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Do Hamsters Bond With Their Owners? [A Complete Guide]

(Last Updated On: May 28, 2022)

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

Don’t handle your 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 your hamster treats to gain its trust.

If you want to build a bond with your hamster, you’ll need to tame it. The taming process can take a while, but don’t move too quickly or you’ll risk damaging your 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. But what makes all hamsters such great pets, particularly for children, is their ability to form bonds with humans.

When tamed, hamsters are friendly animals that enjoy interacting with humans. Some hamsters even feel comfortable enough to sleep on their owners.

However, you’ll need to remember that hamsters are prey animals, so trust must be earned. As Mammalian Biology describes, they have many predators to contend with in the wild.

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

Do Hamsters Bond With Humans?     

While it’s common for hamsters to form bonds with their owners, they only form relationships with one or two people.

Hamsters have an excellent sense of smell due to their well-developed olfactory systems. According to Physiology & Behavior, they can process scent within a few days of being born.

This means they learn and recognize their owners’ scent and distinguish between the humans they’ve bonded with and strangers.

Unfortunately, some hamsters aren’t able to get over their wariness of humans and become ghost hamsters as a result. 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 your pet’s wishes and leave it alone, providing it only with food, water, enrichment, and cage cleans.

how to build a bond with your hamster

Do Hamsters Get Lonely?

Hamsters don’t get lonely. Live Science describes how most hamsters are solitary creatures, although some species, such as the Campbell’s dwarf hamster, are more social and are happy to live with other hamsters.

Loneliness is a human construct. 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 more closely without it.

To prevent your hamster from becoming bored and stressed while living alone, be sure to provide it with 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 of them enjoy it if they’re handled gently and frequently enough.

Some hamsters learn to understand that human affection equals treats or out-of-cage free-roaming time – two things that they thrive on.

They also pick up on cues associated with human interaction, like the cage door opening and the sound of their owners’ voices.

They respond to this, greeting their owners as if they’re responding to their affection.

Can Hamsters Learn Their Name?

An essential part of the bonding process is speaking to your hamster.

Hamsters are intelligent creatures, and if you say your hamster’s name with the same tone and inflection each time you speak to it, there’s a high chance it’ll recognize the way you say its name.

Hamsters don’t understand the concept of a name, but they can distinguish when their owners are communicating with them.

How To Build a Bond With Your Hamster

When bonding with your hamster, you must only move at a speed it’s comfortable with.

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

Move slow, 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:

1/ Give Your Hamster Time

Before you can start to build a bond with your hamster, you’ll need to allow 48-72 hours to get used to its surroundings before attempting the taming process. While you’ll undoubtedly want to cuddle your pet as quickly as you can, resist the urge to handle your hamster too soon.

Hamsters get extremely stressed from being transported, and it often takes them a while to feel comfortable in an unfamiliar environment. Stress precipitates sickness-causing bacteria, resulting in nasty health conditions.

Young hamsters are especially prone to stress-related diseases. If you attempt to handle your hamster too quickly, your hamster will hide from you out of fear, and it may even lash out and 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. Let them observe their new hamster from afar while you wait for the time to pass.

2/ Start Slow

Start getting 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 placing a piece of tissue up your sleeve and then ripping it up for your hamster to use as bedding in its cage.

You won’t be able to smell your own scent, but your hamster’s powerful nose will detect it – even on a thin piece of tissue paper.

3/ Begin To Offer Treats

Once your hamster appears to be comfortable with your presence, it should start coming out of its hiding or sleeping spot while you’re near the cage. This means it no longer sees you as a threat and is curious about you.

At this point, you can move on to the next stage, which is to feed your hamster treats. Open the door or lid of the cage and offer your pet a tasty treat, such as a mealworm or small piece of fruit, while holding it between your fingertips.

Try not to make any sudden movements that will scare your hamster away. Also, be careful not to overfeed your hamster treats. One or two small treats a day is fine, but any more risks obesity.

Your hamster will appear slow and tentative to take the treat from you at first, but in time, it will take the treat without hesitation. Once you’re confident your hamster feels comfortable with this, place the treat in the palm of your hand to encourage your hamster to step on to you to get the treat. Repeat this step until your hamster does this without fear.

If your hamster becomes scared at any point, move back to step two. It may be that you moved on to the next step too quickly, and your hamster needs to get used to you for a little longer.

If you have young children, supervise them at all times and encourage them to use quiet voices when they handle their hamsters. They may get bitten otherwise.

4/ Encourage Body Contact

Every time you approach your hamster in its cage, encourage it to make contact with you by placing a treat on your hand or forearm.

Repeat this process until your hamster becomes calm around you. You can then progress to gently stroking your hamster’s back and head if it will allow it. Daily handling will help your pet realize you’re its friend, not a predator.

Encouraging your hamster to walk onto your hand or up your arm isn’t only a lovely way to bond with it, but doing so makes it easier to transport it around. This is especially useful if you need to take your hamster to a vet for any reason or need to clean its cage.

5/ Move to the Playpen

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

A playpen is ideal for this, as your hamster will be able to roam without escaping into small spaces. If you don’t have a playpen, you can use a drained bathtub instead.

Place lots of tunnels and hiding spots in the playpen or tub, as large open spaces make them feel threatened and unsafe. Sit with your hamster while it plays, speaking to it softly and gently so that it knows you’re there.

Similarly, whenever you move your hamster to and from the pen or bath, scoop it up with two hands from the ground. Picking hamsters up from the ground is terrifying, as it makes it feel as if a predator is picking them up to eat them.

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. All hamsters are different, so the length depends on your pet’s personality.

It can take between 5 days to 3 weeks to build a bond with a hamster. 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. On the other hand, hamsters that have been abused or devoid of human contact will take far longer to warm up to their owners.

Why Is My Hamster Scared of Me?

As mentioned, some hamsters never bond with their owners. This is sadly common, as hamsters aren’t far removed from their wild cousins. Similarly, hamsters are afraid of humans until they’ve bonded with them.

Frightened hamsters display the following signs:

If your hamster appears scared of you, it’s likely because of the following reasons:

how to get your hamster to trust you

Unsuitable Cage

If your hamster’s cage is too small, it’ll be too stressed to bond with you. As mentioned, stress is a dangerous emotion for hamsters.

Hamsters require more space than you may think. That’s because they’re active animals, running around 6 miles a night on average. 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.

This is large enough to accommodate:

  • A wheel measuring 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 as soon as you can.

Over-Handling

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

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

Gentle stroking may be okay from time to time, but only if your pet stands still and allows it.

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.

You’re Too Noisy

Loud noises are likely to wake your hamster up prematurely, making it feel scared and agitated. We’ve mentioned the importance of using a soft, gentle voice whenever you go 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 who you are. They may also be too overpowering for your hamster’s sensitive nose.

Remember, unnatural fragrances aren’t something hamsters come across in the wild, so minimize your hamster’s exposure to them.

As long as you take it slow and follow the taming steps from start to finish, you’ll have a good chance of making a strong bond with your hamster.

The beauty of owning a hamster as a pet is the fun you have together, so be gentle, calm, and quiet at all times to minimize stress and build trust.