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5 Ways to Bond with Your Hamster
Owning a cuddly furball like a hamster seems like it should involve plenty of love and cuddles. However, before you can openly handle your hamster without them getting scared, you will need to put in a bit of time and work.
You must bond with your hamster to get them to trust you and feel comfortable being close to you.
Before you do anything, it is essential to realize how intuitive animals are when sensing human emotions. Do not try to rush it or feel impatient as you work with your hamster. Instead, be slow and kind, and pay extra attention to how they seem to feel during each step of the bonding process.
Start from the beginning and work your way to the more involved portions. Follow these steps to build a bond with your hamster.
1. Ensure that you have met your hamster’s needs.
The first aspect to bonding with your hamster is also the most important. You must make sure that all the hamster’s living requirements are met and preferably exceeded. Your hamster will not be able to live a healthy, satisfying life if they do not have the materials to do so.
Start with their enclosure. There are multiple styles of hamster cages that you can purchase, each with its pros and cons. The critical aspects include:
Although they are small creatures, hamsters are mentally active and enjoy having enough space to move around and explore. They should get toys and a wheel to exercise, and the cage should have a deep enough bottom that they can burrow into the nesting material below.
The typical recommendation is that your hamster’s cage should be at least 2 square feet.
Once you find a high-quality cage that will suit your hamster well, it is time to select the perfect place for it in your home. It shouldn’t be in a drafty area or one with direct sunlight, but instead, the ideal place is one that stays between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
It is also best to put your hamster in a quieter area. These creatures are nocturnal animals and will not be as healthy if they are frequently disturbed during the day.
- Pro tip: Cover their enclosure with a light cloth for a couple of days to give them time to adjust to their new surroundings without feeling overwhelmed by the unknown outside world.
2. Place your hand near your hamster in their enclosure, but don’t grab them.
Most animals, including hamsters, are much more sensitive to smells than we are as humans. They associate some smells with safety and others with danger. You need them to associate your scent with security, so they are comfortable being close to you.
Start by placing your hand outside the mesh or wires of their enclosure. Do not get so close that they could reach you yet. Allow them to sniff you or simply become accustomed to you being near.
You could also take a piece of fabric from an old sweater or shirt and place it in their cage, so they get used to your scent near them.
When it seems like your hamster feels comfortable with you being around, try to dip your hand into their enclosure. Do not be the one to approach the hamster first. Put your hand inside and let it be still.
If they feel comfortable, these naturally curious creatures will come up for a sniff and explore this intriguing new object.
If this doesn’t happen right away, give it time. Try dipping your hand in multiple times when they are awake so they will steadily get used to you being there.
- Pro tip: When frightened, hamsters can bite quite hard. Do not ever sneak up on them or try to handle them when they are asleep. It will make an unpleasant surprise for both of you.
3. Offer health treats to your hamster from your hand.
Once it seems like they are warming up to you being so close, bribe them by offering healthy treats. If you have learned that they favor a specific type of fruit or vegetable, offer one of their favorites.
Do not do this every day, since too many treats can cause health issues in hamsters. These creatures are prone to obesity, and their bodies do not easily digest the sugars found in many fruits.
Just give them little pieces of fruit. Start by putting them in their food dish so they know what is on offer. Work up to holding it in your hand so they will eventually have to grab it from you to get it.
4. Try to pick up your hamster gently.
Once they get to this point, the hamster is likely comfortable with you being close. It is time to try and pick the fluff ball up for the first time. Approach your hamster slowly. Hopefully, they will be at a point where they are willing to come to you or are neutral to your presence.
Pick them up safely by putting your hand around their stomach and chest. Gently scoop the hamster out of the enclosure. They might eventually learn to step onto your hand to get lifted out, but at first, you will need to make this scooping motion.
Never pick your hamster up by the tail or in any way other than by scooping their chest and stomach. If you cause your hamster any kind of pain, they are unlikely to want to continue bonding and might be afraid of you.
5. Give your hamster out-of-enclosure time to explore.
The listed process isn’t likely to take more than a week to establish with patience and persistence. It is essential to work your way through these steps in a relatively short amount of time because hamsters need plenty of exercise to stay healthy, so they should get the chance to explore around their home.
Start the out-of-enclosure time by allowing the hamster to explore and climb on you. They might run up and down your arms and legs or across your shoulders. Pet them gently while they move around so they get more familiar with your scent and associate calmness with you.
Once you have done this a couple of times for several days, let them down into an enclosed area. Hamsters are tiny and sneaky, so make sure that you can keep track of them and they cannot escape.
You can incorporate toys into this playtime, so they are not just exploring on their own but spending quality time with you.
- Pro tip: Sit with them on the floor so you are on their level, and they can try to explore around and on you as well.
Featured Image: La Mary Anne, Flickr
Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts’ knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.