ESCAPED HAMSTER

We cannot stress this strongly enough: 

NEVER UNDERESTIMATE A HAMSTER'S ABILITY TO HATCH AN ESCAPE PLAN!

Some may say that you're not a hamster owner until you've had the experience of searching for your escaped fur-ball

but, seriously, you want to rather avoid this kind of stress (and risks to your hamster) at all costs.

Hopefully some of these tips will help you find your little one soon.

 

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TRY TO LOCATE WHERE YOUR HAMSTER MAY BE

Search in ALL rooms! She may not still be in the room you think she is...they do move about. Look  under and behind all furniture (check that she hasn't gnawed her way into a couch or armchair from underneath), inside cupboards, gaps in skirting boards, etc.

  1. If you do locate her, shut the door/s & window/s in that room, and block the gaps under doors.

Don't underestimate how flat they can squeeze themselves under door spaces, or their ability to climb curtains or objects to reach open windows.

  • Set up the bucket trap, as described below.

  • Check regularly to see if she's taken the bait and fallen in (be careful when you open the door that you don't squish her, in case she's right there).

  • Once trapped, place her back in her habitat.

  • Try to find out how she escaped and remedy that red flag.

  ​2.  If you can't locate her, you'll need to make more effort to find where exactly she is:

  • Place a little food mix and a small bowl of water in the corner of each room and sprinkle a light dusting of flour around the zone. 

​This will also ensure that she won't be going hungry and thirsty if she is about.

  • Shut all doors & windows in each room, and block the gaps under doors, including those leading outdoors.

  • Later or in the morning, check for any paw prints in the flour and hopefully she'll be in one of the rooms. 

  • Set up the bucket trap in that room, as described below.

  • Check regularly to see if she's taken the bait and fallen in (be careful when you open the door that you don't squish her, in case she's right there).

  • Once trapped, place her back in her habitat.

  • Try to find out how she escaped and remedy that red flag.

  3.  Watch your dog or cat for reactions.

Your other pets will be alerted and interested in the sound or movement of another little creature scurrying about.

Any interest could indicate where she is and could make your search easier.

Keep your pets out of that room and revert to Point #1 above. 

Note that many hamsters have suddenly reappeared after a few weeks in the quiet of night, so do keep the food and water out, even in a little travel cage on the floor with the door open, until it's blatantly clear that she won't be returning. Before getting another hamster, make sure the habitat has been escape-proofed!

BUCKET TRAP

  1. Get a bucket or deep plastic container/bin.

  2. Make stairs or a ramp for the hamster to easily climb to the rim of the bucket:        Stagger a few books or CD/DVD cases, make a Lego staircase, anything, to act as steps up to the rim of the bucket. OR secure hamster tubes from the cage to the rim of the bucket, or build a ramp with a piece of wood or thick cardboard (make sure it's not too steep and slippery). 

  3. Place a nice thick layer of soft bedding from her habitat at the bottom of the bucket, which will make a good soft landing. Sprinkle some of her food and favourite treats over this and a little chunk of cucumber or juicy veg/fruit. 

  4. Cover the top of the bucket with a piece of paper towel (keep it loose).

  5. Place her favourite dry treat in the middle of the paper towel and make a trail of little treats up the ramp/stairs (one on every 2nd step, and at the bottom).        Don't put too much food on the outside of the bucket...you want to lure her up to the top of the bucket instead of filling up and running off again.

  6. She should fall down into the bedding when she steps onto the paper towel to get to that tasty morsel in the middle.

Try to find out how she escaped and remedy that red flag.

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Reasons why a hamster may try to escape it's habitat:

  • Some are just hell-bent on seeing what's on the other side of the enclosure.

  • The cage is too small and your hamster is frustrated, stressed, and desperate for more space.

  • Your hamster is bored because there is not enough entertainment and enrichment within the enclosure. 

  • In cases of neglect, the hamster may be starving or thirsty, or the enclosure is filthy and smelly, and he NEEDS to get out in order to survive.

  • You are using scented substrates and he NEEDS to escape the irritating and overwhelming fumes.

  • Your habitat is made from nice gnawable materials, and hamsters do like to gnaw to keep their teeth trimmed down. 

  • Lastly...who knows? Your hamster just tries because he can...he's an opportunist!

Red flags that would afford your hamster escape opportunities:

  • Your enclosure does not have a meshed lid (completely open), or a tight-enough-fitting meshed lid (too light and loose).

- Ensure you make one ASAP! or make sure it fits tightly or is weighted down.​

  • Water bottles and wheels are notoriously famous for hamsters gaining leverage to the top of the enclosure.

- Fasten a piece of cardboard u​nder the mesh of the lid at the zone where the hamster can reach, to make it solid, particularly above shelves.

  • The habitat is made from flimsy material, e.g. cardboard, hardboard, thin wood (plywood, balsa), damaged/exposed chipboard, etc. that can be gnawed.

- Invest in a new habitat made from stronger material, e.g. Melamine or glass. ​

  • The ventilation material is flimsy, e.g. mosquito or fly screen mesh/netting, plastic mesh, fabric netting, etc. which can be gnawed or torn open.

- Replace asap with sturdier mesh (chicken wire is about R30-R40 for a meter at your local hardware store and can be nailed/stapled into place easily).​

  • Bar spacing on a cage, or ventilation mesh gaps, is too wide (maximum 1cm is recommended for dwarfs and babies, and 1.2cm for Syrian hamsters).

- Fasten a piece of cardboard u​nder the mesh at the zone where the hamster can reach, to make it solid, particularly above shelves.

- Reinforce a cage by using galvanised wire mesh to cover it in order to make the bar-spacing narrower, or invest in a solid habitat.

  • There's a gap somewhere that is just wide enough for your hamster to squeeze through. You need to believe how flat they can make themselves!

- Fix it properly, or look at getting a more solid habitat. ​

  • Cutouts and drilled holes in bin cages make good edges to start gnawing at, particularly on the sides or front, and there will be a hole made in no time.

- Line such edges with wood or half-round strip molds from your hardware store. Cover up any drilled holes that the hamster can reach.