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How to Hold a Hamster Safely & Properly: Vet-Reviewed Tips

Rachael Gerkensmeyer

By Rachael Gerkensmeyer

Close-up face of Winter White Russian Dwarf Hamster on girl hands

Vet approved

Dr. Maja Platisa Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Maja Platisa

In-House Veterinarian, DVM MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Pet hamsters can be great fun to spend time with, even when you’re just watching them in their habitat. When it comes to picking them up and handling them, though, the process can seem a bit overwhelming and even intimidating at first. They are so small and fragile!

The good news is that holding a hamster safely and properly is easy once you know what you’re doing and you get a little practice in, but only do it if your hamster is used to it and enjoys it. If they do, here is a step-by-step guide for holding your hamster safely and properly.

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Preparation

It is important to make sure you thoroughly wash your hands before handling your pet hamster. Hamsters have a strong sense of smell and if they smell anything that alarms them or if they pick up the scent of another animal that you’ve been handling, they may feel threatened and try to bite you in defense. Washing your hands with unscented soap will help ensure that you don’t scare your hamster with lingering scents and that you don’t transfer any bacteria or germs to them.

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The 7 Tips for Holding a Hamster Safely & Properly

1. Get Close for Acclimation

Before picking up your hamster, let them sniff you, and get acclimated to your close presence. You can do this by slowly putting your hand in their habitat and letting it linger near them, being careful not to touch them quite yet. Let them approach you and offer treats in return. Being too aggressive or working too quickly can scare the hamster and make them fearful of future attempts to hold them.

female hand giving treat to a standing hamster
Image Credit: tanya_morozz, Shutterstock

2. Encourage Your Hamster to Get in Your Hand

Turn your hand upside down so your palm is open and showing, and encourage your hamster to climb onto your palm. If you stay still and be patient, your hamster might climb onto your hand on their own. You can try to entice them by putting a treat, like a sunflower seed, on your palm. If your hamster doesn’t want to get on your hand, come back again later and try again. After a few tries, the process should be successful.


3. Use a Scooping Method

Once your hamster is in the palm of your hand and seems calm and comfortable, gently fold your fingers up around them without totally enclosing them and scoop them up out of their habitat. It’s important to use both hands and hold your hamster close to you so you don’t accidentally drop them if they try to get away. If they do try to escape, put them back in their habitat as quickly as possible to minimize any stress that the handling is causing them.


4. Make Slow Movements

While holding your hamster, make slow movements, and be careful not to jerk around when possible. Quick and erratic movements can stress the animal and make them scared to be held. They may try to bite or jump off and injure themselves in the process. Using slow movements and staying still will help keep your hamster calm and stress-free.

girl holding roborovski dwarf hamster
Image Credit: JulieK2, Shutterstock

5. Offer a Treat

Offering a treat to your hamster while you’re holding them, at least during the first few times, will help the animal see the handling as a positive experience. If your hamster knows that they will get a treat whenever you hold them, they will start to look forward to the handling sessions and happily climb into your palm when you offer it to them. Make sure the treat is small so it doesn’t cut into their regular diet. Sunflower seeds, carrots, apples, and broccoli are all healthy treat options to consider.


6. Keep Handling Sessions Short

Even if your hamster is still and seems calm while you hold them, the action could be stressing them out, especially if they’re not used to being handled. So, for the first several handling sessions, it is a good idea to keep the sessions short. Spend just 5 minutes or so holding your hamster before slowly putting them back in the habitat again. Once you’re confident that your hamster is comfortable being handled, you can extend the handling times until you are spending as much time as you’d like with them.


7. Make Time for Handling Often

Holding your hamster on a regular basis is a great way to bond with the animal. Once they are comfortable with the process, handling can help them feel safe and secure. If your hamster doesn’t mind, you can handle them up to two or three times a day! Just do so in short spurts. Waiting too many days between sessions can also keep your hamster from getting used to the handling, which in turn, can cause stress every time you do decide to handle them.

white hamster on a person's hands
Image Credit: Leila Alekto Photo, Shutterstock

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A Final Recap

Wash your hands, take your time, let your pet hamster get comfortable with you, and then enjoy the time you spend holding your hamster. That’s all there is to it! There is no reason to be afraid of holding your hamster with the help of these tips and tricks. Always supervise teenagers and older children when they’re handling a pet hamster to ensure the safety of the animal and everyone else involved, but make sure they are old enough and understand how to behave around such a fragile animal. Young children should not handle hamsters.

If your hamster is skittish and dislikes being handled or is not keen on being held, respect that and do not force an interaction that may be uncomfortable, or stressful, potentially even dangerous if the hamster tries to jump off your hand.


Featured Image Credit: sabza, Shutterstock

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