To make handling and taming easier, there are a few simple rules to follow to make sure your hamster is not stressed before you start handling.
A hamster's diet should consist of dried food, nuts and seeds but they are also omnivores which means they can't resist the occasional juicy mealworm.
Hamsters are crepuscular which means they are more active at twilight and they sleep during the day.
Hamsters are colour blind.
Taming requires time and patience. Don’t rush through the steps, and take time to get to know your hamster and respond to its cues. The key here is to earn your hamsters trust, so it can be sure that it has no reason to be afraid of you. Remember, if you push your hamster too far, too fast, it will be stressed, and it will actually be harder for you to earn its trust. Be sure your hamster is not stressed by any of these steps before moving on to the next one:
Step one: allow your hamster time to become comfortable in his or her new environment. Signs include your hamster eating, drinking, exploring and playing when you are present.
Step two: spend more time around your hamster’s cage and quietly talk to it to get it used to your voice. Don’t know what to say? Try reading a book out loud or singing softly to your hamster!
Step three: offer some favourite treats (try sunflower seeds, or mealworm or dried fruits) by hand. Start by offering treats through the bars of the cage (if you have a wire cage, otherwise just offer them right at the edge of the cage door), and once your hamster scurries over for treats, try putting your hand just inside the cage. Don’t try to touch your hamster — let it come over to explore your hand.
Step four: place the treat on your open hand inside the cage, so that your hamster has to reach onto your hand, and perhaps place a paw or two onto your hand to get the treat. Again, don’t force the issue — let your hamster come to you.
Step five: place the treat so that your hamster has to climb on your hand to get the treat. Once your hamster is bravely doing this (and only then) try to gently scoop up your hamster and lift him or her up within the cage. The first few times your hamster will likely jump right off, but just be gentle and persistent, and eventually your hamster will realize your hands are safe.
The time for this progression varies, especially depending on the age of the hamster and its personality and previous experiences. Your hamster may quickly accept being picked up, or it may take a month or more.
The best way to pick up a hamster is cupped in the palm of your hand with the other hand over its back to prevent it jumping off your hand (and possibly getting injured). Especially at first, it is best to hold your hamster just above your lap or some other soft surface in case it falls or jumps. As your hamster gets more comfortable, let him or her crawl from hand to hand and over your arms. You can continue to offer treats, though your hamster may not be as interested in treats where there are more interesting things to see and explore.
There may be a time you need to pick up a hamster that isn’t hand tamed yet, especially when it is time to clean the cage. If you need to pick up a hamster that isn’t yet tame, place a cardboard tube on its side in front of the hamster, and gently herd the hamster into it. Out of curiosity many hamsters will walk right into the tube. Place your hands over the ends, then this can be used to safely move the hamster without causing it to become stressed.
Gloves or a towel can be used if you must pick up a hamster that bites and the tube method isn’t working. The problems is that this can be really stressful and cause your hamster to resist handling even more. If it is necessary to use this method, take extra care to be as gentle as possible.
Tip: if you need to clean the cage of a hamster that isn’t tame, or want to have an untamed hamster out of the cage for exercise, try a clean, dry bathtub. Make sure the drain is plugged, and close the bathroom door and the toilet lid (just in case your hamster is a super jumper, but most hamsters can’t get out of a tub). Place the hamster’s cage in the tub, open the door and let the hamster come out to explore (this won’t work if you use an aquarium). Use treats if necessary and lots of cardboard tubes and hiding places to explore to entice your hamster out. Once it is out, take the cage out of the tub to clean it, then put the cleaned cage back in the tub with the door open, and use treats to entice your hamster to get back in.
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