Shaking is a strong signal that your hamster is under some sort of mental or physical struggle. They may be suffering from a physical illness such as diabetes, going into hibernation, or experiencing fear or stress.
It is not normal for either animals or humans to shake. With hamsters, because it can mean a variety of things, you really need to assess the situation. Plus, it isn’t as easy to give a hamster a check-up as with something larger like a cat or dog.
Shaking in hamsters is one of the most common issues any hamster owner will face. Below, we explain what it could mean in-depth, and how to solve the issues.
Why a hamster may shake
There are four common potential reasons why a hamster may shake. Some are easily rectified, while others may need intervention from a vet if it is a medical issue:
Fear and anxiety
Hamsters are very small creatures. New experiences could be particularly overwhelming for them, whether it be guests in the home or even noises from the television.
A hamster is easily startled. They are likely to experience something new every day, and can even take a while to get used to being handled by their owner who they see every day. The first few times they are handled, you will likely see them shaking.
Ask visitors to refrain from crowding your hamster the first few times they visit, too. If you think loud noises like the dog barking or the TV being on are disturbing them, you could potentially try moving their setup. They can get used to these noises but it can instead be easier to make them comfortable.
Climate and hibernation
When the temperature becomes really cold, your hamster may start shaking. This behaviour is just like the behaviour we humans go through, too – the shaking helps to warm us up. However, hamsters can potentially go into hibernation.
Hibernation can be normal, but in domesticated pets, it is often a lot rarer. You can help them out of hibernation by warming up the environment. Again, they can shake due to the temperature change, but this is normal.
When the shaking becomes a cause for concern is if it is for an extended period post-waking up. This may signal that your hamster’s nerves and nervous system have been affected by the cold temperatures, or there is another health-related issue. Call the vet if this continues for a few days.
Nervous system issues
As mentioned, their nervous system can be affected by hibernation and the cold. But it can also be affected by…being nervous.
If they are overwhelmed frequently, it could cause permanent issues. Excessive stimulation when humans try to stroke them isn’t good. So if you notice your hamster shakes when you try to interact with them, you may need to take it very slowly.
Most hamsters won’t appreciate being picked up and handled straight away when you get them home. Handle them with care and give them time.
A respiratory infection
Do you think your hamster may have a cold? Unfortunately, they don’t really get colds or the flu as such, so it is likely to be something that needs to be treated.
It is more likely to be an upper respiratory infection. If they are sneezing or sound a bit wheezy, this may be the issue. Make a note of all of their symptoms and ask your vet for the best course of action.
Other symptoms to look out for are runny or crusty eyes, lethargy, loss of appetite and a runny nose. If left untreated, it may turn into pneumonia. But if caught early enough, they will be able to get over it.
An infection can be caught from their environments, such as bacteria in their bedding and food. They could even be allergic to something in your home, from plants or dust to the detergents you use to wash their bedding. Some hamster bedding can be high in dust, which we may not sense but a small hamster nose certainly can.
This is why proper cleanliness is so vital. A prescription of antibiotics or antihistamines may solve it, but you also may need to change their bedding and setup.
A medical issue
These are less common, but your hamster could be suffering from diabetes, tumours in their head or nose, heatstroke, heart failure or parasites.
One really serious issue which needs urgent emergency medical care is if your hamster is shaking and also seems to have an upset stomach or watery stools. Hamster wet tail is very serious, and sometimes your hamster may only have 48 hours to live. Unfortunately, it is often fatal.
Unhygienic living conditions again are often the cause. It is vital your hamster is clean, comfortable and secure.