and one tube can keep her busy for an entire day. So, instead of throwing those tubes, you can put them inside the cage or, better, make a long tunnel that your hamster can play with.
Read this article where we list the best hamster chew toys
This is another common reason why your hamster starts biting the bar cages. While hamster loves to spend time on the exercise wheel, burrowing, nibbling, and sleeping after about 2 weeks in the new enclosure, they get bored like any other animal.
Hamsters can run for 21 miles a day, so they have lots of energy to burn and staying inside a cage is just too much for them, causing them to direct their boredom and excess energy on bar biting.
What you can do
The best you can do is to make sure that you let your hamster out of its cage at least once a day or every other day for at least 15-30 minutes. You can get your hamster an exercise ball (but read about its pros and cons first), let them out on a playpen (either play with them or by themself), or let them run around a secured area on the floor or your bed to cuddle.
You should make sure that you place enough hamster toys like bridges, chew toys, stairs, dens, extra platforms, mazes, and more.
The minimum floor size for a hamster cage is 100x50x50 cm (39x20x20 in) or bigger, of course, the bigger, the better, but if you don’t have space, make sure you meet the minimum requirement.
Hamsters should be able to run around, burrow as deep as they want to, hide in dark areas of the cage, play with their toys, and more.
Having a small cage will not give your hamster enough space to keep themselves busy, not enough space for toys, and other things that can entertain them or burn their energy.
What you can do
Get the right size cage, once you have the minimum size, you can add some small removable cages for fun or get a bigger pen if the problem persists. If, after expanding the cage and your hamster is still biting the bars, you may want to try to find out if there’s another reason for this behaviour (check the list above) then try different solutions and see what works best.
The best way to stop a hamster from biting cage is to upgrade your hamster’s cage. Often, this fixes the problem. If not, or if the cage already meets the requirement floor size. Look for other reasons why your hamster is chewing the bars. Here is a list of the best large hamster cages.
I think anyone gets angry when they are hungry, but since your hamster can’t talk to you, they would bite their cage instead. Even their food bowl or dispenser is still full, maybe the food is old and has gone stale, or your hamster grew to unlike their daily dry mix, and it’s time to mix it up. Hamsters can still be picky even if they are hungry!
What you can do
Make sure you replenish the food dispenser/bowl every other day to avoid stale dry mixes. You can mix your hamster’s food roaster by boiling some vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and carrot. You can even give your hamster some cooked chicken and boiled or fried egg. Make sure that any food you are giving to your hamster is unseasoned (not even salt or pepper).
At this time, you should already know that your hamster has a favourite treat, if not yet, it’s time to get cracking.
Another reason that your hamster started chewing bar cage is it’s simply frustrated for a lot of reasons. It could be that they don’t like their cage, or the bedding is not comfortable enough or deep enough, or there is something in the air that smells unpleasant for them.
If you recently changed their bedding and you decided to change all of it at once, it could be the reason. If you changed their dry mix out of the blue, that’s another reason, if you started using a sand bath that produces a smell that your hamster doesn’t find pleasant, that could trigger frustration.
What you can do
Don’t make any radical changes in the cage, if you want to switch to new bedding, do this slowly so your hamster will have the time to adjust. The same goes when moving things around the cage. You probably think that moving the dens in the other corner will bring some twist, but it can also bring frustration since your hamster can’t see that well, they rely on their sense of smell and remembering where things are. Moving their things around when they are already comfortable can really frustrate a hamster.
Teeth are too long
When hamsters’ teeth get too long, they get uncomfortable. It’s like an itch that needs to be scratched. Teeth that get too long can cause mouth/teeth infection and even can poke through your hamster’s head/brain area.
Hamsters in the wild chew on hard stuff compared to domesticated hamsters. But the teeth of domesticated hamsters still grow as much and as fast as those in the wild. This is why you need to get your hamster a chew toy.
What you can do
The same solution when hamsters are bored, a chew toy not only keeps your hamster busy but also keeps their teeth at a healthy length. Here at hamster care, we love recommending Whimzees chew toys. They are hard, safe – perfect chew toys for your pet, but read the ingredients first, make sure it doesn’t have calcium in them.
HOW TO STOP YOUR HAMSTER FROM CHEWING BAR CAGES
Even if you did everything right, but your hamster still started chewing the bar cages, there are things you can do that are both easy and safe for your hamster. Don’t blame yourself if they started biting bars and cannot think of the reason why your hamster began doing it. Instead, focus your energy on what you can do to remedy this issue.
Oil on the Bar
One of the and that worked for me was applying oil on the bar cages, leaving oil on the bars put off hamsters from chewing on them because of its texture and taste. However, you should be careful when choosing which oil to use.
First, it should be edible but not high in cholesterol and unhealthy fat. I don’t recommend regular cooking oil, canola oil, or palm oil. Instead, go for extra light olive oil or coconut oil. The liquid shouldn’t be producing any smell either or a strong taste and don’t use oil that you use for the human body or hair.
You can simply pour a little amount on a small bowl or teacup, dab your finger and slowly apply it to the bar. Make sure you are using enough oil but not too much. If the oil is dripping off your finger, that’s too much. You don’t want the cage to be oily everywhere. Use just enough to wet the bar.
Using oil that tastes good will probably tempt your hamster to lick the bars instead, which you don’t want to happen because obesity is one of the common illnesses for hamsters.
Use Bitter Apple Spray
A hamster chewing bar cage problem is quite normal; therefore, many hamster brands or pet companies try to find a safe solution for this. Instead of using oil, you can pop to the pet shop and buy a bitter apple spray.
Use this spray to stop hamsters from chewing bars. When spraying it on the bars, remove your hamster from the cage, and use cardboard to cover the inside of the cage to avoid spraying all over the cage. Don’t spray on the bedding, toys, water bowl, or anything apart from the cage.
This bitter apple spray for hamsters is safe, but spraying them directly on your pet is not safe. While spraying on chew toys, food, and bedding will cause stress and will make your hamsters stop eating their food or chewing on their chew toys.
You might not be able to find one that is specifically for hamsters, the ones that is designed for cats or dogs are safe for hamsters too.
Add Mesh on the Bars
Do you know those mesh wires that you can buy in construction stores? They are often used for fencing or DIY home projects. You can zip-tie this mesh on the bar cages (facing your hamster, not outside). They come in different sizes, so make sure to buy one that has the smallest holes between them.
In this way, your hamster won’t be able to reach the metal bars while the holes between this mesh are small enough, so it can’t bite through it. The downside of this option is how much it will affect the visibility of the inside of the hamster cage and that it doesn’t look very pretty.
Also, if not cut properly, the mesh’s sharp edges can cause harm to your hamster. Another one is that, at some point, your hamster will find their way to chew through it.
Change Your Hamster Cage
If the oil on the bar didn’t do anything or worked just for a few days, I highly recommend you switch to a bar-less cage. A glass aquarium (40gal) is an excellent alternative if you have the budget, you can also practice your artistic and DIY talent on this cage. If there are no bars, then there’s no bar to chew!
If you can’t shell out big cash for a glass aquarium, you can also go for a bin cage that you can design on your own and do some cute themed hamster cages.
Check out these awesome DIY hamster cages from Reddit
Get Lots and Lots of Chew Toys
Add More Enrichment
One of the reasons it’s important to house your hamster in a large cage is so that you have plenty of space to add enough toys. A hamster wheel and chew toys will not entertain your hamster.
You must add a maze, build a climbing platform, place tunnels under the bedding, and more. Keeping your hamster busy is essential. If there are more things inside the cage, it will keep your hamster’s mind from bar biting or boredom. We have a list of safe and fun hamster toys.
Build a Playpen
A playpen is an essential part of a hamster’s life. Just like you and me, a hamster needs a break from its usual environment (aka enclosure). We always recommend that you must take your hamster out of the cage and let it free-roam safely or spend time inside a playpen.
A playpen is like a playground. You can add wheels, tunnels, platforms, and more where your hamster cage runs around and discovery new environments. You don’t need to add bedding, but you can place a little food bowl for a few treats, or simply dry mix is fine.
Around 10 minutes playpen is a good amount of time in the beginning. You can increase this up to 30 minutes a day but not more, especially if you don’t plan to put a water bottle.
Whenever your hamster comes out to play, you can rearrange the playpen, so there’s always something new to discover. This time out of the cage really helps your hamster mentally and physically, which will lessen the chances of bar biting.
The question of how to stop hamsters from chewing on cages is a pervasive issue. So, don’t feel bad if your hamster starts doing this. Simply put it this way, since your pet cannot speak your language, this is their way of communicating with you. You just have to listen.
Bar biting is not only bad for your hamster’s teeth but can also cause baldness on their nose or, worse, can result in injury to their nose. While swallowing paint from the bar cage can also be toxic.
I hope this article on how to stop your hamster from chewing bar cages is helpful and you can find the reason for this unhealthy behaviour. Remember that it is important to do something right away when you notice that your hamster has developed a routine that can be harmful.
This strange behaviour might look cute but don’t ignore it and do your research the right way to start finding the solution.