You Are At: AllSands Home > Pets > Smallanimals > Pet hamster training tips
Hamsters are a popular choice for a child's first pet. Hamsters are interesting and inexpensive pets that take little space and minimal care as compared to larger housepets. Your hamster may live in a cage or an aquarium.

Hamsters can be trained to enjoy being handled and are naturally docile creatures. Training a hamster is a matter of gaining its trust and learning to understand how your particular hamster communicates. In training hamsters, it is best to think about life from the hamster's view. Children who handle hamsters need parents to explain a bit about what the hamster feels, what it needs, and how it may react to them. The hamster training tips listed here are based on simple attributes that all hamsters possess.

Hamsters aren't very bright. In training your hamster, don't expect the same type of training as you would with a dog. Hamsters are trained to reduce the behaviors you don't want and increase the behaviors you do want. Most hamster owners want to be able to hold and play with their hamster without it biting them or urinating on them. It is easier to teach a hamster to change something it already does than to train it to do something that is completely unknown to it.

Try to handle your hamster at least a little every day if you can. The hamster has to get to know you: the way you pick it up, how it feels, and how you smell. When you first take a hamster home, set up its cage or aquarium and give it a day of privacy to get used to all the new smells and sounds.

Initially, parents should supervise visits with the hamster. Parents are a better choice to pick up a new hamster that hasn't been handled much. Remember, the hamster will probably be scared at first. It may be necessary initially to grasp the hamster by the scruff of the neck to remove it from the cage. A hamster's skin is loose and stretchy, so this doesn't really hurt the hamster. When the hamster is used to you, you may be able to cup your hand around it to lift it out of the cage. While handling a hamster, avoid giving it fleshy parts of your hand, like fingertips, as targets. One good technique is to support the hamster with a tightly flexed hand underneath while holding it or stroking it firmly from above.

At some time during its life, the hamster may bite you. If this happens, put the hamster back in its cage and use some peroxide and/or antibiotic cream on the wound. After you've calmed down, think about what the hamster did before it bit you. Hamsters often appear more agitated or try harder to leave your hands before they bite. Your hamster may have subtle warning cues you can learn.

Why would a hamster bite? Hamsters generally bite for four reasons: fear, pain, tiredness, or to eat food. Fear has already been addressed. If you were in pain from something much larger than you, you'd bite it if that was all you could do. How long were you playing with the hamster? Visits with a new hamster should be frequent but brief. If a hamster is tired and becomes overwhelmed, it may let you know it is ready to go back in its cage by biting you. Gradually increase time spent handling your hamster so you both can get to know each other.

Hamsters don't see very well. If you smell like food and present the hamster a soft, fleshy part of your hand, it may think you are offering a treat. For this reason, it is a good idea to wash your hands before you play with your hamster. (Hamsters also can catch colds from people, and it is much harder on them than it is on us. Washing your hands helps prevent this. If you are really sick with a cold, skip handling your hamster that day.) When you start giving your hamster treats by hand, use large treats. Popcorn is easier for you to hold and for the hamster to take than sunflower seeds. Gradually offer smaller treats by hand.

Hamsters do communicate. If you try to pick up a hamster and it rapidly thumps or whirls its feet or hisses at you, it is not a good time to pick it up. Try again later. If this happens in a pet store, pick a different one. If you come near the cage and the hamster comes over and paws at the sides, it is seeking attention. If you are holding your hamster and it suddenly seems agitated, put it back in its cage. It probably needs to use the restroom or is tired of playing. Hamsters will sit up bright and alert for treats or play. Patiently earn your hamster's trust and it will reward you with affection.