Hamsters are excellent pets to have if you are looking for a low-maintenance companion; however, low maintenance doesn’t mean you don’t need to invest time and care into them. They’re simply easier to look after compared to larger animals such as dogs. Hamsters are prone to stress, so it’s essential to recognize when they’re stressed and know how to calm them down.
Here are a few tips on how to calm your hamster down:
- Have patience when you’re trying to compose your hamster.
- Handle your hamster with care and speak to them gently.
- Keep sudden movements and loud noises to a minimum.
- Ensure your hamster’s cage is spacious enough.
- Keep your hamster’s cage in a quiet area.
- Provide your hamster with various toys.
- Keep larger animals away from your hamster.
- Offer your hamster some treats.
- Have a rigid routine for your hamster.
- Give your hamster time to get used to you.
This article will dive more deeply into these ten ways to calm your hamster. I’ll also touch on a few other hamster-related topics, including what you should know before buying a hamster, signs that your hamster is stressed or unhappy, and how to care for your hamster correctly.
How To Calm a Hamster Down
Your hamster will need some time to warm up to you and its new surroundings before it becomes easier for you to calm them down, so be patient with them. They will be a lot more receptive to your efforts to destress them once they’re comfortable.
Hamsters don’t like a change in routine or a new environment when they’re used to their old one, so when you’ve just brought your hamster home, don’t expect them to get comfortable right away.
Hamsters have an incredible sense of hearing, so they are sensitive to sound. They can pick up frequencies that we humans cannot. That said, be mindful of how you speak to them.
If your hamster is in a noisy location or you’re not speaking to them softly, it will only aggravate them further and make it harder for you to calm them down. Be sure to talk to your hamster calmly.
If you want to pick your hamster up, do so carefully and offer them some pets. Holding and petting can be of great help when calming them down, as giving your hamster some pets will be soothing for them.
Use gentle strokes and don’t make any sudden movements, and you will find your hamster becoming much more relaxed if they enjoy being petted.
Hamsters are prey animals, so they are easily startled and extremely cautious of their surroundings. Please don’t make any loud or sudden movements, especially when they’re already stressed, as this will frighten them even more.
Hamsters seeing something 20 times bigger than them moving quickly and being loud triggers a defensive response and can make it more challenging to destress them. Remember, they’re incredibly vigilant and sensitive to stimuli.
Hamsters are high-energy animals, needing adequate room to exercise and roam. According to the California Hamster Association, 450 square inches (2900 square centimeters) is the minimum size requirement for a hamster cage.
The more space your hamster has to roam, the more secure they will feel and the less prone to stress they will be. If your hamster is not happy with their space, you will often find them chewing on their bars or trying to climb out in an attempt to escape due to high anxiety. To avoid this, provide them with ample space.
If you want to let your hamster free roam, let them do so for 15-30 minutes for the first few times to allow them to get used to the new environment. Let them wander in a controlled space where there are no loud noises or other animals.
Prolonged roaming in a big area may cause your hamster to become disoriented, so limit their free-roam time to about an hour maximum, although most hamsters are ready to get back in their cage after 30 minutes.
As aforementioned, hamsters are highly attentive and sensitive to stimuli, so having their cage or playpen away from a busy environment is best. Keeping them in a loud space with a lot of movement will cause constant stress and make your hamster uneasy.
Being in a quiet and calm environment is sure to calm your hamster down, as they won’t feel unsafe and as though they are a target.
Like most living creatures, hamsters get bored. A bored hamster will lack energy and sleep more often than usual. Boredom may stress your hamster out and result in cage biting and general unhappiness.
To avoid boredom in your hamster, ensure they have a variety of toys with which they can keep themselves busy. Any of the following can help keep your hamster entertained:
- Running wheels
- Cardboard tubes from toilet paper
- Chew toys
Scatter-feeding is the act of hiding and scattering food around their cage for them to find. Feeding them this way stimulates their instinct to hoard and forage and doesn’t need to be done every day.
Giving your hamster toys and activities effectively calms them down, as having these toys will help them burn all their extra energy since they are very active. Having a good amount of activities and toys will lower their stress levels since they are less likely to get bored and anxious.
Check out, Is Silica Sand Safe for Hamsters?
If you own other pets, such as dogs or cats, you’ll want to keep them away from your hamster. Your hamster will see this bigger pet as a threat, get frightened, and run away. If you want a calm hamster, keep loud and curious pets away from them.
As I mentioned before, hamsters are prey animals. So they will usually see your bigger pets as a threat and hide from them, feeling startled and unsafe.
Even if your bigger pets have no intention of hurting your hamster and are simply curious, your hamster doesn’t know that. That said, keep your larger animals away from your hamster to keep them at ease.
Hamsters are omnivores, so you can offer them anything from apples to insects. Holding a treat in your open palm and allowing them to get it from you gradually builds trust and security and ultimately calms them down.
Offering your hamster a treat when they’re stressed lets them know that you’re there for them and that they can trust you, thus calming them down. Avoid giving your hamster treats with high sugar content, as this can make them even more hyper.
Work on a daily routine for your hamster. Feeding, exercising, and letting your hamster free roam at the exact times every time will bring them comfort as they don’t like changes or disruptions in their routine.
Having a schedule for your hamster is effective in keeping them calm since they’ll know what to expect and won’t feel bombarded by sudden changes.
However, bear in mind that hamsters are nocturnal creatures, so they will be active now and then during the day but asleep for the most part.
Another effective way to calm a hamster down is by giving them time to get used to you. Hamsters are usually on high alert, so they see many things moving around them as a predator.
Hamsters will come around at their own time and pace, and you can’t rush the process. Giving your hamster time to become familiar with you will ultimately increase their sense of safety and make them a lot calmer, particularly when your hamster is around you. It can often take a while for your hamster to trust you, so be patient with them.
A lot goes into purchasing/adopting a pet. To ensure you’re making the right decision, here are a few things you should know before deciding to get a hamster.
- Finding a veterinarian for your hamster may be difficult. Many people are unaware that a hamster is seen as an “exotic” animal and must be seen by a veterinarian who specializes in hamsters. That said, seeing a specialized veterinarian is costly.
- Hamsters thrive alone. While some animals are pack breeds and need companionship, a hamster does not. Hamsters are territorial and will likely fight another hamster no matter how long they’ve lived together. Your friendship is enough to keep your hamster happy.
- Hamsters need specific bedding. Do not use cedar or pine shavings as these release toxic fumes that can damage your hamster’s lungs and windpipe. Avoid using newspaper, cat litter, or fluff, as these can also be dangerous to your hamster. Opt for paper bedding, hemp, or aspen shavings instead and ensure the bedding is 8-12 inches (20.32-30.48 cm) deep.
- Avoid buying your hamster from a pet store unless there’s no other option. According to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), an inspection done by the U.S. The Department of Agriculture revealed one PetSmart supplier allowed severely stressed hamsters to eat each other and left their carcasses in the cages.
PETA investigated PetSmart stores, which led store managers in Nashville, Tennessee, to plead guilty to cruelty-to-animals charges.
Do not buy from stores as you would support this ordeal and get a hamster with potential behavioral issues. Adopt animals from shelters instead.
Being able to recognize when your hamster is stressed or unhappy is just as crucial as knowing what to do to destress them. There are a few telltale signs that your hamster is not happy.
- Chewing on their cage: This is a significant sign your hamster isn’t happy and that their habitat is too small.
- Aggression: If your hamster becomes increasingly aggressive and bites your hand every time you put it near them, they are unhappy.
- Climbing their cage: If your hamster climbs their cage or hangs from the top, this indicates that they’re bored and need more stimulation or that their cage isn’t big enough.
- They lack energy: Hamsters are full of energy and always want to move around and play with their toys, so a lethargic hamster is a red flag. If they are in a repetitive cycle of only drinking, eating, and sleeping, they are severely unhappy. Unless your hamster is old, they should not be constantly lethargic.
- Overgrooming: If your hamster is excessively grooming, it could indicate a skin issue such as mites, dry skin, dirty fur, etc. A skin problem can result in stress and unhappiness, so be wary of excessive grooming.
Even though hamsters are considered low-maintenance pets, you still need to invest time, patience, and effort into ensuring that your hamster is happy and healthy.
Here are a few tips for correctly caring for your hamster:
- Wait a few days before trying to pick them up. As aforementioned, hamsters don’t like change and need time to adjust to their new surroundings. That said, your hamster will more than likely be nervous and not want to be held just yet.
- Clean your hamster’s cage regularly. Cleaning your hamster’s cage once a week to once every two weeks is advisable (including their bedding), but the amount of times you tend to their cage is a matter of how fast it gets dirty. Deep cleaning with cage cleaning solution or mild soap and water once a month is advisable.
- Offer your hamster a sand bath. Many people put a sand bath in their hamster’s cage, so it’s always available and more convenient. Hamsters are naturally clean animals that spend a sufficient amount of time grooming, so washing them is unnecessary. They can become severely stressed if they’re in the water as they’re not great at swimming.
- Spend bonding time with your hamster. As much as hamsters may be slow to trust you, they want companionship. Regular feeding, approaching them slowly, talking to them softly, and free roam playtime will go a long way in getting you to bond with your hamster. They will slowly but surely learn your voice and scent and recognize you as a place of comfort.
Related Hamsters articles:
- How To Get Rid of Hamster Mites?
- Where Do Hamsters Live in the Wild?
- Can You Use Regular Sand for Hamsters?
- Why Is My Hamster Not Drinking Water
- How to Find an Escaped Hamster
Having a pet hamster is greatly rewarding and worth the effort once they learn to trust you. Hamsters should not be seen as “starter pets,” as they deserve the same amount of attention and time given to any other pet. If you aren’t ready to invest time into building trust and a bond with an animal, don’t get a hamster.
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