Why Is My Hamster Scared Of Me? (Easy Solutions)

Why Your Hamster Is Scared Of You

Most people who adopt hamsters do so for the companionship they offer as pets. But if your hamster is scared of you, you may see your dreams of that special bond slipping away. Most hamsters will overcome this fear through patience and the use of a few simple solutions.

Why is your hamster scared of you? There are a number of reasons your hamster may be afraid of you, including:

  • They may not yet trust you
  • They are in an unfamiliar environment
  • They encounter an unfamiliar smell
  • They were woken up or startled
  • There is a new pet in the house

Though hamsters are naturally fearful, there are steps you can take to lessen their uneasiness. Read on to learn more about hamster psychology and ways that you can mitigate the fear your pet is experiencing so that you can move on toward a healthy, fulfilling relationship.

Causes And Solutions For A Hamster That Is Scared Of You

Cause: You Don’t Have A Relationship With Them

If your hamster is relatively new, she will more than likely be afraid of you, and this is 100% normal. It has been ingrained into your hamster for thousands of years to be uneasy around potential threats, and to a hamster, you are a potential threat.

Not only are you many times larger than your hamster, but you are also many times taller, and a significant number of a hamster’s natural predators will attack from above.

It’s no wonder your hamster doesn’t want to come out from her hiding spot when you approach her cage – she doesn’t know if you are safe or not, and as is the case for most prey animals, it’s better to be safe than sorry. 

Solution: Spend Time Earning Your Hamster’s Trust

It will take time to earn trust, and it is very important you treat your pet with respect and patience during this critical period of time. Allow her a few days to acclimate to her new surroundings undisturbed.

While you shouldn’t handle her during this time, it is beneficial to be in the same room – this way, she can watch you, smell you, and begin to learn that you are not there to eat her. After you’ve left her alone for a few days, go ahead and slowly introduce yourself to her.

Start by putting your hand in her cage. Allow her to approach you and smell you, but don’t yet attempt to pick her up. After a while, she may begin climbing into your hand, and at this time, you can slowly and carefully lift her out of the cage.

Leave these first few trips outside of the cage very short – you want her to know that these are just visits, and you will (slowly and carefully) place her back into her enclosure where she feels safe afterward.

You can learn more about earning your hamster’s trust here.

Cause: Your Hamster Is In A New Environment

Hamsters are not only wary of unfamiliar people but also of unfamiliar places. If your hamster is suddenly placed in a new enclosure, she will not know if there are threats that can pop out at her around every corner.

She will be cautious in her exploration, and she may become cautious with you until she feels comfortable in her home again. The same logic applies to her surroundings. If you move her cage into a new room in which she is unfamiliar, she will need additional time to acclimate before she feels safe.

Solution: Give Your Hamster Time To Adapt To Their Environment

In this situation, your best friend is time. Try to keep the environment quiet to limit her stress as she becomes used to her new surroundings. If she runs straight into her hiding place and stays there for a few hours, that’s okay; give her the freedom to do as she feels comfortable.

Rest assured that she will venture out and explore her environment when she feels she is ready. During this time, even a previously friendly and tame hamster may need space from you. Environmental stress can alter her behavior, and you may need to leave her undisturbed until she once again feels settled. 

Cause: Your Hamster May Be Scared Of You Because Of New Smells

Hamsters have an excellent sense of smell, used for both finding food and for sniffing out predators. A smell that may be negligible or even unnoticed by you may set off alarm bells for your hamster – especially if that smell involves an unfamiliar animal.

A hamster’s eyesight is quite poor, so one of the ways that he recognizes you is by your smell. If your otherwise happy hamster suddenly refuses to climb into your hands, the culprit could be your (altered) scent.

Solution: Limit Offensive Odors When Interacting With Your Hamster

Before you handle your hamster, you should make sure to wash your hands thoroughly and with unscented soap. This will not only remove potentially offensive odors from your hands but will also help to protect your pet from the spreading of potential illness.

If you have recently spent time with an unfamiliar cat or dog, you may need to take the added step of changing your clothes.

Cause: Your Hamster May Be Scared Of You If You Woke Them Up

Did your typically tame hamster just react to being woken up with a startle (or even a bite)? If so, this is normal behavior. Hamsters in the wild burrow into the ground to create dens in which they sleep during the day.

Sleeping leaves prey animals completely vulnerable, which is why they only do so when they are in an environment in which they feel protected from the outside.

In the wild, if a hamster is suddenly woken from a deep sleep, something is very wrong. This instinct is not lost for hamsters in captivity, and any hamster that is startled while sleeping will immediately be defensive.

Solution: Don’t Disturb A Sleeping Hamster

The solution here is simple – don’t wake a sleeping hamster. Wait to spend time with your hamster, clean your hamster’s cage, and replace your hamster’s feed until he is up and awake (usually in the evening). If you absolutely must wake him, do so slowly and respectfully – begin speaking softly to your hamster as you enter the room. Once he wakes up, give him a few moments before you approach the cage to interact with him.

Cause: Your Hamster May Be Scared Of You If You Have A New Pet

Hamsters are solitary animals – they don’t just shy away from potential predators but also from one another. Hamsters like to be alone, and the scent or noise from an unfamiliar animal in the home will put them on high alert.

A hamster on high alert will be afraid not only of the animal that he is smelling but also of you and anyone else that comes near him during this heightened state of stress.

Solution: Give Your Hamster Time And Keep Other Pets Away From Them

Many hamster people have other pets in the home as well, so don’t think that you have to give up the idea of having another pet if you have a hamster. Over time, your hamster will learn not to perceive your other pet as a threat so long as the other animal gives your hamster the space he needs.

If you have a cat, it will be important to keep her from the hamster’s cage. Some cats like to sit and stare, paw at, or climb onto a hamster’s cage. This is extremely distressing and threatening to a hamster, and your hamster will never feel safe in this environment.

If possible, put the hamster’s enclosure in a separate room, or make his cage otherwise inaccessible to your curious feline(s).

Why Hamsters Are Naturally Fearful

Hamsters are prone to wariness because they are naturally fearful animals. The reasons they tend toward fear are easy to understand – they are very small prey animals with few defenses, and therefore they have a large number of natural predators.

To survive in the wild, they must be on constant watch for potential threats – fleeing is their only chance at surviving an attack, and they must be ready to run at a moment’s notice. Your hamster does not, at first, recognize the difference between your living room and his natural habitat in relation to potential dangers.

So we should not be surprised to find our newly-acquired pets on high alert even in an environment that we consider “safe.”

Is There Any Hope For A Scared Hamster?

If your hamster is new to your family and is more skittish than anticipated, you may be wondering if there is anything you can do to tame her. In reality, most hamsters are fearful when in a new environment and with a new person – in fact, it would be unusual for a hamster to be outgoing and friendly from the moment you brought her home.

Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to ease your hamster out of her shell, and some of them take very little effort on your part.

Hamsters Are Fearful But Adaptable

Like most animals, hamsters are adaptable to a wide range of environments and situations. If you allow your pet the space and the time necessary to become acclimated to his new person, surroundings, or pets, he should gradually come to a place of trust and contentment.

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