So your hamster has gone missing. That’s okay, don’t worry, he’s not very far. I’ll tell you how to find your hamster friend, whether you lost your hamster in your home, or outside.
This guide is handy even if you’ve never lost your hamster so far. After all prevention is key and it’s better to already know what to do if you ever lose your hamster, than to try and find out everything on the spot.
What to keep in mind before you start looking for your hamster
Before you start looking for your hamster, keep in mind that he’s got some reasons for wandering off. That doesn’t necessarily mean he wanted to leave, maybe he found something interesting in a corner.
Hamsters are incredibly curious, about everything, and will want to investigate thing right away. You’ve seen him glue himself to the cage bars when you do something around his cage, you know he wants to know.
There are a few things to keep in mind before you start looking for your hamster, and here they are:
- Keep away any and all pets that can move freely (like a cat, bird, or dog), as well as small children that might scare the hamster.
- Close all doors, so your hamster won’t move about from one room to the other while you’re looking for him.
- Remember that hamsters are mostly nocturnal, so your friend will probably come out at night, when it’s dark and quiet in the house.
- Dim all the lights, and make as little noise as possible, so your hamster will think it’s safe to come out.
- Try to remember where you last saw your hamster, and start from that room.
- Be thorough in your search, hamsters are amazing at hiding. Look under, behind, over, between any piece of furniture you have, without moving it at first.
- Make a mental note of any holes or large cracks in the walls or doors that your hammy might have escaped through.
- Your hammy might be in odd, squishy places like between the sofa cushions, or in your sofa’s tapestry if he found a hole, so be careful where you step and sit.
- The search might take anywhere from a few hours to a few days, so be patient. Your hamster can survive for up to 3-4 days with no food or water.
So don’t worry, your hammy is probably somewhere in the kitchen munching on some peanuts behind a cupboard. Now let’s see how to find your hamster friend first.
Finding a lost hamster in your home
If you’ve lost your hamster in your home, the search will be easier, in a way. There is less space for him to hide in, and he can only run away so far.
So, we’ll start with this scenario since it’s the most common situation hamsters get lost in.
Where the hamster might have gone
This about where the hammy might go. Think about the room you last saw him in, and try and think in his shoes (or paws).
If it’s cold in the house, he might go for the warmest room he can find, so you can start there.
If it’s been a few days since he’s missing, and you only just noticed, he is probably looking for food so you can start with the pantry or kitchen.
Was there anything interesting in the room you last saw your hamster ? Like a very smelly food, or a bag of treats, or something that made a lot of noise (like a crinkly bag) ?
Are there any nook and crannies your hamster would love, close to where you last saw him ?
What the hamster might have done/why he wandered off
Hamsters are very curious, about everything, so there’s a large chance that he maybe just wanted to investigate something.
It’s possible that your hamster was very scared, or stressed out. Like the cat pawing at his cage maybe, or the parrot bursting into song right next to his cage. Maybe the toaster went off in the other room and your hammy got scared.
Still, there are quite a few reasons your hamster might have escaped, starting with curiosity and ending with just because. If there were any weak wires in your hamster’s cage, you can be sure he found them.
Or, if you’ve got an aquarium for your hamster be warned that he needs a very tall edge in order to not climb over it – taller than your hamster’s total length, plus stretching. So it’s possible that he found a way to climb over the edge of the glass tank.
For more info on exactly what you should be looking for when getting you hamster an escape-proof cage, you can check out these top 5 hamster cages.
Setting the traps for your hamster
When you’re looking for your hamster, you’ll need to set some traps. Humane ones, of course, but still you need to trap him in one particular spot. Or, at least find out the room he’s in.
Baiting the hamster with food
You can try a few or all of these ideas, depending on your home, how many pets or children you have, and how much time you’ve got.
One idea would be to get a large treat, that your hamster likes. Like a dog biscuit, or a whole peanut(with shell, no salt), or a piece or cheese, and tie a bit of yarn around it. The rest of the yarn you can make into a long string that leads to a center piece you’re often next to.
So, when your hammy will try to take away the treat you will see where he it pulling from. Place just one big treat in each room.
Another extra step would be to tie a small bell onto the string of yarn. This way the treat will make some noise when the hamster picks it up.
Another idea would be to place some food in a small bowl made of crinkled up aluminium foil, with large, flowy edges. Think of it looking like a small volcano, with treats where the lava would be. The crinkled aluminium would make sounds when your hamster will be inspecting the food.
Or, you can sprinkle a fine, thin layer of flour all around the treats you left on the floor. Or, you can sprinkle it over the floor in front of where you think your hammy is hiding.
You can even sprinkle it across the whole floor, although there will be lots of cleanup to do afterwards. Your hammy will leave tiny foot prints where he’s going through the flour, and you can narrow your search from there.
If you can’t sprinkle flour or tie in bells, you can simply put a specific number of treats in every room. Then, check the next day to see which room has less treats, so you know where the hamster is hiding.
You can also use an actual trap made from thing you’ve got at home already.
Get yourself a bucket, or a large plastic bin. Something the hamster can’t climb out of. Add a layer of bedding so your hamster can get comfortable because he will be sitting there for a few hours.
Then, at the very top/edges, place either aluminium foil, or a large sheet of paper, or paper towel. Place on the paper or aluminium a few lightweight treats that your hamster will like, for example 1-2 peanuts or sunflower seeds, or a bit of biscuit.
Do not fasten the paper or aluminium onto the edges. The hamster will have to be able to fall into the bucket/bin, once he steps onto the paper.
Next, your hamster has to be able to get up to the edge. You can make a sort of stairway with a few books, or a piece of cardboard bent into the shape you want, or anything the hamster can climb.
Finally, sprinkle a few seeds or treats for your hammy to follow as a trail up to the top of the trap.
You hamster will smell the treat, come out of his hiding place, follow the trail of treats, and in the end go for the treat on top of the trap. He will end up falling into the bucket/bin, and you will find him munching on the treats.
Humane rodent trap
You can find these in many stores, and they’re safe for your hamster.
The point of these traps is that the hamster will only be caught in the closed off space, and not killed. They will not harm you hammy, but I do recommend checking up on these about once an hour.
There’s also condensation forming on the inside, so you don’t want your hammy getting wet – more on that here, and what you can do about it.
Place some bait your hammy loves, like maybe peanut butter, or a whole peanut, or a small bit of cooked chicken. Once your hammy walks over the trap door, the trap will spring shut and will keep him there.
Your hammy might get scared at first, that’s normal. But you’ll find him soon enough, so he won’t be staying in the trap too long.
You can find this kind of traps in lots of places, but you can check this one on Amazon to get an idea of it.
Finding a lost hamster outside
If your hammy is lost outside, this will be a bigger problem. He could’ve gone very far, but there’s still a chance he’s close by, just hiding somewhere.
Placing treats and baiting your hamster like in your home won’t work. Outside there’s cats, birds, and other creatures that will take the bait.
And depending on the type of terrain around your home, if it’s fenced in, if there’s a forest starting in your backyard, your search will be harder.
Best to just go for the humane mouse trap I linked earlier, since that’s pretty much the only way you’re sure something larger than your hamster will not steal the bait.
In this case the bucket/bin trap won’t work either, since you might find yourself with a bird or squirrel in that trap.
In a worst case scenario, if it’s been more than a week and your hammy hasn’t showed, he’s probably wandered off into the wild, or had a nasty run-in with another animal.
This is also something to consider if you ever think about releasing your hamster into the wild. He might or might not make it. Life in the forest or plains or general wilderness in your are is probably too harsh for the little furball.
Escape-proofing your hamster’s cage
Prevention is the best way to be sure your hammy doesn’t escape. So let’s see what you can do about his cage.
First, you will find here a whole list of tips and pointers on how to choose the right cage for your hamster – both in terms of size, but safety as well.
In general, glass tanks/aquariums are much harder to escape than regular wire or plastic ones. Make sure it’s got tall enough sides. Giving the hamster 3-5 cm/1-2 inches of bedding will mean that you need some 25 cm/10 inch above the bedding.
Hamsters can and do jump, sometimes out of their cages, so be warned. You can find out more about that here, so you know what to watch out for. Also a wire mesh cover would be a good idea for the glass tank, just to be safe.
Another idea would be to get your hammy a wire cage that has 1 cm/0.4 inches or less spacing between the bars. Hamsters are actually very small, under all that fur. Like cats, if their head fits somewhere, their body will squeeze through as well.
So it is entirely possible for your hamster will squeeze through the bars of his cage and away he goes. Especially if you’ve got Dwarf types, which are so incredibly tiny. You can find out more about hamster sizes and how much they grow as adults – right here.
Make sure the latches on the cage doors are closed well enough. And finally, you can use some binder clips – the big, black, ones you use for lots of sheets of paper. You can use those to fasten the corners of a wire cage to make sure it stays put.
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How to keep your hamster from wanting to escape in the first place
Hamsters that escaped because they were stressed or unhappy are a sad story. But, you can make sure your hamster doesn’t get in that position in the first place. You can also check here for 15 essential steps in caring for your hamster friend.
Keep your hamster friend happy and not stressed
This means keeping and pets or small children away from the hamster, or very supervised. A curious cat or a playful puppy will want to move the hammy around, try to paw it, bark at it maybe.
And since hamsters not only scare very easily, they are also not patient at all, this won’t go well.
Always make sure that the hamster is able to run away and hide if he feels threatened or uncomfortable. This is the major reason I do not recommend hamsters as pets for small children (under 13). Children are sometimes unaware, sometimes overly curious, and sometimes just don’t know their strength.
This can make handling a hamster very difficult, especially if it’s a very small hamster, and doesn’t sit still too long. Hammies will also bite and scratch their way out of a situation if they have to, so this is another reason to keep small children away from them.
Conversely, the cage and room you hamster lives in must be a calm, quiet one. Pets and kids zooming around your hammy during the day (when he sleeps) won’t make him feel safe at all.
If this is what your home usually sounds like, consider getting a guinea pig. Those are much more calm, and they kind of don’t care about anything. So a barking dog won’t be much of a bother, or a child picking them up while they eat.
Provide a large enough cage so your hamster has space
The size of the cage matters. I’ve been repeating this in most articles, and I will keep repeating it. Mostly because for a few weeks I had the wrong sized cage for my Teddy (adult Syrian male) and I only realized this too late.
Here you can find a good roundup of hamster cages according to what hamster you have.
So, a cage that is too small can get your hamster nervous, anxious, he will start biting the cage bars. All kinds of unwanted, unhealthy habits. Hamsters are very territorial, even if they’re so gosh darn small. They need lots of floor space to run around in, and they feel suffocated in a small cage.
The minimum cage for a Syrian hamster is of 24 x 12 inches, and about 12 inches tall. That’s 61 x 30.5 cm, and about 30.5 cm tall. This I’d say should be the minimum for a Dwarf hammy as well, since hamsters will go for larger cages if given the chance.
If you’ve got more than one hamster – like a pair of Dwarf hammies – you need to read this.
Play with your hamster to form a bond with it
Finally, playing with and handling your hamster daily will form a close bond between the two of you. This means that your hammy will have less of a reason to escape, since he will want to stick around for you.
So, here’s a nifty little article on how to actually tame your hamster, and one on how to show him affection and play with him. Some hamsters can be tamed but will never like being touched too much, so you’ll find ideas for those hamsters as well.
A word from Teddy
I hope you found out how to find your missing hammy. I know it might seem like a hassle, but we usually don’t wander off too far. We might go missing for a couple of days, only to turn up safe and sound in your cupboard when you least expect us.
If you want to know more about us hammies, you can check out the related articles below.