Why Is My Hamster Shaking? Understanding the Shivers [With FAQs]

Hamsters are adorable, low-maintenance pets beloved by many, often chosen as a child’s first pet due to their ease of care and the lessons in the responsibility they bring. Despite their seemingly straightforward needs, hamsters can sometimes exhibit concerning behaviors —like shaking— that can leave pet owners puzzled and worried.

In this article, we’ll explore the main causes behind why your hamster will shake and provide tips on how to help your furry friend feel better. 

Disclaimer: The content in this article provides general information that should not be used as a substitute for professional advice from a vet. For an accurate diagnosis of your hamster’s health condition, please consult a vet.

Is It Normal for Hamsters to Shake?

Seeing your hamster shake can indeed cause concern. It’s important to note that shaking in hamsters isn’t a regular occurrence and usually indicates that they’re experiencing some form of distress. The reasons behind this unsettling behavior can range from environmental discomforts and fear to more serious health issues. 

Common Reasons Behind Your Hamster’s Shakes

Common reasons why your hamster is shaking

Understanding the various factors that lead to your hamster shaking is vital in ensuring they receive the appropriate care and comfort. Here are the four main reasons that could explain this behavior:

1. Fear and Anxiety

Hamsters experience fear and anxiety similarly to humans, particularly in response to new or overwhelming situations. Their small stature can make the world seem large and intimidating, leading to frequent feelings of stress. For instance, new people, sudden handling, or unfamiliar noises can easily startle hamsters.

How to help your hamster cope in a new environment

Shaking can be a common response in hamsters when they’re feeling fearful or anxious. This behavior is their instinctual reaction to perceived threats in their surroundings. However, with time, patience, and gentle handling, hamsters can learn to trust their caregivers. Establishing a strong bond involves gradual and calm interactions, which help your hamster to feel more secure and comfortable in your presence.

Introducing your hamster to new experiences should be approached with caution. If your hamster shakes during initial handling or when meeting new people, it’s a sign they need more time to become accustomed. 

To help reduce their anxiety, you can also ensure their living environment is quiet and peaceful. Positioning your hamster’s cage away from loud noises and disturbances can significantly minimize stress, allowing them to adjust at their own pace.

2. Temperature Changes and Hibernation

When temperatures drop significantly, your hamster may instinctively enter a hibernation-like state to conserve energy, exhibiting reduced activity or even appearing lifeless, except for their breathing. If you notice such behavior, it’s a sign your pet is reacting to the cold by slowing down their bodily functions. To gently bring them out of this state, you can move them to a warmer environment, a step often necessary to ensure their well-being during abrupt temperature drops.

This transition, however, might cause your hamster to shake. Such shaking is similar to the shivers most of us experience when warming up after being in the cold, acting as the body’s natural way to adjust from low to more comfortable temperatures. 

How to help your hamster keep warm

While seeing your hamster shake might be worrying, understand this is a standard part of their reawakening from the hibernation state. Providing warm bedding for your hamster during this time can significantly enhance their comfort, supporting a smoother adjustment by maintaining a consistent warmth level. This proactive approach can help relieve prolonged shaking, but if the shaking continues excessively, it’s advisable to consult a veterinarian for further guidance.

3. Underlying Medical Conditions

At times, a hamster’s shaking can flag serious health issues needing immediate attention. Here are some specific conditions to watch for:

Colds

Shaking may occur alongside symptoms of a cold, such as sneezing, fatigue, and a runny nose. This could indicate temperature sensitivities or allergies. 

Respiratory infections

Your hamster shaking can also be a sign of respiratory distress. Listen for wheezing or notice if your hamster reacts negatively to dust from bedding or sand baths, as these can worsen their allergies or infections.

Nervous system problems

Occasionally, shaking in hamsters may signal neurological problems. Symptoms such as abnormal movements or postures, including rocking or an unsteady gait, could point to serious conditions like a stroke. Moreover, excessive handling or overstimulation can worsen these symptoms, highlighting the necessity for more gentle care.

Each of these conditions, while concerning, can be addressed with timely veterinary care. Recognizing these signs and consulting a professional can help ensure your hamster receives the appropriate treatment and support.

When Should You Be Worried About Your Hamster Shaking

Person holding a hamster using both hands

While occasional shaking in hamsters can be attributed to less serious factors such as temperature changes or mild anxiety, certain situations warrant immediate attention. 

Here’s when it’s essential to consult with a vet:

  • Persistent shaking: If the shaking does not subside after taking measures to comfort your hamster or adjust their environment, it could indicate a more significant health concern.
  • Drastic changes in behavior or appearance: Significant weight loss, aggressive behavior, or a noticeable decline in activity levels could point toward underlying issues that need a vet’s evaluation.

Taking prompt action by seeking veterinary advice ensures your hamster’s well-being and could prevent more severe health problems.

FAQs About Why Your Hamster is Shaking

Hamsters may grind or chatter their teeth as a sign of irritation or when they need some space. This behavior can serve as a caution that they might bite if further provoked. Additionally, male hamsters might chatter their teeth as a territorial warning to other hamsters. It's wise to give them some space and avoid putting your fingers too close during these moments.

If you notice your hamster shaking and having difficulty walking, it could be due to several reasons, such as severe dehydration or a significant health issue. Another possibility is an attempt at hibernation triggered by a sudden drop in temperature.  Consulting a vet is crucial to determine the underlying cause and ensure your hamster receives appropriate care.

It's relatively uncommon for hamsters to shake noticeably during sleep. If you observe your hamster shaking while it appears to be asleep, they might be in a state of semi-awake rest or experiencing a dream. However, consistent or intense shaking during rest could indicate stress or health issues, warranting closer observation and possibly a vet consultation.

Author

  • Wai Ling

    Foodie at heart and (almost) always with a camera in hand. When she's not busy with work, you'll find her munching around Singapore or snapping pics in some cool new spot.

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