Resource Center Menu

How to Tame a Hamster

Picking Up a Hamster

Bringing home a new hamster is an exciting time, but it can also be a bit stressful for your new hammie as they get used to all of the new sights, sounds and smells.  Giving your new companion time to acclimate to their new surroundings before handling, typically 3 – 7 days, will help make handling them a lot easier. 

Building Trust with Treats

Observe your hamster’s behavior to ensure they are eating, drinking, playing, resting and appear healthy.  As they settle in, speak softly to your hamster and try offering them a treat from your hand so that they learn that they can trust you.  Allow them to approach you and sniff your hand and treat.  As they become more comfortable, they will take the treat from your hand, and may even climb into your hand, showing that you’re gaining their trust.  You can also encourage your hamster to start climbing into your hand by slowly placing the treat further back on your palm so that they need to step onto your hand to reach it. Depending on the friendliness of your hamster, you may need to repeat this process daily until your hamster is eager to interact with you. 

How to Pick Up a Hamster

 When you are ready to hold your hamster, make sure they are awake and slowly put your hand in their habitat.  If your previous practice of offering them a treat was successful, your hamster should walk up to your hand and may even climb on board.  If they don’t jump in your hand and you need to remove them from their habitat to clean it, try scooping them up with their hideaway or the cardboard carrier you brought them home in. When you both are ready to move on to full-on handling, gently scoop them up, cupping your hands to prevent them from jumping down.  Speak softly and gently pet your hamster with your thumb, ensuring they are comfortable before removing them from their habitat.  Until you are used to holding your potentially squirmy hamster, always hold them close to your body or over a table to help prevent life-threatening falls.  Once you both get used to one another, your hamster may try walking from hand to hand or exploring as much as you safely will allow.  Continue offering your hamster treats while you hold them so that they associate these interactions with positive vibes!

Use Caution When Waking a Sleeping Hamster

If your hamster is asleep at the time you want to hold them, it is important that you wake them up first.  If you grab a sleeping hamster, you could startle them, causing them to scream or bite. This can also cause your hamster to associate your hand with an unpleasant startle, making it more difficult for them to associate being handled with pleasant experiences. Speak softly to your hamster and move the bedding around them, gently nudging them until they are fully awake.  You can also try offering a fragrant treat to rouse them from their dreams. 

Keep Calm and Carry On

Hamster personalities vary- some may want nothing more than snuggles, while others may screech or run away.  The key to successful pet parenting of a hamster is being patient and allowing them to proceed at their own pace.  Always remain calm and never punish your hamster for being afraid.  Showing your hammie that they can trust you through repetitive positive interactions will result in a companion that enjoys spending time with you just as much as you enjoy spending time with them!

Reviewed by Petco’s Animal Care, Education and Compliance (ACE) Team

Petco’s ACE team is a passionate group of experienced pet care experts dedicated to supporting the overall health & wellness of pets. The ACE team works to develop animal care operations and standards across the organization and promote proper animal care and education for Pet Care Center partners and pet parents, while also ensuring regulatory compliance.