What child can resist the curiously twitching nose of a wide-eyed hamster? The furry rodents are popular first pets for children. But, when combining the less-than-nimble dexterity of a toddler with the tiny pet, a quick nip on the finger isn’t surprising. Teaching children about hamster care and how to properly hold a hamster only takes a few minutes. Building a bond between the child and pet will help foster a long, and nibble-free, relationship.
Welcome Home Transition
When a hamster is brought into a new home, time to adjust is needed. While discovering a new cage, odors, sights and sounds, the pet may become overwhelmed. Help the hamster through the transition by leaving him alone for the first week. Let him arrange his bedding, hide his food pellets and mark his territory. Offer hamster treats through the bars of his cage to gain admiration. What hamster refuses a hand providing tasty yogurt drops or a fresh crunchy carrot?
Removing the Hamster from the Cage
After the first week, prepare to remove the hamster from the cage. Open the door, and allow him to explore Most curious hamsters approach the door and peek outside their caged world. Extend your hand to the hamster, allowing him to sniff and recognize the familiar scent of the person who fed him treats. Be sure to wash your hands before the first introduction. Remnants of a recent snack might entice the hamster to nibble at your fingers.
A glove may be worn if you feel timid. Allow the hamster to investigate your hand by smelling, licking and walking on it. Using two hands, gently scoop the hamster into cupped palms. If the hamster has an anxiety attack, and needs to be repositioned quickly, he may be scruffed.
Do this by gently grabbing the loose skin behind the hamster’s head, and lift him. Hold your other hand under his body for support. Return the hamster to his cage. Scruffing is the method used by hamster parents when they move their babies.
Once the hamster is friendly with an adult, it’s time to introduce the new pet to the hands of a child.
How Children Should Hold a Hamster
Ask the child to sit down when preparing to hold a pet hamster. Find a sturdy seat on the sofa or in an oversized recliner. Make sure the child is comfortable before they are given the responsibility of handling a living creature. Once they are settled, the hamster may be held with the supervision of an adult.
According to the hamster care guru’s at Hilltop Animal Hospital in Palatine, Ill., a child should use two hands to gently cup the hamster. Have the child hold the pet close to their chest, with one hand under the hamster’s bottom, and one cupping their back, for support. If the child is surprised, and they pull their hands away from the hamster, the furry pet can only fall a few inches into the child’s soft lap.
Children often poke or pinch pet hamsters. Correct the poor hamster care quickly, or the hamster will retaliate by biting. Don’t allow the child to pick the hamster up by its head or tail. Make sure the child’s hands are always cupped, not grasping or squeezing the pet.
A child may carry the hamster back to his cage by cupping it against their chest. Make sure the child is old enough to walk with a steady gait, and can easily reach down into the cage to place the hamster on the bedding. The pet should never be dropped, or tossed into the cage. Although the pet may look like a toy, parents should teach children to handle hamsters with care.