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Old 03-21-2010, 10:44 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Taming a biting hamster

Hi all,

I asked this question on another hamster forum and I got a lot of advice, which I tried, but which ultimately has not helped, so I thought maybe someone here would have a tip for me.

We are first time hamster owners and we bought Pippa at Pets at Home. From the look of her she was probably about 8 weeks old, at least - bigger than the 6 week old babies I see them selling now.

She was (and is) tame enough not to startle when we open the cage, and she will take food from our hands. She also climbs into her hamster ball if I hold it in the cage for her, to go for a roll around the house. I can also pick her up in an emergency (like when she's trying to crawl out of her cage) as long as I'm careful not to let her have time to get her head around to bite my hand.

The thing is that I am not really sure why she's biting. People keep telling me she's scared, but she doesn't act scared. If I am wearing a glove, she will crawl into my hand, but then look down and start biting the hand through the glove. If I hold my bare hand down inside her playpen or her cage, she will come up and sniff it, then bite down hard. Sometimes she will even sniff once or twice before finally biting on the third sniff.

Someone suggested i buy a brand new toothbrush and rub it on my arm to put some of my scent on it, then stroke her with it to get her used to being touched. All that happens is she thinks i'm giving her a chew toy. I put the toothbrush down, and i may be able to pet her with it a couple times, but when she sees there's something in her cage, she grabs it and gnaws it viciously. she doesn't even want to let go of it -- she wants to drag it off like it's a toy.

So basically we have a hamster that gets lots of playtime in terms of being outside the cage because I am able to transport her using a cup or hamster ball. But we cannot cuddle her, pet her or anything because she bites every time.

Is there anything at all we can do? We have already been feeding her treats from our hands (washing hands well afterwards so we don't smell like food) and we can often stroke her flank while she is eating and she doesn't mind. but, the minute we try to stroke her when she is unoccupied, she will sniff and then bite.

thanks for any help

edited to add: we have had her 3 weeks.

Last edited by Cheeky; 03-21-2010 at 10:47 AM. Reason: add info
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Old 03-21-2010, 10:56 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Taming a biting hamster

It seems you already know a lot of your stuff but theres still some other things you can try. Don't give up!
I had the same problem when i first got Porridge, but what really helped me wash using some antibacterial hand wash (alcohol based stuff) I always keep some by the side of the cage.
It completely eliminates all the smells so you can be sure your smell is not the problem.

Now i may sound crazy but if you pull your hand away every time she bites, she doesn't understand what shes biting and just thinks it makes a threat go away.
I let porridge put his whole mouth round my finger (i am not fussed by hamster bites)
and then he realised i wasn't edible and stopped. he has never bitten unless i smell of food or my other hamster since.
Looks like cage agression is not the case as she still bites outside.
Oh and also i do not feel a glove helps at all as they cannot tell you are a living thing through the glove so see no excuse to bite.
Others will have loads more advice to help
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Old 03-21-2010, 12:33 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Taming a biting hamster

If I let my hamster bite me as much as she wanted, my entire hand would be pouring blood.. no joke. These are not small nips - last time the bite was very deep and bled for about 20 minutes. I can see the wisdom in what you're saying but I would really be concerned that I might have to go get stitches if I tried that. It hurts quite a lot and I'm not sure I could just sit there while she bit me repeatedly. Also I know my husband certainly wouldn't do that (he's afraid of her now after being bitten twice himself) so we'd still need a way for him to be able to handle her. You must have a very high pain tolerance! LOL

edited to add: yes thanks about the antibacterial stuff - we are sticklers for hand washing with unscented soap - we are desperate to keep her from biting and this is one of the first things we read about.
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Old 03-21-2010, 12:37 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Taming a biting hamster

oh yh i know it doesn't always work!
defntely don't just sit there if shes gonna clamp down lol
i didn't mean that!
Ever tryed the blowing the nose method?
I haven't myself but some people say it works
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Old 03-21-2010, 12:52 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Taming a biting hamster

have you tried blowing in her face when she starts biting?? luckily i have never had that problem myself....
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Old 03-21-2010, 01:08 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Taming a biting hamster

yes I have done that, and yes she does stop biting at that moment in time- but she just bites again next time. sigh
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Old 03-21-2010, 01:58 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Taming a biting hamster

oh dear...unfortunately i really dont have any experience with that. but i am sure other people here have more ideas
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Old 03-22-2010, 06:25 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Taming a biting hamster

what type of cage do u have?
If you have bars put your hand on the other side of the bars close enough for her to sniff you but far enough away so she cant not bite, this will get her use to your smell with out being able to hurt you.
If you put your hand in her cage to smell when she goes to bite move it away slight, so she cant not bite. but do this slowy when you think she is going to bite, this will get her use to not thinkin that if she bites you will go away and do it slowy so it doesnt know fighten her.

putting something in her cage which smells of you is a very good idea and also maybe covering your hands in her bedding before you pick her up.
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Old 03-23-2010, 05:01 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Taming a biting hamster

Last night I set up the rodent playpen and sat inside it with my hamster. She ignored me and went all around the walls. She didn't seem overly scared or upset, just wasn't interested in me at all.

I think this week i am just going to have to handle her and accept that i will get bitten repeatedly. i'm going to sit down with her in the enclosure and keep picking her up from underneath while wearing gloves, and putting her in my lap. Maybe once she gets used to being picked up with gloves on, i can take the gloves off (if she ever gets used to it). I am going to just keep blowing on her face each time she bites. I have tried going slowly with her but she just isn't changing and i have done everything 'right', so it's time for a more forward approach. Maybe i should buy stock in antibacterial ointment!!
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Old 03-23-2010, 12:03 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Taming a biting hamster

Hi Fiz
I think you will get there with her but it is going to take time. 3 weeks is not that long really to tame. You are doing the right thing by using the hand gel. I would now start letting her have a good ball run then take the ball and get in the dry bath. Open the ball and let her crawl out on to your body then allow her to walk on you. Try not to swoop your hands down on her as they see this as a threat (like an eagle) Firstly smooth her back and put a slight pressure on her back as she walks by you. Do this a lot but don't pick her up. Put her back in the ball and into her cage.
The next night do the same thing but tonight you are going to lift and lay her down. Not hold her or handle, just lift and lay. Imagine she is a computer mouse and the cord is her tail. You should pick her up so her face is under the heel of your hand and her tail between your fingers almost. She cannot bite you in this position. Lift and lay straight down only. Lift and lay and keep that up. Once she is confident in this you can lift and lay her on the other hand and let her walk off. don't try and hold her at first. Gradually lift, lay on hand and curl your fingers round her so she feels you hand round her body. You are nearly there now and you can start the hand to hand running through the curled fingers soon.
If she bites blow and say NO firmly but don't put her back as she may have learnt she will get back in if she bites.
Our taming tips are on the WIKI but these are additional helpful hints. If you can handle her 3/4 times a day. They more you can do it the quicker the process will be.
She probably is still a little nervous as taming is new to her but you can do this. Be confident as they do pick up if you are nervous too.
Good luck
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