Can You Tame a Hamster?

by Britt
Photo credit: Savchenko Ruslan0212 /

With their adorable miniature size and curious eyes, it is no wonder that hamsters have become popular pets. But don’t let their size fool you… These little guys can be a lot to handle.

Realizing that their adorable little pocket pet is prone to biting, many new hamster parents have one key question: Can you tame a hamster? Is it possible to build a close bond and relationship with this new tiny friend?

The answer is yes!

With patience and a few simple techniques, you can build the trust needed for your hamster to not only be comfortable being held but to enjoy it.

Keep reading to discover the secrets of training a hamster, from creating the ideal environment to offering tasty treats. Start building a solid relationship and special memories with your hamster today.

Do Hamsters Like to be Held?

While I wish I could give you a black-and-white answer, the truth is that it depends. Just as some dogs love to be held while others are more independent, the same can be said about hamsters.

Some hamsters are overly affectionate and love being given that kind of attention and physical affection. Others may be more resistant. This could be because they are nervous about being held and haven’t been tamed, or they have a more independent personality and simply prefer to be left alone.

There is no way to know if your pet will warm up to being held without putting the time into taming them and seeing how they respond. Pay careful attention to your hamster’s body language. If you are working through everything outlined below and they still aren’t interested in being held for any length of time, they may be trying to tell you that it just isn’t their cup of tea.

Do Hamster Bites Hurt?

This is a common concern among new hamster parents, especially if you are considering a hamster for your child.

Like most rodents, hamsters have little teeth that aren’t likely going to do much damage during a bit. However, the lack of lasting damage doesn’t mean it won’t hurt – especially if the one on the receiving end is a young child.

Luckily, hamster bites can easily be prevented with a combination of boundaries to keep children safe and training to build trust and acceptance with your hamster.

How Do Hamsters Show Affection?

Learning to read your pet’s body language is the key to opening the door to communication. This means familiarizing yourself with the signs that they are happy and comfortable as well as the signs they are stressed or anxious.

If your hamster is comfortable around you, you may see them stretch and yawn as if tired. This is their way of telling you that they are relaxed. When they stop to groom themselves, they are comfortable and confident enough in their surroundings that they can stop nervously monitoring their surroundings and focus on something else.

Hamsters who have bonded with their people learn to recognize their scent and voice. When you reach into their cage to bring them out, a tame and affectionate hamster may come to you happily rather than being reactive or trying to escape. However, this isn’t always true, as some happy, tame hamsters are also shy. You know your pet best.

How Long Does It Take to Tame a Hamster?

Taming a hamster cannot be done overnight. Instead, it is a gradual process of associating your presence with happy, positive things that can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a few months.

It may be tempting to rush the process, especially if you have a young child who wants nothing more than to bond with their furry family member. But moving too quickly could undo all your hard work, sending you back to the beginning or even turning your hamster off being held altogether.

Photo credit: New Africa /

Process of Taming a Hamster Step-By-Step

The following steps summarize how to slowly introduce your presence in a way that creates a positive association. While this will work with most hamsters, some pets never warm up to the affection and attention we want to show them—and that’s okay! Like people, some are introverted and uninterested in spending too much time with others. It is just their personality.

Pay careful attention to your hamster’s body language when working through these steps. Don’t move on to the next step until you see they are completely comfortable at the current step.

Step One: Hang Out at a Distance

The first step is to introduce the sound of your voice and your scent. At this stage, you won’t be trying to touch your hamster or even opening the door. Instead, spend some time near the cage just talking calmly to your hamster while the cage walls offer them a sense of security and safety.

This may seem like a waste of time, but introducing these factors at a distance will reduce the chance that your hamster may feel overwhelmed when you move on to the next steps.

Step Two: Open Cage Doors and Treats

When you can see that your hamster isn’t bothered any longer by having you nearby, try leaving the door open, allowing them to come out and explore at their own pace. Place treats just outside the cage door, allowing them to venture out and take them without moving closer or trying to handle them. Choose a small and highly enticing treat, like Vitakraft Drops with Strawberry Treat for Hamsters.

Each time your hamster takes the treat, wait until they move away from that spot to replace it and repeat the process.

As your hamster builds confidence, coming out of the cage and helping themselves to the treat with you sitting near, move the treat closer and closer to you. This step could take days, but don’t be discouraged. Remain patient and focus on working up to the day they will confidently walk right up to you to take a treat directly in front of or beside you.

Step Three: Hand Feeding

Rather than placing the treat on the table beside you, lay your hand flat on the table, palm up, with the treat on your hand. This means your hamster must step onto your hand to claim their prize. Try holding your hand slightly off the table as their confidence grows, requiring them to step up onto your hand.

Try to hold your hand as still as possible early in this stage. Any movement could startle or upset your hamster, setting you back. You should also avoid closing your hand, as that could quickly trigger anxiety and fear.

Step Four: Introduce the Second Hand

Now that your hamster will willingly climb into your hand to collect their treat, you can introduce your second hand into the equation. When your hamster is in your hand, try moving your second hand closer, working up to being able to touch and stroke their back gently.

Try to be intentional when considering your movement. A hand coming down towards their back from above could trigger fear of being trapped or confined. A hand moving too quickly towards them can be startling, creating anxiety. Instead, try moving your hand slowly and gradually forward from the side where they still feel safe and can escape if needed.

Step Five: Bring Them Closer

Is your hamster comfortable climbing into your hand and being gently touched? Now, you can introduce movement. When your hamster is in your hand, slowly bring them closer to you. Do this while sitting near the ground to lessen the distance they would fall if they get scared and jump out of your hand. I also recommend padding the floor for their safety, placing pillows or a big fluffy blanket on the ground between you and the cage.

When you bring your hamster closer, bring your hand up to your chest or your lap, somewhere that will offer a safe and secure space for your hamster to step out of your hand and explore. Allow them to walk around, sniff you, and learn they can be with you while still feeling safe.

Make sure to keep offering treats during this process to continue creating a positive association.

Tips and Tricks for Successfully Taming Your Hamster

As I have already mentioned, there is no guarantee that your hamster can be tamed. However, there are steps you can take that will increase the likelihood that you will see success working through the above steps.

Create a Comfortable Home Environment

One of the first considerations is to provide your hamster with an environment that makes them feel safe, secure, and comfortable. Introducing a potentially stressful experience like being held when your hamster is already stressed or anxious is a recipe for disaster.

Ensure your hamster has a large enough cage or aquarium to call home. In addition to offering the basics (food, water, bedding), always include tunnels, tubes, or other structures they can use as a hideaway when feeling nervous.

Keep Voices Low

I stressed the importance of speaking calmly to your hamster during the first step, but this should be considered at every stage of the process. Loud, boisterous voices can be upsetting and increase stress and anxiety.

This also applies to speaking around your hamster outside of training times.

Place your hamster’s habitat in a room free from excessive noise or activity. This includes loud voices (especially if you have screaming, excitable children) and loud noises like televisions and radios. Some ideal options include a bedroom, office, or corner away from the main living area. However, be warned: They are nocturnal (or crepuscular; there is still much debate) and can often keep people awake with their movement at night. A bedroom may not be the best solution if you're a light sleeper!

Limit Interactions with Children and Other Pets

Another potential source of stress you have complete control over is the presence of children and other animals in their lives. If your hamster lives day to day worrying about possible predators around them, they won’t settle into their habitat comfortably regardless of how big or well set up it is.

If you have a multi-species household, this is very important! Limiting other pets' access to your hamster will reduce stress and the risk of an accident or injury.

Choose Training Times Strategically

Do you like being woken up to do anything? Likely not – and the same can be said for your hamster! When deciding when to work on taming your hamster, choose a time when they are already awake and moving about their habitat.

Due to the fact they sleep most of the day, this likely won’t be mid-day. Instead, they are more likely to be awake and receptive to training first thing in the morning before they have settled in to sleep for the day or in the evening after they have woken up.

Final Thoughts: Can You Tame a Hamster?

Whether you are considering adopting a hamster or have already brought a furry friend into your home, it is common to wonder if you can tame your pet to be held.

Like dogs and cats, the answer will depend on your hamster’s unique personality. Some hamsters learn to thrive on affection from their human family members, while others prefer to be left to live a more independent life. The only way to find out where your pet falls on this spectrum is to start taming your hamster and watch for queues from their body language.

Taming a hamster is a slow process to avoid upsetting or overwhelming them. Allow their comfort level to dictate the speed. Begin by spending time near the cage, introducing your smell and the sound of your voice before trying to handle them.

Just as many professionals encourage using positive reinforcement and counterconditioning to help build confidence in a dog, the same can be used with your hamster. Place treats just outside the cage with the door open and allow them to approach you. Work up to being able to hand them a treat without any signs of fear or nervousness.

The process can take weeks or even months from start to finish, but be patient. You are laying the groundwork for a special bond and connection that will allow your relationship to flourish.

Join the PetGuide community. Get the latest pet news and product recommendations by subscribing to our newsletter here.


Britt Kascjak is a proud pet mom, sharing her heart (and her home) with her “pack” which includes her husband John, their 2 dogs – Indiana and Lucifer – and their 2 cats – Pippen and Jinx. She has been active in the animal rescue community for over 15 years, volunteering, fostering and advocating for organizations across Canada and the US. In her free time, she enjoys traveling around the country camping, hiking, and canoeing with her pets.

More by Britt