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Old 04-04-2021, 04:28 PM   #1
Horrible Crowes
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Default Young dwarf hamsters - fighting or establishing dominance?

Hey,

We recently acquired 2 young winter whites from a local breeder, they are males and are roughly 5 and a half weeks old and so quite young still, they are from the same litter.

We introduced then to their new cage (large zoozone) on Friday morning, they slept for most of the day apart and on the first night we noticed quite a bit of squabbling - the more submissive hamster was quite vocal and was being chased and hiding from the more dominant one.

Throughout day 2 they seemed to switch between sleeping together and sleeping separately, but every time the dominant one moved into the nesting area of the submissive one there would be a minute or so of squeaking whilst they settled and on occasion the submissive one would move to a different nesting area.

Night 2/day 3 we noticed a lot less squabbling throughout the night (at least we didn't hear it) but I'm worried the more submissive one simply hid himself away. In the morning they were sleeping separately again and when the submissive one came out tentatively to have a walk, the dominant one stirred and chased the submissive one the moment they set eyes, the submissive one hid in a small tunnel for a few seconds before exiting and being chased once more this time into his hidey burrow where he stayed.

Throughout today they've both been out and about at separate times, we got them out and held them for the first time and seemed very content with us, we have noticed the dominant one seems rather skittish and energetic, the submissive one seems very nervous and tentative and I'm worried that he is going to be too nervous/timid for his cage partner. They've been sleeping separately for most of the day but have within the last few hours have been in and out of the submissive ones main nest together, each time they encounter each other though there's a round of squeaking from the submissive one which lasts around a minute before there's silence.

It feels like the submissive one is scared of encountering his cage partner and I haven't seen them play together properly in the 2/3 days we've had them, although we saw no activity last night as they woke late.

They are quite young and so this could be adolescent squabbling and there were no injury signs when we held them earlier but I'd like to think the submissive hammy isn't being bullied into hiding and only exploring when the dominant one is done. We have 2 wheels, a handful of toys, a water bottle, 2 houses and a burrow box, we've got 1 food bowl and plan to buy a 2nd.

Any thoughts on whether this is normal adolescent behaviour or is this more akin to bullying?
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Old 04-05-2021, 12:59 AM   #2
Ria P
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Default Re: Young dwarf hamsters - fighting or establishing dominance?

I would separate them immediately so they both get a chance to live happy hamster lives without being bullied. It must be very stressful for them to live like that and stress can make them ill.
Hamsters are solitary and territorial animals by nature. There is no need for them to have a companion. They do better on their own.
The squabbles can escalate at any time and turn into fights resulting in injuries or worse.
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Old 04-05-2021, 03:45 PM   #3
Charlie Dunn
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Default Re: Young dwarf hamsters - fighting or establishing dominance?

As ria has commented you really need to separate them even if the housing for each of them is not ideal. It is better that than one being bullied and risking injury or worse. In time you can get each ham with the cage set up they deserve so that they can be happy and live a stress free life. Hams are much better living on their own. I hope all goes well x
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Old 04-08-2021, 11:24 AM   #4
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Default Re: Young dwarf hamsters - fighting or establishing dominance?

Thanks all, we haven't yet separated them and although the submissive dwarf hasn't stopped squeaking whenever it gets pinned by the more dominant one we've seen a lot less chasing and tussling, no blood or injuries either. They've now been together in the cage for 6.5 days and whilst they don't seem entirely at ease with each other (they still seem a little unsure of each other and get a little skittish next to each other), they do sleep together (after a little bit of squeaking) and we have removed their burrow box and house on a platform to try and reduce any dominant behaviours.

We have struggled to observe them at night still and so tough to know how they interact in the evening. We took them out earlier and placed them into a clean/neutral smallish box for 10-15 minutes and they seemed very pleasant with each other, sniffing each other, rubbing up and crawling over each other, huddling up and trying to nest together without any animosity whatsoever and so I'm wondering if there's something about the cage setup that is creating some territorial behaviour.

They're now settled sleeping together in an open nest/under some woodshavings (the odd squeak every couple of hours) and will keep monitoring them as best we can. I'm wondering if one of the duo was more active on night one and has 'claimed' the cage, or areas of it - we've tried to create a more open area with less places to hide/be chased into and we're hoping that as they're absolutely fine in a neutral environment and they're happy when I'm holding them both at the same time that it's just playtime and/or something cage related and that they're not s lost cause. We have got plans to split the cage should it be absolutely necessary.
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Old 04-08-2021, 12:09 PM   #5
Ria P
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Default Re: Young dwarf hamsters - fighting or establishing dominance?

Things are likely to get worse not better and it is unfair and stressful for the submissive hamster having to live like that.

I do apologise for my harsh tone but do you really want to wait until you get up one morning to find an injured or dead hamster knowing fine that it could have been avoided?

I may come across as rude and patronising here and may find myself thrown off the forum as a result but so be it. I am passionate about hamsters and hate the thought of one little soul getting pinned down by another squeaking in distress while their humans think that is ok unwilling to help.

Enough said.
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Old 04-08-2021, 02:50 PM   #6
Dodo
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Default Re: Young dwarf hamsters - fighting or establishing dominance?

Good evening!

Just wanted to say I really think Ria is right on this one. It’s literally horror stories that I read about almost daily, and even if it doesn’t get to that, the level of stress inflicted on the hamsters is big, although it may not be perceptible. The fact that they’re friendly on neutral territory changes nothing to how territorial they are in their enclosure.

I really hope all goes well and your hammies are happy and safe, but no experienced hamster owner encourages housing them together. Fighting can happen immediately, or after weeks, or months, but it will happen, sadly.
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Old 04-12-2021, 02:04 PM   #7
Charlie Dunn
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Default Re: Young dwarf hamsters - fighting or establishing dominance?

I can only hope that you have by now separated your hams given your comments that you had plans to split them up if it became necessary. If they are left together you run the very real risk of death or serious injury and at the very least a very stressful life that should not be wished on any ham. Please take these comments in the spirit they are intended - for the well-being of two hams who should have the best life they possibly can
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Old 04-13-2021, 06:11 AM   #8
Fluffagrams
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Default Re: Young dwarf hamsters - fighting or establishing dominance?

Unfortunately successfully keeping Dwarf Hamsters together can be very challenging and even with the best will in the world and following the usual advice, most do still fall out.

Often hamsters begin to fall out around adolescence and the bullying behaviour just tends to escalate until the hamsters are separated or something worse happens so I would always advise separating as soon as you notice signs of bullying.

Once separated, you may notice that the more dominant one retreats a bit but they will settle down eventually and both will be safer in the long run.
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