Having your hamster flinch at your touch or run away when you try to pick it up can be quite worrisome. But figuring out why your pet is doing this is the key to getting them to trust you and feel safe around you.
Your hamster could be scared of you if you just adopted it or it isn’t tame yet. It may have heard a loud sound that upset it or been scared of other animals in the home. Finally, hamsters may be scared if they’re being fed a poor diet or are startled awake, sick, or just easily, naturally scared.
I’ll explain each of these reasons in detail throughout this article and then give you tips on how to get your hamster to trust you. Keep reading to learn more.
We’ve already discussed the most common reasons that your hamster might be scared of you. Now, however, let’s take a closer look at each one.
A recently adopted hamster will take some time to adjust to its new surroundings.
Think about how you’d react if you were placed in a home you didn’t recognize with people you haven’t ever met before. It would be terrifying.
That’s exactly what your hamster is going through in the first few weeks of being adopted.
It’s surrounded by unfamiliar sounds and smells. Your home won’t have the same scent markers as its old home.
If your hamster is a young pup, this might be the first time it has been away from its family. That kind of separation can take a while to get used to.
While you may love and adore your pet, it will take time for it to know that. Until it knows and feels safe around you, you’ll need to give it space or end up creating even further distance between you and your hamster.
Give the hamster time to acclimate itself to you and its new surroundings.
It is perfectly normal for pets to be scared of their new owners for a while. So don’t worry. Just give your hamster time and space.
If your hamster hasn’t been tamed and you try to touch it, it will try to bite you.
This is a defensive strategy that the hamster uses to protect itself. It doesn’t want to hurt you but just wants to keep itself safe. It isn’t aggressive or violent; it’s just scared of you.
It will take some time for the pet to get used to you and your smell. Once that happens, it will be more comfortable with being picked up and held by you.
This process of familiarization is called taming.
Over a couple of weeks, you need to get your hamster used to your voice, touch, and smell.
Try introducing your hamster to your scent by placing small clothing items that you’ve worn in their cage. Replace this item every day for a couple of days until you feel like the hamster starts to warm up to them.
Your hamster will be less scared of you if it is familiar with your smell.
Then you can work towards voice and touch.
Speak softly outside your pet’s cage. Talk to it about your day or what the weather is like outside.
Do this often enough, and your animal will get used to being around you and won’t be as scared of you anymore.
Hamsters don’t have great eyesight. They can’t see very far and use their other four senses to compensate for this.
So if there is a loud sound, they won’t be able to tell what has happened and will only hear a big bang.
Therefore, loud sounds like cars honking very loudly, a bookshelf falling, or construction crews operating heavy machinery will take a toll on your hamster. They will be on edge because of these sounds and be quite confused.
In such a situation, if you try to hold your hamster, there is a good chance it will attack you or move away from you. This may happen because they are scared.
Remember that hamsters are small animals and feel vulnerable in scary situations. So don’t take it personally and move your hamster away from the loud sounds.
They’ll be back to normal in a little time.
Animals like hamsters have an acute sense of smell. They identify their homes and safe spaces by scent.
Since the items in your house likely smell like you, they eventually familiarize themselves with you. However, if you bring a new animal into the house, you’ll start smelling like them, and your hamster won’t be able to recognize you.
If your pet can’t identify what you smell like, they’ll likely view you as a threat and be scared of you.
In case you’ve just adopted a new animal, carefully introduce its scent to your hamster. Otherwise, it will be overwhelmed and get scared of you.
Malnourished hamsters can become anxious and jumpy. If your pet hasn’t been eating enough greens, it may act frightened around you.
A lack of enough nutrients may affect an animal’s nervous system.
Your hamster’s discomfort doesn’t have anything to do with you or your behavior. Instead, it’s because the animal hasn’t been eating properly.
According to the University of California Davis‘ veterinary medicine department, a hamster needs a pelleted diet. You can supplement it with fresh vegetables.
Some great vegetables for your hamster include:
Waking up a hamster can lead to it being stressed and aggressive. Moreover, when you wake up a hamster, you’re likely to make it feel unsafe around you.
Avoid waking up a sleeping hamster unless absolutely necessary. The only situations under which you should do so is if you need to take it to a vet or if there’s a fire in your house.
In all other circumstances, leave your hamster to sleep.
If your hamster’s scent glands have been infected, it might become more aggressive than normal and move away from you if you try to pick it up.
According to Dr. Melissa Kling from Macon, Georgia, this hesitance to be around you and be held is a tell-tale indication of infection.
You might confuse such behavior with your pet being scared of you. However, that is not the case. They are simply irritated by the infection and want to avoid any further discomfort.
So they will pull away if you come near them and fight you if you try to pick them up.
Scent glands are more prominent in male hamsters. While female hamsters can have them, too, they aren’t as easy to see.
Some other symptoms of an infection include:
- Change in the glands’ size
- Unusual discharge
Consult a vet in case you notice these signs, in addition to noticing a change in your pet’s behavior towards you.
Suppose none of the previous explanations apply to your hamster. In that case, it is likely that your hamster is simply very timid.
Some animals get scared easily, and your pet may be one of them.
This may be because of past trauma or part of its personality. If past owners abused your pet, it would get jumpy around anything that reminds it of that situation.
Similar smells or sounds will make it uncomfortable. So if anything you do resembles its previous living arrangement, your hamster will be scared of you.
You can’t do much about this except try to identify your animal’s triggers and avoid them.
If your hamster has a timid introverted personality, you will have to adjust your behavior around it. Introverted animals may not be as active as extroverted ones.
They will avoid high energy activity and move away from you if you are too loud.
Since hamsters are tiny animals, all stimuli will seem overwhelming to them. If a car horn seems loud to you, it will seem debilitating to a hamster.
Sometimes your pet will get scared of random things around it. When you try to go near it or pick it up, it will transfer that fear onto you.
You can get your hamster to trust you by avoiding punishing them, adapting your behavior to its personality, letting it come to you instead of overwhelming it, and giving it a spacious cage.
Hamsters will remember if you’ve hit them or been abusive towards them and will not trust you. So you should always be kind when dealing with them.
These animals have a fairly good memory. They can remember familiar humans for up to several years.
Moreover, since wild hamsters have to forage for food, they also have great spatial memory. So a hamster is very likely to remember where they were punished and be fearful in that area.
Under the same principle, these pets will remember who is kind to them and where this kindness was shown. They will be more comfortable around you and trust you if you are kind to them.
Much like how no two people are the same, no two hamsters are the same.
Each animal has its likes, dislikes, and boundaries. It will only feel safe around you if you respect these boundaries.
Some hamsters will like being carried around in a transport ball, while others will prefer staying in their cage. Some hamsters may appreciate being touched while others simply won’t.
You can’t customize your pet or make it conform to what you hope it would be like. So be open to understanding and exploring what your hamster is comfortable with.
Act accordingly around them.
When you adopt a new hamster, you need to give it time to get used to its new surroundings. During this period of adjustment, try to give your pet some space.
Let it take the first step and come to you instead of you reaching into the cage to pet it.
This way, the hamster will be choosing to interact with you, and you won’t seem like a threat.
Anything else may overwhelm your pet.
Wild hamsters run around a lot. So it’s likely your pet will want to do the same.
Even if your hamster is a tamed animal, it will be an evolved version of the same species. So your pet will want to run around as well.
Giving it a large cage with enough room to exercise will make your hamster happy. Once they realize that you provide them with this source of joy and contentment, they will appreciate you and trust you.
A happy hamster is a comfortable hamster.
If your pet is stuck in a small space, it is more likely to be agitated and aggressive. It may even try to bite you.
Related Hamster articles:
- Why Is My Hamster Breathing Fast?
- How To Calm a Hamster Down
- Why Is My Hamster Not Moving?
- How Long Can You Leave a Hamster Alone?
- Why Is My Hamster Squeaking?
Your hamster may show signs of being scared of you for several reasons.
It may still be getting used to you, or there may be something happening in your house or with the hamster’s health that’s causing this behavior. Additionally, your hamster may just be naturally scared.
Any of these factors could have made your hamster uncomfortable. Luckily, there are some easy ways to get your hamster to trust you again. I’ve explained each in detail in this article. At least one of them is sure to help you.
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