The technique of training or taming small animals is different from that of a cat or dog. To begin with a dog or cat will share your living space. A hamster, rat or gerbil will have a cage of their own and the only way to get them out is to put your hand into their environment and pick them up. From your point of view you are showing love and affection, from theirs, they are being attacked in the land of the giants and need to protect themselves.
Gently does it
Understanding a situation from the perspective of the animal will greatly improve your ability to tame and train him. Being bought home from the pet shop will have been quite traumatic, so to being taken away from others of his kind and left in a cage of his own. Allow your new tiny pet to get used to its environment first. Put the cage in an area that isn’t too noisy but one where people can be seen and heard. A day or two after you have brought your little one home you can start to hand tame him.
As always, when dealing with any pet, you need patience. Your first interaction with your pet should be a positive one, so start by talking to your pet before you make any attempt to open the cage. If the animal is particularly nervous he may hide when he hears your voice, or he may be ok with you talking but run when open the cage. Make sure when you open the cage that windows or doors are closed, just in case he makes a break for it. Hamsters and gerbils can move very fast and if you are in fear of being bitten it is easy for the escape bid to be successful.
Once you have opened the cage just rest your hand inside and see if he comes out to investigate. Before you do this however, make sure you have washed your hands with an unscented soap. If you smell of food you may be inadvertently bitten, and if you smell of perfume you may accidentally repel your pet.
If after a few days your pet is still reluctant to come over to your hand, you will need to be more proactive in developing a relationship. Try moving your hand closer to him, try not to corner him in such a way as to make him fearful but at the same time limit the places he can escape from you. Don’t go too close too quickly; remember patience, as always is the key.
Once he is happy with your hand in his cage you can now try to pick him up. Remember at the beginning I suggested you look at a situation from the pets perspective? Well if someone picked you up and you thought you were going to fall what would you do? I’m sure the answer to this would be anything you could to save yourself. So with that in mind, when you pick up your small pet, make sure he feels safe. Always put one hand underneath so he is completely cocooned in your hands. This will not only make him feel safe, but will reduce the risk of him making an escape.
It is upsetting, not to say painful if you get bitten or scratched, but do not let this put you off. Small pets that are not handled often revert quickly back to their wild state and cannot be hand tamed once they have reached adulthood.
- License: Creative Commons image source