Hamsters are small rodents often kept as pets. While they are popular as pets they are not without some issues of concern, they are nocturnal, they can bite, and they often develop the bad habit of chewing on the bars of their cage. This habit is not only annoying to the hamster's owner, but can damage their teeth. If the bars of the cage are painted there is always a concern about toxic paint. So... how does a hamster owner prevent their pet from chewing the bars of its cage?
Why do Hamsters Chew the Bars of their Cage?
Hamsters are rodents and rodents need to chew to keep their teeth in good condition. As such chewing is a natural behavior.
Hamsters should have chew things in their cage but some start chewing on their bars because of boredom and once this starts it is hard to stop. In the wild a hamster would have to travel around looking for food and water. In a cage, the hamster's food and water is often only inches away from where it sleeps. All in all most cage hamsters have boring lives, and as a result bar chewing develops as a vice, a bad habit, that keeps the animal busy.
Basical the most common reason for bar chewing is that the pet is bored.
How to Prevent a Hamster from Chewing the Bars in its Cage
Once the bar biting habit has started it is very difficult to stop. Think of it like a person who chews their nails as a habit. It is very hard for them to quit.
The hamster should have things to do; a wheel, chew things (they love to chew apple branches), and should be taken out of the cage for at least 1 hour every night. Better care can help prevent the bar chewing problem from starting but will not necessarily cure it once it has already begun.
The best solution is to buy a bigger, and better, cage for the hamster, one with lots of tunnels and places to explore. Some of the best systems can be changed around every few weeks to make them more interesting. Small piles of food can be put in different areas of the cage system to make it more natural.
The hamster should be taken out more, even set loose to explore a room that has been hamster proofed. It can even be placed inside an empty plastic child's swimming pool with toys (empty toilet paper and paper towel rolls, clean rags, apple tree branches) added for interest.
What Not to Do if your Hamster is Chewing its Cage Bars
Never punish a hamster for chewing the bars of its cage. This problem was created by not giving the pet enough stimulation, so it is not the hamster's fault, and additionally hamsters do not understand punishment.
Do not move the hamster into a small aquarium. While aquariums lack bars, they provide even less mental stimulation than the animal might get in a cage where it can at least climb the bars. The hamster will often switch one bad habit for another, while it may not have cage bars to chew it may start compulsively digging in a corner for hours.