Fortunately, there are various things you can do to try to return your hamster safely to its cage, including searching in some common hiding places, locating which room your hamster is hiding in, and setting a safe trap to catch your hamster.
Searching For Your Hamster
An escaped hamster will normally try to find a small, secure spot to hide in. So immediately after you notice that your hamster has disappeared, you should search the following common hiding places, starting with those nearest to the hamster cage.
Furniture – look behind, underneath, and down the sides of chairs, sofas and beds, and check other furniture such as shelves, drawers, cabinets and cupboards. Ensure that you check behind, underneath and inside any items stored in these places, such as books and ornaments. Look for any holes through which your hamster could have gotten inside furniture, as well as holes behind furniture that could lead into walls. These can provide clues to where it may be hiding, giving you a better idea of where to set up traps if you cannot find your hamster.
Appliances – look behind, underneath and inside appliances, particularly those that provide a warm, dark hiding place, and again check for any holes behind or on the undersides of appliances.
Bags and shoes – look inside any bags and shoes that your hamster could have found its way into.
Boxes – look inside any boxes, including small boxes such as tissue boxes and shoe boxes.
Locating Your Hamster’s Hiding Place
Sadly, it is quite likely that you will not be able to find your hamster just by searching possible hiding places. But it is still possible to locate which room your hamster is hiding in. As previously suggested, when searching furniture and appliances look for any holes that could provide a clue to where your hamster is hiding. In addition to this, you can try placing food and other items in rooms overnight in order to provide potential evidence of your hamster’s nocturnal activity. Make sure that you leave doors closed overnight though to reduce the chances that your hamster will move between different rooms.
Firstly, place some small treats that are safe for your hamster to eat, such as pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, peanuts or raisins, on some saucers. Then place a saucer on the floor in each room. Make sure you also include some fruits with high water content, such as seedless grapes, slices of cucumber or pieces of apple, as this will help give your hamster enough moisture to keep going. Count the number of treats that you have placed in each room and write this down. Where possible, tie some long strands of thread to the pieces of food. This is most easily done with hard nuts or seeds, such as peanuts that are still in their shells. Then, on hard floor surfaces, you should also place a small layer of flour around the food.
Leave all of this set up over night when your hamster will be most active. If your hamster takes any of the food you will be able to tell by counting the remaining items or from any leftover pieces. You should also see small flour tracks leading to your hamsters location, while if your hamster has taken any food with it that has thread attached, you may be able to locate the strands around the entrance to its hiding place.
Alternatively, you could try setting up a similar arrangement, but in addition place some tinfoil around the areas where you think your hamster may be hiding, such as around any holes you located earlier. Then during the evening turn the lights off and listen out for any sounds made by your hamster as it scurries over the foil.
If this works it will give you a strong idea of where your hamster may be, although on the other hand it may also be other rodents such as wild mice who are stealing the food.
Catching Your Hamster
If you think you know which room your hamster is hiding in then close all the doors in that room so it is less likely to leave, although it is still possible it could chew through a door. You can then setup a safe trap to catch your hamster over night. If you are unsure where it may be then leave all doors open or set up separate traps.
Also leave your hamster’s cage open on the floor with some food inside near the place you think your hamster is, or in the room where the cage is normally placed if you are unsure. It may be that your hamster is happy to return to its home and you find it asleep in its cage when you wake up in the morning.
To set up a safe trap for catching your hamster, first find a container with high sides such as a bucket or basin. This container should be at least 12 inches deep to prevent your hamster from jumping or climbing out, and even deeper if possible. Syrian hamsters in particular will require a deeper container, as will Roborovskis, who can jump surprisingly high given their small size.
To enable your hamster to climb into the container you will need to build a ramp, for example by using a wooden plank or a wire shelf, or alternatively a staircase, for example by placing books or magazines on top of each other and giving them some support underneath.
Next place a few layers of tissue paper or a thick towel in the container to provide a soft landing if your hamster jumps in.
Finally, put some suitable treats with a strong smell in the container, such as cheese or slices of apple. Also put a few small seeds on the ramp or steps, but not so much that your hamster will eat these and then leave. Your hamster will hopefully follow this trail and then smell the food in the container before investigating further. After finishing the trap, turn off the lights and leave it overnight before checking it in the morning. It may be necessary to leave it for several nights, so do not give up too soon and make sure you replace the food with fresh treats each evening.