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Old 05-01-2019, 04:12 PM   #1
Idra
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Default Hi from a little scaredy cat xD

Hi, hello, how do you do?
I'm a first time hamster mom to a female Syrian named Mouse, after the shy demeanor she put up at the pet store (although I can safely now say, that was a facade!)
Mouse is a white hammy with a cream head and some cream spots on her butt.
I believe she's 8-10 weeks old? I was so excited I forgot to ask haha. I'll have had her for three weeks this Sunday.

I'm a working college student, and Mouse's expenses are completely on me, as my parents are not animal people and I had to work hard to get them to agree to her, so I'd appreciate any and all DIY suggestions.

Mouse's current set up is a 40 gallon breeder tank with a 12 inch silent spinner, a litter pan, about three cardboard tubes, and some hideaways (of course a water bottle and food bowl as well). I'm currently saving up to buy her some puzzle toys, maybe a little maze, and a playpen.

Mouse is a very friendly hamster. On her first day she was taking treats that I offered her and she always runs up to my hand whenever I'm rearranging something or scatter feeding her. She also loves burrowing and only recently started staying inside one of her hideaways because I covered it in a bend-a-bridge and added some bedding to the sides to make it look buried.

As of right now I'd say we only have two issues: 1. She won't run on her wheel. 2. I'm way to skittish about animals to continue taming her (a poor oversight on my part). Both of these are pretty much my fault, so oof.

1.On her first week, Mouse developed this fun habit of putting all her seeds on her wheel and then running on it. This ruckus made it almost impossible to sleep, so I'd lure her away with a treat and then shake all the seeds off her wheel. This sound would kind of frighten her. This happened every night for that first week, so the appeal of the wheel wore of for her, I guess? She'd only go on it for a little bit at a time and in more recent nights she hasn't been on it at all. Any advice on how to get her back on it?

2. Growing up I've had pretty traumatic experiences with most animals, so I'm a bit of a skittish person when it comes to animals. I expected that an animal as small as Mouse wouldn't freak me out but then I started reading about how much hamster bites supposedly hurt and it's made me a bit nervous. I do give her treats and I'm slowly becoming more comfortable with her sniffing me, but once her teeth grazed my fingers taking a pumpkin seed and it took all my self-control not to freak out. I know they nibble, which isn't meant to hurt, but all my brain tells me is abort mission, which I really don't want to do because she's such an absolute sweetheart. We're at a taming standstill because of my irrationality. The closest I've gotten to holding her is holding her in a cardboard tube. Any advice would be much appreciated!

Sorry for the giant text walls, I love to write, can you tell?
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Old 05-02-2019, 01:18 AM   #2
Ria P
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Default Re: Hi from a little scaredy cat xD

Hi and welcome! I'm a bit puzzled. Why did you get a hamster when you're nervous around animals?
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Old 05-02-2019, 02:00 AM   #3
Idra
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Default Re: Hi from a little scaredy cat xD

I was expecting that question, I really thought it wouldn’t bother me with a hamster. I’m much less nervous now than I was as a kid. I wasn’t even concerned until I started reading more about hamsters and found out their bites hurt a lot, according to people. Basically, if she bites me and I know what it’s like, I’ll be able to get over it albeit more careful, as I have with other animals. I’m just nervous about that initial bite.
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Old 05-02-2019, 02:04 AM   #4
Shannonmcn
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Default Re: Hi from a little scaredy cat xD

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ria P View Post
Hi and welcome! I'm a bit puzzled. Why did you get a hamster when you're nervous around animals?
It's not that unusual for a person to assume they'll be fine but when they actually encounter a new animal something just goes NOPE in the old lizard-brain. Happened to me in a butterfly house of all places, I am absolutely not afraid of butterflies logically but when they're flying at my face it's like DEFCON 1 anxiety levels. Can't be helped!

Well, it can be helped eventually. With patience and continued exposure! Which is what I think is best for you Idra! You're already doing the right things. Holding her in a tube is safer for her if you're moving her so keep doing that. Feeding her treats from your fingers is perfect, so keep doing that. If and when you feel up to it you can move on to letting her pick up treats from the palm of your flat hand and encouraging her to put her paws on you but you absolutely do not have to do this if you don't want to. In fact, if you're still nervous enough you think you might freak out and jerk your hand away, my advise is not to do it at all. Stick to what you're comfortable with and just get used to eachother slowly. You're both in a very new situation so just respect eachothers pace and you'll be fine. The sometimes-sad truth is that she doesn't need your company, she will be a perfectly happy little hamster if you just give her enough space, enough things to do to keep her brain active and supply delicious things from time to time.

(The one caveat here is that you do need to be able to do a quick health-check and this can he harder to do if you can't stroke down their backs or pick them up and flip them over. Most problems you can probably manage to spot anyway but it is better to be able to give them a proper once-over)

As far as you hearing that hamster bites hurt. Well. Technically yes they do but stubbing your toe is worse. Whacking your elbow off a door is worse. Accidentally biting the inside of your mouth is about the same. Hammy bites do bleed a lot but it's a nice clean chomp and shouldn't scar. And in my experience they will only really bite when they are genuinely afraid and we're already doing all we can to avoid that! I know it's hard to put a stop to irrational anxieties but focus on the rational and let the irrational part be eroded away with time.


The wheel thing: I doubt you shaking seeds out would have scared her off completely/ forever but I would try not to do that in future. I have heard that silent spinners can be a bit stiff? So it could just be an issue with the wheel itself but I'll let someone who's actually owned one chime in on that. If it's definitely working smoothly and it's big enough there's not much else you can do to make her use it. She will if she wants.


Finally; hello and welcome! I very much like the name Mouse and I hope you get some pics up so we can meet her properly
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Old 05-02-2019, 03:12 AM   #5
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Default Re: Hi from a little scaredy cat xD

Hello and welcome. It sounds like you've got her a great set-up! There have been issues with the 12" Silent Spinner not running well - for a couple of years now, since a manufacturing change. ie stiff to spin and hard work for the hamster to push. Sounds like she has been managing it until now. You can check if it's working well by pushing it with your hand and see if it spins freely or just moves a few mm! If it isn't free spinning I would take it back (even though used) and get a refund and say it doesn't spin properly. There is a totally silent wheel - the 12" Silent "Runner" which spins really well.

The first thing I will say is - your hamster is a baby! A tiny scaredy baby - a toddler! It can help to remember that rather than think of them as a bitey animal.

So it is normal at first for hamster and owner to be a bit skittish with each other. And it takes a while to stop being jumpy - if you get jumpy, she picks that up and gets jumpy too! I had all of this when we got a hamster, and it is just a confidence building exercise and a bit of time and patience and getting to know each other.

At the moment you are "strangers". Suspiciously eyeing each other! Hamsters can get a bit upset by people "doing things" in their cage or messing with their wheel! When I say upset, I don't mean angry. It is their territory and they are prey animals so she will be more scared than you

Main thing I would say is - I have never yet been bitten by a hamster and we have had three (currently have two). They bite for two reasons - either because they are scared (some people hold them too tight or high up) or because they are in pain. There is a third time and that is if you stick your hand inside their house when they're asleep and they wake up startled. I think you might also lash out if someone startled you awake who wasn't supposed to be there!

What they can do, before they are tame, is run at your hand to see you off - because if they see your hand doing a lot of messing in their cage they feel scared by the invader! That should be less of an issue in your case as it's a good sized cage and is more associated with cage rage.

What I will say is - when a bond forms you can have really good little conversations - they communicate with facial expressions (disgust! happy, look at me - that kind of thing).

It is nerve-wracking for any new owner to handle a hamster, because they are not yet hand tame or learned to trust you. And the best way to start with is having them out of the cage - either in the dry bathtub (if you have one), or if not, a playpen area.

If you have a hamster ball, you can put a treat in it, lower it in the cage and put it near her house and she should walk in - then pop the lid on. If you feel nervous doing this, then wear gloves. The nerves soon wear off the more you get in the habit of these things.

You then lift the hamster ball out and carefully carry it to the bathtub or taming area (bathtub is ideal as not too big and they can't escape), set the ball down and take the lid off with the opening on one side so she can just walk out. I used to leave the ball in the bath, propped on its side, as our hammy would jump back in when he'd had enough.

It's a good idea to have a few toys in there - a cardboard tunnel and a mug on its side would do. They then tend to just slither up and down the side of the bath trying to escape! But will wander off and explore the tunnel etc now and then. Hiding or scattering a few treats attracts them to explore.

So to begin taming, it is not scary or difficult. You can wear gloves. And just gently stroke her on the back with one finger, just once, while she is running up and down the side of the bathtub. She may jerk around as if to bite your finger but it will probably just be a jerk to see you off.

Wait a while, then do it again. Maybe do this 2 or 3 times on the first session.

Two or three days later repeat the process. And she will soon get used to a stroke on the back with one finger and stop jerking around and accept the stroke. This is a big turning point. It means she trusts your touch and trusts it isn't going to hurt her (she is probably more scared of being hurt than you!).

So you then move on to letting her walk over your hand. Put the back of your hand flat on the bathtub just in front of her and let her walk over the palm of your hand, but don't try to pick her up. By then you may be feeling confident enough to do it without gloves. Do this a couple of times.

Next session 2 or 3 days later. Do this again, but this time, raise your hand very slightly, maybe 1cm, after she walks onto it, but still let her walk off. Then raise it a little bit higher when she walks onto it again (you'll need to place your hand in her path) and let her walk off again.

From there it should be easy to actually lift her and hold her and let her walk between both hands, without her "pinging" (ie wriggling and leaping away) and at that point she trusts you and is hand tame.

From then on you should always be able to handle her easily, pick her up, stroke her, etc. Bearing in mind they often don't like to sit still for more than a few minutes for a stroke and like to be off exploring.

But - all this is good out of the cage. Inside the cage is their territory and they don't like being handled inside the cage - it's like - I didn't invite you in here and I'm doing my own thing.

So I always either let our hamster walk into something and lift him out, or wait until he is telling me he wants to come out (with a cage they can come to the door and pester you - with a tank I am sure she will let you know somehow that she wants to come out).

They really are such funny friendly little things and so vulnerable. Easily injured, hence their fear until they trust you. But when they do trust you and you can enjoy time out of the cage with them, it can bring a lot of joy and laughter at their funny behaviour and antics.

I've added a couple of videos of when our current Syrian was a baby (baby hamsters can be very fast and a bit nervous) during playpen time. Just to give you an idea of how they are much more interested in food and having fun than they are of biting anyone!

The only other point to make is, if your hands smell of food, they may try and nibble to test and see if you're edible - that doesn't hurt - and is easily avoided by always washing your hands before handling in some plain kind of soap (not soap with honey or flower scents!).

Our hamster eats tiny pumpkin seeds from the palm of my hands and has never once nipped or accidentally bitten - he is very careful and uses his tongue mostly! They are quite gentle things really, and they respond to gentle handling.

You can actually end up with a really close bond with a hamster. Our last one was absolutely my baby and would sit and go to sleep on my knee.

Main thing to remember is - their behaviour inside their cage (their territory) is very different to their behaviour outside the cage. Inside the cage they are thinking an invader may steal their food.

If you do need to do anything in the cage - spot cleaning is best at first rather than big clean outs - then maybe do it when she's asleep and quietly (ie tip any food out of the wheel quietly! She is more likely to hide from you than run at your hand. Sometimes they follow your hand around just to check what you're up to.

They scent mark their cage and everything in it, partly to help find their way round (they don't see well at all, so scent is everything and your scent will become more and more familiar) and also to claim it as theirs. It's best to leave the nest and hoard alone unless it's pee'd in.

Keep coming on here with any questions. There are tried and tested ways of resolving any issues - and especially when it comes to cleaning time, because there are ways of doing it to avoid stressing the hamster.



Our current Syrian Newt doesn't like to sit still long




And a couple of our last Syrian who liked cuddles. And our bathtub taming.



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Old 05-02-2019, 03:22 AM   #6
Serendipity7000
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Default Re: Hi from a little scaredy cat xD

Forgot to mention - they also respond to your tone of voice. Keep talking to her - remembering she's a baby. If you sound cross she will pick up on that and be defensive back. Just keep telling her she's clever and lovely - I swear they respond to positive talk!

To tempt her back in the wheel suggest putting a nice smelly bit of food in it - eg a little tiny piece of cheese or a little cube of cucumber.

They grow out of these baby habits quite quickly and get more tidy and organised! The other thing that can put them off using the wheel is when you've just cleaned it as their scent has been removed, but putting a treat in it should tempt her back.

Do check if the wheel spins properly though.
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Old 05-02-2019, 10:29 AM   #7
Ria P
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Default Re: Hi from a little scaredy cat xD

Serendipity, what kind of wheel is that in Newt's playpen? Newt looks so comfortable running in it.
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Old 05-02-2019, 10:47 AM   #8
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Default Re: Hi from a little scaredy cat xD

There are two - there's the Silent Runner (the orange one) - the other one is a plastic Karlie wheel - I got it from Amazon de a couple of years ago because it was the only 11" wheel that fitted in a holiday cage! I thought they were a great idea, but they don't seem to have taken off. They do have a ridgy running surface as well.

Basically it's a Trixie wood wheel but with a plastic wheel.

Someone is selling them here. I also bought two dwarf sized ones and the wheel fell off the stand - it is just glued on! So not that well made. Although they are silent and have ballbearings somewhere. The 11" one is still going strong though.

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/153471495273?ul_noapp=true
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Old 05-02-2019, 11:28 AM   #9
Ria P
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Default Re: Hi from a little scaredy cat xD

So the 11" is the orange Silent Runner one, that's the one i meant. Thanks
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Old 05-02-2019, 09:37 PM   #10
Idra
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Default Re: Hi from a little scaredy cat xD



This is Mouse!

So last night I noticed she was trying the wheel out again but was struggling to move it. I adjusted it a bit and it was spinning more freely but definitely not spinning as well as when I originally bought it, so I'll be looking into getting a new wheel for her. I don't know if I could return it because I've misplaced the receipt, but I'll probably sell it online or something.
Thank you all so much for the advice! I can't wait to get more comfortable with her!
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