How Can I Get My Hamster to Trust Me?
A hamster is an inexpensive pet that is easy to take care of and suitable for children. They are very sweet and can be tamed reasonably quickly and easily, but what happens when upon bringing your new fluff ball home you notice that they are terrified and won't approach you? Even after some time goes by, the little guy or gal might still be shy, jumpy, or afraid of you.
I bought a boy and a girl hamster and because the shop owner wasn't very gentle or patient, they were extremely jumpy and nervous. Although it took some time, they are now very friendly and sweet! So, how can you get your hamster to trust you? Here are some things to do and not do to turn your nervous pet into your new best friend.
Do You Have a Hamster?
1. Get an Adequately Sized Cage
Make sure your hamster has an adequately sized cage, ideally with several floors and plenty of space to run around. Wild hamsters run miles and miles every night, and if he or she has enough space, she'll be happy.
My hamster became a lot friendlier after I gave her a larger cage with three floors and plenty of space. I recommend the fantastic to keep your hamster busy and happy climbing and exploring. I used it for my first hamster and there was plenty of space for him to run around and climb. three-floor Hamster Haven by Prevue
2. Let Her Get Used to Her Surroundings
When you bring your new hamster home, she might be in a new cage. Your home smells completely different from the pet store or her previous home. She is surrounded by new people who smell different. If she's young, she might be away from her nest mates for the first time.
All of these are nerve-wracking for a hamster and the first thing she needs is some personal space in which she can feel safe. The last thing she wants is to be handled and bothered.
Leave her alone for several days to get used to her new home and the smells that surround her. During this time, she can spread her own scent around the cage, build a nest, and maybe hoard some food.
3. Establish a Routine
Change the water and food daily, but don't touch her yet. Don't worry if she is startled at first. She will start to get used to your hands coming in and out of the cage and learn that your presence means fresh water and new food. If need be, add tissue paper or extra bedding. Do this at the same time every day, if you can. Late evening is ideal as hamsters are more alert at night. She will start to get used to you showing up every day to give her fresh food and water, and you might start to see her come out of her nest to watch you or run to the food bowl as soon as you're done.
4. Let Her Come to You
It is very important that you let the hamster come to you first. Do not chase her or forcibly grab her or she might get frightened and bite you. Wash your hands thoroughly first. Put a treat on your hand and lay it flat inside the cage. She might come and sniff at your fingers, and she might nibble; don't be startled if she does this. She is likely testing if you are food.
If you are lucky, she might crawl on your hand right away and eat the treat. She might sniff at your fingers and then ignore you, which is fine as well. Put the treat closer to the edge of your hand where it is easier for her to reach. She might not feel comfortable crawling onto your hand completely just yet.
- Grab her
- Make any sudden movements
- Make any loud noises
- Chase her around the cage
Once she feels okay with sitting on your hand, gently stroke her back with your free hand. After doing this two or three times over a few days, try bringing her out of the cage still on top of your hand.
5. Do Not Punish Your Hamster
Unlike other animals such as dogs, hamsters have no concept of bad behaviour and do not understand punishment. Most of the time, hamsters do "bad" things out of either fright or boredom.
If your hamster is biting you, distract it with a toy or a treat. A nibble generally means that they're testing out your scent. My last hamster, Shakespeare, constantly licked and nibbled my hands as a sign of affection. If your hamster bites hard, it means they're scared and don't want to be on your hand. Hamsters are naturally prey animals and get startled quite easily.
Time will tell what makes your hamster bite. Reinforce good behaviour with treats, and stop doing things that makes your hamster stressed.
Does Your Hamster Bite?
6. Learn Your Hamster's Personality
Hamsters don't like sudden loud noises or movements. Your hamster will trust you if they know you're gentle and speak quietly.
What does it mean if my hamster squeaks?
Hamsters can make noises for several reasons. Zelda always squeaks at Hemingway when they're together when she's feeling grumpy. A hamster can make a frightened sort of screaming sound if they're really scared; if your hamster does this, stop what you are doing and leave it alone for a while.
Hamsters can also make happy little chirping noises, but all hamsters are different. Hemingway never makes any noises at all, although Zelda is very vocal when she likes to be. Learn your hamster's personality, and you'll start to understand what they are comfortable with.
7. Enrich Your Hamster's Habitat
Once things have settled down and your hamster is coming to you, exploring your hand, and exploring the room, give your little friend some extra things to keep them from getting bored. If your hamster is bored, it might dig continuously in the same spot or nibble at the bars of its cage.
For a happy, healthy hamster:
- Install a wheel. Make sure it is big enough as a small wheel can injure the hamster's back.
- Give your hamster chew toys. Wood is perfect as they can gnaw at it. See if your local pet store has it.
- Give it fresh vegetables. Cucumber, carrot, and lettuce is good. See what your hamster likes and dislikes.
- Let your hamster ride in an exercise ball. This is a great way to get your hamster out of its cage for a while in a safe way. Make sure you don't keep her in the ball for longer than twenty minutes.
- Give your hamster old toilet paper rolls. My hamsters love crawling inside them and chewing them up.
- Add unscented tissue paper to the cage. Hamsters like to tear it up and add it to their nest for comfortable bedding.
If you provide a happy home and a calm environment, your hamster will look forward to playtime with you!
With these important steps, you will soon have a healthy and happy hamster that completely trusts you! Always be kind to your pet, feed them every day, clean their cage once a week, and soon you will go from giant stranger to beloved best friend.
Hamsters are really sweet creatures and it is worthwhile having one that trusts you. Good luck, and enjoy!
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.
Questions & Answers
I recently just got a hamster (Syrian) and I’ve read your article and will be leaving him alone for a couple of days while he gets used to his surroundings. However, I noticed that he likes to climb on his cage, mainly in the corner. I don’t know if that is a problem at all; can you help me?
Your hamster is probably exploring his new cage! Make sure it's nice and large so he has plenty of space to run around and that he has lots of clean, unscented tissue paper to make a nest. Climbing the cage isn't a problem at all (my hamsters used to do it when they were young, too) as long as he isn't able to escape!
I'm 13 and reading this reply helped. Ollie is my first hamster and I've had him for a week now. I'm worried because I have been chasing him and making him nervous. Do you think he will still be able to trust me after some time has passed? Also, I have a dog and she always whines at the door of Ollie's room. Will this make him nervous around me?
Please don’t chase your hamster! You have to wait for him to come to you. You’ve only had him one week. You shouldn’t be bothering him at all yet because he has to get used to his new cage, new food, the new smells around him, and everything like that. You should also try to keep the dog away. Obviously, your dog knows there’s an animal in the room and probably wants to check it out, but it’ll frighten Ollie very much. Leave the hamster alone for a few days. I know it’s hard because it’s exciting having a new pet, but he’ll be friendlier in a few weeks.Helpful 3
I have a male baby dwarf hamster named Miles. He’s unmotivated by treats. How else can I get him to trust me?
Just be patient. If he lets you pick him up, that’s a good sign. Let him sniff your hand and see if he climbs on. If he doesn’t like the treats you’re giving him, offer fruit or veg instead.Helpful 6
I got my dwarf hamsters a month ago. Whenever I give the male treats, he scratches the food, smells it, then goes away. He also doesn't want to be touched. He sometimes attacks his water bottle or his house for no reason, and I'm scared to tame him. I've never touched him, and I've tried my best to be gentle, but he seems to be grumpy all the time. The female is perfectly fine and tame. What should I do?
It sounds like you have a hamster with a grumpy personality. He may be uncomfortable with his surroundings. Not all hamsters are okay with the same things. I’m assuming you bought them from the same place, so it’s unlikely to be abuse from a past owner. Are there other pets or small children around? Maybe he’s unhappy with his cage. Try offering him your hand to smell and see how he reacts. Also, don’t disturb him when he’s asleep or stretching, he’ll definitely be grumpy if you do that! Keep me posted.Helpful 16
I have my hamster for four days now and he is still shy. The other day I put my hand out as you said but he just bit me gently and it bled a tiny bit. What should I do?
You’ve only had him four days so there’s no way he’ll be used to you yet. Please read the article carefully. It says not to bother your new hamster for at least a week because he’s still getting used to his new cage and the smells around him.Helpful 13
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