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Question
I am in the process of taming my winter white female.She is not vicious,but a little skittish.How can I get her to get used to my scent/tame her?I heard of people putting a piece of toilet paper in their pocket to get their scent on it and then putting it in their cage so they get used to my scent.

Also,I was giving her a treat to tame her,then she nibbled on my finger a little.I didn't mind it at first until it got a little more bite-like.Wasn't exactly a bite,but not gentle nibbling.Is it a sign of trust/affection?or was it because she thought my finger was food because it smelled like it?I don't think it was because it was frightened,she walked up to my hand and started to nibble.I'll probably wash my hands after giving a treat next time so she doesn't possibly mistake my fingers for food.

Also,are cardboard toilet paper tubes/toilet paper safe for hamsters?I don't think hamsters can digest cardboard,but I've heard of people using it.

I am thinking about making home-made toys for my hamsters,which materials are safe(popsicle sticks,cereal boxes,etc.)?I might also make wood houses/furniture for my hamsters as well,which woods are safe for them?If you don't know,it's fine.

Also,if a hamster bites you and it draws blood,do you just wash your hands with soap and water?

I would also like some tips on taming her.

Answer
Hi Thao

Thanks for your question.

The first thing to remember is that hamsters have terrible eyesight therefore anything that they smell is potentially food or an attacker. This can result in accidental bites. Hamsters do also 'taste' fingers in that they scrape their teeth along it first to try to establish if it is edible.

I find the bet way to handle a hamster is to rub some of their bedding into my hands. Then I quickly 'scoop' the hamster up and immediately put the hamster on clothing. Hamsters tend to get a bit freaked out if they walk on skin.

I talk to my hamsters a lot and I believe this really helps tame them. Regarding handling - i think doing this daily even if it is only for a few minutes is better than handling less often. Treats are good to give but I never let them eat from my hand in case of accidental bites.

Paper tubes are fine for hamsters to play in but it is good to make toys too but you do need to be careful with using wood. Cypress, pine and cedar are to be avoided as they contain a volatile oil called thujone which can cause skin irritation and breathing difficulties.

If a hamster or any pet bites (hamster bites can be deep) you really ought to have a tetanus injection - I think these last for ten years. You should always wash a bite immediately and use some antiseptic. It is good to cover with a plaster dressing especially if you are cleaning them out as you don't want to get their urine on a cut or it will infect. If you are in any doubt please phone your doctor as a tetanus jab has to be done within a certain number of hours - they will know if it is necessary.

I hope this helps you.

Regards
Sheila

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Sheila Adby

Expertise

Syrian hamsters are my specialty, however, I have kept Campbells,Winter Whites and gerbils in the past. I can advise on most subjects associated with hamsters, including housing, bedding, feeding, handling, new borns and catching escapees. I have had some experience of various health problems with hamsters and can offer my opinion and advice on basic health issues, however I am not a qualified vet and therefore cannot recommend drugs etc. My website is www.thehamstersite.com

Experience

I have been keeping hamsters and other small animals for more than 12 years. My favourites are Syrian hamsters and I foster litters and 'difficult' hamsters for a rescue centre. My job is to tame hamsters ready for re-homing, which is extremely rewarding. I also enjoy looking after new litters and raising the pups. I have co-written a book on hamsters with my local vet and have a website: www.thehamstersite.com

Publications
Hamsters in Sickness and in Health - Sheila Adby and Dan O'Neill ISBN186163218-5 (Capall Bann Publishing)

Education/Credentials
Educated to A Level standard in the UK.

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