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Why is my Russian Dwarf Hamster so irritable lately?
November 19, 2009 12:52 PM   Subscribe

Why is my Russian Dwarf Hamster so irritable lately?

I own a male, Russian Dwarf Hamster. He is nearly 2 1/2 years old. He has been a happy, healthy hamster for most of his life. Recently (the past few months), he has been noticeably more irritable. He constantly nips at human skin. It does not seem like he is just looking for food - he's nipping and not letting go. He will grab onto my skin and hang there as I attempt to pull him off. It doesn't seem like he's trying to pierce my skin though (as he's done when I've frightened or annoyed him in the past).

He does not use his exercise wheel much anymore, and he doesn't show much energy when I put him in his hamster ball.

I have not changed his diet in a while. He has always been happy with the brand/mix I buy him.

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Possible reasons might be:

We recently moved across country, by car, with him in it. Could this have traumatized him?

Winter is coming and in San Francisco it is getting cold. Perhaps he is eating more and exercising less to prepare for hibernation? Maybe this makes him cranky?

Maybe he's just getting old?

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Additionally:

He's got a bit of brown fluid in his left eye. I was told that this is common for hamsters, particularly older ones, and nothing to worry about. What do you think?

His stool, eating, and drinking habits all appear fine. He is not exhibiting any signs of wet tail. His weight seems fine. His hair seems like it might be thinning, but it could just be my imagination. His ears have been down more than usual, they are not as perky.

I haven't heard him crying, in fact, I have heard him softly 'clicking' for the first time in his life. Perhaps I just wasn't listening close enough before. I read that this means he is happy/content.

--

So why is he so angry?
posted by Jimmie to Pets & Animals (6 answers total)
 
I would guess he's probably just getting old. My hamster stopped exercising as much, and wasn't as excited about being around me sometime after he hit two years. He seemed happy and pretty healthy until the night he actually died, but I could definitely tell he was slowing down toward the end.

When he nips, are you trying to pick him up? Maybe doesn't want to go somewhere or do anything. You could try getting him to walk onto your hand instead of picking him up.

I would say to give him lots of warm, clean bedding (especially as winter is coming), give him some extra veggies and fruits as treats, and continue to be an awesome pet owner.
posted by warble at 1:05 PM on November 19, 2009


Thanks warble,

He nips whenever he sees my hand :( I will just try to pet him, or get his attention, his first instinct is to chew. When I try to let him wander onto my palm, he will simply bite it instead.

I haven't given him raw veggies in a while, I will do that.
posted by Jimmie at 1:32 PM on November 19, 2009


It's hard to say since irritability by itself is hard to diagnose. This could easily be either a medical or a socialization problem. Medicalwise, it's sometimes is a sign of pain, and an easy test would be to feel his body and organs for any growths or lumps and note anything that causes him to jump. You may also want to look through this list and see if there's other obscure symptoms that might indicate a medical issue (not sure if eye drainage means much). The vet can also help as they can do urine tests or even blood work (though I'm not sure how easy or practical the latter is for a small animal). It also could be something environmental... maybe there's noises or smells in the place that bother him, or for all we know some neighbor might have one of those ultrasonic pest devices.
posted by crapmatic at 1:44 PM on November 19, 2009


He's just an old cranky hamster, 2.5 years is approaching Russian dwarfs' max lifespan. When mine got to that age, their hair started thinning, they rarely exercised and their already poor eyesight got much worse. I had one live to 3.25 years (a Methuselah among Phodopus sungorus), he went nearly bald and slept most of the time, only arousing himself in 2 minute spurts a few times a day.

Yours might be nipping you because he can no longer smell well enough to know it's you.
posted by jamaro at 1:57 PM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


crapmatic -
I might bring him to a vet. If he's old it's one thing, but if he's got a medical issue I want it corrected.

jamaro -
Yeah he only wakes up for a few minutes at a time. It's hard to monitor him at night but I suspect he does the same.

The poor guy, he was a really good hamster, I just want him to be comfortable.
posted by Jimmie at 3:57 PM on November 19, 2009


Sounds like you've done all the right things to get him to 2.5 years. I'd avoid any huge changes in diet at this stage though. A tiny tidbit now and then is OK, a sudden switch to a big bowl of greens will cause him GI distress. Also, another older hamster I had got fresh foods impacted in her cheek pouches (she had gotten too arthritic and weak to get them out herself) and I had to manually express a tablespoon of rotting nastiness from the poor thing.

Warmth, talk to him to keep him company, keep the stress from handling down to a minimum. When mine got old and nippy, I would gently scoop them out by digging into the bedding underneath them with both hands and moving bedding+hamster as one unit into a temporary box while I cleaned their habitat and then slightly tipped the temp box toward the habitat opening and wait for them to walk back into their usual digs.

Also, might want to lower the water dispenser a little, if it's up high. Old hamsters have stiff necks.
posted by jamaro at 8:00 PM on November 19, 2009


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