While it is easy to handle a torpid hamster, this certainly does not apply to an untamed wide-awake individual. It is vital to encourage a young hamster to accept being picked up and handled without showing any signs of resentment. Once these rodents are used to the routine, it should be possible to lift them out of the cage and use both hands to form a restraining cup. Bear in mind, however, that hamsters can inflict a painful bite on the unwary. This can apply when feeding a small titbit, with the hamster wounding a finger by accident.
Although it is possible to wear gloves as a precaution, this may simply encourage the hamster to use its teeth at every opportunity, because it can be difficult to avoid hurting the creature while wearing ‘insensitive’ gloves. Physical contact with the warm surface of the skin tends to be more reassuring for the hamster. You can restrain even a bad-tempered hamster quite adequately, though, by holding the loose folds of skin along the back, especially near the neck. Do not turn the animal over, however, as this will prove distressing.
Try to avoid hamsters becoming free in a room. Hamsters generally prove difficult to recapture once they have disappeared in a room because, unlike gerbils, they tend to be more timid and will retreat beneath floorboards if an opportunity occurs. Hunger may well encourage the rodent to emerge from its hiding place after dark, however, and you should then be able to recapture it safely. One particularly effective strategy involves using some books and a plastic bucket. Arrange the books so they form steps up to the top of the bucket; remove the handle of the bucket if necessary. Slice an apple and rub the cut moist surface on the books to leave a ‘scent trail’. Place a thick layer of bedding at the base of the bucket and tip the cut apple on top. The hamster, attracted by the scent of the food, will climb up to the top edge of the bucket and should fall down inside, uninjured. If you have cats in the home, be sure to exclude them from the room in which your hamster is free until you have safely recaptured it.
Hamsters appear to have little fear of heights, readily plummeting off the edge of a table, for example, possibly with fatal consequences. Whenever moving a hamster, therefore, do ensure that it is adequately supported should it begin to struggle. Do not frighten the animal unnecessarily by grabbing it while it is asleep, as distinct from being in a torpid condition, since this will intensify its natural dislike of being handled.