Do Hamsters Like To Be Held? Read Before Trying

Do Hamsters Like To Be Held?

Your hamster is your baby, and you love holding and cuddling with him or her. But have you ever wondered if these feelings are mutual? Does your hamster even like being held and handled?

Do hamsters like being held? A hamster who has bonded with you over a period of time will very likely enjoy being held and handled by you. You can tell whether your hamster enjoys being held by observing his body language and behavior. If your hamster has not had time to develop a relationship with you and does not feel secure, he will probably not enjoy being held.

Read on for more information about your hamster’s body language, psychology, and things that you can do to help encourage a bond with your hamster.

How To Tell If Your Hamster Likes Being Held

When you first start holding your hamster, he will likely be highly alert and skittish. Over time he should begin to relax, and there is body language that he may display to let you know he is feeling calm. A relaxed hamster will usually sit calmly and will either stretch or groom himself.

These behaviors reflect that he is not feeling the need to be highly alert; he can move his focus from his surroundings to himself, which shows you that he is feeling secure.

A scared or insecure hamster will point his ears forward and will appear highly alert and easily startled. Slow your approach in this situation; you don’t want to rush him. A hamster who feels threatened may show his teeth, pin his ears back, or stand up in a “boxing” posture – you will want to back off in this situation or risk getting bitten; it would be best to try again later. 

Should You Hold Your Hamster?

If you are looking for a low-maintenance pet that you can enjoy watching through an enclosure, you may not see any reason to spend the time taming your hamster, considering she is likely perfectly content being left alone.

I would encourage you to tame her anyway, however, so that she is easy to handle when the need arises. After all, you are going to need to clean out their enclosure regularly and may need to move your hamster out of the way as you complete this chore.

It will be much more stressful for you and your pet if you have to deal with a feral hamster every time you clean the cage. Additionally, there may be a time when you have to examine your hamster for a suspected illness or injury – if your hamster is ill or injured, you won’t want to exacerbate his discomfort and stress by picking him up if he is not tamed. 

The Psychology Of Your Hamster

To understand why your hamster may be skittish about being held, it is helpful to understand the psychology of your hamster – what causes her to act the way she does and how her behavior will differ from the behavior of other pets (or even other rodents). Let’s look at two points that will affect how your hamster behaves around you.

Hamsters Are Prey Animals

Hamsters are, before all else, prey animals. Their size causes them to be vulnerable to a wide range of natural predators, including reptiles like snakes, mammals like coyotes and foxes, and birds of prey like hawks and owls.

There are a number of wild hamster species living in the dry, arid regions of Europe, Asia, and Africa. A wild hamster’s life is a perilous one – he will spend the entirety of his days hunting for food while remaining alert to all kinds of predators. He must constantly watch for movement in the brush, on the horizon, and in the air.

This level of alertness causes even the domestic hamster to tend toward shyness, skittishness, and fear. If you consider this fact in combination with how much larger we humans are than our pocket pets, it is a wonder any of them can become tame at all.

We should keep this fact at the forefront of our minds as we are working with gentling our hamsters – if we can view the world from their eyes, the understanding will make it easier for us to show them patience. 

Hamsters Are Solitary Animals

Almost all other domesticated animals would be considered social animals – naturally living in herds, flocks, packs, or any other term you can think of to describe a group of animals.

Hamsters are one of the outliers among both pets and rodents alike – rats, mice, and even guinea pigs are all highly social animals. In the wild, hamsters live solitary lives. They do not rely on one another for companionship or safety, only seeking others of their kind out for procreation. 

What this means in regards to whether or not your hamster enjoys being handled is that they don’t crave social relationships like other animals. A shy, scared dog may be enticed to come to you simply because he craves the companionship of another – the simple reward of being next to you and experiencing touch is enough for him to overcome his fear of approaching you. This isn’t the case with hamsters, and so you need to give them a little extra “encouragement” to come around (usually in the form of food). 

How To Encourage A Bond With Your Hamster

Though the hamster’s psychology does not lend itself to a natural bond with its human, that doesn’t mean that you can’t encourage and create one. To encourage a trusting relationship with your hamster, try to go at her speed as much as you can.

Before you pick her up, allow your hand to rest at the bottom of the cage, encouraging her to explore it – once she is comfortable with the presence of your hand, she may even hop into it.

Go at her pace; if it takes you two days just to get her to come to your hand and smell it, that’s okay. Progress is progress. You are showing her that you are patient and will not push her beyond what she can handle.

Once you have gotten to the point where she climbs into your hand, place both (cupped) hands in the cage. When she climbs into your hands, you can securely hold her and pull her out of the cage to you. Keep these first interactions outside of her cage short.

She will likely begin to panic as you lift her out of her safe zone – gently put her back after just a minute. You can gradually increase the lengths of these outings until she is comfortable hanging out with you for longer periods of time. 

In all of this, consider offering treats now and then, especially when you begin taking her out of her cage. Almost all rodents are highly food-motivated, and while her instincts may tell her to run away from you, you may just win her over through her stomach. 

Choosing A Friendly Hamster

Some breeds of hamsters are friendlier than others, and you will likely have more success encouraging your hamster to engage with you if you choose the breed carefully. Syrian hamsters are known to be among the friendliest of hamsters and are rather docile and easy to handle.

They are also larger, which makes them a good choice if you would like to pick out a hamster for your children. If you have your heart set on a dwarf hamster, you might consider the Winter White. They are generally more tolerant of handling and are less active than other dwarf hamsters. 

You might also consider activity level when deciding on a hamster breed. The Dwarf Campbell’s hamster, for example, is highly active and curious, spending as much as twice the amount of time exploring than the Winter White.

They are quick and agile, and can easily slip through your fingers, falling to the floor and disappearing before you know it. The Robo hamster is similarly quick and challenging to hold. You will want to take extra precautions with these hamsters, holding them in a secure location where they will not become lost if they escape. 

Hamsters Can Enjoy Being Held

Though they don’t need to be held for social reasons, a hamster can grow to like being held if they learn that it is a calm and enjoyable experience. How they are treated will greatly impact whether or not they are friendly with you, so take care to start off on the right foot if you can.

If you are purchasing a hamster as a family pet, consider being the hamster’s primary caretaker until he is comfortable with you. Then you can introduce the children to the hamster while modeling appropriate handling techniques. Just remember to try to see the world through your hamster’s eyes and be patient while they get acquainted with you.

Ready to learn more about owning and caring for hamsters? Check out my latest articles below, or go here to see my most recent articles.

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