Taming your hamster in 8 easy steps
Hamsters have not been domesticated for very long, which means they still act on the instincts they use in the wild to stay alive.
This also means they don’t automatically take to you, just because you have decided to take care fo them for the rest of their lives. Your hamster is quite unaware of this!
When you first bring your hamster home, your hamster will need some space to acclimatize to their new surroundings.
Hamsters use their senses a lot to make sense of their world and they’ll need some time to explore their cage and mark their territory.
They do this by using their scent glands. Dwarf hamsters have one of those glands on their belly while Syrian hamsters have two – one on either side of their body.
Step 1 Start by letting your hamster settle in
Leave your hamster for 2 to 3 days so they have time to settle in. You don’t want to overwhelm your hamster or stress them out.
You can talk to your hamster in a soothing voice while they’re settling in. You can also sing to them. It doesn’t matter what you talk or sing about. It’s just for your hamster to get used to your voice and to having you around. If you do this from the beginning, your hamster will accept you are part of their new surroundings.
Don’t make any loud noises or sudden movements while you are near their cage, so you don’t give them confirmation that you are a danger.
It’s also important to consider the position of the cage early on.
Don’t put the cage:
- In direct sunlight
- In a droughty location
- Somewhere that casts moving shadows on the cage (like curtains blowing in the wind)
- Near other pets
- Somewhere where lots of people walk by often. For example, near the kitchen
- Near a speaker or tv
Step 2 Get your hamster used to your hand in their cage
Once your hamster has settled for a couple of days, you can start putting your hand in their cage and move the bedding in the cage with your hand.
This serves two purposes:
- your hamster gets used to your hand in the cage
- your scent will stay on the bedding which makes your hamster get used to your smell.
Its important that your hamster gets used to your hand in their cage early on as you will need to spot clean their cage every day and replace their food and water daily as well.
Just move slowly and maybe even talk in a soothing voice so your hamster knows that you are around, especially if they are in their hideout.
Treats are going to be your best friend over the coming weeks. Make sure you choose healthy ones, so your hamster gets used to healthy treats rather than empty calories from the beginning. Of course, you will be dishing out treats left right and centre, so it will be good to give them treats which are part of their diet, such as small bits of vegetables, fruits and seeds.
Now that you have given your hamster some space to get used to you around and is now used to your scent and your hand in their cage, you are ready for step 3.
Step 3 Taming your hamster – Your hamster eating out of your hand
Now we are going to take it a step further. Now you will start to offer your hamster treats from your hand.
Always interact with your hamster when they are awake, NEVER wake them up from their sleep. Not only will your hamster not appreciate it, but your training is also likely to fail as your pet will not be cooperate at all.
So, when your hamster is awake, put your hand in the cage and offer a treat, holding it out from between your thumb and index finger.
Your hamster needs to be able to reach the treat easily and quickly by just scooting forwards for a second without having to touch you.
If your hamster takes it – great- you’re one step closer to taming your hamster. Practice this step for a couple of days and then move to step 4.
If your hamster is not sure of you yet, then place the treat on the floor and remove your hand. Wait for them to take it before offering food from your hand again.
Keep doing this until your hamster trusts you enough to take the food from your fingers for a couple of days in a row.
Work with your hamster. Don’t rush it and move calmly and quietly. Talk softly to your hamster and don’t make any sudden movements.
It’s all about winning your hamsters trust and letting them know you’re not a threat, but rather a provider of treats.
Step 4 Taming your hamster – climbing on your hand
Once your hamster is confident to take treats out of your hand, you can put out your hand flat, with treats on it. Seeds work well as they are easy to grab by your hamster. You want to put some food on your outstretched fingers and some in the palm of your hand.
You will find that if your hamster feels brave enough to get close to the treats, they will take them from your fingers rather than the palm of your hand. Always keep your hand still when your hamster is around.
Once your hamster starts to trust you enough, they and start to put their front feet on your hand to get to the treats on the palm of your hand after the treats on your fingers are eaten.
Once your hamster stands on your hand completely you know you have won a lot of their trust. Make sure to keep your hand still and don’t be tempted to grab your hamster to give it a cuddle. You are still in the taming stage, and you need to go follow through the rest of the steps first.
So that jubilant shriek you will want to let out when you feel your hamster little claws on your hand for the first time……. that will need to be a silent one!
Again, keep practising.
All hamsters have their own personality, and some hamsters are tamed really quickly while others take longer.
Keep showing your hamster that you can be trusted. That you are a source of treats and that you cause them no harm.
Once your hamster stands on your hand to get the treats, you can put treats further up your arm, or if you’re sitting down, on your legs so your hamster gets used to being on you.
The goal of taming your hamster is of course to be able to hold your hamster.
There are several further steps to take before that.
Step 5 Taming your hamster – Preparing for lifting
When your hamster climbs onto one hand, you will need to put both your hands in the cage and put food on both your hands for your hamster to climb onto.
The reasons why we do this, is to make sure your second hand is already near, rather than a big scary hand/shadow coming towards your hamster when they’re not expecting it.
You will need both hands both for petting and for cupping your hands for lifting and carrying your hamster.
You can put your hands further apart so your hamster has to climb onto both, and you can start slowly moving your hands around the cage, so they get used to movement of your hands.
Once that is ok, you want to lure your hamster onto your hands and slowly cup them when your hamster stands on your hands. Only cup your hands for a couple of seconds, then flatten them again. Keep repeating until your hamster is used to it.
Once your hamster accepts your cupped hands you can make small slow movements up and down while cupping your hands. Remember to go back to the base position which is the flat hands.
Another thing you can practice at this stage is putting one hand around your hamster’s body, so they get used to that feeling as well. Just put your fingers on one side and your thumb on the other side of their body as if you were to lift them up. Keep your fingers there for a couple of seconds and release.
Step 6 Lifting your hamster
There are two ways to get your hamster used be being lifted.
If your hamster is not keen on your cupped hands yet, you can put some treats in a small tube, like a toilet tissue roll and once your hamster is inside, close both ends with your hands and slowly lift your hamster up and down.
However, if your hamster is fine with cupped hands, then you can slowly start lifting your hamster up and down or walk around with him in cupped hands.
Make sure you are not scared of a little nip and open your hands and drop your hamster!
Again, slowly does it as being lifted is a strange and strong sensation for your hamster, and it might take a little while before your hamster is happy with this.
That doesn’t mean you can’t start on the next step, as some hamsters never enjoy being picked up or lifted but will accept it and are ok with being petted.
Step 7 Petting your hamster
To get your hamster used to being petted, you can use a little brush – like a soft toothbrush – as this is softer than your finger. Your hamster might initially flinch and be scared, so keep it brief.
Keep your hand close to the ground or lift your hamster into a little petting box with bedding in.
Once he’s used to the brush, use your finger softly and eventually use several fingers to stroke your hamster. Always stroke in the direction of the hair growth. If their fur stands up when you stroke them, you will need to move your fingers in the opposite direction.
Step 8 holding your hamster in one hand
So far you have pretty much tamed your hamster. But it will be very handy if you can pick your hamster up anytime, rather than waiting for your hamster to climb onto your hand.
When your hamster is standing on your hand, slowly and softly place your fingers and thumb around your hamster’s body. Keep your fingers in front of their back legs and behind their front legs. Now that your hamster is used to being lifted in either cupped hands or in a tube, they are used to the movement. You have already practiced putting your hand around their body and do little lifts. Now all that is left, is combining these and lifting your hamster out of the cage in one hand.
Being able to pick your hamster up like this is very useful so it’s definitely something I recommend practicing.
We have talked about taming your hamster in 8 simple steps, however there is an advanced training options you might find really useful but which most hamster owners don’t practice.
You might want to train your hamster to be turned over onto their back. Not many hamsters will let you do this as their belly is exposed when you do so. Again, put your hand around your hamster’s body, but this time put your index finger on their head, so this finger supports their head when they are on their back.
This is very useful for doing health checks. But as it’s very forced and makes your hamster incredibly vulnerable, I would only ever recommend doing this when taming has gone smooth and speedy. It’s handy for you but not pleasant for your hamster. So, if you tame your hamster enough to turn them over, only ever do it when doing a health check and only for a couple of seconds at a time!
Mixing up steps when taming your hamster
Steps 6, 7 and 8 on how to tame your hamster don’t necessarily need to be practised in order and can be combined as well as your hamster is used to you more at this stage, than when you started taming them.
However, still take little steps and practice often. Keep your hamster’s wellbeing and stress level in mind rather than your aims to tame your hamster quickly!
When taming your hamster does not go to plan:
It could be that your hamster is not progressing at the speed that you would like or is very stressed and agitated during training.
There are several things which could influence the progress in taming your hamster.
While working through the steps, always follow your hamsters lead and go at their comfort level. If your hamster seems stressed or agitated, consider the following things:
- what time of the day are you trying to train your hamster? Have they just woken up? Have they already eaten? Or are they due to go asleep? Change the time and see if that works better. As hamsters are most active during dusk and dawn, this might be a good time to train. When they are awake and hungry looking for a nice snack.
- Do your hands smell? Have you just petted another pet? Or have you touched other food? Wash your hands with soap before training your hamster and see if that makes a difference.
- Can you take the lid of the hamster cage? Trying to fit one or two hands into the cage can be a stretch. While you need to make sure your hamster has a large living space, many cages are on the smaller side. Remove the top if you can, to have better access, otherwise create a safe area outside the cage to which your hamster has free access (when you are around) and train when you find your hamster wandering in there. This could be a little pen or an open box.
- Are you expecting too much? Remember, your hamster might be tamed in days, or it could take months. Whatever stage you get to, stay consistent and enjoy the time you are spending with your hamster. They are lovely pets regardless of how tame they will become.
With calmness, perseverance and consistence you’re likely to be able to tame your hamster by following the above steps!
Conclusion Taming your hamster in 8 easy steps
There are 8 steps to taming your hamster:
- Let your hamster settle in
- Get your hamster used to your hand inside their cage
- Get your hamster to eat out of your hand
- climbing on your hand
- Preparing for lifting
- Lifting your hamster
- Petting your hamster
- Lifting your hamster with one hand
When your hamster is easy to tame and progress goes smoothly, you can practice turning your hamster on their back when holding them in one hand. This way you can do a quick health check. However, most hamsters will never let you do this as it leaves them very vulnerable.
Always follow your hamster’s lead. If they are scared, stressed or not progressing, slow down. Move back a step and check if you can change your approach. While most hamsters can be tamed, some hamsters never take to it. Either way, enjoy spending time with your hamster pet!
We hope this article on taming your hamster in 8 simple steps has been useful for you.
Good luck! And let us know how you are getting on with taming your hamster!
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