When you picked a hamster as a pet you probably envisaged a little furry friend scurrying around in his cage and sitting happily in your hands whilst you pet them. However, what you’ve got, if you are reading this, is a situation that isn’t quite as pleasant.
You have a hamster that bites you when you pick them up, and you want to know how to handle them safely. You need to learn how to hold a hamster that bites.
The truth is, and I know you probably don’t want to hear this, that there is no real way to pick up, hold, and interact with your hamster that bites safely.
They are, after all, rather agile and speedy creatures that can’t be muzzled and controlled. There is, however, a light at the end of the tunnel and it comes in the shape of first understanding why your hamster bites.
Once you know the ‘why’ then you can address the ‘how to’ of changing this behavior.
Top Tip: For cage cleaning purposes you can handle your biting hamster by herding them into a corner and scooping them up in a towel.
Why Is My Hamster Biting Me?
The most common reason for a hamster to bite is that it feels threatened. They are naturally the prey of other animals such as snakes and birds of prey, and biting is their natural defense. Hamsters do not know that you are not a predator trying to prey on them so you can’t really blame them when they take a bite.
If you have two hamsters in the same cage they will either be defensive of each other or they can fight amoungst themselves and you could get caught in the middle.
Read our article all about keeping two hamsters in the same cage. What are the pro’s and Con’s.
Hamsters may also bite in cases of mistaken identity. The eyesight of hamsters is not good, rather they rely on scent. This means that if your hand smells of a tasty morsel of food, they mistake it for one and take a bite. For this reason, you should always wash your hands before handling your hamster so no mistake is made.
Finally, but fairly common, hamsters will also bite to show they really are not happy. This could be because you have woken them up and they’re feeling grumpy, or you have startled them and they are afraid. Whatever the reason, it is always best to handle your hamster when they are awake and lively. Awake and lively means that they can recognize easily what you are going to do.
How To Stop Your Hamster Biting
First and foremost it is important to understand that your hamster will not stop biting overnight. You will need to have patience in curing this problem and be prepared to take your time getting to know them and letting them get to know you.
On first bringing your hamster home you should let them explore their new environment before you try to make friends with them. The chances are that they will not have had much human contact at the place you purchased them from and being in your home will be a new and scary experience for them.
Being left alone will allow your hamster the chance to get used to the new scents and sounds. It will help them to feel safe and secure and improve your chances of befriending them.
Housing your hamster in a small space is one sure way to get a grumpy hamster. They hate the feeling of being trapped or confined. Buy a large cage with plenty of hiding places and room to roam. We like this one by Roseood Pets. It’s big, spacious and has lots of toys and places to hide.
The Five-Week Plan for Hamsters
Once your hamster has settled in you can begin the five-week plan. This should eliminate your hamster’s biting and help you become good friends. Don’t be discouraged, however, if your hamster struggles with any of the steps. Simply go back to the previous step and spend a little more time on it. This five-week plan will explain how to hold a hamster that bites, remember to take things gently and slowly.
Week One – Start by sitting at the side of your hamster’s cage and talking to them. It doesn’t matter what you say as long as they hear your voice. You could even try reading to them or singing if you’re struggling to come up with a conversation.
Week Two – In week two you should continue the talking, or singing, but also place your hand in the cage. Be sure, however, to move slowly and to start with your hand just inside the door. Over the coming days, you can move your hand further inside but you shouldn’t try to touch your hamster. You should allow them to sniff at your hand and explore it though.
Week Three – With your hand in the cage, palm up, you can now start to offer your hamster treats. Place them on your hand and let your hamster come to you. This probably won’t happen instantly but just allow it some time and it will take the treat from your hand.
Week Four – Now your hamster is comfortably coming on to your hand for treats, you can begin to pet them. Be gentle, move slowly and your hamster will love the attention.
Week Five – As long as your hamster is accepting treats and letting you pet them you can now try picking them up. Once again take it slowly and gently and allow your hamster to decide when they have had enough. The best approach to picking your hamster up is to encourage them onto your hand with a treat. Once there you can then scoop them up with both hands and cup them as you pick them up. Do not place your hands over your hamsters back or put pressure on them as they will see this as a threat.
What’s the best way to pick up a hamster?
We like the scooping method. This is simply holding to hands either side of your hamster with your palms up and slowly bringing your hands together to allow your hamster to climb onto your palms and them gently scoop them up.
Conclusion: How to hold a hamster that bites.
It probably needs to be said that the five-week plan whilst fantastic at getting a hamster not to bite is not a miracle cure. Hamsters that are startled, feeling grumpy, or under threat may still react by biting. Care and diligence should always be foremost in your mind whenever you handle your hamster.
Finally, and most importantly, you need to always remember to have fun with your new furry friend. Constant interaction and petting and handling is key to you being really good friends. Show your hamster that they can trust you implicitly when holding them and playing with them and you’ll have a friend for life.
Q: My hamster bite me when I put my hand in its cage
A: Upgrade their cage to a bigger and better cage. Hamsters get cage territorial and feel threatened if their cage is too small.
Q: My hamster smelt my hands then bit me, why?
A: Hamsters have a great smell but poor vision. If you have recently eaten and haven’t washed your hands, the hamster will smell the food you have eaten and mistake your hand for food. This could result in them biting you. Simply wash your hands before handling your hamster.
Q: Why does my hamster bite me first thing in the morning?
A: Hamsters like many humans get grumpy when they are first woken up and can lash out and bite in anger.
Q: Can i train my hamster to stop biting?
A: Yes, Try wearing soft gloves when first handing you hamster so they get used to the soft feel. Also, tempt them with treats and to start building up the trust and bond.