Taming is something that can take time and patience but can be very rewarding when it happens. Many hamsters are not hand tame when you get them. They are easily frightened - they are prey animals so this is instinctive with strange people and hands. They can also "ping" if you try and pick them up - which is wriggle free and leap 2 feet in the air simultaneously. Quite an amazing feat. The danger with this is they can fall and hurt themselves, so do any hand taming low down, over cushions perhaps and/or in a safe area like the dry bathtub or a secure playpen area. Note: Bathtub taming can work well for Syrians, but for smaller Russian Dwarf Hamsters, Roborovski's, and Chinese Hamsters, it's better to use the playpen method.

There are different methods for taming a hamster that are recommended in various places, but the key is - familiarity and knowing your hamster. Most hamsters can be hand tamed fairly easily - for some it may take a couple of weeks, others it may take a few sessions over 2 or 3 months. But there are some hamsters who may have had a bad experience with hands before you got them and these are the most frightened of hands. It's possible to tame a hamster like this gradually usually but they may never be that happy about being handled.

Fear of being bitten

It's rare for hamsters to bite - they only usually bite if they are frightened or in pain. They are not naturally aggressive creatures. Occasionally a hamster may give a nip (not a bite) just to let you know something - eg you are holding them a bit tight, or they're out of their comfort zone (eg being held up in mid air for too long! Which is not recommended anyway in case they jump). Another time they might give a nip is if you put your hand inside the house where they're nesting when they're asleep - also not recommended! This is just a reflex action to being woken and not knowing what's in their cage.

But most hamsters don't bite. We human owners can initially be a bit nervous about handling a hamster - but the hamster is just as nervous - so take it gently. If you feel nervous and are worried about being bitten (it doesn't usually hurt that much but can make you jump and drop the hamster) then - wear gloves at first.

So below are tips to taming hamsters who can't be hand held straight away or who ping or are nervous or scared.


1) Do the taming out of the cage not in the cage. There are many articles that suggest offering food on your hand in the cage - this might work for some but for many hamsters they just don't like you putting a hand in their cage, as that's their territory. They may run away. Out of the cage they behave differently as they feel less territorial and more interested in the space and new things.

2) Start with familiarity. For the first two or three days they should be left alone in their cage, to settle in, find their bearings, build a nest and scent mark everything. But during this time you can talk gently to them through the bars or through the cage. This way they start to become familiar with your voice and scent. Another tip is to have your scent on their nesting material. For this, take a few sheets of plain white toilet paper and put them up your sleeve or inside a bra eg and leave them there for a couple of hours. Then tear the sheets into strips and put the pile of paper strips in the cage near to, but not inside, the hamster's house (hamsters like to forage for their nesting material and sort the inside of their house out themselves!). That way the hamster is associating your scent with their most favourite and safe place - their nest.

3) Move on to offering the odd treat through the bars of the cage - eg a pumpkin seed. So they get used to you being there in close proximity and taking something from you - while still feeling secure inside their cage.

4) If the hamster shows signs of wanting to come out of the cage in the first two weeks, then let them out into a secure area. For a bit of a play but keep taming sessions to a minimum in the first couple of weeks. It can take them 10 days to 2 weeks to fully settle into a cage. Once they have their behaviour changes noticeably and they seem much more confident and tend to be out more and have developed routines and favourite items. So if they don't come to the cage door wanting to come out in that first two weeks, then just carry on with the treats through the bars and talking to them.

5) If the hamster is still not showing signs of wanting to come out after 2 weeks, then get them out in a tube or hamster ball.

The Ball method:

Hamster balls aren't recommended for their intended use, but one thing they can be useful for is transporting a hamster safely from one place to another. So if your cage or cage door is large enough you can just put the hamster ball inside the cage near their house, with a smelly treat in it (eg cucumber) then when they hop in, just pop the lid on, lift them out in the ball. Then carry them carefully in the ball to the area you've designated as safe to let them out for taming - eg a playpen or dry hamster bath tub. Set the ball down, take the lid off and the hamster will come out and explore. Have a few toys in the taming area - eg a tube or two and a hidey place. Cardboard tubes and tissue boxes as hides or a mug on its side are fine. If you use toilet roll or kitchen roll tubes, slit them down one side so they expand and so the hamster can't get stuck (this is more for Syrian hamsters).

The tube method:

Similar in that you put a tube in the cage near the house with a smelly treat at the far end and when the hamster goes in the tube, you put both hands over the ends of the tube and lift the tube out. It's not safe to carry a hamster in the tube like this though, they may feel scared and trapped if left in there or may push at your hand and make you jump and you let go instinctively. So you need something next to the cage to put the tube down in straight away. Eg a cardboard box (make sure the sides are high enough) or you could then use a hamster ball - put one end of the tube in the hamster ball, keeping your hand over the other end, and when the hamster walks into the ball, pop the lid on. And repeat as above. It's a good idea to leave the ball in the taming area on its side, as sometimes hamsters will hop back into it as a signal they've had enough and want to go now. If using a box to transport the hamster, wait till the hamster goes back in the tube inside the box and do the same thing of hands over each end of the tube and lift the hamster from the box into the playpen area.

Once the hamster is tame there will be easier ways of getting them out but they often like to walk into a tube to come out - or a favourite cosy hide that's used for out of cage time (Fuzzbutts Mini snooze cubes are good for this - if you hold the second entrance closed!).

But initially a new or baby hamster will be easily scared so the less drama in getting them from the cage to the playpen, the better, so as not to set back familiarisation and taming.


Once the hamster is running around in the taming area, let them explore for a bit and then gently stroke them on the back with one finger occasionally - perhaps two or three times in a session - while they're sitting or running about. If they "ping" or jerk round as if to bite or see you off, then wait a bit and try again. If you're nervous they might bite, then instead of using a finger, use an old toothbrush to gently give them a single stroke - until they get used to it and stop pinging or jerking round. Often, if it's in the bathtub, hamsters will slither up and down the sides as if trying to climb out and that can be a good time to give them a light stroke on the back.

With the first session you may not progress much. Do the stroke two or three times, let the hamster have an explore and then pop them back in the cage.

Daily taming sessions might be a bit too much at first as the hamster will still be wanting to feel secure in their cage and keep their habits in there, so every 2 or 3 days for a taming session is good (unless the hamster is showing they are keen to come out).

Second Session: Do the same again - the light stroke on the back 2 or 3 times with a finger or toothbrush. By this session the hamster should be accepting it. They are becoming used to it and not feeling it's a threat. So this time they may just carry on slithering up and down the side of the bath or walking around and not jerk their heads round or ping. This is big progress! It might not seem like it but it is. The Hamster is accepting touch.

Next session move onto - put your hand flat on the bottom of the bath, palm up and just leave it there. Let the hamster run over it as it's running around but don't try to lift it or pick it up. After the hamster has run over your hand a few times, start to gently raise your hand a little as the hamster walks on - but still let the hamster walk off. This can take one or two sessions. Just raise your hand about 1cm and let the hamster walk off. The next time raise your hand a bit higher and still let the hamster walk off. This is more good progress. The hamster knows your scent and doesn't see your hand as a threat.

Next session do the same again but move onto letting the hamster walk from one flat palm to the other flat palm 2 or 3 times. Not too much. Then move onto holding the hamster in one hand and letting them walk onto the other flat palm then off again. Some people suggest tunnelling your hands and letting the hamster walk through the tunnel hand to hand. This doesn't always work with some hamsters who resist and find it frustrating. Easier just to hold them in one hand and let them walk away onto a flat palm - and then just pick them up and handle them gently as normal or on your knee out of the cage if they are fully tame by then.

Fully tame is - not pinging or running away, and allowing you to pick them up and not bothering about it.

As with playpen taming below, during these sessions you could also get into the bathtub with the hamster - letting the hamster out of the ball after you're in. So they can run all over you and become familiar with you and have a degree of handling them while they're on you at the later stages. If doing this though, it can be an idea to have another person there - and keep your arms away from the edge - or the hamster can run up your arm and jump out. Another person could put their hand or arm in the way to block this. This is perhaps easier done in a larger playpen area - although a larger area has its pros and cons.


This is very similar to bathtub taming above. A secure playpen area is needed - it will probably be larger than a bathtub (or wider at least) so easier to sit in without being too close to the edge. Everything else is the same as above. But as it's a larger area it can be more difficult to do the initial stages of stroking with one finger - that's probably best done in the bathtub with taming sessions in the playpen later.

A good sized playpen is approximately 120cm by 80cm or 100 cm square. You can buy ones that come apart for storage or make one - there are various tutorials for making them.

The same size playpen is suitable for all species of hamster, but for tiny Roborovski's or dwarf hamsters, you might just want to use a very large cardboard box instead initially while taming - if you can find a very large box! And they're not as easy to store as a fold down playpen. They can run just as fast as Syrians though (faster even perhaps) so still enjoy a good sized playpen.

Check out on the forum to see what other members have for playpens and what they recommend.

Once your hamster is hand tamed, it's easier to do health checks, weigh them etc or transfer them to a pet carrier if they need to go to the vets at some point.

Happy taming! The key is - patience - some hamsters will take longer to hand tame than others. But the results are worth it. New owners can find it frustrating when they just want to pick up their hamster and handle them and not have them run away - but it can happen quickly - or it can take longer. The main thing to remember is - the hamster needs to learn to trust you - they will learn to trust that you handle them gently, not roughly, and that your tone of voice is friendly.

Once a hamster is tame in this way you can enjoy having them on the bed or sofa for example and know they won't just speed off and escape - they won't resist being picked up and moved back to where you want them (if they look like they're thinking of jumping off eg).

A Note about Chinese Hamsters:

Chinese hamsters can be particularly shy and skitty at first and can need specific taming advice, so please post on the forum for advice, where we have some experienced Chinese hamster owners.