Why Is My Hamster Shaking And What Does It Mean?

shaking hamster

Trying to figure out what’s causing a hamster to shake is easier than you think. It’s similar to finding the cause of a crying baby. 

What Does It Mean If A Hamster Is Shaking?

Many hamster parents will at one time or another notice their hamster shaking. The first thought that crosses our minds is why is my hamster shaking so much. There’s always a reason that causes a hamster to shake.

Causes Of Shaking

The last thing we want to see is our beloved hammie sitting there shaking. It can make us feel helpless and upset. To better understand why this occurs and what you can do, we have outlined possible causes.


An interesting published research study (“Behavioral Methods To Study Anxiety In Rodents“) highlights anxiety-related behaviors (which includes shaking) in Rodentia. Their findings shed light on why our hamsters may be shaking and how we can hopefully prevent or help them.

Stress is an umbrella term used to describe numerous reactions and behaviors that develop due to an event. The event embeds into the psyche of a hamster, and future triggers (mimicking the event) cause the behavior to resurface. 

Symptoms of stress include hypervigilance (always on guard, never relaxes,) freezing, rapid heartbeat, lack of owner-hamster interaction, and not eating. Prolonged states of these symptoms lead to shaking and psychological conditions such as PTSD, depression, generalized anxiety, and stress sensitivity. 

Causes Of Stress-Induced Shaking

  • Not having a secluded, dark, enclosed place to retreat to. 
  • Having lights on during the night (they prefer the dark.)
  • Lack of food.
  • Tilting of the cage.
  • Adding new or taking away cagemates.
  • Being restrained.
  • Forced to swim in bathtubs, bowls, sinks, etc.
  • Not having interaction with the owner, being left alone.
  • Aggressive cagemate(s.)
  • Being separated from the mother too soon.
  • Being startled from sleep, loud noises, or bumps to the cage.
  • Predatorial stress (from other household pets.)


Some of the psychological stressors can lead to physiological issues. For example, lack of food can cause malnutrition that leads to medical conditions and illness. Hypervigilance can cause sleep disorders such as insomnia which can eventually lead to physical exhaustion and diseases. Both psychological and physiological are intertwined and what affects one also affects the other.

Many illnesses and medical conditions can cause a hamster to shake. Associated symptoms from a medical condition (such as pain) cause undue stress to a hamster which causes them to shake. 

  • Pain
  • Incessant scratching 
  • Respiratory distress
  • Abscess from an infection

When a hamster is dying (from a medical condition or old age,) it may also shake. If you suspect your hammie is suffering from any of the above, it’s best to get them to your vet as soon as possible.


Hamsters can shake from being in an area of the house where it’s cold. Keeping their cage away from air vents, windows, exterior doors, and drafts (caused by a ceiling or floor fan) keeps them from getting cold. Ideally, the room temperature where their cage is located should be about 70-75 degrees (F) (21-22 degrees C.) 

If their cage happens to be located in a noisy, high-traffic part of the home, a hamster can become stressed and begin shaking. Lastly, a hamster does not do well having the pet dog or cat coming up to their cage. Other pets should never have access to be near the hamster’s cage. 

hamster in a basket

How Can I Calm My Hamster Down From Shaking?

So, what do I do if my hamster is shaking? It’s relatively easy to rule out why your hamster is shaking. To calm them down, the trigger causing the stress (which leads to shaking) should be removed. For example, if they are cold, warm the room up. If they have diarrhea (wet tail,) they are likely in pain from gastroenteritis, so a visit to the vet is a must. Sometimes simply picking up your hamster and holding it in a pair of warm hands with a gentle voice is calming. 

Why Is My Hamster Shaking And Weak?

Sometimes when a hamster is ill, it may stop eating. Lack of food and water depletes a hamster of energy. Stressors such as illness and not eating can lead to shaking. It’s important to rule out what’s causing them not to eat. Also, when a hamster is dying, it can be weak and shake. 

Why Is My Hamster Sitting Still And Shaking?

When a normal, healthy hamster does this, it’s known as “freezing.” Many hamsters do this when they are startled. Their eyesight is very poor, causing them to depend on their hearing. If they hear a noise, they freeze while assessing what it could be. Once they know it’s nothing dangerous, they resume movement. 

Why Is My Hamster Shaking When Sleeping?

A cold hamster will shake whether awake or sleeping. This shaking can also occur during hibernation. When this happens, warming up the room usually stops the shaking.

Why Is My Dwarf Hamster Shaking?

Any hamster, whether dwarf or Syrian, will shake if they are stressed, ill, or cold. 

Remove The Stress To End The Shaking

Shaking can be resolved through the process of elimination to figure out what is causing it. Once you do, you will have a nice, calm hamster.

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