Last Updated on: 24th September 2023, 05:51 pm
Even though hamsters are fearful prey animals, they can build strong bonds with people they know and recognize. So, how do hamsters know their owners?
Due to their strong sense of smell, hamsters can recognize their owners based on their unique pheromones. Also, hamsters can recognize their owners’ voices. They’re unlikely to recognize people by appearance due to their poor eyesight, and people frequently change their appearance.
Hamsters don’t recognize their owners immediately, as they need to grow used to their scent, voice, and appearance. You’ll need to spend time with the hamster until it can identify you.
Do Hamsters Know Who Their Owners Are?
Staying safe is about identifying and evading dangers that hamsters detect in their environment.
The Journal of Neuroscience explains how recognizing individuals is essential for social interaction and organization. This relates to wild hamsters more than captive hamsters, which are primarily solitary animals, except for pure-bred Campbell’s hamsters.
Behavioral Brain Research further explains how most mammals gauge information about each other through chemosensory cues. Syrian hamsters, in particular, rely on odor cues to identify other animals.
Anecdotal evidence from owners suggests that hamsters can develop some form of recognition. However, hamsters can’t recognize their owners without socialization.
Do Hamsters Recognize Faces?
Hamsters have bad eyesight. Specifically, they’re near-sighted and colorblind. They see better in dim light, which helps them find food when they wake up, but they’re essentially blind in bright light.
As crepuscular animals, this benefits them, but it means they’re less likely to see and recognize their owners’ faces. Another thing is that humans change the way they look by:
- Wearing different clothes.
- Putting on makeup.
- Growing facial hair.
- Styling their hair differently.
This confuses hamsters, so they can’t rely on their sight alone to recognize their owners. Hamsters have other senses that work collectively to identify people.
Do Hamsters Recognize Voices?
Hamsters have better hearing than sight, as prey animals rely on their hearing to detect and avoid predators in the wild. So, if you talk to your hamster often, it can learn to recognize your voice.
Use the same tone of voice each time you talk to your hamster. It won’t understand what you’re saying, but it’ll pick up certain syllables and sounds, associating them with you.
Do Hamsters Recognize Smell?
How you smell is a more reliable form of recognition for hamsters than how you look.
Hamsters have an acute sense of smell that enables them to determine what’s in their environment, keeping them safe from predators and other threats.
When it comes to recognizing owners, hamsters can detect their pheromones. Humans sweat throughout the day, even without exercise. While we can’t detect our unique scent, hamsters can.
You may think that the perfumes and soaps you use mask your scent. However, that’s not the case, as your hamster will eventually recognize them.
However, if you change toiletries or wear a new perfume, the hamster won’t associate them with you and will see you as a stranger.
You must also be careful with what you touch before handling the hamster. If your hands smell like food or another hamster, its instinct will be to bite you.
Wash your hands before touching a hamster, and use the same soap brand so that it can recognize you.
How Long Can a Hamster Remember You?
If you’re going on vacation or leaving your hamster for a while, it’s natural to be concerned that your pet might forget you while you’re gone. However, hamsters will likely remember their owners’ scent because their olfactory senses are so well developed.
Physiology & Behaviour explains how hamsters can process scent shortly after birth. Their advanced sense of smell means their brains can detect and remember odors.
The same applies to smelling their owners’ unique pheromones and the toiletries they use.
However, if you need to leave your hamster for a significant time, you may need to initiate the bonding process again when you return.
Due to hamsters’ vulnerable position on the food chain, they constantly check for threats and dangers. Bonding is an ongoing process that’ll continue throughout a hamster’s life.
Do Hamsters Dislike Strangers?
A stranger to a hamster is anyone it doesn’t see regularly.
Your family members may see your hamster often but don’t cater to its day-to-day needs. They don’t count as strangers. People who count as strangers include:
- Friends that don’t interact with the hamster.
- Family members who rarely visit.
If a hamster comes into contact with a stranger, its first instinct will be to hide.
Confident hamsters may stand on their hind legs to determine whether they recognize the person’s scent. Hamsters that feel threatened will chatter their teeth, squeak, hiss, and scream to scare the threat away.
Coming face to face with a stranger is a stressful experience for most hamsters. While it’s sometimes unavoidable, try to minimize contact to prevent stress.
Can Hamsters Bond with Their Owners?
Some experts believe hamsters only bond with one or two people during their lifetime. That being the case, hamsters can connect with their owners with time, care, and patience.
While hamsters aren’t far removed from their wild cousins, they’re just as likely to bond with humans as other pets. However, it doesn’t happen overnight.
When you first take your hamster home, it’ll be afraid of you, even if it has been handled from a young age. It’ll spend most of its time hiding in its burrows and won’t want to come close to you. You must respect this until your hamster becomes more confident within its environment.
Spending time with your hamster will get them used to your appearance, sound, and smell. It’ll also realize that you aren’t a threat and will start to trust you. Over time, it’ll let you pick it up and hold you. Hamsters only do this with people they recognize – they won’t allow strangers to do this.
That said, not all hamsters can build bonds with their owners. While they may recognize them, some hamsters never want to spend time with people and become “ghost hamsters.” This is when they only come out when their owners are asleep, retaining many of their wild instincts.
Hamsters need more time than other pets to recognize and trust their owners. While you can build familiarity with your hamster, don’t underestimate how long this will take.