Do Dwarf Hamsters Bite?

Do dwarf hamsters bite? This is a common question by potential hamster owners or parents looking to get their kids a new pet hamster. The short answer is yes. However, it is not common and dwarf hamsters rarely bite without reason. Also, dwarf hamsters are more likely to nibble than to inflict a real bite that draws blood. Since neither nibbling nor biting is ideal, we’ll refer to them both as biting in this article. The following explains why dwarf hamsters bite and the ways you can stop a dwarf hamster from biting.

Why do dwarf hamsters bite?

  • The hamster is startled
    do dwarf hamsters bite - hamster coming out of hidingA sleeping hamster or one that is unaware of your presence may react by biting if you try to pick it up suddenly.
  • The hamster sees you as a threat
    Hamsters are territorial and may see you as an invader if you poke your finger into their cage. If you are reaching for your hamster from above, it may also regard you as a predator and bite in defense.
  • The hamster is frightened
    Are you holding your hamster too tightly? It may frighten your hamster and cause it to bite.
  • Your hand or fingers smell of food
    Hamsters have highly sensitive noses and if you’re handling your hamster right after touching food, it may mistaken your fingers for food and start nibbling on it.
  • It also depends on the hamster’s personality
    Some hamsters are more prone to biting than others. My two robo dwarf hamsters, Ichigo and Blueberry, have vastly different personalities. Ichigo has never bitten me under any circumstances but Blueberry has a tendency to nibble on anything that’s put near his face.

Here’s Blueberry the robo dwarf hamster biting at my glove:

How to stop a dwarf hamster from biting

  1. Wash your hands before handling the hamster
  2. Alert a hamster to your presence by putting your hand slowly in front of it and letting the hamster sniff your hand before attempting to pick it up
  3. If your hamster is territorial, try playing with it outside the cage in a neutral area
  4. If your hamster looks scared or takes on a defensive stance, leave it alone for a while instead of trying to interact with it
  5. If a hamster tends to nibble, put on gloves before interacting with it

Training your dwarf hamster not to bite

According to the book Hamsterlopaedia, “reprimanding” your hamster by giving it a light tap on the nose and saying “No!” can teach your hamster that biting is unacceptable and may stop this bad behavior.

But here’s a different tip left by a reader, “cms”:

You should never ever hit a hamster for biting you. Not even a little bop on the nose. They should never see your hands as something that gives punishment, only treats and love. The first time you bop a hamster, they won’t ever forget. Try lightly blowing on their face (not hard enough to scare them) it will let them know that they aren’t supposed to do it without making them afraid of that big looming hand. If you strike them for biting, you’re only reinforcing the fear that caused the bite in the first place.

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  • Madi

    I have a dwarf hamster named marshmellow I try to pick it up every so often and it jumps right out of my hand .! and I tried putting food in my hand and trying to get him used to me and all he does is smell me and ends up biting me … one time he bit me so hard I drew blood I want my hamster to like me and I really want him to be calm ,what should I do ??

  • patrick

    hi,
    we got a new hamster last week.
    it is already staying with us for a week becouse his old owner went on vakation.
    but she didn’t want him annymore so we could keep him.
    he is really cute and i want to take good care of him, but he bites a lot.
    and he made my hand bleed serveral times.
    the brother of his old owner told me she used to smack him (rather hard for a hamster) and yell at him when he bites
    she also did other things he didn’t like but i don’t want this message to be too long

    i watched serveral youtube video’s how to approach him and that i musn’t chaise him and leave him alone the first day and all kind of tricks to let him get used to me and stop him from biting me.
    it is a dwarf hamster so it has to do something with his nature, but i am also shure it has to do with how his last owner misstreated him.

    i often just slowly put my hand in his cage so he has to come to me. and then he starts biting me
    i don’t shock and i just let him bite me or twist my hand slowly and if i give up i slowly pull my hand away.

    can you please give me some advice?

    • Sarah Yee

      I think you are doing well with your new hamster. He will probably need time to learn that your hand is not a threat (unlike the old owner).

      I have a hamster who always bites, but nowadays he has stop biting so much and I think this has helped:

      – Wear gloves on one hand and let him go up to your glove
      – If he bites the gloved hand, let him. He should stop after a while.
      – If he doesn’t stop, go away and try again later :)
      – Use the other hand (without gloves) to give him treats when he stops biting glove
      – Pet him gently with the same hand (no gloves) when he’s eating the treat
      – Don’t let him bite your hand without gloves (move away if he looks like he’s going to bite)
      – Repeat the above over many days and he should learn that your hand and your scent = treats and not dangerous

      The above has worked for taming my Roborovski hamster (the one in the video that bites). He still doesn’t like me putting my hand into his cage, but I don’t give him a chance to bite me and he is more comfortable with staying on my hand once he is outside the cage.

      • patrick

        Thank you a lot for your advice.
        I also asked people on youtube but i don’t get any response from them.
        You reacted realy fast. xD
        And i think those are great tips and i think they will help.

        Before i readed your reaction this moring, i got two leather gloves from my dad (gloves for more grip on his baseball bat)
        I am washing them right now, but they smell like leather. Can i still use them or do I have to get other gloves to approach the hamster?

        Is it ok if I have more questions? I don’t want to spamm you.
        Anyway, thank you for your tips.

        • Sarah Yee

          You’re welcome! I try to check my comments everyday ^_^
          And I’m very glad you think they will help.

          The smell might be a problem because hamsters have sensitive noses. I usually use cloth gardening gloves (like the one that my hamster is biting in the video).

          And yes, it’s definitely okay! Please feel free to ask any questions, I will try to help if I know the answer :)

  • Toby

    My dwarf hamster never bit anyone before until today when the person that was helping me out went to pick him up and put him back in the cage. It’s been over a year and he has never bit anyone. I’m concerned. Was it afraid of something? I couldn’t find the ball to put him in, so I used a bucket. Next time I clean his cage, if I do it the way I always used to, will he try to bite again or will he be normal again?… Thanks

    • Sarah Yee

      Hi, is the person helping you a stranger (to your dwarf hamster)? It might have been because the hamster was afraid of an unfamiliar scent. It could also depend on whether the person had any food smells on his/her hand, how he/she picked up the hamster, etc. I can’t say for sure that he won’t try to bite again, but dwarf hamsters typically don’t bite at random so if this is a one-off thing, there’s a high chance he’d be normal again

  • Ally

    Hi,
    Thanks so much for this helpful article! I’ve had my dwarf hamster (Spice) for awhile now, but am having issues taming her. I began holding her with a glove, which she bit nonstop at first (simply because she wasn’t used to it, I think). Eventually she got used to the glove, and now hardly ever bites it, although she seems a bit jittery. I’d like to start holding her with my bare hands, but like the glove, I’m pretty sure she’ll bite me nonstop for a while. How should I graduate from gloves to bare hands without getting a lot of injuries? Thanks so much!

    • http://dwarfhamsterblog.com/ Sarah Yee

      Hi! I’m glad you found it helpful. Have you tried wearing gloves on just one hand, picking her up with the gloved hand and then letting her walk over to the other hand?

      You could start with just one bare hand and see if she bites/tries to bite it.

      Let me know how it goes/if you’ve tried the one hand thing! ^^

  • http://dwarfhamsterblog.com/ Sarah

    Hi! It sounds like your hamster has cage aggression. One of my roborovski hamsters is the same way. You might want to take a look at this: http://dashinghamsters.blogspot.sg/2011/11/cage-aggression.html It lists some possible causes and a few things that you can try

  • http://dwarfhamsterblog.com/ Sarah

    Is there any chance that Pepper could be sick? I read somewhere that hamsters can turn aggressive if they’re sick. Or has someone else been playing with her and handling her roughly? I would pay more attention to her and see if she’s behaving any differently besides biting when picked up.

  • http://dwarfhamsterblog.com/ Sarah

    Hi, thanks. I have no idea why…hmm has your sister accidentally frightened the hamster? Does she wash her hands before handling it?

  • http://dwarfhamsterblog.com/ Sarah

    Hmm..maybe don’t offer your finger? Try this: Offer your palm and see if the hamster will go on it, and hold a sunflower seed in front of him with your other hand so that he’ll go for the sunflower seed instead of sniffing/biting at your palm. Don’t let go of the sunflower seed immediately and instead use it to bait your hamster up your other palm.

  • coraline

    PLEASE PLEASEE MAKE BUYING HAmster item thing on hamster.sg able to ship to thailand! please

    • http://dwarfhamsterblog.com/ Sarah

      We’re still figuring out how to ship internationally but if we do, Thailand will definitely be one of the places we’ll ship to!

      Incidentally, I’ll be going to Thailand in a few weeks time! Would love to see what hamster products you guys have over there ^_^

  • Domi

    Hi I like your blog it has a lot of useful information.

    i have 2 hamsters their names are Remy and Nelson and they are quite nice, i have only had them for 1 weeks and they are 5 weeks old. They do bite a bit too much for me and I’m not really sure what I can do about it… the thing is, they have never drawn blood but they still bite hard enough that it hurts. You said earlier that sometimes they bit because of food, well what about soap, will they bite you because of soap? And sometimes when they bite it’s hard enough that when I lift my finger up from the ground a bit, they just kind of hang there…is that unusual?
    Thank you for your time!

    • http://dwarfhamsterblog.com/ Sarah

      Hi!

      Yes, that’s unusual but I’ve seen it happen. However, you should probably not let them bite you so much or it might turn into a habit. If you are having problems lifting them without them biting you, you might want to use a toilet roll or something else that can pick them up. They’ll tend not to bite once they are on your hand. Wear gloves if necessary and you could also offer them a sunflower seed or a treat before attempting to pick them up to show that you’re not a threat.

      As for soap, especially ones that are heavily scented, it’s possible that the hamster might mistaken it for food or it could be the soap masking your smell so the hamster is simply biting in response to an unfamiliar smell

  • joey negron

    I want one soooooooooooooooo bad

  • lulu

    I just got a dwarf hamster from petco about 3 days ago and shes bitten me three times. I know she is still probably not used to me and her new surroundings which is probably the reason shes biting. ive placed my hand in her age while holding a sun flower seed in between my index and thumb but she went around the treat and bit my index finger. I don’t know how I can get her accustomed to my presence, I would really like to interact without the fear of being bitten.

    • http://dwarfhamsterblog.com/ Sarah

      Hi, you could wear a glove on one hand to give her treats/pick her up and pet her with the other hand for the time being until she stops being so aggressive.

      • lulu

        ok thanks

    • cms

      When you get a new hamster, leave them alone in the cage for a few days so that they can get accustomed to it before you start trying to handle them :)

  • cms

    You should never ever hit a hamster for biting you. Not even a little bop on the nose. They should never see your hands as something that gives punishment, only treats and love. The first time you bop a hamster, they won’t ever forget. Try lightly blowing on their face (not hard enough to scare them) it will let them know that they aren’t supposed to do it without making them afraid of that big looming hand. If you strike them for biting, you’re only reinforcing the fear that caused the bite in the first place.

  • lena_dove

    I think people should treat there pet dwarf hamphster the right way.
    I agree with cms

  • ola

    I got 2 robo hammies from a pet store about a week and a half ago. I’m guessing they are around 5 weeks old. They are related to each other and get along fine. I read online that i should leave them alone for a week so they get used to their new surroundings. I tried to place my hand in the cage to let them sniff. One of them, lucy, sniffed my fingers and bit me. Whenever I put my hand in they either bite me or run away and hide. i tried to do some things that i read online but i don’t see any improvements. they also aren’t big fans of most treats, so i can’t get them close to my hand. please help me, i would love to give the hamsters a good home, but I’m not sure what to do. thanks