How Can I Get My Hamster to Trust Me?

Updated on July 11, 2019
poppyr profile image

Poppy has been keeping hamsters for nearly four years and enjoys helping other pet owners.

Shy Zelda
Shy Zelda | Source

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 that will help turn your nervous pet into your new best friend.

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 three-floor Hamster Haven by Prevue 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.

Zelda and Hemingway in their cages
Zelda and Hemingway in their cages | Source

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.

Zelda and Hemingway enjoying some treats
Zelda and Hemingway enjoying some treats | Source

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.

Do not:

  • 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.

One of Zelda and Hemingway's babies
One of Zelda and Hemingway's babies | Source

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.

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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.

Source

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.

Tips 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!

Zelda can't wait to play
Zelda can't wait to play

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

  • My hamster always hangs off the top of the cage when I try to sleep and it’s really loud. What do I do?

    Move the hamster to a different room when you sleep.

  • 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.

  • My male baby dwarf hamster won’t eat or drink. I got him today I don’t know how to help him to like and trust me. What do I do?

    You got him today, so of course, he won’t trust you yet! It takes several weeks for a hamster to get used to its new owner and he’s probably not eating because it’s daytime, he’s in a new place, and he isn’t comfortable enough in his new environment to go out exploring yet.

  • 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.

  • I have a male hamster that is about ten-months-old and a baby male hamster that is almost five weeks old. I know that usually, hamsters don't live together, but is there something I can do so they can live in the same cage? I tried to make them littles "dates" so that they get to know each other more, but what else should I do?

    What type of hamsters are they? If they appear to get on well, it might be safe to house them together as long as they have a large cage with their own space. Since they’re both males, they might fight, so keep a close eye on them and how they interact with each other.

    If they are Syrian hamsters, then they absolutely MUST live separately. If they’re dwarf hamsters, they have a chance. Best to buy an extra cage just in case.

© 2018 Poppy

Comments

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    • poppyr profile imageAUTHOR

      Poppy 

      3 weeks ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Hi, Chelsey! Thank you so much for your comment. I'm really glad this article helped you out. Have lots of fun with your new little friend :)

    • profile image

      Chelsey 

      3 weeks ago

      Thank you so much! I got my little guy yesterday, and my first hamster was not skiddish like the one I have now. My first bit me and we were okay. I was very nervous with my new one, but I feel a LOT better now. I thought I was doing something wrong, he keeps running away and hiding. Now I understand, thank you so much!!!

    • profile image

      Sophia 

      5 weeks ago

      My hamster loves me, the only advice I can give is to pick your hamster up when he/she is tired. Then, put him/her on your lap and cover him up, if he/she is ready, it'll fall asleep, do this at least once a day, if you do it enough, you will bond and he/she will look forward to seeing you each day. I hope if you own a hamster that this will help you form a bond with your hamster! Bye!

    • poppyr profile imageAUTHOR

      Poppy 

      4 months ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Sounds like she doesn't like humans very much. Three weeks isn't a very long time for her to get used to you and her new life. Leave her alone for a few more weeks and be patient.

    • profile image

      Abbey 

      4 months ago

      Ive had my hamster for 3 weeks and it dosnt like me if i try and pick her up she bites me and she trys to escape her cage ive done everything i could to make her cage fun for her its got 3 floors a wheel sone tunnels chew toys and card board. I talk to her and try and get her to trust me but she dosnt like me very much. She is a syrian hamster

    • poppyr profile imageAUTHOR

      Poppy 

      6 months ago from Tokyo, Japan

      It sounds like he needs a place to hide. Hamsters love little crevices where they can feel safe. Buy him a little house; he'll love it!

    • profile image

      Seal Lover 

      6 months ago

      I got my h as mster a few days ago, in the cage there's a tube from first level to second. He'll crawl half way in the tube and sit eat and sleep there. Whats hhappening and why?

    • poppyr profile imageAUTHOR

      Poppy 

      19 months ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Thanks, Mike :)

    • Mike Hardy profile image

      Mike Hardy 

      19 months ago from Caseville, Michigan

      Excellent article...as a former Gerbil owner your spot on.

    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 

      20 months ago from Norfolk, England

      Thanks for the advice. I used to have a hamster years ago. He was very cute and I used to love holding him.

    • poppyr profile imageAUTHOR

      Poppy 

      20 months ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Hi! Yes, they're very sweet! Thank you so much for commenting :)

    • nikkikhan10 profile image

      Nikki Khan 

      20 months ago from London

      Hi Poppy, your article is very interesting and loved the pictures of hamsters.I never had them as a pet but I love to watch them in the zoo.They are so sweet little animals, thanks for sharing about them.

    • poppyr profile imageAUTHOR

      Poppy 

      20 months ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Hi, Flourish! Thank you for your lovely comment. I agree that plastic is much better than metal, and Zelda and Hemingway live separately. I bred them once and gave the babies for free to happy homes, which was a great experience.

      Lettuce is okay but you have to remove it within a day if they don't eat it all. Wet tail is usually caused by stress, but you're right that hamsters can also have diarrhea if they eat too much of the wrong thing.

      Thank you very much for your thoughtful comment. It is much appreciated as always.

    • poppyr profile imageAUTHOR

      Poppy 

      20 months ago from Tokyo, Japan

      They are sweethearts! Very easy to take care of and can be quite cheeky, too.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      20 months ago from USA

      These are such beautiful photos! You obviously love these two. In the US, most responsible pet shops will not sell a male and female together because hamsters and gerbils breed very rapidly (don't let them out at the same time to prevent that issue and space the cages enough distance if you know what I mean).

      I used to have hamsters when I was in college and my daughter was young. They always lived about 4 years for me. I found that one of the plastic exercise balls rather than the metal wheels was always preferable. I usually had one set up inside the case and used one for allowing them to travel around my home or apartment outside the cage. (I knew of too many hamster escapes through heating systems to trust them alone.) Also at that time, you could also buy plastic houses with large connecting tunnel systems that were reconfigurable. It was fun to build and watch them use it. I also gave them different textures of hamster-sized cardboard boxes that they could make their nests in. Just remove the top panel. It allowed them to make their nests darker during the day since they are chiefly nocturnal. I also tended to avoid lettuce, watermelon, and other very wet fruits and vegetables because they caused a wet rear end (diarrhea). Raisins and whole, unsalted peanuts were also appreciated snacks. Best of luck on loving your sweet little babies. They are so beautiful.

    • EricFarmer8x profile image

      Eric Farmer 

      20 months ago from Rockford Illinois

      I had a pet hamster as a kid. I don't remember much about it. My mom was the one that really took care of it.

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