Training hamsters can be a tricky business, as they can be much more anxious and more easily scared than other pets. Hamsters can be trained with patience and lots of snacks, though it doesn’t always work — some rodents simply never learn their own name, whereas others quickly associate human voices with treats. When training hamsters, be gentle, talk softly, and let them come to you rather than force them to like you. After a few weeks of training, your hamster will come running up to you just like a little dog or cat would!
EditEstablishing Trust through Food
Give your hamster a few weeks to adjust to its new surroundings. When you get a new hamster, it is very natural for them to feel anxiety and stress being in a new place. Don’t fuss over it for the first few days, just give it food and water and talk softly around it so it doesn’t get scared just by seeing you.
It is essential that the hamster gets used to your scent and the noises of the house before you continue. Hamsters are easily startled creatures, so if you try to train it while it is still getting used to everything, the process will be much more difficult.
Place a sunflower seed or other treat in the palm of your hand. You should choose a treat that you know your hamster loves. Sunflower seeds are usually a great choice, but keep in mind that these are high in fat and should only be reserved for the occasional treat. Specialty hamster snacks or fresh veggies will get their attention as well.
Wash your hands with unscented soap before and after handling your hamster, as strong odors on your hands might alarm it.
Move the treat to the opposite side of the cage to entice the hamster. With your hand at the opposite end of the cage where your hamster is sitting, slowly raise the treat up and down to get the smell of the treat to your hamster’s nose and bring their attention to the snack. Your hand’s movement should be non-threatening and slow.
Keep in mind that some hamsters – such as the dwarf varieties – will consider movements a threat and either run for safety or bite! If your hamster appears frightened by you, stop moving, and try again after a few minutes.
Let your hamster take the treat when it comes up to you. Don’t say its name yet — this exercise is about establishing trust between you and your hamster. If it knows it can get treats from you, it won’t act so defensive and will start to like you.
Try to avoid handling the hamster until it trusts you intrinsically, or you may have to start the trust-building process all over again.
Hold a treat in your closed hand after a few days of building trust. Your hamster will start to understand that you are not a threat, and will willingly come up to you to look for the snack it smells.
If your hamster hasn’t started to trust you yet, just keep trying for a few more days. After a while, it will stop biting and being skittish and will come to feel safe even with you towering over it.
Put out your hand without a treat to see if your hamster responds. If your hamster has been willingly coming up to your hand to get snacks, it probably trusts and likes you a lot more than it did the first day. See what happens when you hold out your hand without a snack — if they come to your hand, congratulations! Your hamster feels safe around you.
If your hamster doesn’t come to inspect your hand, or approach you at all, simply keep trying each day until you develop a mutual feeling of respect with the hamster. It may take several days of training with snacks and food, but eventually it will come around and feel safe around your presence.
EditResponding to its Name
Release your hamster in a small enclosed space. Make sure that your hamster cannot escape from this space. You can use cardboard to create a playpen that is too tall to jump over, a room with no cabinets or couches to hide under, or the bathroom with a baby gate up to keep your hamster in the same room as you. Make sure you can sit in this space with your hamster — this will force it to get comfortable being around a much larger creature.
Your hamster’s natural instinct will be to run away and hide anywhere it can. Look for small holes in the cabinets and small hiding spots that you can’t reach, and watch the hamster the whole time.
Use treats again to get your hamster to feel safe around you. While you are both enclosed in the same space, get some small treats, such as sunflower seeds or carrots, and place them into your hand.
If you are lucky, your hamster will trust you enough already to jump up and try to take the snacks away. Don’t let them have one until you have completed name recognition training.
Call your hamster’s name with a treat in your hand. Call out your hamster’s name while you sit across from it and let it smell and investigate the treat. Keep calling its name until it responds and comes over to you.
Only let your hamster take its treat when it successfully comes over to you after you call its name. Don’t let it just take snacks without hearing its name.
Let it eat the snack, and repeat the process for a few days. Let it take the snack, and call its name again with another snack a few minutes later. You should do this for a few days, until you feel that your hamster starts to understand the connection between your voice and food.
You can usually tell your hamster understands the connection between your call and getting snacks when it starts running over to you when you don’t say its name. You should try to reinforce its name by avoiding saying anything else around the hamster while you are training it.
Call its name but don’t offer a snack after a few days. If your hamster comes running over even when you don’t have a snack, that means it responds to your voice thinking you will have a snack. Relationships between small animals and people are mostly based on food, so by this point it recognizes that you are the provider of treats and will start to trust your voice as a source of good eats.
If your hamster still isn’t responding to your calls without a snack being offered as well, keep offering a snack every time you call its name until it associates your voice with food.
It may take several days, even weeks, before your hamster understands very basic human communication.
Let your hamster out of the enclosed space to explore a bigger area. Hamsters, like all rodents, like to explore and roam, even if they prefer to sleep and nest in a small area. Watch your hamster closely and let it have free reign of the house once you know it will come to you at your call.
If you have a particularly small hamster, look for places it can hide. It may be fine around you when you have snacks, but could go back to being anxious and skittish when it is given a place to escape to.
Never ever use hamster balls to let your hamster explore, as they are traumatic and scary for small animals. Just keep a close eye on it, as you would with a dog, so you can catch it if it goes for the trash or tries to chew up your linens.
Call its name every so often, but only give it a snack sometimes. If you trained it correctly over the course of a week or two, it should come scampering towards you. Have a treat ready every now and again so you can reinforce the association between snacks and your voice, but don’t offer snacks every time or it might get fat and greedy. Don’t avoid giving it snacks either, as the association between your voice and snacks may deteriorate with time.
Over time, offer snacks less and less until you only have to give it a few snacks a day for it to keep responding to you.
If your hamster doesn’t respond to your call, you may need to go through some training steps again, but it could also just be sleeping in a corner. Keep a close eye on your hamster so you know exactly what it is up to while it is out.
Handle your hamster delicately and talk softly so it feels safe. One of the number one ways to make your hamster distrust you is to handle it incorrectly. Don’t grab the hamster, or pick it up quickly, instead allow the hamster to crawl towards you and gently lift it with your palm open or cupped underneath it. It is more important that the hamster comes to you and accepts you than it is for you to cuddle it and smother it.
Talking in a soft voice is recommended as some hamsters are easily scared by loud noises. They generally respond well to higher pitch voice, but don’t say their name in a shrill manner or you risk scaring it as well.
Trying giving your hamster wet or dry fruits as treats, but do your research and be sure you aren’t giving it any foods that may harm its health or kill it!
Be as calm as possible when picking up your hamster.
If your hamster bites you, use gloves when handling and training it.
If you have multiple hamsters, only train one at a time. Put the other hamsters in a separate cage, or your hamsters may get confused.
Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t work in a few months or even at all. Hamsters aren’t like dogs and may just never get it. Just keep at it and try your best! But if it doesn’t work out then your hamster just may not understand human communication.
Reward your hamster with treats when training or taming it.
Never use a hamster ball to let your hamster run around the house. Hamster balls are terrifying for all rodents, because they are trapped in a small space and hear and see things in a distorted way. As cute as plastic balls may look rolling around the house, it is not a pleasant experience for the hamster trapped inside.
EditThings You’ll Need
A glove (if your hamster bites)
Set Up a Hamster Cage
Clean Out a Hamster Cage
EditSources and Citations
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