How to Train Your Hamster to Let You Hold Him
Yes, Your Hamster Can Be Trained
Hamsters can be decent pets for children—as long as they are tamed and trained properly. They may initially bite, but with patience and time, it is possible to turn a new, fearful hamster into a very loving pet.
It's easier to train a hamster when he is young. In this way they are sort of like people: it's easier to train a child to clean up his mess than to try to train an adult. So, when training your hamster to accept you, you want to start young.
An older hamster may not be as accepting of being held as a younger hamster. Hamsters that aren't used to being held will become more solitary, and they often won't learn how to accept your touch. This is not to say that an older hamster can't ever be handled; it may just take much longer to train him to be social than it would for a younger hamster.
It will take time to train your hamster to like you. Don't get frustrated, and keep at it.
Let Your New Hamster Rest
If you've picked out your hamster, and you've got him all set up, the first thing to do is leave him alone. It's very stressful moving to a new environment with new people, smells, and accessories. When you bring your hamster home, you are stressing him out by changing his diet, enclosure, and overall environment. So don't add any additional challenges; let him alone so he can adjust.
Stress can make him sick. Wet-tail is a very common illness that can be fatal if it's not noticed and treated early enough. It is caused by stress, which upsets the balance of bacteria in the intestinal tract, causing diarrhea and dehydration.
So make the car ride home quiet and peaceful: no loud music, no poking fingers, and no getting the hamster out of the box.
Then, when you get home, carefully put the hamster into the new cage, Remember that the ride itself has been stressful, so your hamster may try to bite you when you put him in the cage. You may want to use gloves, or just gently slide the hamster out of the box and into the cage. (Don't dump him forcefully though.)
Leave him alone for at least three days. Don't stick your hands or fingers in the cage or through the bars unless you're changing food or water. Don't make loud noises around the cage, move the cage, shake it, or have everyone in the house or the neighborhood come over to stand at the cage and watch.
Your hamster will start to get to know you from your smell and your voice in those few days.
Holding Him for the First Time
The first and probably the most important tip: Let sleeping hamsters lie. You do not ever want to disturb your hamster while he's sleeping. He may become stressed, which can stir up illnesses and health problems. Plus, a grouchy hamster is more likely a hamster who will bite.
Once you understand to just let your hamster sleep, handling can be a cinch. Just remember to be patient. It may take time.
Start out by holding your hamster when he's awake, and more towards the evening time. Even if your hamster is walking around during the day, it's just not the best time to hold him, as he's probably still half asleep.
If you try to hold your hamster and he starts to growl, squeak, grind his teeth, or show his incisors, leave him alone! If the hamster is eating, stretching, grooming, or just hanging out, give it a try then.
Tips for Handling a Hamster
- Once the timing is right, take things in stages. You can't rush the hamster into liking you. You have to build his trust and confidence.
- Let the hamster check out your hand. Smell and hearing are the hamster's two strongest senses. Let him sniff your hand and fingers. You may want to wash your hands beforehand—if you smell like food, your hamster may try to nip you.
- Let the hamster come to you. Never chase after the hamster. If you chase him, he'll remember that and it'll make taming him that much harder.
- Keep each interaction short.
- Once your hamster has gotten used to your smell, you can try offering a small bit of a treat. This will entice the hamster to come closer to your hand. Put the treat in your palm, and hold out your hand palm up. The hamster will have to climb onto your hand to get the treat. Let him do this a few times until he's used to jumping into your hand.
- If the hamster starts to eat the treat in your hand, you can try to gently pet the hamster with your other hand. More than likely, the hamster will be so busy with the treat, he won't notice that you're petting him.
- Once the hamster is comfortable with you, you can try cupping your hands around him, once he's in your palm, and carefully removing him from the cage. He may urinate on your hands the first few times, but it's from fear. He'll eventually relax and get used to you.
- Also, remember that hamsters have poor eyesight, so try to stay low when you are with him. You don't want your hamster to try to run away from you and end up falling onto the floor from a bed or chair. Try sitting on the floor. Some people recommend sitting in the bathtub.
It will take time to acclimate your hamster to letting you hold him and play with him. Just be patient. Never chase him around his cage. Always let the hamster come to you.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.