You glance at your hamsters and they are standing upright making moves as if they are in a boxing ring. Do hamsters box? As an experienced hamster parent and rescuer, I've seen this behavior in several hamsters. I know what you're thinking: "Are my hamsters really boxing?"
Are my hamsters boxing? Yes and no. Hamsters often stand on their hind legs. If they feel threatened or frightened at the same time, they may also kick with their front legs and hiss or squeak. This results in what appears to be boxing. If two hamsters are doing this to each other, it may appear as if they are in a boxing match. If they do this to a person or to their cage bars, it may look like they are practicing for a match.
Why do hamsters box each other? This is a natural defense reflex that some hamsters have. I have noticed as a hamster rescuer that Russian dwarf hamsters seem to do this more than Roborovskis. When Robos are frightened, they usually hiss loudly, squeak repeatedly, and retreat. Although, I have also witnessed Roborovski hamsters boxing as well. When hamsters do this, it means that something has frightened them or seems like a threat. Many hamsterscannot be housed together in the same cage because of the possible boxing or fighting. While generally friendly with humans, hamsters can be vicious with their own kind. All of our rescue hamsters always have their own cages to prevent this type of issue. Sometimes they will see or smell each other through the bars and box the cage walls briefly.
Why do hamsters box with people? Whenever there are quick movements from large objects (like a human's hand) near our rescue hamsters, they immediately begin to box. They will do the same if someone touches their food dishes or taps their cages. If your hamster is trying to box with you, this is an indication you have done something to frighten or harm your hamster. Give your hamster time to calm down and be sure you don't repeat the action that prompted the boxing. If your hamster boxes you all the time, slowly gain trust. Occasional treats and lots of talking with a soothing voice can help. Your hamster also may be simply frightened of your hand invading the cage. One of our hamsters is this way. If we want to take him out, he is much calmer if we simply open the door and let him climb out into a hamster bed. From there, he will climb into someone's hand.
Should I encourage my hamster to box? Absolutely not. This can cause your hamster to think of you as an enemy. Your goal is to discourage the boxing when it comes to the way your hamster interacts with you. Because this is a natural defense mechanism, the goal is not to discourage the act completely. Your hamster should only box you if you're doing something to make him feel threatened or unsafe.
How can I stop my hamster's boxing habit? Talk to your hamster in a calm and soothing voice often. Do not ever act scared or angry toward your hamster. If you are calm, the hamster is more likely to be calm. Slowly regain trust by using treats and a gloved hand. The reason your hand should be gloved is that your hamster may bite while boxing. While hamster bites do not always hurt, they may cause an automatic jerking reaction from your hand, which can injure or stress out the hamster. Make it a habit to soothingly call your hamster's name, provide a treat, then leave your gloved hand there afterward to invite the hamster to come to you. After repeating this for as many days as it takes, your hamster is likely to begin coming to you without boxing. If not, a vet may offer other suggestions or tell you to leave your hamster be unless it is time for the exercise ball or to change the cage.
*Always contact a licensed veterinarian for the health of your animals. The information above is not meant to replace the advice of a qualified professional and is derived solely from the author's own personal experiences.
*I originally published a version of this via Yahoo Contributor Network