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Old 07-21-2022, 10:22 AM   #1
Broskistew
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Join Date: Feb 2021
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Default Hamster won't stop chewing cage bars

Hi,

My Syrian hamster (Flump) constantly chews on her cage bars to the point where the fur is coming off her cheeks and above her nose I took her to the vets and they said it's given her eczema and she's been given antibiotics but it's not going to get any better unless I can stop the cage chewing.

She has a large cage (100 x 53 cm) and wheel (12 inches) which she barely uses - I've checked and she's definitely able to move it okay. She has toys and chew things and I let her out frequently but she doesn't seem interested in anything other than chewing the cage bars. I even got her a playpen to roam around in with toys but she just tries to chew through that too. I've tried using bitter apple spray on the cage but it hasn't worked.

I don't think she could be stressed as I live in a quiet household and she seems happy, I think it's just become a bit of an obsession. It's always the same corner that she chews - I've included a picture of the cage set-up (circled is where she chews).

I can't think what else to do other than buy a new glass cage but it would be a shame as she likes to climb on the bars.

Does anyone have any other suggestions, or glass cage recommendations please?

Thank you for your help
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Old 07-22-2022, 04:45 AM   #2
cloudy
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Default Re: Hamster won't stop chewing cage bars

Hello Broskistew. Welcome to the forum. Some Syrian hamsters need a larger cage then 100cm. I understand how difficult it is to buy a cage any larger and many people make their own or use Ikea items and convert them to a cage.

It is actually not very good for Flump to bite the cage bars as she could break her teeth. Has she got any chews? My hamster loves Whimzees. They are dog chews but the vegetarian ones can be enjoyed by hamsters.
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Old 07-22-2022, 06:29 AM   #3
Ria P
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Default Re: Hamster won't stop chewing cage bars

Hello and welcome to HC!

I'd place cardboard in the corner where she chews the bars. I had a female foster Syrian once who would shred a lot of cardboard. Flump's chewing is a problem because she is hurting herself. You could attach acrylic panels on the inside but it may not be effective for a determined and habitual chewer. A glass tank may be the best option going forward. I wouldn't go for a pawhut or Ikea hack because she'd chew the wood but you could look for a large aquarium and make a diy meshed lid. Junglepets make tanks or check ads for a large second hand fishtank.
I don't think sprays work and could do more harm than good by irritating damaged skin even more.
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Old 07-22-2022, 12:58 PM   #4
Pebbles82
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Default Re: Hamster won't stop chewing cage bars

Hello and welcome. It's a nightmare when you have a bar chewer. It can be something that isn't right for them in the cage. They bar chew for different reasons. Sometimes it's stress, sometimes it's to try and let you know something - get your attention (eg if the wheel is stuck or they can't reach the water bottle). Some are just highly active and want more space and females can be more like that. Another thing that can cause it is stress from being cleaned out too much - they literally want to escape and can't relax in the cage if all their familiar scent has been removed regularly.

Our current Syrian is highly active and he wants to be out a lot - virtually jumps out of the cage when I open the door. If I don't let him out by a certain time of night he starts bar chewing. That's when it's a bad attention seeking behaviour!

But you can start with cage set up and see if that improves anything. Hamsters vary as to what they like but common things are:

Overhead cover

Plenty of floorspace for digging

Somewhere dark to retreat to - like a large house that's dark inside

And everything easily accessible - ie if the food bowl is high up on a shelf, that it's easy to get to without struggling to get up there. Or that a ladder feels stable and not too wobbly.

I can't see everything in your cage but I personally would suggest a few tweaks,

The shelf on the left is very low down and with the two long ladders between the shelves that maybe is partly obstructing use of the substrate area.

There's also a lot of open space above (they can feel too exposed).

I can't see if you've got a house or where it is or what kind it is.

If it was me I would keep one of the shelves and replace the other one with a large house or labyrinth house - they are dark inside. It will also provide another platform as they have a flat roof.

As well as that I'd fill the base with substrate and pile it up in the middle a bit. And have something like a large rat sputnik hanging from the roof - either next to the shelf or next to the house roof. This is somewhere else to go - another hidey place - and it's also something else to sit under - overhead cover.

I usually also tie a rat tube to the roof - leading out of the sputnik and onto another small shelf or house roof at the other end. Or even into a second sputnik. This helps stop them jumping out from a height at one side, but it also creates more places to go - a roof run. They then have two ways of getting across the cage - either via the roof run to the sputnik and out onto the shelf, or across the substrate and up a ladder or ramp onto the shelf.

This kind of set up has worked for me and I'll add a photo later of something I did like that in a 100cm cage, as an example.

The change should give her pause for thought and might distract her out of it and if she likes it she may settle - but will probably always need regular out of cage time each night.

They like lots of hidey places - coconut huts, other little houses etc.

Also ramps can be an issue. I personally don't like the long bendy bridges (mainly because they've broken on me before but also because some hamsters like something more stable to walk on).

I've used a large cork log before pushed part way under a shelf and it then doubles up as a ramp up to the shelf and also a tunnel to run through.


However, this means buying the odd extra thing maybe, and if it doesn't work, and you have to change to a glass tank or something, you've spent money on other things. Most of those other things would still be fine in a new cage however. Even the Sputniks can be used on the floor, upside down.

So first thing I'd try is changing the set up. The kind of set up I've suggested helps them with normal behaviours. If they have a large house, they can nest, hoard and toilet all in the same large area which is in the dark. A house also needs to be open underneath and sat on top of the substrate - this keeps it ventilated well but also allows them to bury hoards under their nest, which is a normal behaviour that keeps them happy.

How long have you had her and how often do you clean her out? It's best not to do big clean outs regularly. Just get a litter tray and they use that to pee in then the rest of the cage stays clean and dry and you cna just "spot clean" occasionally. I got about 3 to 4 months doing that - before doing a substrate change - and even then I only replace about half the substrate and keep the clean half back - so it still smells familiar - eg spread the old clean half on top of the new. And don't clean anything else at the same time.

So partial cleans are better - eg wheel one week, another item as and when and substrate a different week again.

Meanwhile, as Ria says - weave cardboard strips through the bars - she'll chew on the cardboard instead.

Some females also like to have something cardboard to rip up regularly! So another cage floor item could be an old egg box (cardboard) she can tear to shreds!

Off to find the photo.
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Old 07-22-2022, 01:05 PM   #5
Pebbles82
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Default Re: Hamster won't stop chewing cage bars

Not sure if you can see on these photos as the cage was under a shelf. The last photo is a different 100cm cage with the tube across the top - in that instance it was to stop it being too exposed in the middle of the cage for a shy hamster.

All our hamsters have enjoyed their roof runs

Attachment 53461

Attachment 53462

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Attachment 53464

Attachment 53465

Last edited by Pebbles82; Yesterday at 04:18 PM.
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Old 07-25-2022, 11:31 AM   #6
Broskistew
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Posts: 5
Default Re: Hamster won't stop chewing cage bars

Hi, thank you for your response. She's got some chews but none of the ones I've got for her have taken her fancy - she's a fussy hammie! I will definitely try getting her some Whimzees though if the different types of chews don't work then I think I'll have to look into building her a bigger cage with no bars
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Old 07-25-2022, 11:33 AM   #7
Broskistew
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Default Re: Hamster won't stop chewing cage bars

Quote:
Originally Posted by cloudy View Post
Hello Broskistew. Welcome to the forum. Some Syrian hamsters need a larger cage then 100cm. I understand how difficult it is to buy a cage any larger and many people make their own or use Ikea items and convert them to a cage.

It is actually not very good for Flump to bite the cage bars as she could break her teeth. Has she got any chews? My hamster loves Whimzees. They are dog chews but the vegetarian ones can be enjoyed by hamsters.
Hi, thank you for your response. She's got some chews but none of the ones I've got for her have taken her fancy - she's a fussy hammie! I will definitely try getting her some Whimzees though if the different types of chews don't work then I think I'll have to look into building her a bigger cage with no bars
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Old 07-25-2022, 11:41 AM   #8
Broskistew
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Join Date: Feb 2021
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Default Re: Hamster won't stop chewing cage bars

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ria P View Post
Hello and welcome to HC!

I'd place cardboard in the corner where she chews the bars. I had a female foster Syrian once who would shred a lot of cardboard. Flump's chewing is a problem because she is hurting herself. You could attach acrylic panels on the inside but it may not be effective for a determined and habitual chewer. A glass tank may be the best option going forward. I wouldn't go for a pawhut or Ikea hack because she'd chew the wood but you could look for a large aquarium and make a diy meshed lid. Junglepets make tanks or check ads for a large second hand fishtank.
I don't think sprays work and could do more harm than good by irritating damaged skin even more.
Hiya, thank you for your advice. I'll definitely try putting cardboard in the corner where she chews. That's a good point about the spray damaging her skin more and it doesn't seem to work so I'll stop using it. If all else fails I will look into getting her a new glass tank. Thanks again
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Old 07-25-2022, 11:42 AM   #9
cloudy
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Default Re: Hamster won't stop chewing cage bars

Quote:
Originally Posted by Broskistew View Post
Hi, thank you for your response. She's got some chews but none of the ones I've got for her have taken her fancy - she's a fussy hammie! I will definitely try getting her some Whimzees though if the different types of chews don't work then I think I'll have to look into building her a bigger cage with no bars
My hamster ignores all chews apart from whimzees. I know what you mean about fussy hammies.
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Old 07-25-2022, 01:40 PM   #10
Broskistew
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Default Re: Hamster won't stop chewing cage bars

Quote:
Originally Posted by Serendipity7000 View Post
Hello and welcome. It's a nightmare when you have a bar chewer. It can be something that isn't right for them in the cage. They bar chew for different reasons. Sometimes it's stress, sometimes it's to try and let you know something - get your attention (eg if the wheel is stuck or they can't reach the water bottle). Some are just highly active and want more space and females can be more like that. Another thing that can cause it is stress from being cleaned out too much - they literally want to escape and can't relax in the cage if all their familiar scent has been removed regularly.

Our current Syrian is highly active and he wants to be out a lot - virtually jumps out of the cage when I open the door. If I don't let him out by a certain time of night he starts bar chewing. That's when it's a bad attention seeking behaviour!

But you can start with cage set up and see if that improves anything. Hamsters vary as to what they like but common things are:

Overhead cover

Plenty of floorspace for digging

Somewhere dark to retreat to - like a large house that's dark inside

And everything easily accessible - ie if the food bowl is high up on a shelf, that it's easy to get to without struggling to get up there. Or that a ladder feels stable and not too wobbly.

I can't see everything in your cage but I personally would suggest a few tweaks,

The shelf on the left is very low down and with the two long ladders between the shelves that maybe is partly obstructing use of the substrate area.

There's also a lot of open space above (they can feel too exposed).

I can't see if you've got a house or where it is or what kind it is.

If it was me I would keep one of the shelves and replace the other one with a large house or labyrinth house - they are dark inside. It will also provide another platform as they have a flat roof.

As well as that I'd fill the base with substrate and pile it up in the middle a bit. And have something like a large rat sputnik hanging from the roof - either next to the shelf or next to the house roof. This is somewhere else to go - another hidey place - and it's also something else to sit under - overhead cover.

I usually also tie a rat tube to the roof - leading out of the sputnik and onto another small shelf or house roof at the other end. Or even into a second sputnik. This helps stop them jumping out from a height at one side, but it also creates more places to go - a roof run. They then have two ways of getting across the cage - either via the roof run to the sputnik and out onto the shelf, or across the substrate and up a ladder or ramp onto the shelf.

This kind of set up has worked for me and I'll add a photo later of something I did like that in a 100cm cage, as an example.

The change should give her pause for thought and might distract her out of it and if she likes it she may settle - but will probably always need regular out of cage time each night.

They like lots of hidey places - coconut huts, other little houses etc.

Also ramps can be an issue. I personally don't like the long bendy bridges (mainly because they've broken on me before but also because some hamsters like something more stable to walk on).

I've used a large cork log before pushed part way under a shelf and it then doubles up as a ramp up to the shelf and also a tunnel to run through.


However, this means buying the odd extra thing maybe, and if it doesn't work, and you have to change to a glass tank or something, you've spent money on other things. Most of those other things would still be fine in a new cage however. Even the Sputniks can be used on the floor, upside down.

So first thing I'd try is changing the set up. The kind of set up I've suggested helps them with normal behaviours. If they have a large house, they can nest, hoard and toilet all in the same large area which is in the dark. A house also needs to be open underneath and sat on top of the substrate - this keeps it ventilated well but also allows them to bury hoards under their nest, which is a normal behaviour that keeps them happy.

How long have you had her and how often do you clean her out? It's best not to do big clean outs regularly. Just get a litter tray and they use that to pee in then the rest of the cage stays clean and dry and you cna just "spot clean" occasionally. I got about 3 to 4 months doing that - before doing a substrate change - and even then I only replace about half the substrate and keep the clean half back - so it still smells familiar - eg spread the old clean half on top of the new. And don't clean anything else at the same time.

So partial cleans are better - eg wheel one week, another item as and when and substrate a different week again.

Meanwhile, as Ria says - weave cardboard strips through the bars - she'll chew on the cardboard instead.

Some females also like to have something cardboard to rip up regularly! So another cage floor item could be an old egg box (cardboard) she can tear to shreds!

Off to find the photo.
Hi - thank you so much for your response, you've given me lots of good ideas!

I'll start with changing the cage set-up. I'll add some sputniks and tunnels to give her a roof run, and add a large house to replace one of the shelves as you've suggested. I think I can definitely make better use of the floor area and add some additional substrate to let her dig more. Your set up looks really good in the photos. I also like the egg box idea!

I've had her for four months and she was already a couple of months old. She did use the wheel more when she first arrived but I haven't seen her use it for a while now. I clean her cage out once a week and just clean out her toilet in between, I always keep a good bit of the existing substrate in there. I normally wash the wheel and tunnel etc. on the same day so I'll do this on separate days in future.

I'm excited to do a bit of refurbishment for Flump, thank you for your help
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