The 1st attempts at contact
My preferred method of initiating the first contact is to sit on the floor with your pet’s cage in front of you. Make sure the room you are in has all doors closed and escape routes blocked in case of unexpected dashes for freedom! (The bathroom is excellent for this as it has minimal hiding places, but check whatever space for escape holes, if one is there they’ll find it!)
Open the door of the cage and attract your Hamsters attention by offering a treat or waving your fingers gently in their eye line, always introduce your hand at eye level, don’t attempt to bring your hand in from above as this will scare them and provoke a predator response (think big bird swooping down to eat you – you’d run!). Let the Hamster sniff at your fingers if they wish but do not touch them at this stage as it will more than likely startle them, it can be helpful to keep your hand still in the cage for a while to help them get used to it.. After a few nights of repeating this your Hamster will know what to expect when your hand enters their cage, they will know it’s not a bad thing as it often brings food, at this stage they may start to explore your hand or try to climb onto it. You must let them take things at their own pace, a sudden grab for them will more than likely leave you with a painful bite and reduce confidence levels on both sides.
After doing this for a while your Hamster may well now ask to come out if the cage door is open and will climb out on its own, now you can attempt to pick them up. Using both hands gently scoop them up, making no attempt to place your hands around their body, fold your arms and let him or her run over you for a few minutes, whilst they are doing this stroke their back lightly. Having a cup or bowl is useful to place them back into the cage at this stage as being grasped may cause them to jump suddenly or ‘ping’ as it is known. This is why it is very important to be as close to the ground as possible should this occur.
After a few nights of doing this your Hamster should become more accustomed to you, and allow you very gently put your hand around them and replace them into the cage, I find once they get the taste for freedom it’s usually followed by an attempt on their part to come out again straight away!
The exercise ball can be a great taming tool here, let them climb out of the cage and into a ball, let them run around for 15 minutes, and then place the ball opening against the cage to let them return home untouched, after a few times of doing this when it’s time for home let them come out onto your knee instead and gently stroke them, if they feel unhappy let them return to the safety of the ball. If you repeat this they will associate having fun running around with being touched, and once they become interested in play time they should be willing to be interacted with to get it. Another great and safe way of getting to know them is to sit in an empty bath with the cage and let the hamster explore, this helps them get to know your scent, do this for short periods at first so they don’t become scared.
Depending on how much time you dedicate to this routine your Hamster could be tame in a week or two, but never rule out a sudden unexpected jump until you have owned and handled them regularly for at least 2 months, its best not to rush this process, don’t get over confident and forget the golden rule to take things slowly.
However experienced you are at taming there is a very strong possibility you will get bitten in the process at some point, this I’m afraid is par for the course, some Hamsters are more highly strung than others, you may get screamed at, hissed at, and all manner of other tricks to keep you away, but the most important thing is not to let it discourage you, to coin an old phrase, you must get right back on the horse! Needless to say if I had a pound for every time I have felt small teeth I would be a very rich woman, I still bear the scars! Has it put me off Hamster ownership? No way!
It might seem a daunting task at first but with a little time and patience you can share a special bond with your pet. After all, a happy Hamster enjoys time out of his cage interacting with you and your family. I don’t claim to know everything and every owner develops their own way of doing things but this method has worked well for me over the years, should you choose to follow it I’m sure it will for you too, good luck…. and don’t give up!