Animals display many behaviors and while some are natural, others are in response to situations. One type of behavior you may have noticed as an owner of two or more hamsters is fighting. If this is something you have noticed, you may have wondered why it is happening and what you can do to stop the fighting.
Do Hamsters Fight?
Not all hamsters fight, but it is a common behavior among certain breeds. Some breeds of hamster prefer living in solitude and will fight if kept with another hamster. There are several causes of this fighting, so there are various solutions to the problem.
Why Do Hamsters Fight?
The two main causes of fighting among hamsters are dominance and territorial fighting. When two hamsters live together, one is always more dominant than the other. Who is the most dominant is decided through fighting. In some cases, the fighting is short-lived and will stop when one hamster wins as this means they are dominant. The hamster on top will hold down the other hamster and the hamster on the bottom will squeak. When the bottom hamster stops squeaking it is a sign of submission and the upper hamster has won dominance.
Similarly, hamsters are naturally territorial creatures. They need to mark their territories with scent and do not like other hamsters to enter their territory. If you have two or more hamsters living in one cage, it is very difficult for them not to cross into the other hamster’s territory. When this happens, the hamsters will usually fight.
Dominance and protecting their territory are not the only causes of fighting in hamsters. They sometimes fight if they are stressed from living in a small habitat or if they are in pain. A further reason for females fighting is hormones. When a hamster’s hormonal balance changes, such as during pregnancy, a female may become more aggressive.
Do Hamsters Play with Each Other?
Although hamsters are not particularly playful creatures, they do occasionally play with each other. This may involve chasing each other or rolling around on top of each other. The latter can look like fighting, so many hamster owners confuse the two. Hamsters will also groom each other. This involves holding down the other hamster and can also look like fighting.
How to Tell If They Are Fighting or Playing?
Sometimes you may think that your hamsters are fighting when they are playing. Similarly, the hamsters are possibly grooming each other as this is also mistaken for a fight. Some fights will pass quickly and are not a concern. However, severe aggression can lead to death, so it is important you can identify real fighting from playing or grooming.
To tell the difference, you need to watch the behavior of the hamsters when they are not fighting. If the fighting is not a real issue, then the hamsters will not interact with each other at all between fights. However, if the fight was simply a tussle or play fighting, then the hamster will interact with each other when they are not fighting.
What to Do If They Are Fighting?
A common mistake made by many hamster owners is to separate the hamsters mid-fight and then to reunite them later. In the long-term, this is not a good solution to the problem as it causes confusion and further fighting.
Hamster owners should not interrupt a fight. Instead, they should wait until the fight is over before deciding whether the hamsters need separating permanently or not. It is best to monitor their behavior for a few days to see if they interact well together between their spats. If they don’t then separation is usually the answer.
Which Hamsters Get Along Well?
Some breeds of hamster prefer to live in solitude, while others are happy to live in a pairing or a small group. Although individual hamsters vary, most golden hamsters prefer to live alone. If they are forced to live with another hamster, it is likely that fighting will take place. The most sociable breeds of hamsters are dwarf breeds. These hamsters are usually happy to live with other hamsters. If you do keep two hamsters together then it is best to opt for a same-sex pairing as they are less likely to fight.
What Are the Solutions to Stopping Hamsters from Fighting?
There are several steps you can take if your hamsters do not get along. The first is to make sure they are living in a habitat large enough for them each to have their own space. You should also give them separate water bottles and food bowls to avoid fighting for food and water. This will also make sure that both hamsters are getting enough food and water as a bullied hamster may stop eating and drinking to avoid a fight.
Buying two hamster wheels is also a good idea, so they can each get exercise and entertainment without fear of being bullied by their cage mate. If you have tunnels in your hamsters’ cage, then ones with several exits are best as a bullied hamster can get trapped inside a tunnel with no way to escape if their cage mate is blocking the exit point.
If these strategies do not work, then you need to take serious action. In most cases, the only solution is to separate the hamsters permanently. Once they live in separate cages, it is a permanent living situation and you cannot reunite them later. Most hamsters will prefer to live alone than to live in a situation where there is fighting.
Fighting is common among hamsters, especially the breeds that prefer to live alone. If you are keeping more than one, then a same-sex pairing is the best option, and each should have their own food bowl, water bottle, and wheel to reduce the likelihood of fighting. If the fighting persists, then separation is usually the only permanent solution to the problem and is the best way of keeping both hamsters safe.