Hamsters make great pets in the United States of America, but they aren’t quite as low maintenance as you might expect. Domesticated initially in the 1700s, they didn’t become commonly domesticated or bred pets in the United States until the late 1940s. But that doesn’t mean they can’t make excellent and loving pets with the proper training.
Here are 9 tips on how to tame a hamster:
- Start with a pup.
- Check out videos on taming a hamster.
- Make sure they have a comfortable home.
- Talk to them.
- Handle them often and carefully.
- Give them plenty of time.
- Use treats mindfully.
- Give them time outside their cage.
- Get them used to waking up.
How To Tame a Hamster – 9 Tips
Read on to learn more details on how to tame a hamster.
This won’t always be possible, but if you can, starting with a pup can make the process of taming a hamster much easier. Pups can grow up without exposure to people in pet stores tapping on their glass or mishandling them. This reduces trauma that must be healed before you can tame your hamster.
Of course, you don’t want a pup that’s still weening. A hamster pup can safely be removed from its mother at 21 – 28 days. Depending on the size of the litter, this might increase to decrease the number of days, but you shouldn’t attempt any sooner than 21 days, if possible. Watch for breeders who don’t follow this guideline, as it can be detrimental to the health of your new furry friend.
You should also ask how they’ve been handled when buying a pup. Some breeders won’t handle new litters at all, nor will some pet stores that have mothers. But pups should be touched starting at around 14 days.
This gives them a chance to socialize and adjust to humans. A pup that has been exposed to some touch and holding will better integrate into their new home and family.
Check out, How To Take Care of a Hamster
Before you bring your new hamster home, watch some videos on how to tame, train and prepare for them. There are great channels dedicated to teaching the proper way to care for rodents, which are considered exotic pets. The better informed you are, the better your taming efforts will be.
The number of people who go into getting a hamster not knowing what qualifies as a suitable cage is a bit shocking. Pet stores tend to be less than helpful in guiding them. Some will end up with small, cramped spaces, while others might get the wrong type of cage altogether. When taming a hamster, it’s critical that you provide them with the perfect home.
Having the wrong cage can lead to anxiety, aggression, or even cause serious health issues. Bumblefoot (a common and dangerous infection) may develop due to walking on wire floors.
They can chew on metal bars, which can hurt their teeth or cause them to ingest metal shavings. Even using too shallow of a base where they can’t burrow might lead to severe complications down the line.
Cages with a deep, plastic bin with bedding are best to start with. Wire tops are fine, as they won’t lead to chewing in the way all wire cages might. There should be ramps, wheels, and plenty of boxes or places to hide. Add in something to chew on to wear down their teeth, and you’ll have a happy hamster.
Hamsters are intelligent, so much so that they can even learn their own name! They also respond strongly to noise and react depending on what sounds familiar to them. One of the best ways to tame your hamster is to make them recognize you. The strongest association you can create in your rodent pal is with your voice.
Talk frequently to your hamster with a calm and soft tone. Say their name often, especially when you pick them up or give them treats. They’ll start to understand that it’s their name and that you are speaking to them. Before long, they’ll begin to come out of their burrows when they hear you talk to them.
Have you ever seen a hamster come to the edge of its cage when its owner walks into the room? Teaching them your voice is how you elicit that behavior, and it’s a sign that your pet knows, trusts, and loves you.
One of the most important things you can do is handle your hamster often. They need regular contact to get used to the feeling of being in your hands. They’ll be less skittish and less likely to bite as you pick them up more. If they’re biting, it’s a sign that they’re not yet accustomed to being handled.
When you pick them up, make sure you’re doing so carefully. Never reach in and immediately grab a new hamster. Slowly put your hand in the cage and use a finger to stroke them first. Let them smell your fingertips, as long as they’re not trying to bite. Once they seem ready, gently and slowly pick them up and draw them out of their cage.
If your hamster is especially skittish, start by picking them up and putting them in different locations in their cage that you know they enjoy.
For example, if they love their wheel, put them there and let them play. If there’s a box or house they love to burrow in, place them inside. If they’re free burrows – enjoy just burrowing in their bedding instead of a structure, put them in an area they like and gently cover them.
Some rodents take longer than others to adapt to being handled. Don’t get frustrated, even if you find it taking weeks or even months to get them to respond. Remember that hamsters aren’t naturally friendly towards humans. Some may have also been weaned too early, mishandled, or not handled at all.
Before coming home to you, their environment could have also been damaging to their psyche. Loud places, stores where they were regularly disturbed, exposure to predators or humans who haven’t been thoughtful in their care, and other issues might set back their development. You may never be able to tame them entirely, which could even be an aspect of their personality.
Meet your hamster on their level and work with them patiently. Even if it takes time, the results will be well worth it.
Treats are an excellent tool when trying to tame your hamster. You can also use them to teach them tricks or reinforce good behavior. It can be tempting to give treats freely, especially in the beginning. Seeing their cute little faces stuffed with their favorite goodies is a lot of fun. Use treats sparingly and thoughtfully.
You’ll have plenty of opportunities for rewards and to teach them good behavior. Treats are especially useful in breaking bad habits, like biting. Or to introduce them to new areas in and out of their cage that they’re too afraid to explore independently.
If you’re just starting to handle your hamster, giving them a treat each time you take them out of your cage is one of the fastest ways to get them comfortable with touch. Before long, you’ll find them coming out to meet you when you come to their cage.
Your hamster shouldn’t spend all their time inside of their cage. Hamsters still live in the wild in some places of the world, and they’ve evolved to do well in the real world. So taking them out and letting them explore is excellent for their development and will make them braver and happier.
Hamster balls might seem like a good idea, but they tend to be unsafe for our little fuzzy buddies. When running in a smaller ball, hamsters can arch their backs in ways that cause damage to the spine.
In a larger ball, they have trouble controlling it and may run into walls, causing whiplash, fall downstairs, or even lose their footing and tumble inside the plastic. If you have other hamsters, they can crush them underneath.
A free-roaming approach is much better. Make sure your house is hamster-proof and put away any animals that can hurt them by accident. Or create a safe space with borders where they can roam. They’ll enjoy their time out of the cage but won’t be at risk of hurting themselves or getting lost.
Don’t worry if your hamster does get out and you can’t find them. Put together a little area with their bedding and food to lure them there. Or leave their cage open with their favorite treat. You’ll likely find them burrowing, safe and sound within a few hours.
Hamsters sleep deeply and don’t like being handled when burrowing. Get them used to waking up by running a finger down their back or tickling under their chin.
They’ll wake up gradually, and you can handle them from there. At first, it might take them longer to wake fully, or you might see them trying to burrow themselves, but this is normal. The more you wake them this way, the more they’ll grow accustomed to it.
Before long, they’ll be waking with the first touch and know it’s time to be handled. Just don’t do this all the time, as hamsters like and need their sleep. You wouldn’t want someone coming and waking you all the time, right?
Related Hamsters articles:
- How To Clean a Hamster
- How To Tell if a Hamster Is Pregnant
- What Does a Dead Hamster Look Like?
- Why is my hamster breathing fast while sleeping
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