Last Updated on: 25th September 2023, 09:38 am
Some hamsters love to be picked up and held, while others will fight you the entire time, scrambling to get out of your hands or biting as soon as you lift them.
Touching and handling a pet hamster strengthens your bond, as teaching it to like handling is an effective way to tame it. So, why do some hamsters hate being handled?
Certain hamsters require more time than others to adjust. According to Animal Science Journal, the Roborovsky hamster is naturally less tame than the winter white dwarf hamster.
In most cases, handling issues are due to unfamiliarity, uncertainty, past abuse, and fear.
Hamster Squeaking When Picked Up
However, hamsters also squeak out of excitement. That sound will be distinct from its fear-based equivalent, but it’s easy to mistake one noise for the other.
To confirm if the hamster is frightened, see if it struggles to get out of your hands. If it does, put it down, as it’s likely trying to escape.
Hamsters dislike being held for the following reasons:
- They don’t know you yet, so they don’t trust you.
- Fear of being held too high up and falling, so hold them while sitting on the floor.
- Being held too tightly, so they feel uncomfortable.
- Stressed by another pet, strong odors, or loud noises.
- Feel crowded and overwhelmed by others.
- Interrupted from sleeping, eating, or playing.
- Surprised by getting picked up from above, mistaking you for a predator.
- They’re not socialized or accustomed to being lifted.
It takes a bond of trust for a hamster to allow you to pick it up or hold it. If you pick them up too early in the relationship or the wrong way, this can lead to a fear-based response.
Hamster Afraid Of Being Picked Up
Most hamsters start life afraid of being picked up by anything, which is an instinct that takes time, training, and trust to overcome.
Some hamsters may always be afraid of handling, especially if a previous owner mistreated them. If a hamster fell, was squeezed tightly, or wasn’t given space, it may never warm up to handling.
It’s normal for hamsters to be afraid of getting picked up when there are new people or in a new environment. If this happens, give the hamster more time to adjust.
If the hamster is already used to being picked up and is suddenly afraid, you may have scared them by being too loud, too fast, or gripping too tightly.
How To Get A Hamster To Like Being Held
With sufficient socialization, you can train a hamster to enjoy being held:
Spend Time Together
Once the hamster recognizes you, it’ll be less startled by your presence. Over time, once it associates you with positive experiences, such as treats, petting, and playtime, it should embrace handling.
Accomplish this by remaining near its cage. You can work, watch TV, or read while you’re nearby. While doing so, be calm and quiet, occasionally speaking to the hamster in a calm voice.
Hamsters don’t recognize human speech, but they learn to recognize the sound of your voice and associate it with calm, relaxing times. After a few days, this will teach the hamster you’re not a threat.
Treats will teach a hamster to associate your hand and presence with rewards. Start by placing the treat in your hand. Then, with your palm open, lower your hand into the cage and offer the treat.
If the hamster approaches your hand, remain still as it eats the treat. If the hamster avoids you, wait a few moments and leave the treat behind.
Repeating this a few times a day will teach the hamster that the hand doesn’t threaten its welfare.
Hold for The First Time
The best time to hold a hamster is during the early or late evening when the hamster is most relaxed.
During the first couple of attempts, cup your hands together and allow the hamster to come over. It’ll want to sniff your hand and fingers, so remain still and allow it to explore.
Eventually, the hamster should step into your hands. If not, move them forward and scoop them up slowly. Give the hamster room to back away.
When lifting the hamster, put one hand around its body and support its butt with the other hand. Always do this with the hamster facing toward you so it can see what you’re doing and won’t be surprised.
Stay close to the bottom of the cage so the hamster can run off your hands safely.
Then, increase the time you hold your hamster by several minutes.
Take The Cage Outside
You can take it out of the cage if the hamster doesn’t run off your hands. Put it on your lap or cuddle up beside it. Sit on the floor or hold it over a tabletop so it can’t be injured if it falls.
At this point, you can let the hamster roam. Ensure the room has been hamster-proofed, and always monitor your pet while it roams.
How To Not Hold A Hamster
A hamster’s trust can be adversely affected, and it’ll take time to rebuild. So, it’s important to be aware of the most common mistakes new owners make when holding a hamster:
- Take your time: You can’t rush a hamster into becoming tame, so time and patience are essential.
- Don’t chase or grab: Always wait for the hamster to come to you.
- Wash your hands: The hamster will sniff your hand to check you’re not a threat. It’ll also associate you with a certain scent, so keep your hands clean.
- Never squeeze: Hamsters are fragile, so hold them gently. That is why you should cup your hands when holding them; never lift the hamster by the scruff, tail, or legs.
- Don’t raise it too high: Don’t lift the hamster too high off the ground.
- Avoid disturbances: Only hold the hamster when it’s awake and active.
How To Hold A Hamster Without It Biting You
Hamsters bite when scared or stressed, so keep the following in mind:
- Don’t yell: Hamsters are easily spooked by loud noises. If you yell or shout, the hamster will associate your presence with negative experiences, shying away from you.
- Use both hands: If you cup your hands, your fingers are grouped, which makes bites less common. Also, you’ll give the hamster a more reliable and stable platform.
- Get a bigger cage: You might notice the hamster is upset when you put your hand inside its cage. This is usually when a hamster feels territorial in a too-small cage.
How Often Should I Hold My Hamster?
How frequently you hold a hamster depends on whether it’s tame. For hamsters adjusting to being held, handle the hamster at least once daily.
If the hamster seems uncomfortable, hold it no more than three times, spaced throughout the day.
Don’t force the hamster into your palms. Allow it to climb onto your hands, and reward it if it cooperates. If it refuses to be handled, give it space, or you may stress it.
For tame hamsters, handle them as often as they’ll allow. You’ll know they’ve had enough when they persistently attempt to crawl out of your hands.
Is It OK To Not Hold Your Hamster?
Not all hamsters like to be handled regularly, which you may have to accept.
According to the Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, hamsters will exhibit curiosity. You can still bond with a hamster by offering it treats, guiding it through mazes, or petting it.
Familiarize the hamster with being held, even if it isn’t a common occurrence, because there will be times when you need to hold a hamster to take care of it. For example, when taking it to the vet.