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Old 02-01-2019, 09:44 PM   #1
mikatelyn
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Default I have the hammie version of the guy from Memento

I feel like taming is going VEEERRRY SLOOOOOOWLY. Ive had Smokey (Male Syrian) for about 7 weeks. I think hes probably around 4-5 months old (Petco didnt know how old he was). I thought initially it was because of the cage being too small, wheel being too small, me changing the cage too much, me waking him up during the day the first few days, basically doing everything you're not supposed to do, I later found out. I think I got everything corrected within about 2 weeks, left him alone for a few days, and then a started bathtub training about a month ago.

I feel like I have the hamster version of that guy from Memento, or Drew Barrymore's character from 50 First Dates. Can hamsters have short term memory loss? I feel like I have to win his trust nightly. Smokey will only occasionally take food from me. He didn't do it very much at all until I stopped giving him food unless he took it from my hand. He's not very food motivated. Don't worry, I've been weighing him and he's actually gained a couple of grams since I started doing this. He'll look kind of zombie like, just sort of sitting and staring looking sleepy. Or he'll be huddled in a dark corner cleaning himself. Sometimes he'll be running on his wheel and looking more lively. I'll hold food in front of him. Once in a while he'll take it and walk away to eat it. A lot of the time he'll sniff it, then turn his back or walk right past my hand like he's too cool for that. This happens all night (I'll try a few times before I go to bed if he's up by then, then I'll usually wake up to use the restroom and I'll stop by his cage, then in the morning before I go to work), until finally, usually in the morning between 5-7am he'll all of a sudden perk up and then all he wants to do is climb up my arm and go play. Ill walk around the house with him doing the hand version of the hamster wheel, or go to one of his play pens (yes, I have a couple of different play areas). A lot of times he's not even interested in the food until we've been playing for a few minutes, then he'll take it repeatedly from my hands and hoard as much as he can into his cheeks. If my hand is closed around a pellet, hell even dig his nose into my hand to get at it! We'll play for a while in the bathtub or the playpen, letting him run all over without too much interference from me (10 minutes to over an hour, depending on if I have to go to work), and when I put him back, he'll drop off his hoard in his den, then comes back out and will start pawing at the glass again wanting to come out. Last weekend he even went back to bed, presumably thinking Id gone to work, but had his nose poking out of his den. When he saw me poke my head around the corner to look at him, he immediately climbed back out and wanted to come out and play again, but by that night hed forgotten me and was acting skittish again. I intermittently try the kleenex with my scent on it trick, but I feel like he has enough bedding, because he stopped taking it.

Most nights I cant get him to wake up in time to see him before I have to go to bed (I'll rustle my hands over his substrate, change his water, take the urine clumps out of his sand pit)
If I manage to get him to come out and play at night, the first time that night he's really timid and I have to use his igloo to get him out. He actually seemed more likely to get in his igloo before, now he will just calmly ignore it half the time. Then I put him back, and a few minutes later he'll get really excited and keep wanting to come out, and hell climb right onto my hand. If I then leave him alone for a couple of hours and come back later he reverts and he's forgotten who I am again. I've even tried not washing my hands between handling, thinking maybe its a scent thing, and it's still the same. I feel like I spend a ton of time just trying to get him to trust me again.
Is this normal? Do I count this as tame or not? Could his cage be actually too large (48 x 18 inch ~70 gallon aquarium)? When I first got him, I put him in 2 connected crittertrail cages. He was bar biting (which is what prompted the initial investigation into hamster forums in the first place) but he was actually easily tempted out of the cage onto my hand. In fact, the first night I really was planning to just let him be, but he kept wanting to come out. Id open the cage door and hed climb right out and onto my hand. I was very lucky that he's not a biter, because I carried him around in my pocket all weekend throughout the day the first couple of days I got him, and he just slept right through it (before I knew you're not supposed to do that). So I feel like hes not really much more tame than when I first got him. Or if he is, hes not very consistent about it.

Should I downsize his cage? Should I just pick him up when hes in zombie hammie mode, because he seems to just need to get over that initial hump and then hes all for play time. Or will that make him more afraid of my hands? Or is this forward/backward progress normal and I just need to give it more time? He does seem less frantic during play time and I guess he does tend to remember me in the mornings.
Thanks in advance.
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Old 02-01-2019, 10:09 PM   #2
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Default Re: I have the hammie version of the guy from Memento

Sorry to hear taming is taking so long with your ham, some do need a lot more time & patience than others & it can seem as though you're not making progress for quite some time but they do slowly get more confident.
Do you mean you're not leaving any food in the cage at all & only feeding by hand? That would be stressful for him, they do need to have a good supply of food available at all times.
You could try scatter feeding him rather than using a bowl which will encourage him to come out more to forage but whichever way you do it keep plenty of food in the cage all the time.
You can take some of the tastiest bits out of the food, things like sunflower seeds & use them for hand feeding & try some other nice, healthy treats for encouraging him to take food from your hand.
I would just keep getting him out for play time, try to find a time that works for both of you if you can.
I wouldn't change his cage now, it does sound as though he's making some progress & a big change would only set him back, the cage is a good size but how happy & confident they are can depend on the way the cage is set up as much as the size.
Do you have a photo of his cage?
How often do you clean his cage? If you clean too much too often that stresses them out so just spot clean pee but other than that only do partial cleans when needed, part of the cage once every few weeks or a month is fine, leave the nest & food hoard alone unless they get peed on, if you do have to clean the nest always put some of the old nest back & the same with the hoard.
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Old 02-02-2019, 12:00 AM   #3
mikatelyn
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Default Re: I have the hammie version of the guy from Memento

At first I was cleaning his nest daily for the first week, until he got really skittish and I read I wasn't supposed to do that. So then he moved into his wheel (enclosed critter trail wheel) and I couldn't spot clean it. But he would pee in it and it would leak out through the crack so I could clean the plastic track underneath everyday. He was in that for about 2 weeks until the odor got pretty bad and I felt I had to clean it. Then he slept elsewhere for about a week until I gave him the section of the cage with a deep substrate, and he moved in 3 weeks ago. I've been just scooping out the pee clumps from his sand pit, but I can smell that he's peeing in his den/tunnels, thus the question I first posted on a separate thread.
I'll try scatter feeding and see if he seems more confident, thanks for the tip! I attached a photo of the cage. I hope it comes up right
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Old 02-02-2019, 12:29 AM   #4
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Default Re: I have the hammie version of the guy from Memento

The deep substrate part of the cage looks good for him although I understand peeing in the burrows can be a bit of a problem as we discussed in the other thread.
The igloo isn't really good for anything tbh, it doesn't look big enough & has the other problems I mentioned in the other thread so I would definitely go for a nice big cardboard box if you can't get a big enough wooden house, the house really does need to be quite big & dark.
I would try to get a large bendy bridge if you can & use that to section off the deeper area, maybe leave a bit of a gap underneath even so he could burrow through if he wanted too.
The rest of the cage does look too open & empty which will hold back his confidence & make him feel a bit vulnerable when he's out, I would put more substrate in that part too, as much as you can manage without the wheel touching the lid, it's hard to tell for sure but I think the wheel could probably be higher up if you got or made a shelf for it allowing for more substrate, I would also put more in that space, something like a cork tube or tunnel would be good (you need to freeze those for about a week before use) or cardboard tubes (check they're big enough) or just bendy bridges to climb on & hide away under if he wants too, that just makes more places to explore & forage as well as making him feel safer.
Try him with some things like chew sticks, hazel or apple twigs are good, a whimzee dog chew & a spray of millet, if he enjoys those that will also encourage him to spend more time out & about giving you more opportunity to interact with him.
Hope that helps a bit, others might have more ideas to add.
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Old 02-02-2019, 03:48 AM   #5
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Default Re: I have the hammie version of the guy from Memento

As weird as it might sound, I feel oddly relieved that you've identified some things that are wrong or at least suboptimal with the cage, because that means I can do something about it!

I scattered food around his cage after I read your other reply, and maybe I'm being overly optimistic, but he already seems more lively and active, not hiding as much the last couple of hours.

I've been thinking about trying a millet spray but was worried about him being too full to want treats from me. Plus I read that hamsters are prone to diabetes, so I've just been offering his normal seed mix and some occasional fresh veggies like kale, cucumber, or small pieces of carrot. I'll definitely go get some now! They're so pretty in the cage too. He's not much of a chewer, has ignored every wooden or lava stone chew toy I gave him. I tried a milk bone after reading that somewhere. He loves them! I try not to give more than one every 1-2 weeks. I gave him a walnut last week to chew on instead.He immediately carried it off like it was his biggest prize, it was so cute.

I feel compelled to share some cute Smokey photos. He really is ridiculously cute. Hopefully I'll have some progress to share soon, as well.
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File Type: jpg VideoCapture_20190202-030958.jpg (144.9 KB, 18 views)
File Type: jpg 20190202_031205.jpg (260.2 KB, 21 views)
File Type: jpg VideoCapture_20190202-031453.jpg (127.1 KB, 18 views)
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Old 02-02-2019, 04:20 AM   #6
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Default Re: I have the hammie version of the guy from Memento

I know just what you mean, it can be frustrating when you can't seem to make things better & feels much more positive when you can try some new things that might help!
I wouldn't be at all surprised if the scatter feeding has made him more active already, foraging is natural behaviour for them & they really enjoy it.
Diabetes is very rare in Syrian hams it's only Russian hybrids, Campbell's Russian & Chinese hams that are prone to diabetes so no need to worry about that.
He's unlikely to fill up on the millet if you put a spray in, sometimes when somethings new they'll eat more of it but most likely it will just be a nibble now & then.
Mile bones aren't that healthy for them, if you can get a whimzee dog chew (the toothbrush ones are most popular) it would be worth a try, most hams do love them.
They do love walnuts, he must have thought that was a real treasure! It's good to give them nuts now & then, a piece of brazil nut is good too, mine quite like cashews & love pine nuts, have you tried a monkey nut? If you make a little hole in the end so they can really smell the nut inside they will spend ages on those, I put mine on a hanging skewer/kabob thing so they have to really work for it!

He is a very cute little guy! His colouring looks lovely in that last one too.
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Old 02-02-2019, 08:08 AM   #7
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Default Re: I have the hammie version of the guy from Memento

Good to know about hamster diabetes! I'll stop worrying about overfeeding then.
I had to look up what a monkey nut is. Unless google has failed me, yes I believe I did give him a monkey nut (if it's a peanut with the shell intact). He chewed through the whole thing in 1 play session, and even after he'd harvested the nuts inside the shell, went back and chewed on the shells some more!
As I type he is happily running all over me in the bathtub. Maybe he's a multiple personality hamster, and the more confident, friendly one only comes out in the mornings?
Thanks do much, Cypher! There's so much conflicting and bad advice out there, thanks for clarifying and correcting the misinformation! In the first week I went to 3 different pet stores, and all of them tried to sell me the wrong supplies including a cage that was way too small, a wheel he couldn't even physically fit in much less run on, corn cob litter that I later read can get moldy really quickly, and that fluffy bedding that can cause choking or foot amputations.
Unfortunately, I think I have to try to clean his den/tunnels soon because it's really starting to smell, so hopefully that doesn't set him back too much. Maybe with the added hidey spots I'm planning to put in and all the scatter feeding it won't be too bad.
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Old 02-02-2019, 09:07 AM   #8
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Default Re: I have the hammie version of the guy from Memento

I could have said peanut in the shell couldn't I! Good to hear he enjoys those anyway, it is fun to watch them getting stuck in!
It sounds as though he is doing better already & I'm sure he'll cope with cleaning a lot better if he has more safe places to hide out when he wants to.
There is a lot of misinformation out there, happens to most of us when we first start keeping hams, never stop learning really!
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Old 02-02-2019, 07:48 PM   #9
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Default Re: I have the hammie version of the guy from Memento

Sooo...at the risk of overkill: I made a petco run and got some bendy bridges and a ladder. I put one of those wooden IKEA magazine holders under my wheel as a platform and now it's another dark corner for Smokey to hide in. I made a tube out of a used cardboard salt container. I moved the tissue holder box so the back is against the wall, yet another hidey place. And I moved his platform that I had previously built back into his cage. Oh, and I cut up a cardboard box and put it over his den area. Then I hid food all over the cage. It certainly looks more fun in there now.
Here's the cage as it currently stands. I'm anxiously waiting for Smokey to wake up and explore.
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Old 02-02-2019, 11:46 PM   #10
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Default Re: I have the hammie version of the guy from Memento

That does look better for him, much more too explore & places to hide out, the open rung ladder isn't safe though, could you replace it with a bendy bridge? It might be better to take that divider out altogether really, you will get some of the deeper substrate spilling out but that's ok I wouldn't worry about that you could leave it more as a bank of deeper substrate rather than a separate section, as long as the wheel doesn't get buried it wouldn't be a problem.
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