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How Do Hamsters Bond with Their Owners?

Last Updated on: 24th September 2023, 03:51 pm

Hamsters are naturally fearful and shy around people they don’t know, but they can build strong bonds with their owners if they dedicate time to taming them.

Don’t handle a hamster for 24-48 hours after bringing them home, as it’ll become fearful of you.

Bonding with a hamster involves spending time together, giving them time to adjust to your presence, scent, and voice. Hamsters are food-focused animals, so feed them treats to gain their trust.

If you want to build a bond with a hamster, you must tame it. The taming process takes time, but don’t try to progress too quickly, as you’ll risk damaging the hamster’s trust.

Can You Bond with A Hamster?

Hamsters have interesting personalities that vary widely between genders and species.

For example, female Syrian hamsters are the most affectionate and friendly hamsters. Their ability to form bonds with humans makes all hamsters nice pets, especially for children.

When tamed, hamsters are friendly animals that enjoy interacting with humans. Some hamsters grow so comfortable that they fall asleep on you.

However, remember that hamsters are prey animals, so trust must be earned. As Mammalian Biology points out, hamsters have many dangerous predators to contend with in the wild.

As a result, hamsters see most things as a threat, including unfamiliar humans. This means the bonding process won’t happen overnight, as your hamster needs to learn that you’re not a threat.

How Do Hamsters Bond with Humans?     

While it’s common for hamsters to form bonds with owners, they only form relationships with 1-2 people.

Hamsters have an excellent sense of smell due to their well-developed olfactory systems. According to Physiology & Behavior, they can process scent within days of being born. So, they recognize their owners’ scent and distinguish between bonded humans and strangers.

Unfortunately, some hamsters can’t overcome their fear of humans and become ghost hamsters.

This term describes hamsters that remain hidden until it becomes dark and their owners have gone to bed. There’s no way to force ghost hamsters to become loving and affectionate.

Even though it’s disappointing to have a hamster that doesn’t enjoy human interaction, you must respect its wishes, providing it only with food, water, enrichment, and cage cleaning.

how to build a bond with your hamster

Do Hamsters Get Lonely?

Live Science explains that hamsters are solitary creatures, although some species, such as the Campbell’s dwarf hamster, are more friendly and happy to live with other hamsters.

While many hamsters are happy to accept human interaction, they don’t need it. Hamsters can go weeks without human interaction, although they’re likely to resemble wild hamsters without it.

To prevent a hamster from becoming bored and stressed while living alone, provide a large cage, an exercise wheel, hides, and toys to play with for mental enrichment.

Do Hamsters Need Affection?

While hamsters don’t need affection, many enjoy it if handled sufficiently and gently.

Some hamsters learn to understand that human affection equals treats or out-of-cage roaming time.

They also pick up on cues associated with human interaction, like the cage door opening and the sound of an owner’s voice. They respond to this, greeting their owners like they’re responding to affection.

How To Build a Bond With Your Hamster

When bonding with your hamster, you must move at a comfortable pace.

As mentioned, hamsters are shy and skittish when moving to a new home. If you handle your hamster too quickly, there’s a high chance it’ll see you as a predator.

Move slowly, trust the process, and don’t force your hamster to do anything it doesn’t want to.

Here are the best ways to bond with your hamster:

Give Them Time

Before attempting the taming process, you must allow 48-72 hours to adjust to its surroundings.

Hamsters get stressed from being transported, and it takes them a while to feel comfortable in an unfamiliar environment.

Young hamsters are most prone to stress-related diseases. If you attempt to handle a hamster too soon, it’ll hide from you out of fear and may bite you.

Children will be tempted to play with their new pet, but you should educate them on why it’s essential to let your hamster become comfortable first.

Start Slowly

Get your hamster used to your voice by sitting next to its cage and talking to it in a quiet, gentle tone.

This will ensure you don’t startle it when you approach the enclosure. Never shout or scream when around your hamster, as hamsters have very sensitive hearing.

You can also get your hamster used to your scent by putting tissue up your sleeve and ripping it up for them to use as bedding in its cage.

You won’t be able to smell your scent, but your hamster will detect it, even on tissue paper.

Offer Treats

Once your hamster appears comfortable, it should come out of its hiding spot while you’re near the cage. This means it no longer sees you as a threat and is curious about you.

Open the door or lid of the cage and offer your pet hamster a treat, such as a piece of fruit.

Try not to make any sudden movements that’ll scare your hamster away. Also, be careful not to overfeed your hamster treats. One or two small treats a day are fine.

Your hamster will appear slow and tentative to take the treat from you at first, but in time, it’ll take the treat without hesitation.

Once you’re confident your hamster feels comfortable, place the treat in the palm of your hand to encourage them to step up to get the treat. Repeat this step until the hamster does so without fear.

If your hamster becomes scared, return to step two. You may have moved on to the next step too quickly, so your hamster needs to get used to you for longer.

Body Contact

Each time you approach the hamster in its cage, encourage it to make contact with you by placing a treat on the plan of your hand or between the tips of your fingers.

Repeat this process until your hamster becomes calm around you. You can then progress to stroking your hamster’s back and head. Daily handling will help them realize you’re a friend, not a foe.

Encouraging your hamster to walk onto your hand or up your arm isn’t only a good way to bond together, but doing so makes it easier to transport it around.

Playpen

The next step to cement your bond is playing with your hamster outside its cage walls.

A playpen is ideal, as your hamster can roam without escaping into small spaces. You can use a drained bathtub if you don’t have a playpen.

Place tunnels and hiding spots in the playpen or tub, as large open spaces make them feel unsafe. Sit with your hamster while it plays, speaking to it softly.

Whenever you move your hamster to and from the playpen, scoop it up with two hands.

How Long Does It Take to Bond with A Hamster?

There’s no set time limit on how long the hamster bonding process will take.

Building a bond with a hamster can take days or weeks. Some hamsters take significantly longer to trust their owners and need a few months to get to know them.

Hamsters handled from a young age are more likely to respond to human interaction. However, hamsters that have been devoid of human contact will take far longer to warm up to new owners.

Why Is My Hamster Scared of Me?

Some hamsters never bond with their owners. This is common, as hamsters aren’t far removed from their wild cousins. Frightened hamsters display these signs:

If your hamster appears scared of you, it’s likely for these reasons:

how to get your hamster to trust you

Unsuitable Cage

If a hamster’s cage is too small, it’ll be too stressed to bond with you.

Hamsters require more space than you think because they’re active animals. They also forage for food and clean themselves using sand, which they spend a long time doing.

Hamster cages should measure at least 80 x 50cm, which is large enough to accommodate the following:

  • A wheel measures at least 8-12 inches in diameter for Syrians and 6 inches for small dwarves.
  • Lots of bedding, with the deepest section measuring 12 inches.
  • Plenty of enrichment, including tunnels, hideouts, and a sand bath.

If your hamster’s cage is too small, upgrade it.

Over-Handling

Attempting to handle a hamster without going through the bonding process will have the opposite effect, making your hamster feel threatened.

Until your hamster recognizes your scent, you’re the same as a predator. Don’t handle your pet hamster too much until it feels comfortable around you.

Sudden Movements

Sudden movements will also frighten your pet. That’s because they replicate the movements of a predator looking for food. Move slowly whenever you hold your hamster and handle it gently.

Hamsters can be wriggly, and while you need to adopt a firm grip to stop it from falling to the ground, you mustn’t hold your pet too tightly.

Too Noisy

Loud noises will likely wake your hamster up prematurely, making it feel scared and agitated.

We’ve mentioned the importance of using a soft, gentle voice near your hamster. However, you’ll also need to be careful not to make too much noise in your pet’s room.

Limit the following noises to stop your hamster from feeling threatened:

  • TV and radio noise.
  • Barking and meowing from other pets.
  • Children screaming.
  • Sound from appliances and large electricals.

Unfamiliar Smells

Wash your hands with a mildly-scented soap before holding or stroking your hamster.

Perfumes and strong fragrances mask your scent, making it difficult for hamsters to determine your identity. They may also overwhelm your hamster’s senses.