Hamsters resemble little furry Harry Houdinis. They can escape from just about anything. For hamster owners, it’s not a matter of if their pets ever get lost, it’s when. Even the largest hamster pet species, the Syrian or golden, can quickly get into trouble and die while going walkabout. In order to avert tragedy, owners must treat an escaped hamster as an emergency and get the whole family to follow steps to find the hamster and get a happy ending.
How to find a lost hamster: All species of pet hamster possess an instinct to escape and explore. Hamsters will escape from cages, exercise balls or hands. By sealing off the room, following some safety tips and making a live hamster trap, owners can successfully be reunited with their pets.
How to Find a Lost Hamster: Start Hamster-proofing the Room
The escaped hamster could be anywhere in the house, but chances are he or she is still in the same room as the cage or toy he or she slipped away from. Here re some immediate things to do:
- If the hamster escaped from a cage, keep the cage door open just in case the hamster decides to come back.
- Start shuffling your feet instead of walking normally. One step will kill a hamster.
- Pick up any poisonous chemical, cleaner, bug poison or rodent poison from the floors and lower cabinets and place on higher cabinets.
- Pick up any mouse traps.
- Tape up any electrical wires on the floor or unplug everything (if possible.) Hamsters will chew on yummy plastic wires and can be electrocuted.
- Close all windows and block the bottom of the doorway with a towel or other material so the hamster cannot slip under the door.
- Do NOT sit down on any chairs or sofas without first removing all of the cushions to see if the hamster is hiding there.
- Search anything on the floor like boxes, bags, purses, shoes, papers, piles of laundry you forgot to put in the hamper, because these make great hidey-holes for escaped hamsters.
- Put a sign up on the outside of the door of the room where the hamster was last seen asking people to stay out until the culprit is found.
How to Find a Lost Hamster: Track Down that Hamster
It can be maddening not knowing which room in the house the hamster is hiding out in. Here are some tips from TheSprucePets.com on how to find out for sure which room the hamster is in. NOTE: These tips only work if you know for sure that your home is not infested with mice or rats. Otherwise, you may mistake their activities for your hamster.
- Sprinkle some cornstarch or flour on the floor. Leave it overnight. In the morning, check for little footprints.
- Sprinkle some more cornstarch or flour in doorways or thresholds to look for footprints.
- Get a handful of sunflower seeds. Count them. Place on the floor. If the sunflower seeds are gone or have been reduced in number, then your hamster is in that room.
- If it’s the daytime, your hamster is probably asleep. He’ll come out at night. Lay down some tin foil or cellophane, scrunched up newspaper or something that will make a noise when little feet walk on it. If you hear the material rustling, then the hamster is in the room.
- Hamster love peanuts. Get those in the shell and tie long bits or thread or yarn to the shells. Make the lines as long as you can. If the hamster takes the peanuts, then follow the “hamster fishing line” of the yarn or thread back to your munching hamster.
Making a Hamster Trap
A hamster trap is easy to make, is safe for the hamster and often is the only reliable way to catch a furry Houdini. This can work even if you do not know what room the hamster is in. You need bait, a ramp, a container for the trap itself and soft bedding for the bottom of the trap.
- Set a container like a plastic five-gallon bucket or a large plastic tote in a conspicuous place in the room. The sides need to be smooth. The sides need to be large enough so the hamster cannot jump out. Sides over a foot high are best.
- Place a thick layer of bedding like shredded newspaper, a towel or pine shavings at the bottom.
- Make a ramp to lean up against one side of the trap container. Ramps could be a sturdy wooden ruler, books stacked like steps or a bit of wire.
- Put irresistible treats in the trap. You know your hamster best, but treats that lure hamsters include cheese, peanut butter crackers and sunflower seeds. A piece of apple or juicy fruit helps give the trapped hamster some hydration.
- Hamsters have an amazing sense of smell. They will smell the treat, go up the ramp and jump in the trap in order to get the treat.
- Check the trap at least twice a day until the culprit is caught.
Do not worry if you cannot catch the hamster on the first night. Hamsters sometimes escape with a cheek pouch full of food. This food can get them buy for a few days. Keep trying for the trap for at least a week.
If All Else Fails: Humane Traps
Humane traps, also called live traps, are not made for hamsters but for rats or mice. They have been known to injure hamsters, especially the dwarfs, but this may be a risk worth taking if it’s been over a week and the hamster is still missing. Get the smallest trap you can.
A Note About Hamster Balls
Although notorious from escaping from their cages, they also find ways out of other places – especially hamster balls, race cars or other toys where a hamster is encased but can run around the room to get exercise. These toys are fun for the owners as well as the hamster. However, they are not 100 percent hamster escape-proof.
Always supervise your hamster when in these toys. That way, if and when your hamster figures out how to pop the toy open, you are right there to scoop up the little escapee. PetMD also offers these safety tips:
- Wash the toy after use every time because hamsters pee and poo frequently. Ammonia build-up makes it hard for a hamster to breathe.
- Never let the toy with a hamster in it get into direct sunlight or strong heat.
- One reason hamsters escape from toys is because they are running out of air. Be sure to remove the hamster after ten minutes in a new toy, and no longer than twenty minutes for experienced hamsters because the air will run out.
- Check the toy every time before use for chew marks. Hamsters have been known to chew their way out of plastic toys.
Related Question: Why Do Hamsters Escape?
Your pet has not escaped just to spite you. You haven’t done anything wrong. Nearly 100 years of being kept as pets has not removed any of the wild instincts from today’s hamsters. In the wild, hamsters have to travel for miles each night in order to find enough food to not only keep them alive now but over the winter or through times of drought when food is scarce.
Hamsters instinctively hoard. Unlike human hoarders, hamsters do not suffer from a mental disorder that makes them live in trash. Hamster hoards are tidy affairs filled only with food. Hamsters don’t quite feel relaxed unless they have some food stashed away for bad times. They do not understand that they will be fed every day by a loving owner. In order to find enough food to build a hoard, they explore anything and everything.
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