Hamsters are some of the most popular small pets in the United States, as they’re adorable, furry, and slightly less prone to biting than gerbils. But many first-time hamster owners might wonder, “How often should I hold my hamster?”
You should hold your hamster every day to develop a bond with it. However, it’s crucial to only handle your hamster when it’s awake, as disturbing a sleeping hamster may make it feel anxious. You’ll also want to practice gentle and slow handling to reduce your hamster’s fear of being held.
This article will explain how often you should hold your hamster and discuss handling techniques that can help make your hamster more comfortable. We’ll also touch on the social needs of hamsters so you can learn more about these popular pets and how to hold them.
Most hamster experts agree that holding your hamster at least once per day is sufficient to build a bond of trust. However, taking your hamster out of its enclosure multiple times per day is an excellent way to help your hamster get some exercise and stimulate its curiosity.
Still, handling your hamster several times throughout the day can make it feel anxious and stressed. Fortunately, you can acclimate your hamster to frequent handling by practicing being gentle with your hamster.
If you’ve recently adopted your hamster or haven’t spent much time handling it, you’ll need to ease into holding them. Taking it out of its cage once per day is a great place to start, but it’s crucial to practice a few tips and tricks to minimize your hamster’s anxiety.
Some of the most important ways to acclimate your hamster to being touching include:
- Using a gentle touch.
- Scooping them up with both hands.
- Rewarding them while holding them.
Let’s explore these ideas in greater detail to ensure you and your hamster have a positive experience every time you let it out of its enclosure.
Hamsters are far tougher than they look, as they often survive falls off table ledges and the sides of their cages. But this doesn’t mean they appreciate rough handling. When holding your hamster, always use a gentle touch.
Your hamster is bound to appreciate soft strokes that don’t pull on its fur and a loose grip that doesn’t fully enclose its body.
During the first few times that you hold a hamster, keep your hands and body near a surface like a table or a floor. Hamsters have a habit of jumping out of their owner’s hands, even after growing familiar with them.
Holding them near a surface can prevent falls from great heights, thus increasing the hamster’s trust in you.
If you try to grab a hamster with one hand, you’ll likely squeeze it a little bit. Hamsters don’t tend to appreciate this. For that reason, it’s best to scoop up your hamster using both hands, allowing for a more gentle transition from its cage to the outside world.
Just like any other common household pet, hamsters enjoy treats.
You can train a hamster to associate your touch with positive experiences by offering a reward while holding them, so before retrieving your hamster from its enclosure, grab some hamster-appropriate treats and set them nearby.
A few snacks that hamsters enjoy are:
- Sunflower seeds
- Shredded raw carrots
- Fresh broccoli
Of course, you can also choose to purchase pre-made hamster snacks. The Kaytee Country Harvest Treat Blend on Amazon is an excellent choice, as it contains healthy dried fruits and nuts that hamsters love.
Besides, it’s an affordable shelf-stable alternative to fresh fruits and veggies.
Once you have your treats ready to go, take your hamster from its cage and hold them steady in one hand. Use your free hand to fetch a treat and gently offer it to them, keeping the treat at least 1” (2.54 cm) from its face.
If the hamster doesn’t accept the treat, you can try again another day. Remember to be patient, and there’s a great chance that you’ll soon have your hamster eating out of your hand.
You’ll want to avoid several things when handling your hamster, especially if you’ve only recently adopted it. For example, hamsters can become stressed when mishandled, and improper holding techniques can also leave your hamster injured and in pain.
For these reasons, it’s essential to:
- Avoid making loud noises.
- Move slowly.
- Steer clear of squeezing.
- Avoid very brief holding sessions.
- Never pick up a hamster when it’s sleeping.
- Only pick up a hamster when it’s facing you.
Let’s discuss why these issues could make your hamster’s experience more stressful and why it’s crucial to avoid them.
Like most rodents, hamsters have excellent hearing, which allows them to hear potential predators, communicate with other hamsters, and learn more about their environment.
But because hamsters have sensitive ears, loud noises can frighten them. So, while you might be tempted to shout your hamster’s name happily before opening its cage and scooping them up, it’s far better to use a quiet voice.
Hamsters might have excellent hearing, but they have terrible eyesight. For this reason, they’re easily surprised and frightened by fast motions. And because they’re far smaller than humans, their inner ears are far more sensitive to movement.
The inner ear is one of the most crucial anatomical areas controlling the sense of balance. Sudden motions can trigger problems within the inner ear, leading to feelings of dizziness or nausea.
So, if you pick up a hamster and then swing around quickly, you may unintentionally make the hamster feel sick to its stomach. But you might also just make it feel frightened, which is not something you want when you’re handling a hamster.
After all, a scared hamster is more likely to bite.
Moving around quickly while holding your hamster may also increase your chances of dropping it, resulting in injuries to the tiny rodent. So, try to move slowly and carefully when holding a hamster to build its trust.
If your hamster belongs to a child in your household, as hamsters are common first pets for kids in the United States, you’ll want to train your child to hold the hamster properly.
After all, children are prone to squeezing small furry objects, especially stuffed animals.
But squeezing a hamster too tightly when holding it can seriously injure it, and in a worst-case scenario, the poor rodent may even die from its injuries. Always supervise young children when they interact with a hamster. It’s also an excellent idea to demonstrate proper handling techniques before allowing your child to hold a hamster.
You may also want to check out this related video for more hamster care training tips for children:
While you won’t want to keep your hamster away from its food and water for several hours, it’s also important to avoid short-term handling sessions.
Picking up your hamster for a few seconds and then immediately putting it back in its cage won’t allow enough time for them to get used to your touch and scent. So instead, try to aim for three to five minutes each time.
Hamsters are nocturnal animals, which means that they tend to sleep through most of the day and are most active at night.
You’ll want to keep this in mind when interacting with your hamster. If possible, only attempt to hold your hamster during the evening hours, so handling your hamster during the night or late afternoon will ensure that it’s alert and awake when you handle it.
Trying to pick up a sleeping hamster may only result in fearful bites, as hamsters may perceive you as a threat if you attempt to hold it while it’s asleep.
Just as you shouldn’t pick up a sleeping hamster, it’s also important to avoid picking up a hamster with its back turned to you. If your hamster isn’t aware that you’re about to touch it, it may respond with fear when you try to hold it.
Speaking calmly to your hamster and waiting for it to turn and face you is an excellent way to avoid surprising your hamster.
Hamsters are much like humans in that they each have unique personalities. Some are very social and enjoy the company of other hamsters, while others prefer to live in isolated cages. However, no matter your hamster’s personality, it’s crucial to ensure that your hamster receives at least a small amount of interaction each day.
You should hold your hamster every day, because they crave affectionate touch, even if they’re skittish and scared after arriving at their new home. Avoiding contact with your hamster because you’re afraid of it biting you will worsen your hamster’s sense of trust and companionship.
While it’s important never to hold a sleeping hamster or a hamster that’s terrified, you’ll want to do your best to acclimate your hamster to being held and enjoy at least a few minutes of affectionate socialization each day.
After a little while, there’s an excellent chance that your hamster will begin to look forward to your interactions with it, leading to a more fulfilling life for your furry little buddy.
Now that you’re familiar with the do’s and don’ts of holding pet hamsters, you might feel ready to gently scoop up your furry friend and practice your newfound skills.
But before you take your hamster out of its cage, you’ll want to take a few moments to consider a few final factors that can influence your experience as a hamster owner.
For example, it’s important to remember that hamsters:
- Can take a while to grow accustomed to your touch.
- Don’t enjoy being held by strangers.
Patience is crucial when getting your hamster accustomed to being held. During the first few weeks of ownership, you may only want to try holding your hamster for a few minutes at a time.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you need to keep your hamster in its cage at all times. Instead, try placing your hamster in a hamster ball for 30 minutes each day, as doing so is an excellent way to let your furry friend explore its surroundings.
This type of play may also help your hamster get used to your home’s smells and sounds. Remember, a hamster’s eyesight is naturally poor, so it will use its sense of smell and hearing to learn about its environment.
Whatever you do, don’t grow frustrated or upset with your hamster if it recoils at your touch, even after several weeks of ownership. Hamsters are prey creatures for much larger animals, and they may perceive humans as potential predators.
Remaining gentle and calm while interacting with your hamster, and keeping them in a quiet and clean area of your home, is an excellent way to build trust. It may take a few months for your hamster to develop a sense of affection and familiarity with you.
But the final result is more than worth the effort.
One of a hamster’s keenest senses is its sense of smell. It uses this sense to remember food locations, and smell may also play an essential role in identifying owners. If your hamster associates your natural scents with food and fun times, it’ll naturally begin to show you more affection.
But this relationship between smell and memory goes both ways.
For example, when a stranger handles a hamster, the hamster may not recognize the person’s scent. This lack of familiarity can make it feel anxious and stressed, leading to biting or uncomfortable wriggling.
So, if you want to show off your hamster to a friend, gently hold it in your hands and allow the “stranger” to pet the hamster softly, but don’t hand it over.
Holding your hamster and letting them outside its enclosure several times per day is an excellent way to ensure they enjoy plenty of socialization and physical activity.
But it’s essential to acclimate your hamster to being held and practice gentle holding techniques. You’ll also want to be patient when getting your hamster accustomed to the human touch, as hamsters often need time to adjust to new people.
You may like the following hamster articles:
- How To Make Your Hamster Happy
- Why Is My Hamster Trying To Escape?
- Difference Between a Hamster and a Gerbil
- Why Does My Hamster Poop So Much?
- How Long Can You Leave a Hamster Alone?
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