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Why Do Hamsters Eat Each Other? (4 Possible Reasons)

Why Do Hamsters Eat Each Other? (4 Possible Reasons)
The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care. In addition, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Looking for an inexpensive pet that’s super easy to care for? A hamster might be the right one for you.

Hamsters are among the most popular pets because they’re clean, don’t require much training, and are fun to have.

But if you’re a hamster owner, you might be surprised by a weirdly aggressive behavior that you wouldn’t expect from these peaceful animals.

Unfortunately, in some cases, hamsters can eat each other, and there are a lot of reasons that explain this unfortunate and surprising behavior.

In this article, we’ll explain why hamsters eat each other and what you, as a pet owner, can do to stop this from repeating.

Why Do Hamsters Eat Each Other?

Hamsters have a gentle look and are known to be peaceful and playful pets that don’t require much training or maintenance. However, these sweet-natured animals can sometimes show terribly aggressive behavior.

So, why do these gentle creatures become so violent to the point of eating each other?

Some hamsters are territorial in nature and get irritated when they’re staying in the same cage with another hamster of the same or different breed. When this happens, the hamster will likely eat another hamster in the cage to protect its territory.

Other hamsters eat each other because the cage is too crowded, which lowers the hamsters’ chance of survival according to their judgment. In other cases, a change in diet can alter the hamsters’ nature and push them to kill and eat each other.

A few breeds of hamsters are territorial and should be kept alone in a cage. If you choose to own one of them, you should make sure that each hamster has a comfortable cage and that the cages aren’t facing each other to reduce stress.

The other two reasons are within the control of a hamster’s owner.

Under normal conditions, most hamster breeds don’t eat each other unless they’re highly stressed. Dwarf hamsters, for example, aren’t territorial, and you can safely keep a pair or a group in a cage.

If you choose to keep a Syrian or Chinese hamster, you should think about their living setup because these hamsters are highly territorial and are more likely to show tendencies of cannibalism when kept in a cage with members of the same breed.

Reasons Why Some Hamsters Eat Each Other

Several reasons push hamsters to practice cannibalism. Here are some of them.

1 – Insufficient Food

Hamster Eating Out of a Bowl

Even if you have tame and peaceful hamsters, they might eventually end up eating each other because of you.

In the wild, hamsters can spread around to look for food, water, and shelter.

This isn’t possible when you’re keeping hamsters as pets. It’s your responsibility to make sure that each hamster has access to enough food and water and that the cage is big enough to fit all the group individuals.

If there’s a shortage of food or hamsters can’t find the right shelter, they might kill each other as means of survival. This can be corrected if you pay attention to your hamsters’ living conditions.

Hamsters will kill each other to reduce competition for food and other resources. They might do this out of fear and to protect themselves in tough times.

2 – Unbalanced Diet

In addition to commercial hamster food, you can actually feed your pet hamster a lot of food from the kitchen.

Hamsters can eat broccoli, kale, cucumber, celery, and apples. You can also feed your hamster some special treats, as long as you offer them in moderation.

When you’re offering hamsters a monotonous diet that’s composed solely of grains, they’re likely to display aggressive behavior like eating each other.

3 – Protection of Their Territory

A Hamster in a Cage

Even with the abundance of resources and shelter, some hamster breeds can still eat other individuals because it’s in their nature.

Cannibalism is one of the territorial traits that characterize some hamster species like Syrian and Chinese hamsters.

Therefore, if you’re considering keeping one of these hamster species, you should make sure that each one of them has a comfortable cage that fits them and provides continuous access to fresh food and water and adequate shelter.

These territorial hamsters can eat a new individual introduced to the cage and will even attack a sibling or a mate.

4 – Inappropriate Cage

Picking the right cage setup for your hamsters can decrease the risk of cannibalism and other aggressive behaviors.

Hamster cages are available in several materials, but hamsters that live in an unconducive cage are more vulnerable to behavioral issues like cage rage.

Cage rage is a common behavioral problem that any pet can suffer from when they’re living in an inappropriate cage and other cruel living conditions. Syrian hamsters, in particular, are more prone to cage rage than other hamster breeds.

Hamsters that suffer from cage rage won’t only attack other hamsters, but they’ll also attack you when you’re trying to feed them. They’ll charge towards any object inserted into the cage like a stick or a toy.

These hamsters will even be restless when they’re sitting by themselves and will bite the wire of the cage for hours at a time. In some cases, cage rage can be too severe that the hamster will never recover.

Why Do Hamsters Eat Their Babies?

Hamsters don’t only attack other adult hamsters to protect themselves and protect their territory. In some cases, hamsters can even eat their own babies for several reasons.

1 – Lack of Experience

Hamster on House in Cage

A new hamster mother is likely to eat her first brood. There are several explanations for this behavior.

The mother might not be able to take care of her litter or might be stressed about protecting the babies, especially if you’re keeping her in a cage with other hamsters.

When there are no safe spots to hide the babies, a new mother might choose to eat her babies to protect them. In some cases, this behavior improves, especially when you’re providing enough food and keeping the cage safe for a new hamster mother and her brood.

2 – Stress

After giving birth, hamsters can suffer from a lot of stress due to nursing and taking care of their babies. In most cases, hamsters can cope with the stress, but other factors can alter their nature.

Excessive heat, loud noises, and disturbance from other hamsters or humans can make the hamsters become too stressed to the point of eating their own babies.

3 – Protect Other Babies

In the wild, when a hamster baby dies, predators can use the smell to detect the location of other living babies and their mother. This is why it’s pretty common for a hamster mother to eat her baby if it dies, so it can protect the other babies from predators.

Hamsters sometimes do the same, even when you’re keeping them as pets.

Although there’s no risk of predators in the cage, hamsters will follow their instincts and eat their dead babies to protect the living ones.

4 – New Scent

Two Small Hamsters

Hamsters identify their babies using scents, and any change in the familiar scent can push the adult hamsters to act aggressively.

When humans touch the new babies, a mother hamster can get confused. A new scent means that this is a new hamster or an outsider, which can push the mother to eat this hamster because it doesn’t smell familiar.

5 – Wrong Diet

Nursing hamsters need a balanced diet. When you provide the wrong food to your hamsters, they’re likely to show aggression towards their babies.

A deficiency in vitamin B3 can provoke hamsters to eat their babies. This is why it’s crucial to provide your hamsters with different types of food, other than corn which lacks vitamin B3.

6 – Insufficient Resources

If you’re not providing your hamsters with enough food, the mother might end up eating her babies because of the insufficient resources.

The mother will watch her babies and eventually make a choice to eat the weak ones. This way, there will be enough food for the rest of the brood.

A mother can also eat the weak babies to reserve food for the adult hamsters in the cage. In some cases, she might eat her babies to gain energy.

7 – Male Hamsters Threat

In this case, the mother hamster doesn’t actually eat her babies, but they might still end up dead because of male hamsters threatening them.

Male hamsters can be a little aggressive towards the babies, and the mother will hide her babies in her cheek pouches until the harassing male has gone away.

If the mother doesn’t let the babies out on time, they might suffocate and die, and she might end up eating them.

How to Protect Your Baby Hamsters From Being Eaten By Their Mother

As soon as you realize that your hamster is pregnant, there are a few things you can do to protect the future brood and prevent the mother hamster or other adult hamsters from attacking them.

Feed the Mother Well

Hamster Eating Lettuce

Providing the right food to your pregnant hamster will keep it strong throughout the pregnancy and will also reduce the likelihood of it feeding on her babies.

Make sure that you’re offering the mother protein-rich hamster food. In addition to commercial food, you can complement the diet with cooked chicken, hard-boiled eggs, and cheese to give the mother the nutrients it needs.

You should make sure that there’s a fresh supply of water and enough food for the mother to eat comfortably to maintain its strength during and after delivery.

Separate Your Hamsters

Even if you have friendly hamsters that don’t attack one another, it’s a good idea to separate a pregnant mother from the rest of the group.

Friendly hamsters can show aggression towards a new litter and can also attack the pregnant mother. At the same time, the mother can eat her own babies out of fear and stress.

Separating your hamsters will also give the mother hamster a chance to recover after birth, as it will prevent future pregnancies until the babies are weaned.

Make the Cage Comfortable

In some cases, it’s not easy to notice that your hamster is pregnant until she’s due. The hamster might not show a grown belly until a day or two before giving birth.

Once you realize that your hamster is pregnant, you can line the cage with soft tissue paper or any other soft material. This comfortable bedding material will keep the mother and her babies relaxed during the first few weeks.

You should also avoid loud sounds and disturbing lights when the mother is nursing and weaning the babies. Hamsters can get irritated if you sit and watch them taking care of their babies and might eventually eat them to protect them.

Give the Mother Privacy

Giving birth, especially for the first time, can be an extremely stressful experience for a hamster.

This is why you need to avoid disturbing the mother and her babies after birth. Touching the babies can irritate the mother because it changes their smell, so she might attack them because she doesn’t recognize them.

It’s best to leave the cage undisturbed, especially if your hamster is giving birth for the first time. In this case, leaving the cage alone for up to a week is highly recommended.

You don’t have to move a baby hamster if you feel that the mother isn’t feeding it because she might be doing this on purpose. First-time hamster mothers are likely to abandon some or even all their babies because they’re not experienced or due to insufficient food.

If you decide to move a baby hamster, you can use a spoon so you don’t alter its scent.

Final Thoughts

Although hamsters are known to be gentle and easy to care for pets, they sometimes show aggression towards one another and end up eating each other.

When hamsters eat each other, it’s usually because of a lack of food or space. Mother hamsters can also eat their babies due to stress and insufficient food in the cage.

It’s crucial to separate your hamsters if they show aggression and to make sure that there’s enough food and shelter for every individual in the cage.

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