Hamsters can be friendly, loving, and easier to look after than most other domestic animals, which makes them the ideal pet for many families, especially those with children. However, their qualities and temperament heavily depend on how they feel in their new, unknown environment. For this reason, it’s crucial to make sure your pet feels as comfortable and safe as possible under your care.
Here’s what you should do to get your hamster to like you:
- Make sure you meet all your hamster’s needs.
- Give your hamster time to adjust.
- Observe your hamster’s behavior and take notes.
- Establish a point of contact with your hamster.
- Be lenient with treats.
- Don’t showcase any aggressive or punishing behaviors.
- Learn how to handle your hamster.
How To Get Your Hamster To Like You
In this article, I’ll further explain how to go about following each of these steps in a way that’ll turn even the most aggressive or fearful hamster into a loving pet.
1. Make Sure You Meet All Your Hamster’s Needs
The first and most crucial step you’ll want to take if you’re trying to get your hamster to like you is to make sure you’re meeting all of its physical needs.
Achieving this may seem pretty straightforward to most, as providing your pet with adequate food and water supply may seem like common sense.
However, your hamster’s physical needs are varied and unique, making it harder for you to understand and fulfill them without first diving into a bit of research.
For example, what you may have not considered is that your pet also needs an adequate amount of space in which to move around and feel comfortable.
This should translate to a sizable cage, ideally with enough floors and surroundings to maintain your hamster’s interest and handle its energy levels throughout the day.
For those who are still unsure on which type of cage would best fit their pet, you can How Big Should a Hamster Cage Be? Explain your options more in-depth.
In any case, you’ll want to aim for a surface of at least 2 square feet (0.19 sq. m); however, ideally, you’d go for something significantly larger. Additionally, make sure that the cage is at least 1 foot (0.30 m) high.
If the animal’s basic living requirements aren’t met, you can’t expect it to feel safe, let alone comfortable enough to like or approach you.
Additionally, keep in mind that a large empty space wouldn’t be ideal either, as hamsters are a very mentally active species who enjoy constant visual stimulation.
The next environmental factor you’ll want to look out for and adjust is temperature. Extremely hot climates like in Florida or cold climates like Alaska can be detrimental to your pet’s health, meaning you should always aim to keep their environment at around 70°F (21.11°C).
Of course, there’s some leeway when choosing the right temperature for your hamster, as a couple of degrees lower or higher won’t have a significant impact on your hamster’s comfort. However, try not to steer too far off from the recommended range.
Another factor you’ll want to account for is noise. Excessive, high-volume sounds can scare or stress your hamsters, who are nocturnal animals that prefer peaceful, low-traffic environments throughout the day.
For this same reason, it might not be a good idea to keep your hamster cage in your bedroom, as they’re a fairly active species during the night, producing noises that can often disturb your sleep.
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2. Give Your Hamster Time To Adjust
Even if you’ve provided your hamster with the ideal conditions, it might take some time and patience until your pet starts to trust and like you.
This is because, like any other species, they need to establish a connection before feeling comfortable and safe around a new presence, and this process can take time.
Luckily, there are a few steps you can take to speed up the process. However, it’s essential to take things slowly and not become too overbearing too fast, as this behavior might be received as a form of aggression by your pet.
For example, standing calmly and quietly outside the cage can be an excellent way to establish a point of contact with your pet, a concept which I’ll delve into more in one of the following sections.
Additionally, you’ll want to get your hamster accustomed to your voice and presence.
For this reason, it might be a good idea to place the cage in an area where you spend a lot of time throughout the day (as long as it’s not too noisy or crowded). This will allow your pet to get to know you and your voice better, making it feel safer when you approach it.
Furthermore, if you’ve just gotten your pet home, it might also need a few additional days to adapt to its surroundings.
An unfamiliar environment with such a wide variety of moving parts can make even the most adaptable hamsters feel confused. After all, they’re living species like all of us.
Consider this scenario: You’ve lived in the quiet, rural town of Skyline, Alabama your whole life. Suddenly, someone whisks you away to the busy bustle of New York City.
You’d probably need some time to adjust, right?
Well, your hamster likely feels the same way, which is why making this transitional period easier and more comfortable might make them warm up to you much quicker.
Hamsters are a very territorial species who like to mark their nests (and recognize them) through smell. For this reason, it can take a few days until your new furry friend fully settles into its new environment.
This is why it’s often best to leave your pet unbothered for the first few days after you take them home. After you feel the hamster has settled in, you can try to take initiative and start approaching them in a careful, controlled way (described in the following steps).
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3. Observe Your Hamster’s Behavior and Take Notes
These first few days during which you won’t be interacting much with your pet are an excellent time to observe your hamster’s behavior and routine. Doing so will allow you to better understand its preferences, triggers, and the best times to approach it.
This period is also an excellent time for you to experiment with your pet’s diet and water intake to figure out their regular caloric consumption and food preferences. Doing so allows you to better fulfill its needs and make it feel more comfortable around you.
You’ll want to make sure to be as gentle and quiet as possible when changing your pet’s food and water supply (which you should do daily).
It’s understandable that at first, your hamster will likely be scared and panicked, which can often cause it to become aggressive as well. For this reason, it’s important to proceed with extreme caution when moving around it.
Additionally, it’s best to turn this process into a ritual by executing it at the same exact time each day. This will only allow you and your pet to establish a routine, but your hamster won’t become as startled when you approach the cage as it’ll be expecting you to do so.
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4. Establish a Point of Contact With Your Hamster
Now that you’ve been able to observe your hamster’s behaviors and routine, it’s time to establish a point of contact. This step is much simpler than you’d think, although it needs to be executed with care and patience.
To establish a point of contact, the first thing you’ll want to do is calmly stand near the cage and indicate your presence without becoming too overbearing.
Don’t try to reach out or grab your hamster, instead keep a bit of distance and speak softly so as not to scare your pet off.
This process doesn’t have to be as time-consuming as it might seem; a few minutes here and there throughout the day will suffice.
Additionally, you could always place the cage near you as you relax, go through your phone, or watch TV. Calmly standing in close proximity with your pet will help you establish a connection and cultivate trust.
Furthermore, as I previously mentioned, hamsters are extremely sensitive to smell. Therefore, this exercise will help them get to know you better, which means that with each passing day, they’ll become progressively less wary as you approach them.
The best way to make your pet accustomed to your smell is by gently placing your hand outside the cage in a non-threatening way. This will allow the hamster to get a better understanding of your scent while not feeling trapped or in danger.
If you feel like your pet is too fearful to approach your hand, even when placed outside the cage, you can always place a piece of fabric cut out from your old clothing inside the cage to help your furry friend get to know you better.
Additionally, remember that the pet likely still won’t feel comfortable enough for physical contact by this point, so never attempt to touch or grab them.
Not only can this make them feel even more scared or withdrawn, but they can also become quite aggressive when touched unexpectedly.
Therefore, if you want to avoid a violent bite or two, it’s best to postpone grabbing and handling for a bit. No worries, though, as in the last section of this article, I’ll take you through everything you need to know to safely establish physical contact with your hamster.
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5. Be Lenient With Treats
This is also an excellent time to reward your new pet with their favorite treats; however, keep in mind that it might still not feel comfortable taking it directly from your hands.
For this reason, it’s best to leave the treat on the floor of the cage as an incentive to make your hamster warm up to you quicker.
Finding your pet’s favorite treat should be easy at this point, as long as you’ve done the due diligence described in the third section of this article.
Now it’s the time when your observations and notes will come in handy, as they can help you decide on the “bribing” tool that’s most likely to succeed.
However, keep in mind not to overdo it with treats, as, although they can help your hamster warm up to you much quicker, they can also negatively affect its health in the long run if given in excessive amounts.
The Oxbow Baked Treats (available on Amazon.com) are an excellent option for those looking for the healthiest, most inciting treat. They come in a variety of flavors and their manufacturing facilities are based in Nebraska, meaning that their products are held up to the strictest production standards.
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6. Don’t Showcase Any Aggressive or Punishing Behaviors
Like most other animals, Hamsters don’t have the moral sense of right and wrong. For this reason, when you showcase aggressive or punishing behavior, they don’t register emotions such as guilt or regret.
Instead, they’ll take your behavior as a direct threat to their physical well-being, making them close off and reverting any progress you might have made. For this reason, it’s crucial to remain as calm and patient around your pet as possible.
When your hamster exhibits unwanted behavior, try distracting it until it stops. Afterward, rather than punishing said bad behavior, try rewarding good ones instead.
This won’t only reinforce the actions you’re looking for but will also allow you to establish yourself as a safe, loving presence to your pet.
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7. Learn How To Handle Your Hamster
After setting up a rapport, it’s finally time to learn how to handle your hamster. This is the last step you’ll want to conquer that’ll signify a connection of trust between you and your pet.
However, handling your hamster requires a bit of finesse, as straight-up grabbing it out of nowhere won’t cut it.
First of all, you’ll want to make sure that your pet is comfortable and active during the time you plan on interacting with it.
If your pet is exceptionally sleepy or tired, it might not react well to an interaction attempt; therefore, it’s time to refer back to your notes and observations to find out the best time to handle your hamster.
Secondly, it’s crucial to let the hamster come to you and not the other way around; otherwise, it may feel startled and threatened. Never chase around or grab your pet forcibly, as this could set you back several stages on your progress.
Instead, gently place your hand inside the cage, preferably with a treat in it. By this point, your hamster should feel comfortable enough to come to you and nibble on its food. This is when you can carefully wrap your fingers around it and gently lift it out from the cage.
By now, your pet has established that you’re a friendly, safe presence, and it may even start interacting with you back.
However, be careful not to handle it for too long, as too much physical pressure can be stressful for your hamster (especially during the first few times of you picking it up).
With time, you can slowly start interacting with your pet for longer, creating a stronger bond, which, if maintained properly, can last a lifetime.
Related Hamster articles:
- How Long Should a Hamster Be in a Ball?
- Why Is My Hamster Drinking So Much Water?
- My Hamster Has a Tumor: How Long Until She Dies?
- Why Does My Hamster Poop So Much?
- How To Keep a Hamster Warm
Getting your scared, withdrawn hamster to like you might seem like a challenging feat. However, by following a few simple steps and with enough patience, you’ll be playing around with your newest furry pet in no time.
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