Is your hamster scratching himself ? Or is he just grooming himself and it just looks odd ? Scratching is part of every animal’s life. We humans scratch too, sometimes without a serious medical reason.
So let’s see why hamsters scratch themselves, and how you can help if there is a problem.
So why do hamsters scratch themselves ?
For the most part hamsters scratch themselves because something is itching them. Much like us humans, actually. Sometimes it’s a skin condition like a rash, or possibly a parasite like a flea and their bites itch.
Other times it’s not something clear, like when your nose itches for no apparent reason.
And finally, hamsters scratch themselves as part of their grooming ritual. Sometimes they feel there’s something in their fur, and scratching is the only real way to get it out.
Unless the hamster is repeatedly scratching the exact same spot over several days, losing fur in that spot, developing a rash, or even drawing blood by scratching, there is nothing to worry about.
A little scratching is normal
Hammies do get itchy noses, or paws, or ears from time to time. They’re not always easy to explain, like a flea bit them. Sometimes things just itch, for no good reason. So, they scratch.
You’ve probably had an itchy nose or ear or leg for no real reason. This is true for hamsters as well, actually for all animals. Skin is sensitive across all species, and something as silly as a speck of dust settling on your skin can make it itch.
Hamsters can get skin conditions too
One reason to worry is if the hamster has developed a skin condition. This means fur coming off in patches in that area, a red patch, a scab, there can be lots of things. Let’s go through them.
Ringworm is actually a fungal infection, and it can become itchy. The fur will fall off in a round patch, and that patch of skin will be dry, flaky, with a series of tiny red dots marking the edge of the patch. It’s highly contagious, and can be transmitted from the hamster to you, so use disposable gloves.
Ringowm can be treated, it’s just that the hamster needs to be quarantined while he is under treatment. You should check the rest of the house for signs of an infection on the other pets or family members.
Given that Ringworm is contagious, and the hamster never leaves his cage, it’s clear that the fungus somehow got to him. It if got to him someone or something already had it. You will need to find the carrier and the infected ones and treat them as well.
Another possible problem is skin rashes. Sometimes the fur falls off, sometimes not. But the skin will be noticeably red, it might be dry and flaky. Scratching it might draw some blood. This can be treated, but sometimes it’s not clear what caused the rash so the treatment can be a hit or miss.
Often rashes just go away on their own, without ever letting you know what the cause was. Sometimes it could be new bedding your hamster hates, it could be a treatment that the hamster reacts poorly to.
Or, another possibility could be mites. Mites are tiny, tiny creatures that come to inhabit your hamster’s skin. They cling to the hamster’s hairs, and burrow inside of them. Some mites burrow inside the skin as well. This leads to some very terrible looking skin, and a very distressed hamster.
However mites are definitely contagious, so it’s the same story as with Ringworm. If you hamster was just sitting there, never our of his cage, then something that already had mites somehow found its way to the hamster’s cage.
It could be the cat, if he’s an outdoor/indoor cat, or maybe your shirt if you’ve handled an infected animal and the mites got onto you.
it could be anything or anyone. You’re just going to have to check every part of the house. There is treatment, but do not get anything online or over the counter. Only let the vet treat your hamster, since some treatments can burn the hamster’s skin and you must be very careful.
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Don’t confuse scratching with grooming
Hamsters also do a lot of grooming. They’re very clean animals, and like to keep it that way. This means grooming when they wake up, before they eat, after they eat, after you handle them, after they get off their exercise wheel, after they’ve walked around for a few minutes, and sometimes just before bed too.
Part of grooming is scratching. Not continuously, but a scratch here, another one there. Sometimes they might nibble on whatever they find on their nails after they’ve scratched. While it sounds gross, it’s their way of cleaning out their nails too.
They pull at their fur, they comb through it with their paws a lot, and that too can look like scratching.
If you’ve got a Syrian hamster, you will often see him nibbling at his hips. It’s a weird sight, but that’s actually where his scent glands are (black dots). They need a bit of cleaning too, and he spends extra time there when he is grooming.
A word from Teddy
I hope you found what you were looking for in this article. Us hammies scratch from time to time too, it’s just not very different from why you humans scratch.
If you want to know more about us hamsters you should check out the related articles below. You’ll learn how to keep us safe and happy, and what we need for a good life.