Once tamed, hamsters can make affectionate pets. Until you gain the hamster’s trust, it’ll likely respond to your presence with fear, which could involve hiding or biting if you attempt to handle it too soon.
As an owner, you need to prove to the hamster that you don’t mean it harm. Set up a cage in a quiet and warm location ahead of bringing the hamster home to help it adapt to the new surroundings.
Once the hamster has been in the home for 1-2 days, familiarize it with the sound of your voice. Wash your hands and hold them near the cage so the hamster learns to recognize your scent.
After 3-4 days, try to hold your hamster. Handle it with care, and don’t hold it too long. Over time, the hamster will seek out interaction from people who’ve earned its trust.
Do Hamsters Trust Humans?
Hamsters are a prey species, acutely aware of their place on the food chain. This means hamsters are naturally cautious around anything larger than themselves.
According to Science, men are likelier to elicit a fear response in rodents than women.
The study found that laboratory mice were reluctant to show signs of pain around male laboratory technicians, presumably because they consider them a greater threat.
This doesn’t mean hamsters will never allow you to hold them, as you can usually earn their trust.
How Long Does it Take for a Hamster to Trust You?
Forging a bond with a hamster is not something you can force or rush. While a tame hamster will welcome interaction and even allow itself to be cuddled, a frightened hamster will bite.
Some people can earn a hamster’s trust within 3-4 days. However, most hamsters will take 2 weeks, maybe longer, to confidently come out of hiding and approach humans.
Signs That a Hamster is Not Scared of You
Hamsters can’t tell you their concerns or fears, so you must observe and understand their body language to gauge their mood. A happy hamster will demonstrate the following behaviors:
- Grooming and requesting petting.
- Squeaking with excitement upon seeing you approach the cage.
- Making a cozy bed.
- Running and exercising in the cage.
- Foraging for snacks and storing caches of food.
If the hamster is happy, there’s a good chance it has learned to trust you as its owner. To be certain, you can take a chance and start handling the hamster. From here, watch for the following positive signs:
- The hamster willingly climbs into your hands and doesn’t bite you.
- Yawning and stretching in your presence suggests it’s confident and relaxed.
- Falling asleep in your hands or sleeping on you after climbing up and down your body.
Gaining a hamster’s trust is the first step of a long journey. You need to work to retain this trust and learn how to apologize if you upset your hamster.
Will Hamsters Trust All Humans?
Encourage each household member to attempt to bond with the hamster. That reduces the likelihood of stress, panic, and biting if an unfamiliar person needs to clean the cage or offer food.
A hamster learning to trust one person doesn’t mean it’ll automatically stop fearing everyone in the home. Hamsters bond to one or two people at most, only allowing these individuals to hold them.
How to Earn a Hamster’s Trust
Hamsters won’t automatically trust humans, so follow these steps:
The bigger the cage, the better, as hamsters love exploring their surroundings. Never opt for a cage smaller than 24″ x 12″ x 12″.
The location of the cage will play a big role in making the hamster feel comfortable and relaxed.
Place the cage somewhere warm (65–75°F) and devoid of draughts. Ensure the room is quiet, especially during the day while your pet hamster is trying to sleep.
Provide the hamster with everything it needs to feel at home in captivity.
Provide sufficient bedding (at least 8 inches) for digging and burrowing. Ensure the hamster has plenty of food to eat and store in its cheeks and bed.
Provide the hamster with entertainment. Provide toys, a running wheel, tubes to explore, and abrasive surfaces for the hamster to chew and file down its teeth.
Leave The Hamster Alone
Don’t immediately attempt to bond when you bring the hamster home. Let it familiarize itself with its terrain and overcome the natural stress associated with rehoming.
Wait at least three days before attempting to handle a pet hamster.
Assuming you followed the steps above, the hamster will be content exploring its new home and won’t need you to interact to provide entertainment.
Voice And Scent Familiarity
While the hamster gets to grips with life in your home, teach it to recognize your voice and scent.
Talk to the hamster in a low, soothing voice. Try singing, too. This will help the hamster realize that your voice is a natural part of its environment, not a danger.
It is even more important that the hamster learns to recognize your scent. Wash your hands with unscented soap and hold them close to the cage, but don’t place them inside.
Hamsters have a good sense of smell, and the unique aromas of your skin oils will soon be memorized. If the hamster recognizes your scent when you are close, it’ll find your presence calming.
Trust will be cemented or broken when the hamster agrees to be held for the first time. You must approach this interaction correctly, as it could make or break your relationship for some time.
The correct way to hold a hamster is as follows:
- Wait for the hamster to wake up and go about its day.
- Wash your hands and place them in the cage. Don’t put your hands right in front of the hamster, as this can cause panic.
- Wait for your hamster to detect your scent, come out of hiding, and approach you.
- When the hamster crawls into the palm of one hand, lift it slightly off the ground and gently cup it with your spare hand.
Follow these steps, and don’t hold onto the hamster for more than a few seconds.
Repeat this process numerous times, and the hamster will soon learn that handling isn’t something to fear and can even be a source of pleasure.
Avoid Unnecessary Handling
Once the hamster allows you to hold it without struggling or attempting to bite you, it has been successfully tamed. While it is great that you have earned your pet hamster’s trust, don’t attempt to handle the hamster to excess.
Wait for the hamster to come out of hiding and approach you before picking it up. If you pluck a hamster from the ground while it sleeps, it’ll respond with fear and panic.
There will be times when you have no choice but to pick up your hamster. Only handle them if you’re moving to another cage during cleaning or to assess it for health concerns.
How To Regain A Hamster’s Trust
While the memory span of a hamster is unknown, Animal Learning and Behavior stated that they retain memories of important scents. This includes the distinct aroma associated with particular humans.
If you’ve upset your hamster – potentially by handling it too much or dropping the animal while you hold it – the hamster may shy away from you for a while.
Hamsters will likely eventually forget why they’re upset with you, especially if you replace traumatic or fearful memories with positive associations.
This process will be faster in hamsters than older than one year, as Behavioral Brain Research suggests that senior hamsters, like older humans, experience difficulty retaining memories.
Hamsters will always be wary of humans, especially those yet to prove themselves safe and trustworthy.