Why Is My Hamster Crawling Up The Walls?
Why does my hamster climb the bars of his cage? At first glance, this behavior can be frantic and funny. But if it persists then it can quickly become concerning for pet owners. Hamsters have a wide variety of behaviors, and can be very entertaining to watch. You may have seen your hamster climbing the walls of his cage, before falling or “back flipping” down, repeating this behavior for several minutes, or even up to an hour. But what does this mean? Is it something to worry about?
If you have a habit of laughing at, stroking or otherwise praising your hamster for his athletics, then he will soon learn that crawling the bars is a good way to get your attention. The best way to stop a hamster doing this is to cease reinforcing the behavior by ignoring your hamster when he is engaging in wall climbing, therefore not rewarding this behavior. He will soon find other ways to get your attention! This technique can be used to any animal, and is the best “punishment” you could use for any animal.
Stress from other hamsters or pets
If your hamster lives with another hamster, then he may be climbing the walls as a means to escape. Syrian hamsters are solitary, and they are likely to fight when kept together. If you notice any signs of aggression between hamsters alongside the cage climbing behavior then you should try separating the hamsters to see if the behavior stops. If you own Russian dwarf hamsters, who live together, then adding more places for your hamsters to hide from each other should help reduce aggression.
Sometimes, a hamster may develop escape behaviors because they are in sight of our other pets. Hamsters are prey animals, and naturally want to escape the presence of predator animals. When confined to a cage, they cannot escape, and can feel trapped and endangered when your cat is in the same room.
On a biological level, the stress of being in close proximity to predators effects every organ in the body. When a hamster is stressed, their body will have elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and consistent high levels or cortisol in the blood causes extra stress on the internal organs and reduces the efficiency of the immune system, making your hamster more likely to get sick. Keeping your hamster enclosure well out of reach and sight of other house pets is a recommendation for this reason, even if you hamster is not actively behaving stressed.
A stereotypy is “the constant repetition of certain meaningless gestures or movements”. This explanation is the most likely if your hamster repeatedly climbs the walls.
Stereotyped behavior is popular in captive animals, and is caused by boredom. Zoos and Sanctuaries decrease and eliminate stereotyped behavior by using a comprehensive enrichment program where many different novel items are given to each animal every day to ensure they do not get bored. This approach works great for your hamster too!
There are lot of different ways to keep your hamster stimulated, from different textures to dig in (hamsters love to make tunnels!), to freezing or hanging novel food items, to toilet roll tubes, socks and other new bedding materials. It can be entertaining to you, as a pet owner, to make these and watch your hamster enjoy them, and even the youngest members of your family can help too.
Sometimes, stereotyped behavior can be so ingrained and self rewarding. It can be difficult to break the cycle of behavior, however hamsters are highly adaptable creatures and normally respond well to improvements in their habitat when it comes to reducing stereotyped behaviors, such as wall climbing and bar chewing.
Is Wall Crawling Really A Problem?
The behavior in itself is not cause for concern, but is definitely an indicator of an underlying issue. Therefore, we should be identify the cause where possible. Some negative behaviors can trigger others, and in extreme cases lead to self mutilation. By addressing the causes early on, you can reduce and even reverse any negative effects this may have on your hamsters’ mental and physical well being.
In summary, if your hamster has started to crawl the walls and bars of his cage, don’t panic! It doesn’t take much time or effort to take steps towards improving your hamsters living conditions. Ensuring they have lots of toys to keep them mentally stimulated and spending more quality time with your pet! After a long way, you can hopefully stop any wall crawling behavior and have a happy and healthy hamster!
Have you managed to stop wall crawling behavior in it’s tracks? Let us know your success stories, or ask for advice in the comments!