Most hamster owners have a story about how their hamster got away. Maybe it escaped from its cage or maybe it just jumped out of your hands and took off running. It’s not that your hammy doesn’t love you. It’s just that hamsters like to run and burrow – that’s their nature. So to them it’s not an escape – it’s just doing what comes naturally.
Let’s face it, once your hamster escapes, the odds are against you finding him or her. But that shouldn’t stop you from trying, because most hamster owners also have stories of their hamster miraculously turning up – maybe in a day, maybe a week, maybe even more.
So what can you do to find a lost hamster? Follow these four rules:
Lock down the house or apartment. Close all doors, windows, and any other exit from the house, such as a doggy door or air conditioning or heating grate. Not only should you close grates, but try putting a piece of fabric or paper over them using painter’s blue tape so you don’t mess up the wall or floor. If there’s a space under a door, stuff a towel under there.
Also be sure to lock up any other animals you have – dogs, cats, birds or any other animal that might harm your hamster.
Do your search room by room. Kitchens are popular hiding places. But you can start with the room where you last saw your hamster. Get down on all fours and pretend you’re a hamster. Where would you hide? What might make a good nest? What corner, nook, or hole would you like to crawl into?
Remember that hamsters are night creatures, so you may have more luck searching in the evenings.
Using a flashlight, start in one corner of the room, on the floor, and slowly move around the room. Look in, under and behind things. Shine the flashlight in every corner, every hole, every spot that’s dark and hidden from normal view.
Hamsters can fit almost anywhere. Here’s a list of some of the places your hamster might be hiding. Think about this list of hamster hiding places as you go through each room.
- Under sinks
- Behind toilets
- In cabinets and drawers (bathroom, kitchen)
- In closets
- Inside shoes, purses, clothing or anything else in your closets
- On shelves, especially behind things stored there
- Behind and under furniture such as chairs and sofas
- Behind and between chair and couch cushions
- Behind a bookcase or even books on a shelf
- Behind a stack of mail or magazines
- Inside any box, including tissue boxes
- Under the sheets of a bed
- Inside a mattress
- In the folds of a towel (or any piece of clothing left on the floor!)
- In a laundry basket
- In a trash basket
- In a shopping bag
- Behind or under a refrigerator, stove, water heater, or washing machine
While you’re looking, try to be quiet. Listen for the sounds a hamster might make, like scratching or tapping. You might also make a loud noise by banging on the floor, then listen again. Maybe your hammy will get scared and then you can hear him or her scurrying around.
Another idea is to put some crinkly aluminum foil or newspaper on the floor of a room. Sit quietly and listen for the noise your hamster will make if it walks across the foil or newspaper. (You can combine this with the lure of food, discussed next.)
A hamster’s got to eat. You can take advantage of their hunger by placing a few bits of a treat they like (e.g. yogurt drops, fresh fruit, sunflower seeds) on the floor of the room you’re in. Put a few bits on the floor, then step back and be quiet. You might even hide in a corner! You’ll have to be patient as your hamster sniffs out the aroma of its treat and comes out to eat.
If you can’t stay up all night waiting for your hamster to eat, sprinkle a little white flour or cornstarch on the floor around the food. The next morning, look for your hamster’s hiding place by following the tiny white footprints.
Another lure might be one of your hamster’s favorite toys. If he likes running around in an exercise ball, put it on the floor of a room. Again, the familiar aroma might get your hamster to come out and explore the toy.
Many people report success with a pail trap. First, find a pail, bucket, or some other container. It has to be deep enough so that a hamster can’t get out, but not deep enough for a hamster to get hurt falling in. Put some of your hamster’s favorite food in the bottom of the pail. (Think of food that smells good.) Then build some stairs up to the top of the pail. You can make the stairs out of books, magazines, or pieces of wood. Leave the trap out overnight.
The plan is for your hamster to climb up the stairs and jump into the pail to get the food. If the pail is high enough (but not too high), your hamster should be there waiting for you in the morning.
A final lure is to leave the hamster cage, with an open door, on the floor of the room. Who knows? When your hammy is finished exploring, he or she may want to come back to their familiar bedding.
The Outdoor Escape
Once a hamster gets outside your house, it will be a lot harder to find it. Obviously, you can’t lock up the outside. But you can still look around in corners and possible hiding places such as under a garbage can or near a wall. You might also try leaving some snacks around, or in the pail trap, in the hope that your hamster will want to eat some familiar food.
For more information see the article Preventing Hamster Escapes.