While many owners can build close bonds with their pets, the smallest mistakes can leave hamsters feeling afraid. These ingrained fears are part of their survival instincts.
Hamsters become scared when you make sudden movements or attempt handling after bringing them home. If you hold a hamster too tightly, it’ll see you as a threat.
Hamsters become afraid when woken up prematurely, and a stressful environment will lead them to associate you with fear.
Don’t lose hope if your hamster suddenly fears you, as you can regain its trust and rebuild your bond. However, you’ll have to return to basics to make things right again.
Why Is My Hamster Suddenly Scared of Me?
Mammalian Biology confirms that hamsters are preyed upon by larger animals, such as birds of prey and foxes.
That’s why they’re always highly alert regarding larger creatures. However, if your already-tamed hamster suddenly appears scared of you, there’s a high chance you’ve done something to upset it.
The following are scared hamster behaviors:
- Biting or nipping
- Teeth baring and chattering
- Freezing in place
- Forward ears with puffed-up cheek pouches
- Startled jumping
- Standing on its hide legs
- Frequent hiding and burrowing
- Compulsive behaviors
- Hair loss
- Increased salivation
- Muscle tremors
Hamsters become scared of their owners for several reasons, such as:
1/ Sudden Movements
Hamsters always remain on high alert for predators, so you must move slowly around your hamster.
Sudden movements make hamsters jump. If you move too quickly, you’ll frighten your pet hamster into running away from you and hiding.
You can regain your hamster’s trust by slowing down your movements to prove that you’re not a threat.
2/ Holding Your Hamster Too Hard
Hamsters are small and delicate creatures, but they move fast and are wriggly, especially if they want to escape your grip. While you’ll need to keep hold of your hamster, it’ll develop a fear of you if you squeeze or hold it too tightly.
A spooked hamster will also retaliate by biting you, which will be painful due to its strong, ever-growing incisors.
3/ Woke Your Hamster Up
Hamsters are crepuscular, which means they sleep during the day. Because their waking routines are the opposite of ours, it’s tempting to wake them up to play.
However, waking your hamster prematurely will cause it to feel threatened, and it’ll do anything to get away from you. Hamsters feel safest in their burrows and hideouts, so you mustn’t disturb them when resting or hiding.
4/ Environment’s Too Stressful
Your hamster may be suddenly scared of you, not because of anything you’ve done, but because the environment is too stressful.
The most common stress triggers include:
- Loud noises
- Other animals
- Prolonged exposure to bright lights
- Small children
- Frequent full cage cleans
Even the smallest changes to your hamster’s environment can result in fear, which they will imprint onto you. Don’t make too many changes; maintain a peaceful environment to minimize stress.
5/ Large Size of Humans
Hamsters are far smaller than humans. Let it settle for a few days when you bring your hamster home.
The moment you get your hamster out of its cage, your size becomes even more apparent, causing it to become scared.
You must initiate the taming process before getting too close to your hamster, or else it’ll see you as a large predator.
6/ Bad Experience
Bad experiences cause fear. For example, did you recently drop your hamster while holding it? Or did you accidentally knock it during out-of-cage exercise time?
While accidental, your hamster will remember unpleasant incidences such as the examples shared and will become wary of you until it knows it can trust you again.
Hamsters have strong instincts. While they can suddenly become scared of their owners (and sometimes without warning), this is more often than not due to their overpowering instincts.
If you can’t see an apparent reason for your hamster’s unexplained fear, give it time. Your hamster will eventually come around, but it’s best to start the taming process from the start to solidify your bond.
Why Does My Hamster Run Away from Me?
Hamsters run away when they feel threatened. It’s their first instinct to protect themselves; they’ll do this by running to a hiding spot. Your hamster runs away from you because you pose a threat, even if you don’t mean to.
To stop your hamster from running away from you:
- Move slowly, and don’t rush while interacting with your hamster.
- Never chase your hamster, or it’ll see you as a predator.
- Keep each interaction short to start with until your hamster feels more comfortable.
- Get the hamster on your side by providing it with treats.
- Stay at close to the ground as possible whenever your hamster’s out of its cage.
- Don’t loom over it.
Hamsters also run away because they’re busy exploring their environment.
As long as your hamster doesn’t jump at your presence or attempt to bite you every time you pick it up, it’s highly likely that it’s having fun and scoping out its surroundings.
How to Bond With a Scared Hamster
Most hamsters can overcome a minor scare. However, as mentioned, if your hamster appears skittish all of a sudden or your new hamster is very nervous, you’ll need to go back to basics to rebuild your bond.
Follow these steps to find out how to tame a scared hamster:
Place Your Hand In the Enclosure
Before handling your hamster, let it sniff your hand to get used to your scent.
Hamsters are sensitive to smells because they have a well-developed olfactory system. As Physiology & Behavior describes, they can process odors within the first few days of life, giving them an advanced sense of smell as adults.
Don’t grab your hamster during this time – wait until it knows who you are first.
Offer Your Hamster Treats By Hand
You can bribe your hamster by feeding it its favorite treats. Hamsters are food motivated and respond well to fresh fruits and vegetables with a strong smell.
Start by providing them in your hamster’s dish a few times a week, then eventually work up to offering them by hand. Don’t overdo it, though, as your hamster is at risk of putting on too much weight.
Gently Pick Your Hamster Up
Once your hamster starts accepting food from your fingers, you can attempt to pick it up.
Slowly approach your hamster and wait until it walks up to you before attempting to scoop it up. You can also pick your hamster up by gripping it around its stomach and chest.
Allow Your Hamster To Explore
The taming process can be slow, so ensure you offer your hamster plenty of exercise time to keep it healthy. You’ll need to exercise caution when getting your hamster out, so be slow and gentle with your movements.
How Long Will It Take My Hamster To Get Used to Me?
All hamsters are different, so the process can be as short as five days and as long as six weeks.
It takes time, effort, and patience to get them to become comfortable. Even then, your bond is something you must work at. Handling your hamster once a day, even for a few minutes, will help it realize that you’re not a threat.
Hamsters are naturally fearful creatures because of their vulnerability to predators. Owners must provide a comfortable, quiet environment while moving slowly around them.
Any sudden movements or noises will cause your hamster to become spooked.