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Old 08-22-2011, 03:17 PM   #1
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Default Bar gnawing, handling and toilet training difficulties


I'm having difficulty with all of the above with my new hamster. Smudge is a rescue hamster and we think she's roughly five months old. However the last two of those months were spent in a pet shop while she was waiting for a new owner to come along. Her story is that she was bought by a young couple who brought her to the vet with wet tail. They wouldn't pay the bill and didn't want her back. That's about as much as I know of her.
She is very nervous - of everything. But, she's also really curious. Sometimes she'll sit on my hand to eat from it and has no problem coming to the front of the cage to take food from me if I feed it to her piecemeal but then more often than not if I go to pick her up she runs away from me or tries to wriggle free. Fortunately I've been able to practise all of this with her in her own cage (hamster heaven) but how do I make that transition from handling her in her cage to bringing her out?

Until last week I don't think she'd ever been in a hamster ball as she didn't have a clue what to do when I put her in it. I guess that's a sign of the lack of handling she received from the previous owners. Smudge is now quite happy to roll around in the ball but to get her in it I have to put the ball in the cage for her to crawl in to and then do the same in reverse to put her back. It's so frustrating. My last hamster was just a dream to handle. This seems like such hard work. Do you think I should carry on along this track of trying to hold her in the cage before lifting her out or does anyone have any other suggestions I could try please?

Even though I've bought her this hamster heaven cage she still gnaws the bars of the cage occasionally. I don't know how this can be boredom as she has a mineral wheel, play wheel, loo roll to run through, wooden arches to dig under a reed ball to play with and the latest contraption which you hang from the top of the cage and it has two nuts for the hamster to try and gnaw through as well as natural loofah. Do you think this could be stress? If so I don't know how to relieve it as I live alone and there are no other pets around to disturb her.

Finally the potty training. She has decided to use one side of the top "penthouse" of the cage as her bedroom and use the other side as an "en suite" which doesn't fit in with my plan at all! I have a toilet downstairs for her but she just seems to use this as another digging/play area. Any ideas?

I'm all out of ideas now so any suggestions are more than welcome.
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Old 08-22-2011, 05:14 PM   #2
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Default Re: Bar gnawing, handling and toilet training difficulties

Handling her will take sometime. You never know what could have happened with her previous owners. But at the same time she will come around. try starting with the two handed pick up and when doing this use a treat to reward her. She should start associating being picked up as something good. And once she feels better about being picked up, start doing the one handed pick up. Treat her everytime she is picked up until she is completely comfortable then try and cut down until she doesn't need them to be picked up.

Bar chewing is something I have experienced so much with my two. The noise at 2 in the morning is sometimes hard to take. No matter how many toys she has, she will always chew the bars occasionally. It seems to be something some hamsters do.

But as for potty training, I have no idea about that. I wouldn't dream about trying to potty train my two.
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Old 08-22-2011, 05:22 PM   #3
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Default Re: Bar gnawing, handling and toilet training difficulties

You could use the ball or something else to lift her out of the cage and put her in the bath or a run, then sit in that with her. It would let her get used to you on more neutral ground and might help. Plus then she could wander over when she wanted rather than you going into her space with your hand.

Our roborovski's were rescue hamsters and we're pretty sure at least one of them (Whizz) had been neglected as he didn't even get the idea of burrowing into his woodshavings at first (he gets bedding too), and used to hide whenever we entered the room. The other (Skip) was a bit better but he's never been happy about hands either. To get them out we either coax them into their balls (but Whizz is even scared of going into things when our hands are near them), or get them out in their houses (blocking all exits). We're still in the process of convincing them to let us near the cages without hiding though, so the taming process is being very slow with these two as we don't want to upset them by trying to get them used to hands before they're even confident with us near the cage. We are making progress though

We've also got our russian boys who aren't fully tame yet, so to get them out and reduce the risk of nips (they haven't quite learnt that people don't want to be tasted yet), I've started putting a small plant pot firmly on the end of a toilet roll tube, putting that near the hamsters, then when one goes in (they can't resist it - no idea why) I turn it up and keep my hand to block the end if needed. It works quite well for moving them and they seem to love it.
If your syrian can fit in a tube then a kitchen roll tube and plant pot could work, or I've heard of people using pringles tubes with hamsters and maybe one of those could be used to get her out.

I've not got many ideas on the chewing - Try checking she chews her mineral wheel, that she does use the play wheel, and that she's always got enough food and that her water bottle is working. If she's not chewing the mineral wheel try a different chew toy - We've gone through everything we can think of with our syrian now.
Also it might just be that she enjoys it - Our syrian used to chew to tell us things but now seems to chew because she enjoys it. We don't want to move her into a tank (she'd never get half as much space as she has now) so we're just trying to minimise the risk of injury instead. At least chewing the bars helps her teeth - She won't chew any chew toy more than about twice lol. Her record for using one was a week - she woke us daily pulling it around. Then stopped and went back to her bars.

For potty training try putting dirty litter in the toilet, and cleaning and disinfecting where she goes now. If you do it reguarly enough she might catch on. Or she'll do what our Scamp does and teach you to give up because she thinks she's smarter than you lol
We've had to reach the agreement that she doesn't use her food store as a toilet if she wants to keep it, and are leaving it there. Scamp likes digging in her toilet (more than in her burrowing area) so we're leaving it with litter for digging now lol
Haven't even tried potty training any of our boys - The robo's hardly make much mess at all, and the russians usually all go in one place, so we're letting them do that instead of trying to potty train four of them at once.
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Old 08-23-2011, 07:44 AM   #4
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Default Re: Bar gnawing, handling and toilet training difficulties


The bath technique worked wonders with my more nervous hamsters. Take her out with her ball, sit in an (empty!) bath and allow her to come out and crawl all over you in her own time. A few sessions of that will hopefully help her feel less nervous.

If it's only occasional bar chewing I wouldn't worry too much about it, as long as it's not constant. Though obviously if it's driving you up the wall that's not much help! But I've never come up with a solution to stopping it all together: when Maggie starts I blow on her nose, and she normally gets bored then and finds something else to do.

And the toilet: like someone else said, try putting the dirty litter in her toilet area to see if it encourages her to go there instead. But I think sometimes they just decide that they are doing it their way, and that is that, sadly!
Sam, plus Maggie and Cas.
Pawprints on my heart: Frohike, Langly, Byers, Max, Albert and Charlie
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Old 08-28-2011, 12:52 PM   #5
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Default Re: Bar gnawing, handling and toilet training difficulties

Hi everyone.

Thank you very much for your advice. We sat in the bath together on Wednesday night (now I never thought I'd ever spend an evening in a bath with a hamster! I she gradually got used to it although was not completely relaxed. However, since then I've been using the reward system picking her up in her own cage, with her sat in my left hand and eating her normal muesli from my right. To date it's working really well. As for the potty training I've lost every battle so far but I'm not giving up on the war!

Thanks again
Emma and Smudge
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gnawing, potty, taming, training

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