Don’t feel bad if your new hamster friend seems aloof and scared of you. Unlike puppies, hamsters take a longer time to warm-up to its new environment and the people around it. No worries because in just a matter of time, your scared hamster friend will eventually loosen up and show in its unique ways its appreciation for you.
Why Is Your Hamster So Scared?
1. A New Home Scares a Hamster
This is a normal reaction not just of hamsters but all living creatures including humans. Being in an entirely new environment can be scary for its senses. It can get scared from hearing new sounds, seeing new things, people, and other pets (even if these are blurred), as well as smelling something unfamiliar.
Not to forget that being away from its littermate for the first time can lead to a scared hamster behavior.
2. Your Size May Be Too Intimidating
For all you know, you are seen as a ‘Goliath’ by your hamster friend – strong and gigantic. The mere presence of your size can scare and intimidate a very small creature such as a hamster. And, being the small yet the brave ‘David’, your hamster might even bite you if you attempt to handle it for the first time.
This is why you have to give it time to get accustomed to your size before handling it. You have to understand that each time a hamster bites, it is due to a scary scenario such as being held.
3. A Hamster Gets Scared From Sudden Movements
Did you know that your hamster does not have very clear eyesight? This is why it can get scared if it senses sudden movements around its surroundings.
To be on the same wavelength with your hamster, look at it this way – imagine yourself in an unfamiliar place when suddenly a large and unknown creature moves around you, won’t you get scared and hide? To make matters more frightening, you forgot your eyeglasses so you don’t have a clear vision of what that creature is. That is exactly how your hamster feels – a scared hamster that wants to hide and run away from something unfamiliar.
4. Are You Disturbing Your Small Pet?
If yes, then that is why your hamster is afraid of you. Since hamsters are nocturnal, it is a bad idea to wake it up and force it to interact with you during the day.
There are also cases when environmental noises such as cars honking or perhaps incessant dog barking can also cause a scared hamster behavior.
5. Stressful Situations
Hamsters do not take to changes very well. They get anxious and scared. For example, did you just bring home a new pet? Perhaps you changed its cage or dish & water bottle? These may be mundane things for you but a big deal for a small animal like a hamster. Thus, if you see it behaving like a scared hamster, try to analyze the changes that you made in its immediate surroundings.
6. Your Hamster Does Not Trust You
Did you just grab your little friend to play with it? If so, you are unknowingly scaring it because you have not yet formed a trusting relationship with it.
Again, unlike dogs, it will take a longer time for this small animal to get familiar with you. Depends on the hamster, but a hamster may take a few days, maybe weeks, and even months before it finally gets to trust you.
7. Hamster Instinct
Being a small creature makes them wary of just about anything.
In the wild, they are hunted by snakes, wild dogs & cats, and even owls. Not to forget that they are also hunted by humans for commercial trade. That said, you can’t blame your little friend if it is always afraid and wary of everyone, including you. Instinct tells them to be always up on their toes, ready to run fast and hide from predators.
So, if you notice that it is behaving like a scared hamster towards you, don’t feel bad because 90% of the time, it’s just instinct.
Now, let us go to the how’s, like how do you know when your hamster is afraid of you and when you should you back-off to stop it from feeling scared.
9 Signs of A Scared Hamster
1. They Become Hyperactive
If you see your little friend agitated, moves constantly, climbs its cage, and runs on the wheel more frequently and faster than its usual pace, then, it’s a sure sign of stress and nervousness. These abnormally rapid movements are the hamster’s way of trying to release tension build-up.
2. Exhibits Compulsive Behaviors
In most cases, a scared hamster will present itself through repetitive behaviors. Good examples are scratching, compulsive self-cleaning, incessant chewing, and even self-mutilation.
3. Aggressive Behaviors
Stress is the leading cause of aggressive and scared hamster behaviors. In most cases, your hamster may act reactively than its usual behavior. If you see its ears moving backward, shows its teeth as if ready to attack, emits grunting sounds, then better step-back unless you want to feel its rage.
If you carry it and nips your fingers, it is a clear sign that your hamster is afraid of you.
4. Hair Loss
If your hamster is scared, one of the behaviors you’d notice is excessive hair plucking. You may see some bald spots or the hair gets oilier.
5. Becomes Noisy
Your little friend is usually quiet at most times. But, if it is a scared hamster, you will hear it emit unusual hamster sounds like snorting as a result of fear and grunting when it feels threatened. If it becomes extremely scared, you’d hear it squeak or shriek.
Those sounds are what we call as the scared hamster scream.
6. Excessive Salivation
It salivates excessively not because it is begging for food but because it is fearful of something. Excessive salivation is its body’s response to tension.
7. Wanting to Escape
If it tries to flatten itself on the cage floor, what it is trying to do is to escape from its housing. It wants to escape because it can no longer take the stress level due to issues like sleep disturbance and being held even if it does not want to.
8. Muscle Tremors and Rigidity
The muscles of a stressed hamster usually get rigid and in extreme cases, too much nervousness can also cause uncontrollable body shaking.
9. Hamster Freezing
In the wild, hamsters freeze so they won’t get detected by their predators.
Intense concentration or focus is also another reason why a hamster freezes or stops moving at all.
The other reason is nervousness. For example, if you suddenly moved, say at nighttime to go to the bathroom, your hamster will get startled and will freeze as a result of fear.
Can Hamsters Die From Being Scared?
Yes, a hamster can die as a result of scary and stressful circumstances. Though fear is not an illness, it can affect its longevity by weakening its immune system.
The bacterium Clostridium Piliforme can be opportunistic among stressed hamsters, making them more susceptible to infections.
Another bacterium can also be fatal as this causes the wet-tail hamster disease. Stress is one of the factors to exacerbate this condition. A hamster with a wet-tail suffers from a bad case of diarrhea, anorexia, and lethargy.
Add to that, a hamster that has heart disease can get too nervous and anxious and can die from a heart attack because of a scary situation.
How Do You Get Your Hamster to Trust You?
As an owner, you want your pet to be happy under your care. So, here are the simple things you can do so you will stop having a scared hamster as a pet:
1. Get an Appropriate Hamster Cage
Make sure that its cage is the right size for it. Anything smaller than the recommended size can lead to a stressed and scared hamster.
2. Give It Time to Get Accustomed to Its New Home
A new cage, new surroundings, and new people will not stop your pet from being scared. It is a natural response to stressful situations. Leave it alone for several days so it will feel safe and secure.
Also, place the cage in a quiet place, any room that is busy with activities can lead to a scared hamster.
If it is sleeping during the day, back-off. Let it doze without any interference.
3. Make Its Cage a Happy Place
You have to earn its trust and one way to achieve that is to fill its cage with exciting things that will make it jump with joy.
Place burrowing toys, running wheel, and sand bath are great examples.
4. Establish a Routine for Your Hamster
During its first few days at home, you may stand near its cage so it can get used to your smell and size. But, you have to do this as quietly as you can. Initially, it will hide or run away from you as a result of fear. Give it a few days and soon, you will see it relax and do hamster activities (e.g. running on wheels) even when you are nearby.
When changing its food and water, do not touch it yet to avoid startling it. The idea is to make it see you not as a giant predator but a trusted friend.
You may also offer some hamster treats to make it more trusting of you.
It is better to do this routine at about the same hour each day because hamsters are not fond of changes in their usual routine.
5. Talk Gently
When talking to your new pet, be calm and gentle. A loud voice and intimidating tones should be avoided. The more you talk gently, the less it will be scared of you.
6. Let It Come to You
If you see it sniffing, it is a sign of curiosity. This is the time you can start to get to know each other. But, remember that your hamster should make the first move toward you. You may allow it to smell your hand so it will be familiar with your scent.
Try to pet your hamster first before carrying it. Once it gets comfy with you, it may allow you to carry it. Be gentle though.
Don’t get dismayed if it pees on your hand, it is a sign of a scared hamster which normally happens during the first few times you carry it. Remain calm and do not squeeze it if it tries to wiggle its way out from your hands.
Once it already allows you to carry it, begin by doing it a couple of minutes at a time and then release it. If you get too excited and carry it longer for the first few times, you may only end up scaring it. Don’t worry because as soon as you earned its trust, your little friend will allow you to carry it around longer.
The moment you feel it becoming agitated, place it back to its cage to rest. If you wish, a nice treat won’t do any harm.
7. Refrain From Punishing Your Hamster
Unlike dogs, you cannot teach a hamster through the method of negative reinforcement. They just do not have the concept of what punishment is. Most of the time, hamsters exhibit ‘bad behaviors’ out of boredom and fright.
So, if you punish it, you will only worsen its scared hamster behavior towards you. If it bites you out of fear, offer it a with a treat or you can just leave it alone for a while.
Hamsters are naturally scared of the unfamiliar. You can’t blame them, their small sizes make them victims of the bigger animals in the wild. As a result, they are afraid of even mundane things like noise and sudden movements. As a hamster owner, it is now up to you to earn its trust and transform it from a scared hamster to a trusting and happy little fellow.