Does anyone have any tips on how I can start handling my Syrian hamster? I have had him for a couple of weeks now and have stroked him while feeding him, but I am finding it difficult to pick him up.

I don’t want to cause any stress to him so I haven’t “swooped in” and picked him up without him knowing. He comes to me when he hears me in the room so he can get food from us, but I am worried that he only associates me with food.

However, this must mean he is not scared of me anymore, so I am pretty sure that he is ready to be picked up! I have put my hand in his cage a couple of times to see if he comes to investigate, but after not smelling any food he returns to his nesting spot. I think it’s quite important to be able to pick him up soon because I haven’t been able to give him any out-of-cage time, which I know is very important! I also can’t get him out of the cage and into a playpen.

Does anyone have any ideas? I also wanted to add that he has bitten me before and I think am a little scared of him biting me again if he thinks I am food.

1 Answer 1


Many people who handle animals in a professional way use food as a tool to guide the animal's actions. Zookeepers lure the animals into one compartment of their enclosure to clean the other one, circus trainers use food to teach animals tricks, horseback riders offer treats simply to be friendly with the animals they work with. Being associated with food is actually desirable because it makes handling animals easier and less stressful for both you and the animal.

I would try training your hamster to walk onto your open hand. Lay your hand flat onto the bottom of the cage, palm facing up, and put a seed or tread in your palm. Then just let your hamster get the treat without picking him up. Once he learned to come to your hand, hold the treat in your other hand and lure him further onto your palm before giving him the treat. Once he learned that, you can start carefully lifting your hand just an inch above the ground and moving it around inside his cage. When he stays calm, you can lift him in and out of the cage.

If you're afraid he might bite you, you can lure and feed him with tweezers. If you're afraid he might bite your palm when picking him up, you could use some object as a "hamster elevator" instead. That could be an empty plastic container with a door cut into it, a little decorative basket, a hammock made from a piece of fabric with strings tied to all 4 corners or even something you build from Lego. Just make sure you don't leave the object in his cage or he might nibble on it.

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