Do Hamsters Like To Be Held & Petted?

One of the best parts of having a pet is holding and cuddling it. It’s one of the main reasons why fluffy, hairy animals like hamsters are so popular. They’re not only adorable to look at, but they’re also very soft to the touch. For many people, touching these little furballs is an irresistible temptation. It’s no secret that many animals enjoy being held, cuddled, and petted just as much as we enjoy doing it.

But what about hamsters? After all, they are solitary animals. So, do hamsters like to be held and petted just as much as animals?

Unfortunately, hamsters generally do not appreciate being held, cuddled, and petted as much as some other more social species, but that does not mean that you can’t touch them or that they all despise being touched. What it does mean is that you need to know what you’re doing to avoid accidents.

Let’s take a closer look and learn more about showing affection to these furry little critters!


Do hamsters like being held?

Keith Pomakis, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Hamsters typically do not like being held all that much. In the wild, they’re solitary animals and they somewhat keep their solitary nature when they’re kept as pets. Compared to other rodents, such as mice and rats, they are more standoffish, especially when you first get them.

However, that does not mean that all hamsters universally despise being held. It’s just a general rule that they are less receptive to being held and handled than more social rodent species. Of course, whether or not yours likes to be held depends for a large part on its own unique personality and the breed of hamster that you have. For instance, Syrians are typically more receptive to affection than Roborovskis.

Some hamsters do really enjoy being held. The best way to find out if yours likes to be held is to simply try it out. If it responds by biting you, peeing or pooping on you, or screaming, it probably means that it does not want to be held.

This might be because you haven’t formed a strong enough bond with them yet, which makes them scared of you, but it can also be because of their personality or because they’re simply not in the mood right now.

How to hold a hamster?

Before you try to hold your hamster, make sure that it is already awake. They are nocturnal animals which means that they sleep during the day. Do not wake your it up just because you want to hold it. This will usually result in a grumpy hamster that might bite you. They’re generally less receptive to being held if you disturb their sleep, which makes sense! Only try to hold them at night, when they’re awake naturally.

If you’re sure that it’s fully awake, follow these 3 steps to pick it up easily and securely:

  1. Wash your hands. Washing your hands is a good idea to remove any scent of dogs, cats, or other animals that might intimidate your hamster. They have a strong sense of smell and even the slightest hint of a strange scent on your hands might confuse your furry friend. It’s a good idea to use inscented soap so your it won’t think that your fingers are a treat and he won’t try to nip on them.
  2. Show your hands. Hamsters are naturally afraid of anything that comes from above because they’re prey animals and one of their major predators are birds that attack them from the sky. Showing them your hands lets them know that they’re about to be picked up and helps avoid stress. It’s a good idea to place your hand in their cage palm down.
  3. Turn your hand. Once you’ve kept your hand palm down in their cage for a few seconds you can turn your hand so that it’s facing palm up and move it towards your hamster. Allow it to climb on top of your palm so that you can pick it up. If you have a shy hamster that does not crawl into your hand, you can scoop them up gently.

Now that you’ve picked up your hamster it’s a good idea to feed it a treat. By doing so your hammie will associate being picked up with the feel-good hormones that the treat releases in their brain. This will make them more receptive to being picked up in the future.

In addition, if this is one of the first times you’re picking up your hamster or you’re not very confident that it won’t fall, it’s a good idea to sit on the ground or hold your hands in their cage. That way, the fall won’t be devastating if you do accidentally drop it.

Furthermore, you should start off by holding it for only a few minutes at a time so that they can get familiar with the sensation of being picked up. If you hold them for too long they can start to panic.

To place your furry friend safely back into its cage make sure that you put your hands into the cage until you’re almost touching the bedding and then gently let them go. Dropping them from too high can have devastating consequences.

Benefits of regularly holding your hamster

While the first few times you hold your hamster might be a bit of a struggle, it will get easier the more you do it. That’s because holding them is a great way to form a bond with them. Hamsters are small animals that have a lot to fear from the world.

Being held by a giant such as yourself is naturally scary for them the first time. Over time though, they will learn that you will not harm them, they’re safe in your giant hands and they will even receive a tasty treat! This will usually make them much more receptive to being held.

In addition, it’s a great way to form a bond with them. They’ll be more likely to seek out your presence, be less fearful in general, and often more affectionate.

Do hamsters like to be petted?

Most animals enjoy being petted and that includes hamsters. Being petted is a much less stressful and frightening experience for them because they’re much more in control. When they’re being held in your hands they’re at your mercy, but if they’re being petted they’re still firmly on the ground and can run away if they want to.

You’ll know if your it enjoys the petting session by looking for the following signs:

Signs your hamster enjoys being petted
  • Chirps & Happy squeaks. Sounds are one of the ways to tell if your furry friend enjoys your touch. Look for chirps and happy squeaks. Be careful though of panicked or painful squeaks as that might mean that you’re hurting them.
  • Relaxing of the facial features. If they enjoy your touch, your hamster might relax its face and close its eyes in relaxation. They might even fall asleep if they’re very relaxed!
  • Relaxing of the body. Hamsters are very active animals that hardly sit still. If your furry friend starts to sit still and relaxes its body when you’re petting it you know that you’re doing something right!

How to pet a hamster properly?

Petting a hamster is not very difficult, but they’re all unique individuals. As such, there’s no universal way to pet them properly. Some of them enjoy a good scratch behind their ears or under their chin whereas others only like their back being stroked.

To figure out what your hamster likes it’s best to just explore. Scratch and pet them in different places and look for the signs above to see what they like and don’t like.

Do hamsters like to cuddle?

Many Syrian hamsters do enjoy snuggling up to their owners from time to time. Many owners report that their hairy friends fall asleep while they’re cuddled up in their hands or on their lap. Other breeds, such as the Chinese and dwarf species are less likely to enjoy cuddling, but it does differ for each individual.

Some are more affectionate than others. It also depends on how much your hamster trusts you. If you’ve built a strong bond with them they’re more likely to be willing to cuddle up to you than if you just got them.

Precautions when holding, petting or cuddling

While holding, petting, and cuddling your hamster is a fun experience you do have to take some precautions into account.

First of all, make sure that you hold them close to the ground. This is especially important if you’re new to holding them. They’re very fast little critters and can easily fall out of your hand. If you’re standing up, a fall from such a distance can be lethal.

Secondly, when petting them, make sure that you pet them softly. They’re delicate little animals and petting them too harshly or pressing too hard can hurt them.

Thirdly, when you’re cuddling them make sure that you’re very careful. It has happened too many times that someone accidentally sits on or crushes them due to their small size.

Fourthly, make sure that you do not handle baby or pregnant hamsters. If you handle the babies it can result in them being eaten by their mother!

Lastly, be careful with kids or other pets. If kids are handling hamsters make sure that you teach them to treat them gently. Kids don’t always know their own strength and might be too rough with such a small animal. They might even try to take it for a swim!

If you have other pets such as cats or dogs, it’s important that you’re careful that they don’t accidentally get eaten.

The best time to handle a hamster

Holding, petting, or cuddling your hamster is a fun way to bond with them, but it has to be done at the right times. If you do it at the wrong times you might think that your hamster hates you, even though it only seems that way because you’re just doing it at the wrong times!

The best time to cuddle, pet, or hold your hamster is at night due to the fact that they’re nocturnal. Waking them from their sleep will make them grumpy and less affectionate. I’m sure you can relate. Therefore, it’s best to wait until they wake up naturally before you interact with them. Once they’ve woken up naturally give them some time to poop and pee (they usually do this right after waking up) and then interact with them.

Doing it at this time of day will give you the best results.

Can my hamster sleep with me?

Some people wonder if their hamsters can sleep in the bed with them. This is not a good idea for two reasons.

First, people often roll around in their sleep. Because they are so small, you could easily crush them if you let them sleep in the bed with you.

Secondly, they are nocturnal, meaning they sleep during the day, whereas most humans sleep at night. This clash of sleep schedules means that humans and hamsters rarely sleep at the same time.

It’s best to just let your hamster sleep in its cage while you sleep in your bed.


Final words

Hamsters might not be the most social rodent species, but with a lot of love and dedication, they can definitely reciprocate the affection you show them. Make sure that you avoid waking them up to avoid a grumpy hamster and look for the signs that they actually enjoy being held and picked up.

In some cases, they will never really enjoy being held, petted, or cuddled, but in others, they’ll warm up to it over time. It all depends on the personality of your hamster!

Jesse A.