Because all hamsters are by nature adventurous, it is not surprising if they can get out of their cage whenever an opportunity presents itself. So how does one catch runaway hamsters? Finding a lost hamster doesn’t always have to have a bad ending.
You and Your Hamster’s Relationship
Before anything like your hamster’s disappearance can happen, it is important to establish a strong bond with your pet hamster. This is because a strong bond will help you in keeping track of your hamster’s comfort and anxiety levels.
It also helps that you “think” like your hamster, as well as identify your little furry friend’s favorites like treats and exploration or hiding spots, should a disappearance occur.
Because hamsters are opportunists (they lived in desert fringes, after all), they are able to slip through holes and tight spaces. In the wild, they even burrow a pika’s tunnel just to get to where they wish to haunt and hoard.
Is your hamster noisy or restless? You may also need to review the location of your hamster’s cage. Is it regularly cleaned and the food regularly served? Are there any sources of the noise or what makes it noisy?
If your hamster breed is the solitary type – are there any other hamsters nearby? Or are there any other large animals nearby, like a dog, a cat, or even a ferret?
Noise, sudden loud sounds, and disturbances from other animals as well as threats from other critters in the room are sources of a hamster’s discomfort. They may chitter and act restless to the point that they will grab the very slightest chance of escape.
And when your hamster is missing, your knowledge of your pet and its behavior will play a major part in finding and bringing it back to its cage.
Before Any Search
You or anyone in your family has just found out that your hamster’s cage is empty and it has just escaped. Your natural instinct as a human who has just lost a family member kicks in. But before you needlessly consume all your energy worrying, please consider these tips:
- Be calm
Do not panic. A well-cared-for hamster should be able to survive in the next 3-4 days so long as it remains within the confines of that particular room of your house. There may even be a chance for it to return to its cage within the next few days.
So rather than raising hell for your wayward hamster, ensure its survival and return first, as well as keeping quiet so as not to upset your hammy from any sudden movements.
- Make the escape parameter small.
By the time your hamster has found itself in a bigger world with nothing to hold it back, it may get frightened and look for places to hide. Make sure, then, that the room containing your pet’s cage is properly contained and sealed.
Have all windows closed and securely fastened. Make sure that there are no holes or cracks in the walls and ensure that all doors are closed at all times. Whenever you or your family members enter, close the door right away.
- Remove all dangers, if possible.
Fright can make your hamster do things that would further endanger its life so remove all mouse traps, poisons, and other harmful substances that it may touch, eat, or store. Close all nearby toilet bowl lids nearby to prevent your hamster from getting too curious and jumping in only to drown.
In addition, remove all animals out of the room. Leash or cage them, if possible, as you go around looking for your pet.
- Practice care and patience with anyone who enters the room.
Tell everyone in the house that whoever enters the room where your hamster is still in will have to be careful where they are stepping on lest the hamster passes by. Everyone also has to stay quiet so as not to agitate the hamster all the more.
- Do not give up.
Have a little faith in your little friend. It goes by instincts so it could just go back to its den after a couple of days. You can even put fresh food regularly in the cage to act as a trap, then, wait in the evenings, in low light so you can immediately close the door once it reenters the cage.
Hiding Places For Escaped Hamsters
It still pays to check any spots within the area of your house where your runaway hamster could have hidden even if it has yet to return to its cage. This is where your knowledge of your pet starts to be of help.
- Start With and Around the Cage
It is possible that your hamster just so happened to be burrowed under a pile of bedding especially if it has the same color as the bedding itself. It is also possible that your hamster has found a new hiding place under the cage or on some box on the very same table where the cage is placed on top of.
- Check out your pet’s favorite hiding places or hangouts
Before doing a very thorough search of the entire room, you may want to eliminate a few spots first; specifically the ones your pet likes to hang out. By doing so, it may help you save time rather than doing a thorough search only to find out that your pet is just on a spot behind the cabinet on the other side of the room where it often goes when it is in its exercise ball.
- Start With the Cage and Move Outwards
Once you have eliminated the perimeter of the cage as well as your hamster’s favorite spots, move outwards. Note that hamsters like dark and warm spots. Check the following areas where your hamster may have hidden:
- Furniture – especially those with cushions, like sofas. Check out behind and under, as well as sides and backs – any corners where your pet may hide. In case you need to sit on the furniture be careful where you are sitting on.
- Cabinets, drawers, and shelves – review and see for any traces of your pet’s presence inside, behind, and under these areas. Include all the bookcases, as well as the compartments where your hamster may feel safe getting into.
You may also need to check spaces in between books and behind the bookshelf or boxes, and the cabinet or the gaps between the drawer and the table or desk.
- Boxes and containers – Uncover all containers and boxes one by one – not simultaneously, then check each. Include tissue boxes since the corners are small enough and the tissue is soft enough for your hamster to enjoy.
- Purses, bags, shoes, backpacks, knapsacks – make sure that all the bags and purses in the room are not moved while you are doing the search to ensure that your hamster does not escape.
Once you have them checked and cleared, you may remove them outside the room. But do not let them re-enter the room until your pet is found to avoid tempting the little furball from exploring into these purses.
- Appliances – appliances like water heaters can be a source of warmth and can be a secondary sanctuary for your hamster. Make sure that the appliance is switched off, if possible.
Check on the holes, the underside, as well as the back of these appliances and ensure that they are clear and free of your friend.
- Other warm and dark places – as mentioned above, there is a need for you to take note of the spaces and holes in the wall that may not be filled in or covered. These include holes and spaces under cupboards where your hamster may crawl into or where it may have left clues like poop or food scraps.
As much as possible, do not move anything within the room until your pet has been found or located. Use flashlights, penlights or torches instead to check dark areas.
The Game Is Afoot
It looks like your hamster wishes to take the hide-and-seek game to the next level as it does not wish to be found. So this time, you make your move by luring it out into the open.
In this step, you need to take note that hamsters are crepuscular-nocturnal. Some would say they start getting out at dusk to hunt, while others say that they prefer the darkness of the night.
Regardless of the time, what is important is making the room and hunting period as dark as possible; with only your torch or flashlight on. Do not shine the light on the poor hammy’s eyes if you see it unless you plan to quickly grab it. Hamsters have already poor eyesight and shining excessive light will damage their eyes.
Additionally, do not make so much noise so it can spend enough time for you to either follow it to its hiding spot or to catch it.
How to Track Missing Rodents?
Basic tracking – the most natural way of tracking your missing hamster is through its poop and seed trails. You can do this especially if your hamster happens to like eating seeds or if you have fed it seeds in the past few days.
Food traces – Arrange food setups in such a way that you can easily detect the presence of your hamster; but use one type of tasty treat only. Have a specific and memorized number of bits, seeds or crumbs of your hamster’s favorite treat or food arranged into piles in areas where you suspect your hamster is hiding.
Paw prints – surround your food pile tracers with flour or cornstarch. You can also put these starchy ingredients around or in front of areas where you suspect your little furball is hiding, as well as across doorways where your hamster may pass through. This way you can identify the direction your hammy came from and where it is heading.
Another way to distract your hamster and at the same time lead you to it or to its hiding place is using its toy sand rather than flour or cornstarch. You can even pile the food on top of a pile of its sand bath.
An alternative to the specific number of food piles is by using yarned nuts, particularly peanuts. Hamsters are particularly fond of putting food in their cheeks, so having yarns around those peanuts will help create trails towards its hideout.
Sounding the alarm – you may have your hamster announce its presence as it goes in and out of its hiding place. This is especially effective at night when you are either quietly lying in wait in the dark or when trying to track your pet in the darkness, or if you and everyone else opt to go to bed.
You may use tin foil or cellophane by placing it particularly in areas where you think your hammy is hiding. You can also put this around the cage or the food. You can also use the exercise wheel, which will not only make your hamster squeak and get distracted – there is even a possibility of it focusing on the wheel and forgetting entirely going back to its hiding place.
Playing Hunter For Finding The Missing Pet
Things would have been great if your hamster went back to its cage during the tracking stage, or if you are able to get it out of its hiding place during the tracking stage.
But what if it still plays hard to get? Or what if it is still hard to locate despite knowing that it is somewhere out there, with the traces of it getting in and out of your tracking set up?
When this happens you may need to consider playing the hunter and trapper. The important thing about laying traps is that it has enough treats and goodies that would make your hamster scramble for all of the good stuff, and that it is safe enough for it not to get hurt once the trap falls on it.
The fastest way to lure missing hamsters would be to have these traps near their hiding places. But if you are unable to identify the hiding spots, you can still set it up and lie in wait.
Guidelines When Catching Your Hamster
Here are some possible traps you can use to get back your mischievous furball:
- Home cage
This is probably the simplest of the traps as this requires you nothing but your hamster’s favorite treats, its exercise wheel, and its cage. Leave your cage open on the floor but make sure that you are ready to spring into action to close the door once it enters.
Inside the cage put some of your hamster’s favorites in its feeding dish and a little bit on its exercise wheel nearby, inside the cage.
When your hamster enters the cage and eats the food, close the cage right away and lock it well. But leave your hamster alone to settle down for the next 24 hours.
- Open towel trap
This is possible if you are quick enough to react and if your hamster is small. Have a food set up where your hammy can feast. Take note that hamsters have poor eyesight and can only see in front, so you may actually sneak from behind but make sure you do it really quietly.
- Towel trap
From a distance quickly toss a lightweight towel. The weight of the towel should keep your hamster still, but you have to be quick enough to “fence” it with your hands before scooping it with the towel and placing it back in its cage.
Once safely and properly locked inside its house, do not disturb your hamster and let it settle down for a day before handling it again.
- Humane mousetrap
Set up a non-injuring, non-poisoning mousetrap. You may use either the box set up or the lever set up. Use peanut butter and all the good-smelling treats for your hamster as bait.
- Tube trap
Using all your hamster’s favorites, put them in a tube with one end properly sealed or closed. Make sure that the tube is easy to carry so you can scoop your hamster up using the tube right away and have your pet exit to its cage.
- Bucket trap
This is an elaborate trap used by many pet parents because of its effectiveness. Use a bucket that is neither too shallow nor too deep (around 10 inches) so that the hamster cannot get out of it and at the same time not hurt falling in. You can even use trash bin instead of a bucket.
There are two ways – you either put a thick towel at the bottom for the hamster to jump into, or you hang a mid-sized towel on top of the bucket. The mid-sized towel should not hold enough your hamster’s weight, but strong enough to lure your hammy all the way to the middle where the treats are.
Whether you choose a hanging towel or a towel at the bottom, the important thing is to put its favorite treats in the middle or on top of the towel right smack in the center for your hammy to dive into.
Put a ramp outside, just beside the bucket, with treats trailing and leading into the bucket so your hamster will be tempted. Do not put too many treats on the “trail” since your purpose is to lure them into the bucket.
Once you’ve caught a lost hamster, transfer your hamster into its home and let it rest, undisturbed.
Because of their tenacity in escaping and finding routes, it is important to routinely check your hamsters’ cage for any gaps where they could go through.
Always secure your hamster’s housing by using metal locks reinforced with tapes or bulldog clips. Avoid using plastic since hammies love to gnaw and may turn its cage into a chew toy.
Check its housing regularly for any torn parts, holes or widened gaps in case you are using cages with bars and repair – or better yet, replace the cage immediately if you see these chinks in your pet’s cage.
In addition, take into account the various holes and crevices inside the room where your hamster’s cage is located. Have these enclosed spaces filled out or covered if they are room or house flaws. If not, make sure that they are either inaccessible or you memorize them so that whenever you need to look for your hamster you can easily check and account for each one.
Always remember that before you replace your hamster in its home, you have to make sure that its cage has no gaping holes and wide gaps. Although your hamster may not wander right away since it needs time to rest, it is reassuring to know that it is back safe and sound for good.
Do not give up your furry friend just because you are unable to find it. Sometimes, all it needs is a little patience and faith and the escaped hamster will return on its own. Having clean water, treats, a warm bed, and a quiet sleep time will be the best welcome it can ever have after such a long adventure.