Hamsters are among the most underrated pets. They are absolutely a-do-ra-ble, they’re relatively easy to clean up after, and they also love being held and going in for cuddles!
Caring for a hamster is also pretty easy.
You’ll have to prepare a sizable home, preferably one with a solid bottom so that your hamster won’t be able to sneak out. When it comes to what you should put in the container, you’ll need a sturdy food bowl, a water bottle, and perhaps some toys like a hamster wheel too.
Speaking of food, you must look for pelleted treats, but those are widely available. The occasional treat in the form of a fruit or vegetable is also welcome.
However, there is one aspect of hamster care that many new owners tend to overlook, and it relates to chewing. Chewing is not just a mindless habit hamsters like to partake in. There are legitimate reasons why they are compelled to chew on something regularly.
As hamster owners, we need to be more aware of why our pets like to chew, and we should also find out what to do about that habit. Let’s talk more about those topics in this article.
What Should Your Hamster Be Chewing On?
Before we discuss anything else, let’s first talk about what items your hamster should be chewing on. You have several options to consider here, including wood, food, and even metal.
Something nice and solid that your hamster can chew on for a while that doesn’t contain any chemicals would be ideal.
Wood is the most popular chew toy for hamsters, and it’s what I like to give to my pet often.
Mom.com notes that pet stores sell items known as chew sticks. These chew sticks are usually made from either balsa wood or twigs that were cut previously. They’re inexpensive yet solid, which makes them a great purchase for pet owners with active hamsters at home.
If you don’t have the time to head to the pet store, try checking in your yard for an alternative. Apple and pear trees yield pieces of wood that are suitable for gnawing.
Cut them off from a tree carefully using a knife or snap off a few twigs to give to your hamster. Just make sure that there are no pointy ends remaining that could scratch up your pet.
Vegetables are good for us, and they can be similarly beneficial to our beloved hamsters.
What you should look for if you want to sate your hamster’s chewing needs are carrots, cucumbers, and other vegetables that have a good amount of firmness to them. Corn is a good option too, but just the cob is needed.
You can also pick up some vegetables like cabbage or others like it with solid cores. Hamsters will enjoy working their way through the leaves and then munching through the core for a long time.
Other Options to Consider
You should have an easy time finding the chewable mentioned previously, but it’s possible that your hamster may not be too fond of them. In that case, consider trying out some alternatives.
Cardboard can work as a temporary chew toy. That tube holding your toilet paper roll could work, or you could tear a piece away from an old box.
Old spoons that have not been treated before using chemicals are also fine for chewing. Some hamsters even prefer to chew on metal.
If you have some dog biscuits available at home, you can also give one to your hamster. A flavorless and/or low-fat biscuit would be best.
What Should Your Hamster Avoid Chewing?
Just as there are items suitable for your hamster to chew, there are also those you should avoid. Giving the wrong item could lead to your pet needing medical attention ASAP.
To avoid that problem, steer clear of any treated wood. The chemicals in the wood can seriously mess with your poor hamster’s body. If you’re not completely sure that a piece of wood is untreated, err on the side of caution and choose something else.
While spoons are fine for chewing because they have no sharp edges, other pieces of metal that could cause an injury must be avoided. Watch out for your hamster chewing on his/her cage as well because the exposed ends can be dangerous.
Lastly, fruits are fine to give to your hamster occasionally, but because of how much sugar they contain, you really should limit the amount you give. If you want to give your hamster a piece of apple to munch on, limit it to being a weekly treat, according to Pet Smart.
Why Do Hamsters Like to Chew?
There is no one explanation for why your hamster is chewing on something all the time. Hamsters have different personalities, and the same goes for their habits.
It’s possible that your hamster’s motivation to chew is related to his/her mood.
According to the Hamster Guru, a bored or stressed out hamster may resort to chewing. It’s a way for them to occupy themselves like we do when we’re indulging in our favorite time-wasting habits. They can relax better when they are mindlessly chewing on something.
Beyond being a habit, hamsters also have to chew because of how their bodies work. Their teeth grow differently from what we have, and they have to care for their munchers in a certain way.
The Lowdown on Hamster Teeth
Hamsters are not just cute critters. They have fascinating characteristics, as well.
Per this article from Mental Floss, hamsters are among the few animals that are known to be crepuscular, meaning they are most active during the twilight hours of the day. Hamsters also love to hoard their food, and they will do so even if they’ve been domesticated.
Another fun hamster fact for you to chew on is related to their teeth.
The Spruce Pets notes that hamsters have hypsodontal teeth. Hypsodontal teeth grow constantly. No matter how old your hamster gets, its teeth will still be growing.
Hamsters share that trait with other animals such as chinchillas and rabbits.
So, is having hypsodontal teeth a good or bad thing for hamsters? It’s a mixture of both, to be honest.
Hamsters need their sharp chompers to bite through their food pellets and hard vegetables. They would have a hard time nourishing themselves if their teeth grew weaker with age. Thankfully, that’s not a big concern because their teeth are always growing and staying strong.
On the other hand, teeth that never stop growing can present problems of their own. Problems start when your hamster’s teeth start to get stuck. They may have to stop eating for a bit because their teeth got caught on something hard.
Things can still get worse from there.
Allow the teeth to grow even further, and they could start digging into the gums and the roof of your hamster’s mouth. The pain caused by those overgrown teeth can quickly become hard to endure for your furry little friend.
How to Address Overgrown Hamster Teeth
The old adage says that prevention is better than cure, and that applies yet again here. To avoid dealing with overgrown hamster teeth, you must encourage your pet to develop healthy chewing habits.
Going back to what we talked about earlier, you should allow your hamster to chew on something regularly as long as the items they’re gnawing won’t affect their health.
It’s also a good move on your part to keep a close on your hamster. If your pet’s teeth are too long, he/she will exhibit certain symptoms indicative of that. Symptoms to note include drooling, and your hamster is not chewing as much.
Unfortunately, your hamster’s overgrown teeth may have escaped your notice before, and they may now be at a point where they are a real problem. If that is indeed the case, you may have to consider trimming their teeth.
How to Trim Hamster Teeth
I want to say right now that trimming hamster teeth is best left up to the professionals. It’s a delicate task, and you could injure your pet easily if you’re inexperienced. Many veterinarians can handle this task for you.
Of course, you won’t always have the time or the money to have your hamster’s teeth professionally trimmed. In emergency situations, you may have to handle the task on your own.
To get started, find a pair of suture scissors or some small nail clippers. Enlist the help of another person at home and then go get your hamster.
Wrap your hamster up in an old shirt or a blanket and then ask your assistant to hold your pet by the scruff of his/her neck. Maintain that position until your hamster opens his/her mouth.
Position the cutting implement carefully. Hartz suggests cutting at an angle slanting in towards your hamster’s mouth. From the root of the overgrown tooth, go about 1/2 inch down or to the point where the tooth starts to turn opaque.
Before making the cut, double-check to see that only one tooth will be cut. Keep your hamster’s tongue or an extra tooth away from the cutting implement. With all that done, you can now make the cut.
Hopefully, nothing will go wrong during that process. If something does not go according to plan, you will have to go to the veterinarian.