How Do I Find a Lost Hamster (or Other Rodents)?

by Britt
Photo credit: Nadya Buyanowa /

Few things are as frightening for a pet parent as discovering your beloved pet is missing. Don’t panic! While finding a lost hamster (or gerbil, mouse, or rat) can feel daunting, there are steps you can take to increase your chances of a happy reunion.

These little escape artists are surprisingly good at hiding, making locating your pet even more difficult.

Luckily, their small size often confines them to predictable hiding spots. Keep reading to discover tips, tricks, and proven tactics to help you find and catch your furry friend as quickly as possible.

What is the First Thing You Should Do if Your Pet is Missing?

It's a heart-wrenching moment when you realize your pet is nowhere to be found. Take a deep breath and try not to panic!

If you know that your pet has just escaped their cage or enclosure, close all doors to keep them from leaving the room. This will significantly narrow down your search area. However, if you are unsure of when your pet went missing, there is a chance that they have slipped out of the room already.

Take a look around your surroundings and take note of any obvious places they may be hiding. Think like a hamster (a mouse, a rat, or whatever pocket pet you are searching for). Try getting down to their level to check under furniture and low to the ground spaces.

Most importantly, don’t wait before starting your search. The longer you wait, the further they can travel.

Where Would Your Pocket Pet Hide in the House?

Rodents are masters of finding small spaces and places to hide. This may make the process of searching for your pet feel overwhelming. However, there are a few common hiding places that could help you get started…

  • Blankets and Towels: Rodents love feeling warm and cozy, so blankets and towels provide the perfect hiding area. If you have any lying around, lift them up slowly and carefully in case your pet has crawled into the folds.
  • Shoes: This is another spot that provides a nesting-like environment. Check inside any shoes or boots to see if your pet has snuggled in.
  • Laundry Baskets and Hampers: If you have laundry accessible, you may want to slowly go through it piece by piece. Not only does your clothing offer a cozy place to snuggle in, similar to a blanket, but it also has enticing smells like perfumes, deodorant, soap/shampoo, and more.
  • Boxes: Do you have any boxes or bins sitting around for storage purposes? Don’t overlook these dark, quiet spaces. Like their cage or enclosure, boxes can offer a feeling of safety and security.
  • Closets and Cupboards: Another dark space your pet may seek to feel safe. Even if your dresser drawers are closed, that will not stop them from getting in. Be careful when sliding drawers open or closed in case your pet finds their way behind the drawer.
  • Furniture: Dressers aren’t the only pieces of furniture that attract pets. Make sure to look under and behind furniture or in and around cushions. Look for any holes or spaces in couch backs or box springs.
  • Heaters: Pets are attracted to warmth, so your heaters are a prime spot. Check around space heaters or in heating vents.

While you’re looking, check for any cracks or holes that might allow your pet to access the space inside your walls. If they get into that space, they will be able to move through your house completely undetected. Recognizing this as soon as possible will allow you to take steps to catch them sooner rather than later.

What Smells Attract Pet Rodents?

I’ve mentioned spaces that could attract your pet, but what about smells? There are scents that could influence where they decide to hide during their “great escape.”

Some scents could bring your little ball of fur running – both influencing their chosen hiding place and enticing them out of hiding so they can be caught. The most common and well-known scent is food, especially if your pet has been treated with a food that has a strong scent in the past.

Some popular foods known to attract hamsters, mice, rats, and other rodents include:

  • Peanut butter
  • Nuts (peanuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds)
  • Fruit and berries
  • Seeds (including pet food/treats and bird seed)
  • Sugary candies (like chocolate and gumdrops)
  • Meat and protein sources (such as beef jerky or bacon)

In addition to fresh foods, your pet may also be attracted to garbage, compost, or scraps. Even dirty dishes sitting on the counter or a table could be an attractant.

However, foods aren’t the only scents that could attract your pet.

Rodents are also attracted to plants and plant seeds. This means bags of grass seed and gardening tools that may still smell like your plants or even indoor house plants. If you are an outdoor travel lover, check out any gear that still smells strongly like the outdoors, including tents, backpacks, and hiking boots.

Do you have other pets, like dogs or cats? Try checking where you store their food. Additionally, look around their food dish, especially if your pet free feeds meaning there is food sitting in the open in their dish.

Photo credit: alexeisido /

How Can You Lure Your Pet Out of Hiding?

If your hamster is hiding, you may need to take steps to lure them out into the open. This can help you locate where they are hiding and bring them out if they are currently hiding away in your walls or furniture where they can’t be reached.

One of the best ways is to place food as a lure near where you believe they may be hiding. Some great options include peanut butter, seeds, or fruits.

Pay careful attention to the surroundings when trying to lure them out. Even the most tempting food may not work if they feel nervous or scared. For the best results, keep the lighting low and minimize any sounds that could be startling – this includes human voices, televisions, radios, and other pets.

If possible, set up a trap (more on this to follow) with the food and leave the room entirely, closing it off to create a safe and secure environment. Avoid checking too often, as opening the door or entering the space could scare them back into hiding.

How to Catch a Loose Hamster (or Other Rodent)

While you can tame a hamster or other rodent, that doesn’t mean they will willingly come running into your hands the moment you spot them. Although, that would make this process so much easier! Instead, the best option is to set up a trap that will secure them safely. Here are a few options that experts recommend:

Live Traps

If you have access to a live trap or can purchase one, these are great to have on hand with small pets in the house. These traps are designed to close quickly when triggered, securing the pet inside a plastic or wire cage. They can be easily baited using a small dab of peanut butter or a little bit of food at the far end, enticing the pet to walk in far enough to trigger the trap door.

I highly recommend the Kensizer Humane Rodent Trap or the Motel Mouse Humane No Kill Live Catch and Release Trap.

The Bucket Method

A popular DIY approach is creating a bucket trap to catch your pet. This could be as simple as placing food in the bottom of a small bucket, just deep enough that they can’t climb out. Offer a staircase or ramp up to the bucket by using books or boards to make it easy for them to get in and access the food.

Some people will take this a step further, creating a lid for the bucket that spins when the pet steps onto it. Place the food on the lid far enough that the pet has to climb onto it, triggering it to spin and drop the pet into the bucket.

Of course, either approach with the bucket could cause an injury. Avoid a bucket that is too deep. The deeper the bucket, the longer your pet has to fall. You can also place a soft towel in the bottom to create a cushioned surface, minimizing the risk of injuries.

If you put the food on a plate or container, avoid anything hard plastic or ceramic that could hurt them when they land.

Leave the Cage Open

An often-overlooked approach is to set up your pet’s cage or enclosure as an enticing spot to return to. This means leaving it open for them to enter and baiting it like a trap with their favorite food or treats. If the cage is often kept up and out of their reach, create a ramp or stairway to make it easy for them to reach the open door. There is a chance you’ll wake up to find them snuggled peacefully in their own bed in the morning.

Tips and Tricks to Prevent a Lost Small Animal

Finding and catching your pet is the first step, but don’t stop there. Before you consider this whole ordeal over and done with, take some time to consider how they got loose. This usually means carefully inspecting their cage or habitat.

Check the whole enclosure for holes. Small animals like hamsters are masters of fitting through the smallest areas. Even a bar in a wire cage bent to allow a little more room than usual could be a cause for concern. Pay careful attention to any connection points between walls, around the roof, and near the door.

Does your enclosure have a removable roof or cover? Make sure that it is secured and cannot be pushed open. Ensure the door latches securely and can’t be forced open. Take steps, as needed, to prevent an escape at these spots. This could be something as simple as using a binder clip to keep a door from being pushed open until you can come up with a more permanent and reliable solution.

Another important consideration is the handling of your pet, especially if there is a hands-on relationship between your pet and your children.

Young children should always be supervised anytime they are near a small animal. This includes holding the pet, taking them out of their cage, or putting them away again. Double-check that the door is latched and that your pet is secure before walking away.

Even with all these precautions, there is no guarantee a pet will never escape. Accidents happen – that is why they are called accidents. But you can significantly lower the risk of trouble.

Final Thoughts: How to Find a Lost Hamster (or Other Rodents)

If your hamster or small animal has somehow escaped their cage or enclosure, don’t panic! The best chance of finding and catching your pet starts with a calm, collected mind.

Look around for common places pocket pets like to hide, such as bedding or towels, boxes, shoes, laundry hampers, heaters, and furniture. When checking these spots, move items around slowly and carefully to avoid scaring your pet off or accidentally dropping them. You can also check your walls and floorboards for any cracks or holes they may have snuck into.

Set up live traps, either those you have purchased or a DIY bucket trap and bait them with your pet’s favorite treats. You should also leave the cage door open to give them access to their habitat if they choose to “return home” to the space they know as safe. After the trap is set up, avoid checking too frequently, as you could be scaring them off.

After your pet is safely in their cage or enclosure, check it over carefully for any opportunities that they could escape again. This includes holes in the enclosure, lids that aren’t secure, or doors that can be pushed open. After all, no one wants to experience this panic once, let alone more than once!

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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.

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