Handling & Bonding Guide for Hamsters
Should you keep a lone hamster or aim for two or more? The answer is: it depends on the species.
Companionship for your hamsters
How many hamsters to keep depends on their breed:
Your Syrian hamster is solitary by nature and the golden rule is one Syrian hamster to one cage. It will enjoy contact with you, but won’t get on with other hamsters.
Chinese hamsters can also can live in pairs or small groups. However, they can fall out so it is important to keep an eye out for bullying or any form of aggression and separate them if required.
Dwarf Roborovski and both dwarf Russian varieties (Campbells and Winter White) are sociable and generally love nothing more than cuddling up and playing together. However, they can fall out so it is important to keep an eye out for bullying or any form of aggression and be prepared to separate them if required. Aim for a pair or small group of the same sex – otherwise there’ll be a mini population explosion. Accommodation for multiple dwarfs is best without separate compartments, as separate areas can lead to territorial behaviour.
Bonding with your hamsters
Taming requires time and patience. Don’t rush through the steps, and take time to get to know your hamster and respond to its cues. The key here is to earn your hamsters trust, so it can be sure that it has no reason to be afraid of you. Remember, if you push your hamster too far, too fast, it will be stressed, and it will actually be harder for you to earn its trust. Be sure your hamster is not stressed by any of these steps before moving on to the next one:
Step 1: Allow your hamster time to become comfortable in his or her new environment. Signs include your hamster eating, drinking, exploring and playing when you are present
Step 2: Spend more time around your hamster’s cage and quietly talk to it to get it used to your voice. Don’t know what to say? Try reading a book out loud or singing softly to your hamster!
Step 3: Offer some favourite treats (try sunflower seeds, or mealworm or dried fruits) by hand. Start by offering treats through the bars of the cage (if you have a wire cage, otherwise just offer them right at the edge of the cage door), and once your hamster scurries over for treats, try putting your hand just inside the cage. Don’t try to touch your hamster — let it come over to explore your hand
Step 4: Place the treat on your open hand inside the cage, so that your hamster has to reach onto your hand, and perhaps place a paw or two onto your hand to get the treat. Again, don’t force the issue — let your hamster come to you
Step 5: Place the treat so that your hamster has to climb on your hand to get the treat. Once your hamster is bravely doing this (and only then) try to gently scoop up your hamster and lift him or her up within the cage. The first few times your hamster will likely jump right off, but just be gentle and persistent, and eventually your hamster will realise your hands are safe
Handling your hamsters
The more you play with and handle your hamster, the better. Confidence will rise and they’ll be happy to be handled. Don’t wake your pets up to handle them – you wouldn’t like it, and nor will they. But unlike you, they may bite out of fear.
Different species of hamster can have different temperaments and may need slightly different treatment. Both species of Russian hamster are generally sensitive, so handle them with extreme care. Roborovski hamsters are usually very active and wriggly, and could make a break for it. Chinese hamsters, on the other hand, are often docile and may sit quietly.
Never pick hamsters up by the scruff of the neck – it puts pressure on the head and eyes and can cause injury.
Did you know?
Hamsters have cheek pouches which they can use to store extra food. When their pouches are full, their head can look up to three times bigger in size!
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If you should have any concerns about the health of your pet, always consult a vet.