Taming your hamster is particularly important if you want to get the most out of your time together. Handling your pet is one of the best parts of owning a hamster, while it is also necessary when it is time to clean the cage, but at first you will need to be patient and gradually form a trusting bond. Most hamsters can be tamed very quickly with regular, gentle handling, but it is important to continue handling your hamster regularly even after it is tamed to maintain its confidence and trust.
Your hamster may occasionally bite you, but this is only due to fear or stress. You will need to be calm and gentle, and coax your hamster into being handled by offering treats from your palm. But ensure that you do not handle your hamster soon after handling any other food, as it may bite if it senses the smell.
Always supervise young children when they are handling a hamster, as they may hold it too hard or accidentally squeeze it, causing the hamster to bite or get injured. Having them hold the hamster over a large box will help prevent it from escaping if it jumps away from them.
Before Taming Your Hamster
Before starting to tame your hamster you will need to ensure that it is completely stress free. You should already have prepared a suitably sized cage with a sufficient amount of toys, and be providing regular food and constant access to water in its bottle. In addition, you should have given it at least a few days to settle in to its new environment, and your hamster should have adopted a daily routine of waking up in the evening for food and activity. It should be comfortable eating and playing while you are around.
At this point you can begin to work on taming your hamster, but this should only be done after it has left its nesting area of its own accord. You should not disturb your hamster when it is sleeping or it is likely to be temperamental, and it will become difficult to obtain its trust. Furthermore, you should make sure you take each stage very slowly so as not to stress your hamster at any point. With patience your hamster should become very tame.
Gaining Your Hamster’s Trust
Firstly get some treats, such as a few bits on dried fruit, to offer to your hamster. Hold the treats between your fingers and place your hand just inside the cage door. With an aquarium you will need to place your hand down to the bottom of the cage. If your hamster comes over for the treats, open your hand and leave them on your fingers, close enough to your palm so that your hamster has to reach up on to your hand to get them. Try to keep your hand as still as possible and allow your hamster to investigate it.
If your hamster does not come for the food, do not try to force it. Instead leave the food at the edge of the cage and try again the next day, perhaps allowing the hamster just to eat from your finger tips to gain more trust.
Once your hamster is confident enough to climb onto your hand to get to the treats, you can slowly and gently try to pick it up. If your hamster jumps off at this point, then again leave it and try again the next day. You may need to do this several times before your hamster trusts you enough to stay on your hand. Do not worry if this process seems to take a long time. All hamsters are different, and while some will quickly accept being handled, others may take over a month.
How to Pick Up Your Hamster
To pick up your hamster after it has climbed on for treats, cup your hand and place your other hand over its back. Make sure these movements are gentle and do not force your hamster on to your hand. The purpose of your other hand is to stop your hamster from jumping or falling off and potentially getting injured. Do not squeeze your hamster or hold it too tightly.
Once your hamster is comfortable being picked up you should hold it over your lap or another soft surface in case it falls. Make sure you do not lift it too high up. Because of their small size and agility, when picking up dwarf hamsters, particularly Roborovskis, it is advisable to hold them over an area where they will not be able to escape from, such as a large box. Chinese hamsters are small as well but are easier to handle as they will use their paws to grip on to your fingers. Syrian hamsters are easy to handle due to their large size.
Whilst your hamster is still getting used to being handled, you may find that positioning it so that it is facing towards you can make it less likely to try to jump off. You can then allow your hamster to start to explore by crawling between your hands while you curve your fingers around its body. If your hamster tries to jump off, do not attempt to prevent this by tightening your grip as this can frighten it and make it more nervous in the future. Instead allow it to jump onto the soft surface and then pick it back up. If your hamster continues to try to escape, then gently place it back in its cage before trying again at a later date.
If your hamster bites you whenever it is handled then it is advisable to wear gloves until the hamster becomes tame. This will give you more confidence and allow you to handle it more gently.
Picking Up an Untamed Hamster
On occasion you may need to pick up your hamster before it has been tamed, such as when you need to clean its cage. This can be done by placing a cup or a closed cardboard tube on its side in front on the hamster whilst it is awake. You can place a few treats in the cup or tube to tempt your hamster inside if necessary, but you may need to gently push it in. If this does not work then you should put on some gloves to protect yourself from biting and very gently pick your hamster up, but this should be a last resort as it may make the hamster even more scared of being handled.