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Old 05-18-2023, 02:47 PM   #1
LotusUnfurls
Newborn Pup
 
Join Date: May 2023
Location: Central Illinois
Posts: 2
Unhappy Seeking Advice for Extremely Fearful Syrian

First of all, hello Been passingly aware of this place for a while now but finally got around to making an account and peeking in properly, and I'm also looking for advice.

About a month ago I received my syrian hamster, Tate (then ~3 months old, now about 4) from Nantucket Hamstery in Northern IL. He seemed to be a healthy, curious young man and coped with the ride home well enough in the carrier + hide I supplied. He was placed in a 60 gal aquarium with a 12" wheel, 10" bedding at the deep end, a few different hideouts and plenty of sprays as well as a niteangel two chamber hide on stilts. Bedding is aspen + orchard grass (which I'm not a fan of and want to replace eventually with paper).

So.

He's proven to be difficult to approach without stressing him out badly, and it's definitely been a trial and error process. For a while he was curious enough to take food from my fingers but since settling into a burrow he made in the furthest corner beneath the multi-chamber box. He only seems to come out in the absolute latest hours when I definitely won't be awake even on the weekends.

The thing is. My attempts to get him to adjust to my presence and be more comfortable--the treats, the offers to sniff my hand, the me-scented tissue--not only don't seem to work but seem to further stress him out each time I attempt them. A few times I would, making sure he was awake, gently lift the lid of the two-room hideout to coax him with treats. He'd take them but never, ever leave the hide.

Someone on the r/hamsters subreddit (which I've since left behind) warned me this was stressing him very badly because I'd effectively made his safe space unsafe. I've stopped doing it, especially since a few times after that he'd come out in the middle of the night and just screamed. Couple of weeks ago I finally had to just get him out so I could clean his burrow because I hadn't been able to spot clean it due to his skittishness and refusal to come out, and when I finally did it was saturated in urine I never smelled because the lid held the ammonia in. I tried the cup taxi method and he leapt out immediately.

As of this post I've been much slower in my coaxing efforts--gentle speaking, treats, never lifting the lid much or trying to make him come out--but it feels now as though everything I try makes him more averse. I was advised to start reading to him regularly to build a routine to help him get used to my voice and I started reading last night; today I notice he hasn't touched the food or treats I left at all.

Is there anything to be done? It's not even an issue of being able to pick him up and cuddle him so much as "my little dude your burrow smells like a sewer and it NEEDS cleaning but you're going to lose your mind when I do so and I don't want this for you." His breeder kindly suggested I prepare my plastic bin (50 gal), put him in that, and just gently but assertively handle him each day until he calms down; someone else said this was a catastrophically bad idea, so I hesitated.

I don't know what to do. He can be a ghost lad, that's okay, but I still need to be able to clean and such. The way it is now it feels like everything I try terrifies him.

Interestingly, my recently acquired dwarf Juniper--who came from a pet store--is MUCH less anxious. She's wary but she won't bolt from my fingers, and she's comfortable doing her hamster business when I'm present.

Sorry for the massive post!
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Old 05-19-2023, 11:22 PM   #2
SyrianDream
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Default Re: Seeking Advice for Extremely Fearful Syrian

I know an owner with a hamster with almost the same personality as your hamster. He is considered a ghost hamster or has an untameable personality disorder.
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Old 05-20-2023, 07:59 PM   #3
Amethyst_ice
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Default Re: Seeking Advice for Extremely Fearful Syrian

Hello and welcome to HC!

Firstly, a month isn't that long. While he may be more content to do his own thing, I'd still say he's in the settling in period

Do you have a free range area for him?

In terms of transporting. I use a large glass jug that they walk into while tipped on its side and if needed a book can be placed on top. That should solve that issue.

In terms of awake hours. I've had some really late risers, 3am types! What I do is usually pop in the room around 9pm and make a bit of noise, sometimes a curious ham will pop out and if they are still awake after a few minutes, had a drink etc,ill get them out for a short time, 5/10min, then pop them back. I use their "sleepy time" to handle them also.Pop a blanket on my lap and let them run over me.

I find once they feel comfortable in their home, they'll start popping out once you are making noise in the room.

I don't advise lifting lids of houses either.

In terms of spot cleans. Once the jug is mastered, just pop him in the bin cage or free range to do it then.

I'd just relax and try to do taming/bonding outside the cage so he can get used to you. Some hamsters act differently inside their cage too so I work on our bond outside
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Old 05-21-2023, 05:24 PM   #4
LotusUnfurls
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Join Date: May 2023
Location: Central Illinois
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Default Re: Seeking Advice for Extremely Fearful Syrian

Quote:
Originally Posted by Amethyst_ice View Post
Hello and welcome to HC!

Firstly, a month isn't that long. While he may be more content to do his own thing, I'd still say he's in the settling in period

Do you have a free range area for him?

In terms of transporting. I use a large glass jug that they walk into while tipped on its side and if needed a book can be placed on top. That should solve that issue.

In terms of awake hours. I've had some really late risers, 3am types! What I do is usually pop in the room around 9pm and make a bit of noise, sometimes a curious ham will pop out and if they are still awake after a few minutes, had a drink etc,ill get them out for a short time, 5/10min, then pop them back. I use their "sleepy time" to handle them also.Pop a blanket on my lap and let them run over me.

I find once they feel comfortable in their home, they'll start popping out once you are making noise in the room.

I don't advise lifting lids of houses either.

In terms of spot cleans. Once the jug is mastered, just pop him in the bin cage or free range to do it then.

I'd just relax and try to do taming/bonding outside the cage so he can get used to you. Some hamsters act differently inside their cage too so I work on our bond outside
Hello!

So, one of the challenges with Tate is that he never leaves his burrow. I'd happily try a glass jar or something to just move him out of the way easily and safely but he can't be coaxed, not even with treats, which is why cleaning is such a difficult and stressful process. And because he won't pop out--he's surprisingly incurious--it often takes a while for me to get him out so I can scoop up the mess.

And it does get messy. The aspen doesn't seem terribly absorbent and a lot of it has to be removed outright, and he seems to be sleeping, peeing, pooping, and storing food all in a single spot. I don't know if this is typical or because he can't burrow easily. I have paper bedding ready to roll but, again, too leery of stressing him further.

I wish he was doing his business somewhere else in the habitat. If I could spot clean without moving him needlessly I'd be happy to let him be until he calms down enough to start over but as it is now...

Re: free roam space... I have plastic panels ready to be made into play pen partitions but haven't yet set it up since I still need hides and things to put in it to make him more at ease. And he's shown no interest at all in the toys and chews I leave for him.
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Old 05-28-2023, 08:27 AM   #5
SyrianDream
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Default Re: Seeking Advice for Extremely Fearful Syrian

You can potty train him by putting a small plastic litter box or a slanted cookie jar that is big enough for a Syrian, then put in a hamster-safe cat litter or a hamster-safe sandbath; then you put some of the wet bedding in there. It is much easier to clean and can last up to a week before changing the litter or sand. Good luck!
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