The Best Way to Tame Your Hamster

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

Handling a little pet can be one of the pleasures of having one, but not all creatures, including some new hamsters, prefer being handled immediately away. Some hamsters must be tamed before they may be securely held.1 Fortunately, there are a few tried-and-true steps you can follow to have your hamster in your hands in no time. There are a few easy principles to follow before beginning the training process to ensure that your hamster is not stressed.

Allow a New Hamster to Adjust

Allow your new hamster a week or so to acclimatize to its new home and surroundings before attempting to handle it. Make sure your hamster has a large enough cage and all of the other needs for stress-free living. Place your hamster's cage somewhere where it will be near people but not bothered by excessive noise, other pets, or other distractions (especially during the day, when hamsters sleep the most). Do not disturb or attempt to handle your hamster when it is asleep throughout the day.

Get Yourself and Your Hamster Ready

Taming a hamster takes time and perseverance. Take your time with the steps. Spend time getting to know your hamster and responding to its indications. The aim here is to gain your hamster's trust so that it realizes there is no cause to be afraid of you.

Take note of when your hamster has become at ease in its surroundings. Only begin working on taming and managing it when it has emerged from its nest on its own. When you are present, a relaxed hamster will be eating, drinking, and playing. Spend more time around your hamster's cage, casually conversing with it to acquaint it with your voice. If you're at a loss for words, try reading a book aloud or softly singing.

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

Use Treats to Entice Your Hamster

Hand your hamster some of his or her favorite snacks. Begin by offering treats through the cage bars if you have a wire cage. Otherwise, simply place them along the edge of the cage entrance. Try putting your hand just inside the cage once your hamster has scurried over for the snacks. Allow your hamster to come close and examine your hand rather than trying to touch it.

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

Hold on to Your Hamster

Place the treat on your open hand within the cage so the hamster needs to take it off your hand (and possibly place a paw or two on your hand to acquire the treat). Again, don't force it; instead, allow your hamster to come to you. Try placing the treat on your hand so the hamster has to climb on it to receive it. When your hamster is bold enough to do this (and only then), softly and slowly scoop it up. Your hamster will most likely bolt out of your hand the first few times, but if you are nice and persistent, your hamster will ultimately discover your hands are secure.

The duration between phases varies, notably dependent on the hamster's age and disposition. It may take a month or more for your hamster to be calm enough to accept being lifted or eating treats from your hand.

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

Allow your hamster to move about

The ideal technique to pick up a hamster is with one hand cupped in your palm and the other over its back. Picking up your hamster should begin just above your lap or another soft surface in case it falls or jumps.

Allow your hamster to crawl from one of your hands to the other and over your arms as it becomes more at ease. You can continue to provide rewards, however, your hamster may be less interested in goodies when there are new sights and sounds to discover.

Proofing Issues and Behavior

There may be times when you need to pick up an untamed hamster, such as to clean its cage. Put a cup (or a cardboard tube with paper stuffed in one end to close it off) on its side in front of the hamster and gently herd it into the cup (or tube). Out of curiosity, most hamsters will walk directly into the cup. If you need to pick up a hamster that bites and the cup method hasn't worked, try gloves or a thick towel. 

This can be extremely distressing and lead your hamster to become even more resistant to handling. If this procedure must be used, take special care to be as gentle as possible.

If your hamster bites you when you are holding it, remember that it did not intend to hurt you. The hamster was simply feeling threatened. Try not to overreact by yelling or moving the hamster harshly. It will become afraid of you if you do. Instead, calmly return it to its cage and clean the bite with soap and water.

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