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Old 09-14-2020, 01:25 PM   #1
Distraughtlemon
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Default Syrian suddenly more aggressive, and I may have lost her trust?

I got my first hamster, 8 week old Syrian (female), Dio, two weeks ago. I did all the research I could, I gave her space, hardly handled her and did did my best to avoid mishandling her but I've made a terrible mistake...

I think I have lost what little trust she had in me. A few days ago I was carrying her in a container to take her back to her enclosure, however, there was no lid on the container and I had to hold it shut with my hand. She abruptly forced her way out of the container and into my hands. She got scared because she's never been held before and tried to escape. I couldn't let her go though because there was a metre between my hands and the floor, so I had to ensure she couldn't escape until I got to her enclosure. This happened in a matter of seconds but she's clearly been affected by it.

She hasn't been the friendliest hamster to say the least, even before this she'd always want to bite my hand. But now, she's worse. She occasionally hisses at me (even when I'm just looking into her enclosure) and she's more eager to bite me. She didn't even want to let me spot clean her cage last time, she attacked the cleaning scoop.

I'm genuinely anxious about even minor chores like changing her water or refilling her food dish now because I'm scared she'll hiss at me or want to attack me. It's not about getting hurt, I just find it heartbreaking that Dio sees me this way because I've wanted nothing more than to give her a loving home and a happy life and now I feel like I've screwed that up. The mistake I made has definitely upset her, I'm worried I'll never be able to get her to feel safe around me again. I don't mind if I can't fully tame her, as long as she's not stressed over minor things like me spotcleaning the cage or refilling her food, I don't mind if I can't handle her.

How would I go about regaining her trust? And how would I go about taming her after this, considering the fact that she's a bitey hamster? Is there any hope of me ever taming her at all? If anyone has any advice or similar stories I'd love to hear it..
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Old 09-14-2020, 01:59 PM   #2
Amethyst_ice
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Default Re: Syrian suddenly more aggressive, and I may have lost her trust?

Hello and welcome to the forum,

Im so sorry you have been having quite an upsetting and stressful time with Dio , and your first, it certainly must feel like you are to blame.

It sounds like she was quite anxious and nervous before the container so I doubt you keeping your hand on top would have made a difference.

It sounds like she is very cage terratorial also, what kind of set up is she in?

I and many others, often don't do any cleaning for a few weeks when first getting a hamster. This allows them to scent and become familiar and comfortable in their surroundings.

It's also true that some hamsters dont like being handled much. However, even when ive had ones like this, I always ensure I get them to a level where they can be picked up and allow for health checks. I don't tolerate biting in my house so Im quick to .. NIP that in the bud!

For the biting, often letting out a high pitched squeak is helpful. It's like "speaking" hamster language. Also, ensure you have washed your hands without anything scented..im terrible at scoffing some doritoes and just brushing my hands on my leg and going in for a pet lol

With the cage, it may help to take some things out and gradually introduce them. Id be focusing on taming and bonding right now.
You could also scatter feed. This not only encourages foraging but removes another "stress point" in the area if she is hissing when you go near the bowl,

Keep us updated and please dont give up yet,

much love
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Last edited by Amethyst_ice; 09-14-2020 at 02:41 PM.
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Old 09-14-2020, 02:05 PM   #3
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Default Re: Syrian suddenly more aggressive, and I may have lost her trust?

Ok, first things first, relax don't panic.
If it was me I would stop spot cleaning, don't touch anything in the cage except for adding food or changing the water. It can take weeks for a hamster to feel settled and secure in their cage. For example, it took 6 weeks for my syrian Twinkle to stop running back into his house even when I was sat across the room not making a noise or moving. He is tame as anything now.
He was in a 100 x 50cm cage at the time and I didn't clean him out, no spot cleaning for more than 4 weeks. So you could try that first of all.
I wouldn't attempt to get her out the cage again until the hissing calms down and she feels safer. I am sure given time she will gain trust with you, just maybe go a bit slower with the whole process. Some hamsters are fine from day 1, some take a couple of days to settle in and some can take weeks.
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Old 09-14-2020, 02:42 PM   #4
Distraughtlemon
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Default Re: Syrian suddenly more aggressive, and I may have lost her trust?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Amethyst_ice View Post
Hello and welcome to the forum,

Im so sorry you have been having quite an upsetting and stressful time with Dio , and your first, it certainly must feel like you are to blame.

It sounds like she was quite anxious and nervous before the container so I doubt you keeping your hand on top would have made a difference.

It sounds like she is very cage terratorial also, what kind of set up is she in?

I and many others, often don't do any cleaning for a few weeks when first getting a hamster. This allows them to scent and become familiar and comfortable in their surroundings.

It's also true that some hamsters dont like being handled much. However, even when ive had ones like this, I always ensure I get them to a level where they can be picked up and allow for health checks. I don't tolerate biting in my house so Im quick to .. NIP that in the bud!

For the biting, often letting out a high pitched squeak is helpful. It's like "speaking" hamster language. Also, ensure you have washed your hands without anything scented..im terrible at scoffing some doritoes and just brushing my hands on my leg and going in for a pet lol

With the cage, it may help to take some things out and gradually introduce them. Id be focusing on taming and bonding right now.
You could also scatter feed. This not only encourages foraging but removes another "stress point" in the area if she is hiddig when you go near the bowl,

Keep us updated and please dont give up yet,

much love
Thanks for the welcome!

I keep her in a bin cage, which measures 726sq inches that is connected to a smaller cage (261sq inches) by a tube (it's the kind made for ferrets, not one of those small tubes). The bin cage is her 'main' area where she has her wheel, food, water, chews, hide and burrowing bedding (I give her just over 6 inches in case that's relevant) and the smaller cage is her 'sand area'.

I've never really heard that cage cleaning should be avoided for the first few weeks though, I'll make sure to keep cage cleaning to a minimal for a while. I've never heard that advice for biting either, I'll be sure to try it out!
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Old 09-14-2020, 02:47 PM   #5
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Default Re: Syrian suddenly more aggressive, and I may have lost her trust?

Think of it like this...

You go to a hotel. It has familiar things in but doesn't feel like home. You spend a few days there, put some things in places and go to sleep. When you wake up, the maid has been in and moved everything around. You keep putting things in places but the maid keeps moving them.. you start feeling frustrated.

The spot cleaning is a little like this. She is putting her scent everywhere, which she would do in the wild to mark her territory and then you are cleaning it all away and so she marks even more in the hope it will stay.. it can actually make them smell even more. Theres no harm in leaving a cage for 4 weeks, if you have good substrate and at a good depth it will soak up odors and wouldnt do any harm.

Let us know how you get on
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Old 09-14-2020, 11:02 PM   #6
Distraughtlemon
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Default Re: Syrian suddenly more aggressive, and I may have lost her trust?

Quote:
Originally Posted by LunaTheHamster1 View Post
Ok, first things first, relax don't panic.
If it was me I would stop spot cleaning, don't touch anything in the cage except for adding food or changing the water. It can take weeks for a hamster to feel settled and secure in their cage. For example, it took 6 weeks for my syrian Twinkle to stop running back into his house even when I was sat across the room not making a noise or moving. He is tame as anything now.
He was in a 100 x 50cm cage at the time and I didn't clean him out, no spot cleaning for more than 4 weeks. So you could try that first of all.
I wouldn't attempt to get her out the cage again until the hissing calms down and she feels safer. I am sure given time she will gain trust with you, just maybe go a bit slower with the whole process. Some hamsters are fine from day 1, some take a couple of days to settle in and some can take weeks.
She has a habit of peeing on her wheel, is it ok for me to clean it off once a week or should I leave it as it is?

And you're right, I'll leave her alone for a bit, keep things at whatever pace is most comfortable for her and hope for the best
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Old 09-15-2020, 01:24 AM   #7
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Default Re: Syrian suddenly more aggressive, and I may have lost her trust?

The others have said it all really Start again letting her settle then do some bathtub taming as you won't be able to handle her until she's tamed. You started out well leaving her alone for a few days, but she isn't tame yet and yes they will wriggle free, ping and try and escape and run. This is a tricky time for getting them out of the cage to do some taming. It's best to put them into something secure like a hamster ball - to transport them to the place you can let them out for taming (dry bathtub is good).

Either by letting them walk into a tube with a treat at the end then lifting the tube out with your hands over the end and then, with the ball nearby, putting one end of the tube into the ball and keep your hand over the other end. So she walks into the ball then pop the lid on. Or a large box will do but it needs to be high enough she can't jump out. So then you just put the tube down in the box.

Then carry the ball with her in (careful you don't drop it) to the bathtub put the ball down, take the lid off and let her walk out. A few toys and hidey places in there can help - eg a cardboard tube, a mug on its side another two or two. They tend to just try and get out and slither up and down the sides of the bath but she might investigate the toys. During this time you can get her used to touch. Once they learn to trust your touch they are handleable without "pinging" (that is the wriggling free and leaping 2 feet in the air at the same time).

Tips I had that worked were you start by just stroking her on the back with one finger while she's in the bath tub - quite easy to do if she's slithering up and down the side of the bath, but wear gloves if you're nervous she might bite. Our hamster used to jerk his head round to see you off/threaten to bite but never actually did. Do this a couple of times in the first session but just let her explore mostly and talk to her. They usually get back in the ball when they've had enough and then you can pop the lid on, lower the ball in her cage and let her out again.

Maybe do bathtub taming every 2 or 3 days. By the second or third time she should accept being stroked on the back with one finger without jerking round or biting. This is real progress! She is accepting touch.

From there you move onto putting your hand flat on the bathtub, palm up, in front of her so she walks across your hand. Do this for one session. Next session do that again but very slightly lift your hand about 1cm - but don't try and hold her - just let her walk off your raised hand. Maybe do that 2 or 3 times. Next session do the same again but raise your hand a bit higher - maybe an inch or two - but still let her walk off. Do that a few times. Then let her walk from hand to hand putting one hand in front of the other - still palm up. Some people let them walk through your tunnelled hands at this stage but I sometimes find they don't like that and pull back.

Once she is walking across your hands you can hold her and pet her. But only try and pick her up and hold her for a few seconds at first, in the bathtub. But she should be more relaxed and feel trusting with you holding her.

But before you do all the taming I would literally start from scratch again now. Leave her alone for 2 or 3 days then don't clean anything at all for 2 weeks. I think 2 weeks does it. No spot cleaning, no wheel cleaning. It'll be fine! Let her find her feet, get some habits, make the place her own.

The only thing that smells is their pee. It might start to get a bit whiffy. The earliest I would spot clean would be after one week but only the main pee area -eg take out a handful of the pee'd on substrate and replace it with a clean handful. In your case, if you can bear it, I wouldn't even do that and leave her a full two weeks.

As a tip, after that you will know where her chosen pee area is - often a corner of the cage - and you can then put a corner litter tray there with chinchilla sand in and she should use it. Syrians will use a toilet. Then you just need to empty the litter tray once or twice a week and the rest of the cage should stay clean and dry.

During that two weeks just talk to her through the cage so she gets familiar with your voice and presence. Tone of voice makes a big difference. I would start with saying you are very sorry for having to grab her but you were trying to protect her from falling and hurting herself and it won't happen again. I know that sounds a bit bonkers but when you say sorry you have a tone of voice that sounds sorry! And they listen and it does make a difference. Otherwise just chat to her in a friendly tone and tell her she's clever and beautiful etc.

After a few days you could start offering her treats through the mesh (I assume the bin cage is meshed?) So she gets used to taking things from you.

If she shows signs of wanting to come out during that two weeks then its fine to start with bathtub taming. But if she doesn't I'd just leave her for now.

One thing that's tricky with a scared hamster is seeing a hand coming from above - they are prey animals. So to get her out, lowering a tube and letting her walk in is better (or lowering the hamster ball). Some hamsters will get used to that when they're tame but it's one reason I prefer cages so you have a front entrance and no hand coming from above.

She is still a baby! So this is all fear. She is scared - she had a fright when you had to hold onto her, she is scared that someone is invading her cage and messing with it. And this hand keeps coming from above and invading her space!

They really need that two weeks to make it their own - scent marking makes it there own and you remove their scent when you clean. Scent marking also helps them find their way around - they don't see well so they follow their scent trails.

I've had hamsters refuse to use a wheel after it's been cleaned because all their scent has been removed. Try not to worry about the wheel to much just yet - most hamsters pee in their wheel - it doesn't need a full wash every week - a quick wipe inside now and then (but not every week) is fine for a longish period of time - but right now just leave it for two weeks. The pee will dry and it'll smell less!

It can become a catch 22 as well in that the more you clean, the more they pee on things to deter someone from messing with them!

It is very early days and they are still babies/children for the first few months They get into better habits as they mature a bit.

One tip though -their nest and hoard are their most precious things so avoid spot cleaning those - you can go a very long time leaving a nest and hoard in tact. Unless they get pee'd on (baby hamsters do sometimes pee in the nest but usually grow out of that quite quickly). She will see you as a thief if you mess with her nest and hoard! For now - just leave them - even if pee'd in.

But soothe her with talking to her through the cage for now. They forgive you however much you think you have had a disaster - but they just need to calm down and feel secure and in control of their space until she's fully established and feels at home.

Some people also recommend doing the tissue trick to help them familiarise with your scent. You put a few sheets of toilet paper up your sleeve or down your bra and leave it there for a couple of hours. Then tear the sheets into strips and add the pile of paper strips to the cage - not in her house, just somewhere in the cage. Add them while she's asleep. She will pouch them/forage for them to take to her nest and will become familiar with your scent from them.

What are the dimensions of the bin cage? Some of them slope in a lot at the bottom and don't have a lot of floor space for a syrian. If it's a bit on the small side she may have a bit of cage rage as well. But it sounds mainly about removing things and cleaning her too soon.

After two weeks I spot clean the pee corner and that's it. And add a litter tray/empty it every few days. Maybe wipe the wheel after 3 weeks. You can easily go three months without doing a full cage clean, if you have at least 4" deep substrate and a litter tray, and even then it's better to do "partial" cleans - ie don't clean everything at the same time - which is our human instinct - it's better to always leave something smelling familiar. So if you change the substrate, don't clean anything else and keep back some of the old substrate that's clean and spread it on top of the new - it makes a huge difference to avoiding them being stressed. That top layer will get spot cleaned out eventually.

Then another week do the wheel. Another week again any toys (toys often don't need cleaning very often). Then another week check inside her house. If it's pee'd in then you'll need to remove the nest and any soggy hoard but always leave a bit behind. A bit of the old nest and a bit of the old hoard, that is dry - even if whiffy and always replace the hoard with some new food in the same place. And put more piles of paper strips out in the cage so she can rebuild the nest. They soon learn not to pee in the nest if it needs removing.
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Last edited by Serendipity7000; 09-15-2020 at 01:31 AM.
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Old 09-15-2020, 08:57 AM   #8
Distraughtlemon
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Default Re: Syrian suddenly more aggressive, and I may have lost her trust?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Amethyst_ice View Post
Think of it like this...

You go to a hotel. It has familiar things in but doesn't feel like home. You spend a few days there, put some things in places and go to sleep. When you wake up, the maid has been in and moved everything around. You keep putting things in places but the maid keeps moving them.. you start feeling frustrated.

The spot cleaning is a little like this. She is putting her scent everywhere, which she would do in the wild to mark her territory and then you are cleaning it all away and so she marks even more in the hope it will stay.. it can actually make them smell even more. Theres no harm in leaving a cage for 4 weeks, if you have good substrate and at a good depth it will soak up odors and wouldnt do any harm.

Let us know how you get on
Oh I can definitely see its importance now, thanks. If anything new happens or progress is made I'll update
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Old 09-15-2020, 11:22 AM   #9
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Default Re: Syrian suddenly more aggressive, and I may have lost her trust?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Serendipity7000 View Post
The others have said it all really Start again letting her settle then do some bathtub taming as you won't be able to handle her until she's tamed. You started out well leaving her alone for a few days, but she isn't tame yet and yes they will wriggle free, ping and try and escape and run. This is a tricky time for getting them out of the cage to do some taming. It's best to put them into something secure like a hamster ball - to transport them to the place you can let them out for taming (dry bathtub is good).

Either by letting them walk into a tube with a treat at the end then lifting the tube out with your hands over the end and then, with the ball nearby, putting one end of the tube into the ball and keep your hand over the other end. So she walks into the ball then pop the lid on. Or a large box will do but it needs to be high enough she can't jump out. So then you just put the tube down in the box.

Then carry the ball with her in (careful you don't drop it) to the bathtub put the ball down, take the lid off and let her walk out. A few toys and hidey places in there can help - eg a cardboard tube, a mug on its side another two or two. They tend to just try and get out and slither up and down the sides of the bath but she might investigate the toys. During this time you can get her used to touch. Once they learn to trust your touch they are handleable without "pinging" (that is the wriggling free and leaping 2 feet in the air at the same time).

Tips I had that worked were you start by just stroking her on the back with one finger while she's in the bath tub - quite easy to do if she's slithering up and down the side of the bath, but wear gloves if you're nervous she might bite. Our hamster used to jerk his head round to see you off/threaten to bite but never actually did. Do this a couple of times in the first session but just let her explore mostly and talk to her. They usually get back in the ball when they've had enough and then you can pop the lid on, lower the ball in her cage and let her out again.

Maybe do bathtub taming every 2 or 3 days. By the second or third time she should accept being stroked on the back with one finger without jerking round or biting. This is real progress! She is accepting touch.

From there you move onto putting your hand flat on the bathtub, palm up, in front of her so she walks across your hand. Do this for one session. Next session do that again but very slightly lift your hand about 1cm - but don't try and hold her - just let her walk off your raised hand. Maybe do that 2 or 3 times. Next session do the same again but raise your hand a bit higher - maybe an inch or two - but still let her walk off. Do that a few times. Then let her walk from hand to hand putting one hand in front of the other - still palm up. Some people let them walk through your tunnelled hands at this stage but I sometimes find they don't like that and pull back.

Once she is walking across your hands you can hold her and pet her. But only try and pick her up and hold her for a few seconds at first, in the bathtub. But she should be more relaxed and feel trusting with you holding her.

But before you do all the taming I would literally start from scratch again now. Leave her alone for 2 or 3 days then don't clean anything at all for 2 weeks. I think 2 weeks does it. No spot cleaning, no wheel cleaning. It'll be fine! Let her find her feet, get some habits, make the place her own.

The only thing that smells is their pee. It might start to get a bit whiffy. The earliest I would spot clean would be after one week but only the main pee area -eg take out a handful of the pee'd on substrate and replace it with a clean handful. In your case, if you can bear it, I wouldn't even do that and leave her a full two weeks.

As a tip, after that you will know where her chosen pee area is - often a corner of the cage - and you can then put a corner litter tray there with chinchilla sand in and she should use it. Syrians will use a toilet. Then you just need to empty the litter tray once or twice a week and the rest of the cage should stay clean and dry.

During that two weeks just talk to her through the cage so she gets familiar with your voice and presence. Tone of voice makes a big difference. I would start with saying you are very sorry for having to grab her but you were trying to protect her from falling and hurting herself and it won't happen again. I know that sounds a bit bonkers but when you say sorry you have a tone of voice that sounds sorry! And they listen and it does make a difference. Otherwise just chat to her in a friendly tone and tell her she's clever and beautiful etc.

After a few days you could start offering her treats through the mesh (I assume the bin cage is meshed?) So she gets used to taking things from you.

If she shows signs of wanting to come out during that two weeks then its fine to start with bathtub taming. But if she doesn't I'd just leave her for now.

One thing that's tricky with a scared hamster is seeing a hand coming from above - they are prey animals. So to get her out, lowering a tube and letting her walk in is better (or lowering the hamster ball). Some hamsters will get used to that when they're tame but it's one reason I prefer cages so you have a front entrance and no hand coming from above.

She is still a baby! So this is all fear. She is scared - she had a fright when you had to hold onto her, she is scared that someone is invading her cage and messing with it. And this hand keeps coming from above and invading her space!

They really need that two weeks to make it their own - scent marking makes it there own and you remove their scent when you clean. Scent marking also helps them find their way around - they don't see well so they follow their scent trails.

I've had hamsters refuse to use a wheel after it's been cleaned because all their scent has been removed. Try not to worry about the wheel to much just yet - most hamsters pee in their wheel - it doesn't need a full wash every week - a quick wipe inside now and then (but not every week) is fine for a longish period of time - but right now just leave it for two weeks. The pee will dry and it'll smell less!

It can become a catch 22 as well in that the more you clean, the more they pee on things to deter someone from messing with them!

It is very early days and they are still babies/children for the first few months They get into better habits as they mature a bit.

One tip though -their nest and hoard are their most precious things so avoid spot cleaning those - you can go a very long time leaving a nest and hoard in tact. Unless they get pee'd on (baby hamsters do sometimes pee in the nest but usually grow out of that quite quickly). She will see you as a thief if you mess with her nest and hoard! For now - just leave them - even if pee'd in.

But soothe her with talking to her through the cage for now. They forgive you however much you think you have had a disaster - but they just need to calm down and feel secure and in control of their space until she's fully established and feels at home.

Some people also recommend doing the tissue trick to help them familiarise with your scent. You put a few sheets of toilet paper up your sleeve or down your bra and leave it there for a couple of hours. Then tear the sheets into strips and add the pile of paper strips to the cage - not in her house, just somewhere in the cage. Add them while she's asleep. She will pouch them/forage for them to take to her nest and will become familiar with your scent from them.

What are the dimensions of the bin cage? Some of them slope in a lot at the bottom and don't have a lot of floor space for a syrian. If it's a bit on the small side she may have a bit of cage rage as well. But it sounds mainly about removing things and cleaning her too soon.

After two weeks I spot clean the pee corner and that's it. And add a litter tray/empty it every few days. Maybe wipe the wheel after 3 weeks. You can easily go three months without doing a full cage clean, if you have at least 4" deep substrate and a litter tray, and even then it's better to do "partial" cleans - ie don't clean everything at the same time - which is our human instinct - it's better to always leave something smelling familiar. So if you change the substrate, don't clean anything else and keep back some of the old substrate that's clean and spread it on top of the new - it makes a huge difference to avoiding them being stressed. That top layer will get spot cleaned out eventually.

Then another week do the wheel. Another week again any toys (toys often don't need cleaning very often). Then another week check inside her house. If it's pee'd in then you'll need to remove the nest and any soggy hoard but always leave a bit behind. A bit of the old nest and a bit of the old hoard, that is dry - even if whiffy and always replace the hoard with some new food in the same place. And put more piles of paper strips out in the cage so she can rebuild the nest. They soon learn not to pee in the nest if it needs removing.
Thank you for the tips! I'll definitely do all that, I'll leave her alone for now then start the taming process over again, or if she's still comfortable with a certain stage of taming (we didn't get very far, she was at the stage where she'd take food off my hand if I put it on the tips of my fingers and she'd let me pet her but didn't feel 100% comfortable with it). I tend to talk to her anyway and IMO what you said about apologising doesn't sound bonkers, I've noticed that she genuinely does react differently to me depending on the way I talk to her. I already leave shredded tissues with my scent for her too, she seems to like it.

It's been a while since I've measured it but as far as I remember, the bin cage is roughly 79.5cm x 59.5cm/31.3 inches x 23.4 inches (just over 4,660cm/726 inches squared). It does slope a bit, by about 2cm or under an inch from the very top of the cage but I'm assuming that doesn't make a big difference for her, if she has cage rage/is cage territorial then that probably wouldn't go away over a few lost inches of floorspace
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Old 09-15-2020, 11:39 AM   #10
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Default Re: Syrian suddenly more aggressive, and I may have lost her trust?

Bin sounds fine size wise . Keep us posted!
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