Help Handling a bitey hamster

WrenFeenix

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There’s a hamster at work, Garnet, who has been put up for free adoption. This is because the hamster has been returned twice for biting. He is really bitey, and bites hard. He’s a Syrian, so he’s big and can do a lot of damage.

He’s a mean/defensive hamster, way more than usual. My coworkers have written him off and are content to leave him in his cage in the back, and not bother with him (they also keep removing his wheel, which drives me and the hamster nuts).

I’ve been trying to befriend him, and I’ve made a lot of progress. I hand feed him veggies as treats, and I’ve won him over. He lets me pet him (as long as he sees my hand first), and makes happy chittering noises whenever he sees me:happy: (definitely not the defensive-type chittering). Ive gotten hung up on handling him, though. I’ll try to scoop him up, but he’ll nip me. Definitely not nearly as hard as before I started (I’d probably need stitches then), but it still hurts.

With the other hamsters, I usually end up getting them used to being handled by giving them treats (for being cute) and scruffing them to check for wet tail. I’ve been trying to scruff Garnet, but he’s really jumpy and I don’t want to scare him.

How do I teach him to be picked up? I want him to go home; he doesn’t deserve to be here forever!
 

Dechi

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Have you tried making a flat hand and putting a treat on it so he will step up on his own ?

There are really good channels on Youtube that talk about taming hamsters. Maybe check those out if you haven’t.
 

MrBryan723

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They make some chainmail kitchen gloves for cutting. They work well for ferel cats with leather gloves on top. I figure some latex gloves over them would work pretty well and offer a similar feel to skin. I've also used them to handle other wildlife like squirrels and snakes and such. They also sell some that people use for ocean fish but the ring size on those might be too large and not offer enough protection against small teeth.
 
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WrenFeenix

WrenFeenix

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Dechi said:
Have you tried making a flat hand and putting a treat on it so he will step up on his own ?

There are really good channels on Youtube that talk about taming hamsters. Maybe check those out if you haven’t.
Thanks! I’ve been trying that, but he keeps going after he gets the treat and nips me.

I have watched some videos, and I think a lot of his problems would be solved by a proper setup, but I have extremely limited means, and I don’t think my coworkers would be happy with putting him in a huge bulky cage when there’s limited space.
 

Wrench

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WrenFeenix said:
Thanks! I’ve been trying that, but he keeps going after he gets the treat and nips me.

I have watched some videos, and I think a lot of his problems would be solved by a proper setup, but I have extremely limited means, and I don’t think my coworkers would be happy with putting him in a huge bulky cage when there’s limited space.
Put another hamster in the cage with him.
Let him see you handle the other hamster and pet him and what not and let the other hamster teach him to be held, sometimes animals have to witness one of thier own being held or petted before they will feel comfortable enough to be fully handled.
 
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WrenFeenix

WrenFeenix

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Wrench said:
Put another hamster in the cage with him.
Let him see you handle the other hamster and pet him and what not and let the other hamster teach him to be held, sometimes animals have to witness one of thier own being held or petted before they will feel comfortable enough to be fully handled.
He’s in a room with quarantined hamsters, and he has a clear view of me picking them up. I think he gets jealous because he puts his paws on the glass and stares at me.:D
 
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WrenFeenix

WrenFeenix

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MrBryan723 said:
They make some chainmail kitchen gloves for cutting. They work well for ferel cats with leather gloves on top. I figure some latex gloves over them would work pretty well and offer a similar feel to skin. I've also used them to handle other wildlife like squirrels and snakes and such. They also sell some that people use for ocean fish but the ring size on those might be too large and not offer enough protection against small teeth.
I have garden gloves, I’ll try those. I’m sure once he gets used to being picked up, he’ll stop biting me. He’s a sweetie deep down; he’s the only hamster at work that’s done the happy chittering for me.
 

Desi

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Do not put him with any other hamster. They will fight to the death if they are both male or mate and you’ll have babies to deal with.
 

SM1199

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He likely has "cage rage" where he is being extremely aggressive over his home because it's too small and/or not very suitable for him. An upgrade can help, but sometimes if they spend so long in a small/unsuitable enclosure, the behavior is ingrained into them and they will continue acting like this even with an upgrade.

My boyfriend had a dwarf hamster who had cage rage because of the tiny enclosure they kept him in at the store. Even when we gave him a big upgrade when we brought him home, he was still very aggressive for the rest of his life. We found, however, that as long as we could get him out of his cage, he would be completely harmless for any handling done away from it. We trained him to walk into a toilet paper tube so that we could lift him up and bring him somewhere else for handling, and it worked great for daily handling from then on.

Being a Syrian, I definitely don't think he'll fit into a toilet paper tube, but you can buy larger tubes, like the ones that artists use to store drawings. Maybe even a cleaned-out Pringles can would work.
 
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WrenFeenix

WrenFeenix

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SM1199 said:
He likely has "cage rage" where he is being extremely aggressive over his home because it's too small and/or not very suitable for him. An upgrade can help, but sometimes if they spend so long in a small/unsuitable enclosure, the behavior is ingrained into them and they will continue acting like this even with an upgrade.

My boyfriend had a dwarf hamster who had cage rage because of the tiny enclosure they kept him in at the store. Even when we gave him a big upgrade when we brought him home, he was still very aggressive for the rest of his life. We found, however, that as long as we could get him out of his cage, he would be completely harmless for any handling done away from it. We trained him to walk into a toilet paper tube so that we could lift him up and bring him somewhere else for handling, and it worked great for daily handling from then on.

Being a Syrian, I definitely don't think he'll fit into a toilet paper tube, but you can buy larger tubes, like the ones that artists use to store drawings. Maybe even a cleaned-out Pringles can would work.
I’ve had territorial hamsters before, and Garnet isn’t being territorial, because those hamsters always attacked my hand with ferocity whenever it was in their cage, regardless of how long I’d known them. The fact Garnet has made progress tells me that he’s just a nervous/overly defensive hamster.

I would put him in a bigger cage because he is a BIG boy and he has been there for a while, but my coworkers already don’t like wasting resources on this hamster, and so would probably move him back into a smaller cage the next day.:facepalm:
 

SM1199

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WrenFeenix said:
The fact Garnet has made progress tells me that he’s just a nervous/overly defensive hamster.
In that case, I bet he will just get better with time, positive reinforcement, and repeated handling. My favorite method is repeatedly leaving food on a flat, unmoving hand as mentioned above. That's how I taught my gerbils to jump onto my hand with confidence and eventually run up my arm and sit on my shoulder. Beyond that, the most important thing is preventing yourself from being bitten, as others have advised. Good luck!
 
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WrenFeenix

WrenFeenix

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There are no other animals in the quarantine room at work anymore, so I’ve hand a lot of time to spend with Garnet.
I think I’ve got Garnet figured out. He likes me, but strongly associates my hand with food, so he gets overly excited when I put my hand in the cage and rushes over and nips my hand. To fix this, I no longer hand feed him, but put treats on top of his house to get him to climb up on top. While he’s occupied, I can pet him and grab him without him reacting. I’ve picked him up a few times by scruffing him, then gave him some treats afterwards. He seems to tolerate being scruffed so far. I can also fully wrap my hand around him and hold him, but I haven’t actually picked him up yet. I’ll try that when he stops expecting food from my hand.
I’m so close!:D

I’m only going to give him to an experienced hamster keeper. No children; he’s a big boy who can give nasty puncture wounds when he wants to.
I can only hope a hamster enthusiast looking for another hamster comes soon.
 
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WrenFeenix

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Garnet went on an adventure for nearly 4 days; late Thursday night to Monday morning. He escaped from his cage and was loose in the store. I looked for him everywhere, set live traps, and still couldn’t find him!
Today, a coworker told me he found Garnet. I was so relieved! I guess he had enough of his adventure because my coworker found him in the room he escaped from.:hilarious:

Hamsters and mice occasionally escape at work, and we often never find them.:( Birds sometimes escape, but we usually catch them pretty quick.

Edit- More Hamsters!: A Campbell’s hamster was returned a couple weeks ago for hissing. I named him Yeti, and I’m starting to win him over. He’ll climb into my hand and nibble my fingers for treats.:happy:
 

Aquariumlover1357

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This is really late, but my dwarf hamster was also really nippy at first and would bite whenever he got onto my hand. I then found out hamsters do not like to have wind blowing in their face (just like humans don't really either). So whenever he nipped me, i would blow gently (GENTLY) into his face, and he will let go really quick. Like SM1199 said, it will get better the more you handle hamsters and when they learn that they get wind in their face when they bite. After a week or two, my hamster stopped biting and nipping.
 
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WrenFeenix

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Success!!!!!:D I can pick Garnet up and pet him without being bitten! He doesn’t associate my hand with food anymore; he now sees the top of his house like that. I got him used to being picked up by helping him up.
He isn’t jumpy anymore either, he seems to trust me and enjoys the interaction. I gave him a new chew toy today and he was all over it.:happy:

I’ll see if I can get a picture of him someday. I don’t carry my phone on me when I’m working.
 

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