We all want our cute, furry little friends to love us as much as we love them. If you’re a first-time hamster parent, you will be surprised at the meaningful bond you can develop with your little one. However, that can only happen if hamsters recognize their owners.
Well, the truth is that hamsters recognize their owners but not in the way we think.
Hamsters do not have good eyesight, so they are unlikely to recognize their owners through their vision. Moreover, humans constantly change their appearance, and poor hamsters cannot keep up.
However, hamsters can recognize their owners due to their strong sense of smell. Humans produce unique pheromones that hamsters cannot ignore, even if they want to. Additionally, these highly intelligent creatures can also pick up on human voices.
Can Hamsters Recognize Their Owners?
One of the ways hamsters keep themselves safe and sound in the wild is by sharpening their senses. This is particularly true for wild hamsters, but even pet hamsters have ingrained instincts due to what their ancestors went through. Hence, recognizing individuals is vital for hamsters because this is how they keep themselves alive.
Most mammals, like hamsters, understand and learn about each other via chemosensory cues. Syrian hamsters have the sharpest sense of smell as compared to other animals. This helps them protect themselves in the face of an attack.
Even though there is not much official research that points to whether hamsters recognize their owners, we know that hamsters have a strong smell of sense. In fact, it is how they make sense of the world around them.
Moreover, owners claim that their furry friends only play with them, unlike other human counterparts. However, socialization is at play here- without this, hamsters would not be able to recognize their owners.
Can Hamsters Recognize Their Owner’s Face?
Even though hamsters are smart, intelligent creatures, they are born with poor eyesight. This means that they are colorblind and incredibly near-sighted.
Hamsters function well in dim light. It does not matter if you turn off all the big lights in the room- your hamster will also be able to find its food from the light coming in through the window at night.
They can see better in dim light but are almost blind in bright light. Since they are crepuscular creatures, this works to their advantage, but it also means that hamsters do not recognize their owner’s faces.
Moreover, humans are fickle beings. We change our appearances so often that any animal will be left confused. For example, humans can:
- Wear makeup
- Change their clothes
- Grow facial hair
- Style their differently
- Change their hair color
- Change their eye color
We do so many things to alter our appearance that hamsters are left confused. Hence, they do not rely on their sight alone to recognize their masters. Instead, they work with all their senses combined to identify those around them and interact with their surroundings.
Can Hamsters Recognize Smell?
Hamsters do not care about how you look. Instead, they are more concerned with how you smell because this is how they can pick you apart from a room full of people.
Hamsters have a strong sense of smell that helps them understand their environment, keeping them away from danger and safe from predators.
These creatures recognize their owners by relying on their pheromones. Even though you might not realize it, every human has a particular scent that animals can pick up.
Even though we don’t sweat excessively throughout the day unless we work out, we still smell. Hamsters pick up on this unique smell to detect their owners.
Even though humans use soaps and perfumes to mask their natural smell, hamsters are not deterred by these. This might be surprising, especially since the slightest change in our appearances could confuse hamsters. However, it doesn’t matter if you are wearing a new perfume or have switched to new bath oils; your hamster will instantly smell and recognize you.
This means you must be careful about what you touch before going to your hamster. If you have handled another hamster, animal, or food, your hamster might bite you. This is because hamsters are incredibly territorial and may see you as a threat, especially if you have interacted with another hamster of the same breed.
To ensure you do not throw off your little friend, we recommend washing your hands before playing with your hamster. Moreover, stick to the same soap brand, so your hamster is not taken aback by a new scent.
How Long Do Hamsters Remember Humans?
Feeling afraid your hamster might forget you after returning from a vacation is only natural. However, we assure you, you have nothing to worry about. Hamsters, especially those raised in the United States, have a well-developed olfactory system, so it is unlikely they forget what their owner smells like.
In fact, when hamsters are born, it does not take long for them to start processing scent. Since they develop a sense of smell early, their brains learn to detect and remember scents to protect them from harm.
This means that when a hamster spends sufficient time with its owner, it is unlikely to forget what they smell like.
That being said, we do not recommend leaving your hamster alone for months and years as you might have to bond with them all over again before they start to trust you and see you as more than a stranger.
Since hamsters have always been vulnerable on the food chain and under threat from giant, stronger animals, they are built to detect dangers and hazards. Hence, if you disappear from your hamster’s life for too long, do not expect it to welcome you back with open arms (or paws).
Do Hamsters Get Along with Strangers?
For a hamster, a stranger is someone it does not see every day. This means that if you have roommates or family members who are over once a week but do not care for your pet daily as you do, your hamster will not recognize them.
For hamsters, strangers are people who do not interact with them, family members who barely come over, veterinarians, and of course, people who don’t know you or your hamster.
If you ever bring an unknown person at home to meet your hamster, its first instinct will be to hide. If your hamster is overly confident, it might stand on its hind leg to see if it recognizes this new person’s scent.
It will chatter its teeth, hiss, scream, or squeak if it does not remember the smell. All these are ways a hamster deters the other person, warning them to keep their distance.
While it might seem funny or cute to some, hamsters hate meeting new people as it is incredibly stressful. Of course, sometimes you have to let strangers into your house, but even if you do, ensure that they do not get too close to your hamster or try to touch it, as your hamster might feel scared and end up biting them.
Do Hamsters Bond with Their Owners?
Some experts in the US believe that hamsters only bond with one or two individuals in their lifetime. However, we believe that hamsters will connect with anyone who showers them with sufficient love, care, time, and attention.
However, this cannot happen overnight.
The first time you take a hamster home from a rescue camp or pet store, do not expect it to come close to you. It does not matter how tiny the hamster is- for them, you are a threat, regardless of how good your intentions are.
It is common for hamsters to hide in their enclosures when placed in a new environment. Do not force your hamster to play with you, as this further stresses it out.
However, the more time you spend with the hamster, the more it will get accustomed to your scent, appearance, and the sound of your voice. Moreover, it will accept and understand that you are not a threat.
Once the hamster starts to trust you and accept that you will not harm it, it will allow you to pick it up and cuddle with it. This will only happen if the hamster recognizes you, so regardless of how excited you are, don’t try to hand your hamster over to a friend or family member so they can hold it too.
Even though most hamsters are friendly, some American hamster breeds become ghost hamsters over time. This is when they hide during the day and only come out at night when everyone in the house is asleep.
Hamsters require time, love, care, and patience to allow themselves to be vulnerable. Since their ancestors grew up in the wild and could not trust any creature, it is only natural for your hamster to have its fair share of reservations. However, the more time you give it to build familiarity with you, the more likely it is to bond with you.
Remember, do not force your hamster to touch you or pick it up forcefully. This will only backfire and result in your hamster biting you, getting scared, or feeling intense stress.
You might get to hold your hamster for a few seconds, but once you set it down in its enclosure, it might go into hiding and stop eating. Hamsters are delicate creatures that must be treated with utmost care and respect.
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My name is Everly. I am a Milwaukee-based mom of 2 and have been a proud owner of many hamsters throughout my life. Like many of us, my introduction to hamsters happened when I was very young. My family saw several hamsters come and go through the years, and I enjoyed playing with them, but I never fully appreciated them until I grew up and my own children decided to jump on the hamster bandwagon. At that point, I was determined to learn all I could about caring for these adorable pets. Read more