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I purchased a Roborovski hamster on the 19th. I let him roam his cage and get comfortable for the first four days before attempting to handle him. As an aside, his current housing is too small and I believe it's causing him distress.

Onto the main topic: I can successfully hand-feed him from my fingers and palm and he will walk into my hand. The problem is that, if I let my hand linger in the habitat or allow him to walk into my hand, he will begin to gnaw at my skin. I fear I may have trained him to associate my hand as food, or I am startling and upsetting him.

He has solid food and chew sticks, but doesn't seem very interested in the sticks. If this behavior is caused by a need for protein in his diet or stress, I'd like to know what I can do to help the little guy out.

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Well, dwarf hamsters can be quite nippy, I'm sorry he's nibbling on you. Hamsters have a pretty good sense of smell. I would recommend washing and rinsing your hands thoroughly before handling. They can smell things you've handled including food, or his food and that can lead to bites. Also, you've only had him since the 19th and your hand is much larger than he. These rodents are territorial and he may see your hand as a threat to his habitat. The more you handle him gently, the more he will learn to trust you in his space. Also, once a week move his things around... His toys, chew sticks, food bowl, water bottle and hut. This will desensitize him to change and being more protective over ONE specific item or area of his cage, lowering the chance of cage aggression. Good luck!

Oh, in addition for food and habitat recommendations: I don't endorse any specific food but I know Oxbow food for hamsters and Kaytee FortiDiet Pro are good foods. Most stores should also carry a mouse/rat/rodent block food... They are square/rectangular-ish shaped and are quite hard (especially in comparison to a seeded diet). Mixing in the blocks with his diet will add nutrients, a different texture and something hard for his teeth to help in grinding. I never encourage owners to purchase wire cages because it can be harmful if your hammy, squeezes loose, gets stuck in the bars or decides chewing on the wire is fun. The upside to wire is the amount of airflow to remove close proximity ammonia smells (unhealthy for Hammy's respiratory system). BUT a ten gallon tank with a wire top (not plastic, for the airflow purpose) will keep him contained, and the size is plenty big for a robo.

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Here are notes from the petsmart website

"Lifting & Handling: Handle your dwarf hamster gently -- scoop her up in both hands and hold her with cupped hands so she'll feel safe and secure."

I don't have a Robo hamster, but have had other pets....and one of the things i've learned that I don't think pet stores emphasize enough is how important it is to have an environment that is stimulating for your pet.

I had a cat that used to nip at me a LOT. Once I added a cat tree, a window perch and took the time to throw around a cat toy for a little while each day, the cat became much more loving and happy and stopped biting me! I think he was trying to tell me something(!)

I just found these tips for hamsters:

https://www.woodgreen.org.uk/pet_advice/553_hamster_enrichment

Since you mentioned his housing may be too small, I would start there and then make sure to add some interesting things he can climb and explore so he doesn't get bored. I think he will thank you!

I hope things get better for you and your hamster. Just my two cents! :)

  • I like what you added about how to pick him up and stimulation! Great input @SPC228 I upvoted your answer because I think it's super important for viewers and hampster owners to learn this! – Christy B. Jun 8 '17 at 16:26

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