A question we receive frequently is “how do you tame your hamster?”. Here, our staff and members have done their best to provide advice and varying ideas about how your new hamster can become your new best friend.
When you initially bring your hamster home, keep in mind that just like you, your hamster needs to get used to their new surroundings. For some hamsters, this may simply be a few hours of sniffing and digging. For others, they may take a few days. There is no magic amount of time to leave your hamster. I personally dislike the “leave your new hamster alone for 48 hours” or however long the guide will tell you. Every hamster is different. Some hamsters may adjust swiftly, and want to play with you that evening. If adopting from a breeder, these hamsters are likely already used to being handled and played with. Rescues often adopt out well-adjusted hamsters too, who have been properly socialized by their foster parents. If your hamster is already well used to human hands, you may find you want to skip over some of these steps. Always go by your hamster’s behaviour. If they want to play, don’t hesitate to see if they’d like to hop on your hand for a treat! If they’re scared and hiding behind things, or obviously frightened, leave them be for a bit longer. In the first few days try not to fiddle with their habitat while they get used to it.
Just like people, it’s best if you introduce yourself to your hamster. I advise my adopters to stick a bit of toilet paper in their sock/sleeve/bra and after a couple of hours, give it to the hamster to nest with. Due to their poor eyesight, hamsters primarily use smell. They’ll get used to your scent and learn you’re not a predator. I also like to sit by my hamster’s cages and talk, even sing to them. That way they get used to your voice, and know when they hear it, to not be afraid.
Is through their stomach! Syrians especially love treats. For taming, I recommend using “high rewards” – things that are a bit smellier, and a really good quality treat. Some fruit and veg, cheese, walnuts and sunflower seeds all work very well. First try holding it between thumb and forefinger and offering it to the hamster. Stay nice and still! Your hamster should come over and investigate the treat, then take it from you. If you are nervous, especially about being bitten, I recommend using a pair of gloves. The more confident you are, the more confident your hamster will feel! Once you have your hammy taking treats from your fingers, try putting the treat in your palm. Encourage them to walk onto your palm to take the treat. Everyday, try something a little more, maybe even stroke your hamster’s back while they eat the treat! Try to be consistent, and remember that if you are feeling confident, so will your hamster.
Young hamsters especially can be very nervous and jumpy when being held. When you’re just getting to know each other, consider scooping your hamster up with two hands to hold them. If your hamster is still very nervous, something like a snuggle sack will work very well. Add a couple treats to the sack, and let the hamster climb in. Snuggle sacks also eliminate the risk of your hamster leaping from your hands. As your hamster becomes more and more used to you, you might find that they climb onto your hand of their own will. This is great!
Using the bathtub is a great way to continue taming your critter. Make sure it is dry, and lay down a towel and put in some toys. You can then put your hamster in the bathtub to run around. I like to sit in the tub with them, and let them climb over my legs and feet. This is a great way for your hamster to get to know you in a safe, contained environment. You may find some species, like Chinese hamsters, do not prefer the open space. Play this by ear.
Keep trying, and don’t feel disheartened if your hamster takes a while to become friendly. Some hamsters, especially pet shop hamsters, are never handled as pups and can take a little longer. I’ve spent a few months taming up some hamsters. That being said, some hamsters may never become tame, and may prefer to live their life out as “look don’t touch” hamsters. That is totally fine, and they can live happy lives! I recommend that owners provide a larger habitat for hamsters like this, and fill it with toys! It’s amazing to watch what hamsters get up to. Just know that you’ve given your hamster the best life possible, and you should be proud!
Some owners and breeders may choose to tame in more of a direct method. For example, SBH prefers to use a neck bonding pouch filled with treats. This allows her to move the hamster around and have them get used to you easily. Others may do something similar with a snuggle sack. At the end of the day, a lot of it is finding what works for you and your hamster. We wish you the best of luck. And remember…
You may not spend your whole life with your hamster, but they will spend their whole life with you. Make it count.