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What is my fuzzy friend trying to say?
Hamsters are small creatures that can make big noises. Typically, they’re very quiet but sometimes the sounds that come out of those tiny bodies can be quite startling. As an owner, it can be difficult to decipher the different messages to establish what your friend is truly trying to say.
So why do hamsters squeak? Hamsters squeak as a means of communication. It may be any number of things they’re trying to communicate. Learning the difference can be difficult, especially for new owners. A squeak can communicate joy, fear, calling for a mate, aggression, or other concerns. These different signals are discussed in more detail ahead.
The 3 main reasons hamsters squeak
A calm, quiet sort of sound can indicate happiness or contentedness. This type of communication tends to be only a few squeaks at a time.
They may be delighted by a new toy, a treat you’ve left them, or an opportunity to explore something new.
Pretty much all the same reasons humans make noise.
This sound tends to be with much less gusto and not so persistent as the fearful squeak.
The sound that should be most concerning to any hamster owner would be a scream sort of sound, or continuous, loud squealing.
It can be paired either with trying to hide, running crazy, or attack.
This indicates fear or injury.
Particularly in group settings, hamsters can squeak boldly to establish dominance.
If they are attacked, perhaps by another pet reaching into their cage or a well meaning toddler, they may also have reason to be afraid.
Much like my daughter in the long summer, hamsters may be trying to get your attention because they’re bored.
Getting them into an exercise ball for a while or snuggling with them on the floor may relieve this boredom.
As always, ensure your pet’s safety while out of the cage in terms of children in the area, isolation from other pets, cords on the floor, and freedom from feet.
If they just don’t stop squeaking or squealing, it can mean they are hurt, being bothered (by children or other pets), or something else is wrong. It could be something as simple as unclean water, an empty food bowl, or overstimulation.
How do hamsters squeak?
Despite my best efforts, I could not find any fascinating tidbits on hamster vocal cords.
They do have them, this much I know.
Watch for this as a possible future topic discussion.
Interesting side nugget: giraffes are the only mammals without vocal cords. There. Now you know.
What other sounds do they make?
When we got our hamster, Daisy, the previous owner had multiple hamsters they were giving away.
I put my hand in the cages carefully to introduce myself and I startled more than one of them. If you wake up a hamster or otherwise startle them, they can make a very surprising hissing sound. They do this to indicate surprise and fear. It is best in this scenario to give them their space.
Sometimes hamsters and rodents will click their teeth. This typically indicates agitation or indicating predators or other hamsters should stay away.
Like humans, hamsters can yawn, sneeze, and cough.
While researching this topic I found this interesting article indicating that hamsters (and other rodents) can make ultrasonic vocalizations that are outside of the frequencies our ears can hear.
Should I be concerned about hamster noises?
If you’ve tended to your fuzzy friend’s basic needs and they are still squawking up a storm, it may be worth a visit to your vet.
They may have an infection of some sort or an intestinal problem. Hamsters, like humans, are unique creatures and some may “talk” more than others.
Once you’ve had *your* pet for a while, you get to know what is normal for him or her.
Hamsters squeak for many reasons but all their sounds function as communication in some way: happiness, anger, irritation, boredom, etc. Just like children. Squeaks can be different volumes and speed to communicate different things. They make other sounds like teeth clicking, hissing, sneezing, and coughing. They rely on you to hear them and meet their needs, whatever they may be.
Fernandez-Vargas, M. and Johnston R. (2015). Ultrasonic Vocalizations in Golden Hamsters(Mesocricetus auratus) Reveal Modest Sex Differences and Nonlinear Signals of Sexual Motivation. Plos One. 10(2), 1-29.