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Questions And Answers

Why Doesn’t My Hamster Like Being Held?

Last Updated on: 4th January 2024, 12:33 am

Some hamsters love to be picked up and held. Unfortunately, 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?

Some hamsters need 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

When a hamster squeaks, it can sometimes mean it’s scared or upset. If a hamster makes this high-pitched sound only when you pick it up, it’s uncomfortable around you.

Hamsters also squeak out of excitement. That sound will be distinct from its fear-based equivalent, but it’s easy to mistake one vocalization for another.

To confirm if the hamster is frightened, see if it struggles to get out of your hands. If it does, put it down because 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 means 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 incorrectly, this can result in a fear-based response.

hamster squeaking when picked up

Hamster Afraid Of Being Picked Up

Most hamsters start life afraid of being picked up by anything. This instinct 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 fear being 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, moving too fast, or gripping overly 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 calmly.

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.

Special Treats

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 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 the hamster out of its cage if you don’t let it 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 monitor your pet while it wanders around.

How To Not Hold A Hamster

A hamster’s trust can be adversely affected, and rebuilding that trust will take time. So, 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 particular scent, so keep your hands clean.
  • Never squeeze: Hamsters are fragile, so hold them gently. Cup your hands when holding them, never lifting them 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 not hold a hamster

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 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 cage that’s too small.

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 show curiosity. You can still bond with a hamster by offering it treats, guiding it through mazes, or petting it.

Familiarize yourself with the hamster because there will be times when you have to do so.

If a hamster isn’t shocked by being picked up, this will reduce its stress levels when handling is essential.