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Dr. Kara
Dr. Kara, Board Certified Veterinarian
Category: Pet
Satisfied Customers: 16506
Experience:  Over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian.
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We bought a hamster a couple of months ago and it is still

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Hi we bought a hamster a couple of months ago and it is still hiding away from us and not wanting any contact and is making very funny noises now, like a high, growling, but croaky hiss. I now is not happy at all nad I don't know what to do? Should we give him to the RSPCA and get another one? We have tried enticing him with food but he is not interested. He escaped the first day we got him and wonder whether he was traumatised?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Pet
Expert:  Dr. Kara replied 2 years ago.
Hello, my name is***** and I have over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian. I am sorry to hear that your little fellow is not as sociable as you would like.
Hamsters are a prey species and as such are naturally a bit fearful and untrusting of unfamiliar things. If he, his mom, and siblings weren't handled often and gently from a young age he may see people as something to fear. As well some hamsters are more social than others. He may have not had good experiences with people, be naturally shy and prefer to not be handled.
Most hamsters that are handled gently and rewarded by getting out in an exercise ball or a safe place to play come to look forward to, or at least not object to handling. If a special food treat is given when they come out all the more reason to not object to handling. You may still be able to get him to trust you, but it will be harder at the age he is now, as he is an adult. You will want to make sure every time he is handled is a positive experience.
I would start with a physical examination by a veterinarian that is experienced with hamsters to make sure all is well. No one is at their best or feels very social if they don't feel well.
As far as general care to keep your hamster as healthy as possible as long as possible here are some suggestions. These suggestions may also help your fellow feel healthier now and perhaps feel more social.
Please don't use wood chips of any type for bedding.
Wood chips of any kind can be a problem. They release aromatic oils and can carry bacterial and fungal spores. I recommend recycled paper pulp bedding as it is hypoallergenic, nontoxic and absorptive.
What should you use to clean the cage? I like very dilute antibacterial hand soap with very hot water, then rinse well in very hot water and dry well. You can also use a 5% bleach solution, but you must rinse very well to remove any odor. The cage should be cleaned completely weekly as hamster urine is very concentrated and can be very irritating to the nasal passages. You should spot remove and replace bedding in the area of the cage that he uses to eliminate daily to every other day.
Ideally he should be eating rodent blocks. These are nutritionally complete whereas with seed mixes they eat what they like, not necessarily what is good for them, making for a weak immune system and poor bone structure (as seeds tend to be high in phosphorus and low in calcium).
Inside his cage give him things to chew on (untreated pine wood blocks and nonscented paper towel and toilet paper rolls are fine) as well as an exercise wheel. If it's squeaky use olive oil to grease the axle.
Small cardboard boxes to play in, chew on and hide in are great too.
Keep him away from drafts, including heating vents and windows/doors.
And make sure that he is in a quiet area so that he can get his rest in during the day.
None of us are very friendly when we are tired.
Because hamsters are nocturnal I recommend handling and playing with them in the evening so they are rested and ready to play. Never touch a sleeping hamster as he will be threatened and bite. Make sure he is awake and aware before attempting to touch him.
If he is healthy and you work with him, rewarding him with play in an exercise ball and treats when he comes out, yet he remains fearful then he may simply not be a guy that will ever enjoy human interaction.
If he isn't eating normally, you notice changes in his coat or feces, lethargy, or sneezing then it's time to seek a veterinarian who is comfortable treating hamsters. These little ones are prey items so they hide their illnesses well, if he seems sick he is.
Let me know if you have further questions.
Expert:  Dr. Kara replied 2 years ago.
Hi Sophie,

I'm just following up on our conversation about your pet. How is everything going?