As much as we might love our hamsters, the truth is that you can’t expect your new pet to act like a human being, as much as they might seem like they are, when they’re using their hamster toys. Animals do not appreciate being picked up all of the sudden or taken out of their tubes (if you’d like to read our article on that, check it out here) and some might have personalities which do not allow them to stand being handled by humans as easily as we might think.
The truth is that every hamster that bites has a reason behind doing so. Most of the times, it deals with the animal not being comfortable enough. Your hammy can feel uneasy in his or her enclosure anyway, especially if things aren’t right, so if you decide to wake him up and more, take him out of his space just like that, you might end up with an unpleasant surprise.
Why do hamsters bite?
As a former hamster parent myself, I can attest to the fact that a hamster will bite when he feels threatened or when he’s being picked up without any preamble. My best friend used to come visit me while I was growing up, and I had the sweetest hamster who up until that point had never bitten anyone (myself or my parents).
But one day, my friend decided to take the hamster out of his cage without me being there and she did so too quickly — she didn’t even give him time to become accustomed with her scent. And naturally, the hamster did the only thing he thought would defend him from her ‘attack’ – he bit her. So, the simplest answer to this question is that hamsters bite people when they are afraid.
It’s very difficult for an overly enthusiastic pet lover to try to refrain from interacting with animals at an entirely different level than other people would. Hamsters do not have an aggressive nature, especially those that have always lived in captivity and have always been handled by people working in pet stores, for example.
Leave your hamster to get used to you before starting to pick him up. Don’t pick your hamster up right after getting him or her from the pet store because you haven’t been included in that select number of people that he or she is used to, at least not yet. It could last for up to a week before he gets accustomed to living in a new cage and to having no other hamsters around.
Let’s consider that hamsters are often kept together in the enclosures you see in pet shops and you’ll understand that this is going to be a pretty big change for your little friend. New cage, new bedding, new smells, and a new human who wants to interact with the hammy? Isn’t it all a bit confusing?
Be patient and take it slow. Since the vast majority of hamsters aren’t aggressive anyway, you can put your hand inside the cage and just leave it there without doing anything to alarm the hammy. It’s very likely that he’ll want to know what’s going on and come to give you a sniff or two.
Understand that every hamster is different
Just like not all dogs like lamb or salmon and some are fussier than others, the same goes for hamsters. We all know that they don’t actually ‘like’ to bite and they do it because it’s a sort of a self-defense mechanism, but some are just more or less friendly than others. I thought my own hamster would never bite anyone, and yet it took for something to happen in order for him to feel threatened and he did.
Schedule your training sessions
Since hamsters are more active from the evening and well into the night, they will naturally have more energy when you come back from school or work. That’s why it is highly recommended that you schedule your training sessions so that they’re always in the evening. This will ensure that your hamster is receptive to new experiences a lot more than he would be in the middle of the day.
Persistence is the key to building habits and this is true for humans and animals alike. If you hold training sessions every evening, your hamster will get used to you faster and he’ll look forward to them (especially the treats).
Call your hamster by his name and talk to him daily
There are many videos on YouTube and everywhere else on the Internet that will advise you to name your pets in such a way that the sounds of the consonants or vowels appeal to them. If you get a hamster that’s a girl and use a name for her ending in ‘y’ and pitch your voice high as you call her, she will get out of her hiding place and come to greet you. It’ll take time for it to happen, but it will.
By the same token, it would be good to choose a name where you have a group of consonants that attract your hamster’s attention. Saying ‘Ritzy’ time and again over a period of several seconds will definitely get your hammy to want to know what’s going on. And if you do this every day, he’ll recognize your voice and the sounds you make as you’re getting ready to take him out of the cage.
Use the right treats
If your hamster has become comfortable enough to come to you, you should give him several treats such as seeds, pieces of carrot, or broccoli.
Never startle your hamster as you put your hand in the cage. If he’s anywhere near your hand, make sure to introduce it into his space slowly and make sure that the treat is visible and easily reachable. Bribery will get you anywhere with a hamster and with other types of pets, too.