Question & Answer
Aggressive Hamster

By Lorraine Hill
I have this problem with one of my female baby hamsters who is now nearly 2 months old. She is in a wire cage and if anyone so much as puts their finger near the cage she immediately attacks the bars biting. Also, when opening the door to refresh her food, she lunges toward the opening making it very difficult for feeding. I am terrfied to handle her.

For some reason your hamster has become very territorial and with this aggressive.

She needs to learn that invasion of her territory is ok and not a threat. One thing I'd do is get a ruler or some other suitably long object and hold it in her cage.  She will probably attack it.  That's ok.  Just hold it still and let her.  After a while she will get tired and leave it alone. Once she leaves it alone, leave it there for a while and then remove it. Keep repeating this daily.

This will teach her that an invasion of her territory is ok, does her no harm, and attacking only wears herself out and has no effect on the "invader." She will realise also that this invader does her no harm, so she has no reason to fear it. She will learn that attacking it is useless.  In fact, when she behaves herself and leaves it alone, it goes of its own accord.  So being "nice" to it, or ignoring it, actually works better than attacking it.

Once she happily accepts the ruler as an invader without attacking it, try other objects.  She may attack them too to start with, but repeat the process above alternating different objects all the time and introducing new ones.

She will soon learn that she has no reason to fear these "invaders" and that attacking them results in nothing. After a while she should become more curious about objects rather than just thinking "attack" because she considers them a threat.

Once she will accept anything in her cage like this you can try with your hand (would suggest wearing a pair of good thick gloves).  With the previous "training" you may find she doesn't bite at all, but at least with a pair of thick gloves if she does bite you can keep your hand there without pain and carry out the same process as above!

The problem is once you get a hamster that bites like this they learn that to bite means the invader goes away and this re-inforces their territorial behaviour, so you need to re-train her and get her to accept "your way" rather than letting her force you to accept "her way."

Once she will accept any object in her cage, you can work on stroking her with the objects.  Again if she objects to being stroked, just hold the object still and let her attack it.  When she stops, stroke her with it again.

Once she will happily accept any object in her territory and accepts being stroked by any object after she has had chance to investigate it and will be stroked without attacking, you can work on placing your hand in the cage, and stroking her, and handling her.
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