It’s every hamster owner’s nightmare. You go to feed your little friend and discover that they are missing. Hamsters are excellent escape artists and given just the tiniest of opportunities they will make a break for freedom. Suddenly you need to know how to find a lost hamster and you need to know fast! As well as the worry of not knowing where your little pet is, you need to think about the damage that a hamster can do to your house (including nibbling on electrical wires) whilst they are free.
Stay calm and do not panic! We have been through this ourselves and have already researched all the tips, tricks, and strategies that work in real life. So, here are 10 things that you can do to find a lost hamster.
How to Find a Lost Hamster in 10 Easy Steps
1. Hunt at Night
Hamsters are mainly nocturnal so you have a greater chance of finding them at night. Turn off all the lights and sit quietly in the dark listening for any sounds of little claws on the floor. Hamsters make a scurrying sound but you may also hear the sound of them chewing card or paper left around the house. Do one room at a time – you may have to recruit all the family to help with the lost hamster in house adventure!
A cat or dog can provide clues about this but only under very carefully controlled circumstances. Your kitty or pooch must be on a lead at all times. Our dog became obsessed with some boxed in pipework which gave us a big clue about where our hammy was hiding. When they are not helping with the search, other pets (especially cats) that could hurt the hamster need to be locked away.
2. Use Foil to Hear their Feet
Carpets and linoleum will muffle the sound of hamster feet so put down some aluminum foil. Don’t bother putting it out in the center of the room where your hamster is unlikely to venture. Instead, place it under furniture or behind cupboards and listen for any noise as it is walked over.
You may have to do this on several occasions and in several rooms so you may want to have a sleeping bag with you so that you can have a nap.
3. Use Cornstarch to Track them
If you have no luck listening out for your hamster, you could try tracking them instead. You could track your hamster’s movements by placing a thin layer of cornstarch (fine flour) on the floor. If you find little tracks in one room, this will at least give you an idea about where your hamster is hiding. If you can narrow it down to one room it will make your search more efficient and hopefully more successful.
4. Leave Food and Water
Depending on when your hamster escaped, they could be very hungry and thirsty by now. Hamsters can only survive for a day or so without water and a little longer without food. You need to keep them alive whilst you try and locate their hiding spot and trap them. So, leave plenty of feed and water in a small bowl positioned all over the house.
If your hamster takes the food it is good news! It means that hammy is alive and all you have to do is find them and get them back in their cage.
5. Start a Methodical Search
Hopefully, by now you will have located roughly where your hamster is hiding so that you can narrow the search. Don’t forget you are not just looking for your hamster itself, you are also looking for clues about where your hamster is hiding. This could be shredded cardboard or paper, nibbled food, or even a nibbled electrical wire. Be thorough and methodical and use a flashlight. Proceed very gently so you don’t hurt a sleeping hamster or get a sharp bite yourself.
If you have no idea where their hiding place is, start with the room where you kept your hamster’s cage when they escaped. Here are some ideas on where to look:
- Behind and underneath furniture including under couch cushions
- Inside cabinets and drawers and behind books stacked on shelves
- Inside bags, coat pockets, boots and shoes, and shoeboxes
6. Widen Your Search Area
If your initial hamster search has been unsuccessful, it is time to get serious. Hamsters can get to places in your house that you may not even know exist! A Syrian hamster can get through a hole that is one inch wide and a dwarf hamster needs half that. So, start looking in small spaces – they can squeeze behind pipes and appliances.
Try checking in with your neighbors. Many hamsters make it up into the loft and from there can even get into neighbors’ houses or a neighboring apartment. We also started lifting up floorboards when we thought we heard movement in one room.
Think about what has been taken out of the house. Could your hamster have been taken out with the garbage or with any other bags that have left your house? We had to call our local thrift store and ask them to keep an eye out for our hamster because we had taken bags of clothes there.
7. Tempt them with special treats
One of the top tips on how to find an escaped hamster is to lure them out with treats. A missing hamster will still like their tasty treats. Choose some treats that your hamster likes and will come out of hiding to eat. Some hamsters love peanut butter, others prefer sunflower seeds or chopped-up apple or cucumber.
You could even try tying a long string to the favorite treats to see if it leads you back to where your hamster lives at the moment.
8. Leave the Cage Door Open
Believe it or not, often an escaped hamster will make their own way back into their cage. Once they have discovered that the big outside world is not as exciting as they thought it would be, they are happy to go home and climb in that nice soft bedding that you provide for them.
It is very important that you leave the hamster cage in the room where you think your hamster is and leave the door open at all times. Check every morning to see if they have returned. You may get a lovely surprise and a happy ending to your hamster escaping a cage emergency!
9. Place a Humane Trap
A lot of advice on how to catch a hamster involves placing a humane trap.
You can use a humane mouse trap to catch your runaway hamster. You can get them from your local pet store or hardware store. They are basically a wire cage in which you place treats and food. Your hamster will climb inside and the door shuts behind them so that they cannot get back out.
Place it in the room where your hamster went missing or where you suspect they are.
10. Set a Bucket Trap
You can make your own humane hamster trap using a bucket and a towel. Lay a towel in a deep bucket and put some tasty treats on top. Make a ramp with books or wood so that your hamster can get up to the top. When they reach the top, they should jump down to get the treats but will not be able to get back up.
Make sure that the towel is thick enough to create a soft landing and check to see if your hamster is there first thing in the morning. They may not be very pleased with the way their night turned out!
Final Thoughts on How to Find a Lost Hamster
When my hamster escaped it was a very stressful time. The important thing is to act quickly to try to find your little pet. There are reports online of hamsters going missing for several weeks and then turning up a bit thin but otherwise fine. So, don’t despair and don’t give up. Following the above 10 steps will give you the best chance of being reunited with your pet.
Hopefully, your missing hamster crisis will have a happy ending. Once you find them, if you have any concerns about their health you should seek veterinary advice. Good luck!