Hamsters can become tame enough to play with their owners with time, patience, and handling. Before that happens, you must build the hamster’s trust and prove that you’re not a threat.
To play with a pet hamster, provide an exercise wheel, tunnels, foraging and chew toys, a sand bath, and DIY cardboard games. A snuggle sack allows you to hold the hamster indirectly, enabling it to grow accustomed to your appearance and scent before you progress to direct contact.
Many hamsters are uncomfortable with human interaction because they’re prey animals. If that’s the case, place the hamster in a fully enriched playpen and watch it without making any sudden movements.
What Do Hamsters Like To Play With?
Hamsters require mental stimulation, thriving when provided with toys. As active animals, hamsters grow bored, so they enjoy having access to various playthings and boredom breakers.
Hamster balls are unsafe. They restrict their senses, causing fear and confusion because they can’t escape. Exercise balls also risk foot, leg, and toe injuries due to the small gaps the limbs can slip through.
Hamsters enjoy playing with the following toys and accessories:
Hamsters enjoy running through tunnels and hiding inside them. As prey animals, tunnels make them feel safe and secure, especially when placed around an open room during a free-roaming session.
Tunnels replicate the burrows hamsters create when they have access to deep bedding. You can encourage hamsters to start burrowing by placing tunnels into the bedding and exposing an entry point.
When providing tunnels and tubes for your hamster to play with, ensure they’re wide enough to accommodate their shape and size. Syrian hamsters need a 7 cm or more diameter, while dwarves need at least 5 cm to prevent them from getting stuck.
Exercise wheels are hamsters’ main enrichment, keeping them physically and mentally healthy.
Without an exercise wheel to run on, they become bored and develop stereotypies caused by stress, such as bar biting and monkey barring.
Owners should provide their hamsters with an exercise wheel in their enclosure and give them access to one during a free-roaming session.
The wheel must be 28cm in diameter for Syrian hamsters and 20cm for dwarf species. Anything less will cause their spines to curve, resulting in long-term spinal issues.
Flying saucers are a fun alternative to traditional exercise wheels.
They’re an additional toy rather than a replacement for wheels because they’re flatter, encouraging hamsters to run at an angle.
Flying saucers take up a fair amount of room, so they don’t need to be a permanent feature in the hamster’s cage. However, they make a fun toy for your hamster to play with while it free roams.
Hamsters enjoy playing with foraging toys, which are a great way to get hamsters to work for their food. Seeds and nuts are good for foraging toys because they’re hard and dry.
You can make a simple foraging toy at home: stuff a wicker ball with treats. This encourages hamsters to forage for the goodies inside, providing them with mental stimulation as they attempt to get them out.
According to The Jackson Laboratory, hamsters have open-rooted teeth that never stop growing. Providing gnawing toys that hamsters can chew on keeps their teeth short and offers mental stimulation.
Natural materials replicate the items hamsters find in the wild. Wooden chew toys, such as organic apple sticks, are the best kind for hamsters to play with.
Hamsters enjoy playing with cardboard items. They enjoy chewing, shredding the cardboard, and tearing off small pieces to get hidden seeds, nuts, and other treats.
You can make DIY cardboard toys using the following materials:
- Cereal boxes.
- Toilet roll tubes.
- Paper towel tubes.
- Thick corrugated cardboard.
Cut out small pieces and place food items inside to encourage hamsters to play with the cardboard. Cardboard toys are good for keeping their nails and teeth filed down to an optimal length.
Live Science explains how sand is a natural substrate for hamsters. Hamsters originate from desert regions, so providing a sand bath is essential.
Hamsters need sand to clean their skin and fur of excess oils, dirt, and debris, and they receive stimulation from rubbing, rolling, and playing in it. Hamsters enjoy exploring different textures.
Incorporating a sand bath into your hamster’s enclosure is essential.
How Do Hamsters Like To Play?
Here are how hamsters like to play:
Inside Their Cage
Hamsters are happy to play with the exercise wheel and toys inside their enclosure. This applies to hamsters that aren’t yet tame or those of a nervous disposition.
Timid hamsters need toys and accessories to play with to prevent boredom and remain mentally stimulated. In time, your hamster may feel comfortable enough to play with you.
Hamsters that have gotten used to their environment enjoy free roaming. This involves having unrestricted access to their environment, with all gaps and cracks covered to prevent them from escaping.
Some owners prefer to put their hamsters in a playpen or bathtub to keep them safe. They can play in a new, mentally stimulating setting by placing a wheel and other accessories for hamsters to explore.
Tamed hamsters are happy to interact with their owners by allowing them to hold, cuddle, and stroke them. Some hamsters fall asleep on their owners once they’ve finished playing.
What Fun Things Can You Do With Your Hamster?
There are many ways to entertain hamsters during playtime, such as:
Teach A Hamster Tricks
You can train a hamster to do basic tricks with time and patience. Starting with a few of the hamster’s favorite treats, try encouraging it to do the following:
One of the easiest tricks to teach a hamster is to “stand.”
Holding the treat slightly out of reach above your hamster’s head, firmly (but not too loudly), say, “Stand.” Your hamster will instinctively stand on its back legs to reach the piece of food.
Once the hamster stands, reward it with a treat and use a cheerful tone to congratulate it. This may take a few attempts to get right, and it’ll work better if your hamster is hungry.
Once your hamster has gotten to grips with the stand trick, you can move on to “jump.” Follow the same steps and move the treat up higher, saying “jump.”
A hamster will need to stretch higher to reach it, although it is unlikely to lift its feet off the ground. Again, reward and congratulate it if it manages to grab the treat.
“Roll over” is another fun trick, but not all hamsters will get the hang of it. Place a seed or nut on your hamster’s back and tell it to “roll over.”
You can also direct it using your finger. If the hamster manages to roll, give it the treat and keep repeating the trick until your hamster rolls over without a treat.
Create a Maze
Hamsters explore miles of terrain in the wild, so the mental stimulation mazes provide prevents boredom and improves cognitive function.
You can make a fun maze out of a cardboard box and large cardboard strips or popsicles that act as separators. Try changing the maze occasionally to challenge your hamster.
Hiding treats for the hamster to find is a fun variation of hide and seek.
Fresh fruits and vegetables work well as they have a smell, encouraging hamsters to seek them out. Place them in a dish in a hidden part of a hamster-safe room and allow it to sniff out the treats.
If the hamster isn’t yet comfortable being out of its cage, you can sprinkle seeds and nuts over the enclosure and watch it gather food, storing it in its cheek pouches.
Put Your Hamster in a Playpen
Allow the hamster to play in a safe environment by setting up a playpen or bathtub with lots of fun accessories, such as:
- An exercise wheel.
- Cardboard tubes.
- Bendy bridges.
- Climbing frames.
A hamster will enjoy having a different space to explore. Add accessories and playthings it doesn’t usually play with into the playpen to give it something new and exciting to entertain itself.
What Do Hamsters Like To Do With Humans?
The best thing for owners to do during playtime is to quietly watch their hamsters, ensuring they don’t escape or come to any harm.
Some hamsters don’t mind being stroked and petted for a short time, but they must be allowed to get away and hide if they feel threatened.
If you’d like to interact with the hamster, hand feed it some treats, being careful not to make sudden movements. You can also hold your hand out to see if the hamster will step on it.
You can hold and interact with your hamster without biting you or jumping out of your hands by placing your hamster in the snuggle sack.
How Long Should I Play With My Hamster?
Before building trust with your hamster, limit playtime to 15-20 minutes per session. Spending time outside the comfort of their cage can be a scary experience at first.
Once the hamster starts to get used to you and its surroundings, you can gradually increase play sessions to an hour or more, depending on what the hamster is comfortable with.
Many hamsters enjoy playing and exploring their wider environment, so they may even require longer play sessions than this.
As long as your hamster has access to food, water, and safe hiding spots it can retreat to if threatened, you can play with it for as long as you like.
When Should You Play With Your Hamster?
The best time to play with a hamster is when it wakes up. It’s unfair to wake a hamster up to play before it’s ready, as doing so will negatively affect its sleeping pattern.
Not only can waking a hamster to play too early affect its mental well-being, but irritated hamsters are likely to bite and claw to defend themselves.
As well as waiting until the hamster’s woken up to play, let it acclimatize to its surroundings and find something to eat and drink. Once the hamster starts running on its wheel, it’s ready to play.
Providing interesting enrichment is the best way to encourage a hamster to play with you. Move at your hamster’s pace and never force it to do so, as this will make it scared of you.