How To Find A Lost Hamster (A Helpful Guide)

By Dawn | Hamster Care
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It’s fair to say that hamsters are naturally very curious animals.  They will always seize the opportunity to have a good nosey at their surroundings, given half the chance.  It’s not that hamsters don’t like their home, they simply love to explore.

If you’re reading this because your hamster has escaped, then don’t worry.  By reading this article fully, you’ll be fully equipped with the knowledge to track down your furry explorer and get it back in its cage, safe and sound.

So, without further, ado, let’s start by giving you some ideas on where to start your search for your hamster.  Once you know where to look, you can then move on to isolating your hamster to a particular room, which will then give you a greater chance of catching your hamster.

Where To Look For Your Hamster

Once your hamster has escaped and is free to roam around, they can climb almost anywhere, drop down from elevated positions and squeeze through the smallest of gaps.

However, hamsters are naturally very timid animals, and it is likely that your hamster will be very frightened and will be hiding in a place that makes them feel safe.

Here’s a list of places to look for your hamster.  You should use this as a checklist to make sure you have left no stone unturned!

  • Dark, small spaces – your hamster won’t be roaming around in open spaces because they will feel vulnerable.
  • Furniture – check behind and under furniture, down the sides and backs of sofas and under the cushions.  Always check under the cushions before you sit down.
  • Cabinets, shelves, bookcases, drawers, wardrobes, beds, cupboards – look inside, under and behind these bits of furniture.  You should also look for any holes that your hamster could climb inside.  Make a note of any holes you find so that you can check back later in case you don’t find your hamster immediately.
  • Boxes – Look in all boxes including storage boxes, shoe boxes, tissue boxes etc.
  • Bags – Look in all bags including backpacks and handbags.  You should also check purses, especially if they’re slightly open inside a handbag.
  • Shoes – Shoes are a perfect hiding place for hamsters, because they are dark inside.  Be sure to check your slippers too, as they tend to be even comfier!
  • Appliances – Check underneath your fridge, look underneath your cooker and around the back of these appliances, especially if there are any holes.  Hamsters will often find crumbs underneath appliances to eat, but they will also hide underneath them where it is dark, to help them feel secure.
  • Walls and doors – Your hamster can squeeze into the tiniest of cracks, so look carefully at your walls and doors for any cracks and crevices that it could squeeze into.
  • Laundry bags or baskets – Your hamster will love to hideout in your laundry where it is dark and warm.

Finally, when you’re looking for your hamster, the best time to look is at night because hamsters are nocturnal and crepuscular.  In the daytime, your hamster is likely to have found a spot to sleep in your house. 

If you listen carefully, you might just hear your hamster eating or scurrying around. 

Isolating Your Hamster

Ideally, if you can isolate your hamster to one particular room, then that’s going to make your search a whole lot easier.

Here are some things to try which will help you narrow down your search.

  1. Put out some food, ideally in each room of your house, or at the very least, in the rooms that you expect your hamster to be in.  It’s a good idea to leave out treats that have a high water content in them because your hamster may be thirsty.  You can use treats such as grapes (make sure that they’re seedless), cucumber and apple pieces.  You can also put some food out that will attract your hamster such as peanuts or peanut butter.

Sunflower seeds are also a good option, just be sure to count them first and then put them on the floor in each room.

Once you have the food in place, keep an eye on it.  If you notice that the food in one of the rooms has been eaten and the others haven’t, then there’s a good chance that your hamster is in that room or nearby.

  1. Once you’ve put the food out, lay down some tin foil or some crinkly cellophane around doorways, near the cage and near potential hideouts such as behind furniture etc.  Then, at night, hide and listen out, you might just hear some tiny footsteps on the foil or cellophane!  You could also hide some food within the foil or cellophane so that your hamster will make a noise whilst trying to get to the food.
  2. Another way to track down your hamster is to sprinkle some flour around doorways, on the floor, in front of hideaways, under furniture and cupboards and around any holes that you have taken note of when you first started your search.  Hamsters are attracted to the smell of flour and are likely to leave footprints in it which may lead you to their hiding place.  Make sure, however, that the flour you sprinkle isn’t too deep, otherwise you are unlikely to see their footprints.
  3. Another trick is to take some peanuts in their shells and tie a long bit of yarn or thread to them.  Hopefully, your hamster will then take the ‘bait’ and lead you to their hideout.
  4. Finally, look for any hamster poop which will give you some hints as to the whereabouts of your hamster.

Hamster Proofing The Room

Once you’ve managed to isolate your hamster to one particular room, it’s important that you ‘hamster proof’ that room to remove any possible dangers to your hamster.  

Basically, you need to remove any poisonous chemicals that you have, cleaning agents, bug poison or ant stations.  Also, be sure to remove any mouse traps that you may have, tape up any electrical wires (hamsters like to chew remember) and unplug as many things as possible.

Also, be sure to close any windows and put towels in place at the bottom of your doorways so that your hamster can’t escape.

Catching Your Lost Hamster

Now that you have a rough idea where your missing hamster is, it’s time to catch your hamster and return him to his cage safely.  Here are three methods that you can try.

Method 1 – Placing Your Hamster Cage On The Floor

This first method is probably the least effective, but it’s a method you should try nevertheless, as you might just get lucky.  Some hamsters have been known to come back into their cages on their own. 

Basically, take your cage, leave it on the floor and open all the doors on it, near its usual location, with a supply of fresh food and water inside.   

You may have to forgo a nights sleep for this one as you’ll need to close the cage door when, and if, your hamster returns to its cage.

The problem with this method is that it usually results in your hamster removing the bedding from its cage and taking it to its new den.  So although your hamster is fed and warm, it is still on the loose.

Method 2 – The Bucket Trap

The bucket trap is probably the most effective way of catching your hamster, which is successful nine times out of ten.

To set this up, you need to take a tall bucket and set it at a steep angle or completely upright.  If you decide to prop it up at an angle, you can prop it up with books, DVD boxes or something similar.

Next, take some more books and make a set of stairs out of them leading up to the top of the bucket.  Make sure that you don’t use your favorite books as your hamster may make some bedding out of them and spoil your books!

Next, add some aspen shavings and some nesting material (personally, I like to use plain old toilet paper for nesting material, ripped into strips) to the bucket.  Make sure that you put plenty in so that your hamster will have a soft landing.

Finally, add some of your hamsters favorite treats to the bucket such as peanuts and apple pieces.  It’s also a good idea to put some strong smelling greens into the bucket to attract your hamster.  You could use broccoli and cabbage as they’re quite odorous.

Now that the trap is complete, put some more food on the steps leading up to the bucket.  Your hamster will be drawn to the food with their acute sense of smell.  Just don’t put too many treats on the stairs, as your hamster may get full and be discouraged from climbing into the bucket.

Hopefully, your hamster will then climb the stairs, slide into the bucket and collect its prize!

Next, go to bed, and hopefully you’ll have your hamster back either the next morning or the morning after that.

Once your hamster is inside the bucket, they will be unable to get out due to the smooth sides and as long as the bucket is at a steep enough angle.

By having the bedding, food, shavings and treats available inside the bucket, it will encourage your hamster to sleep without becoming stressed by its inability to escape out of the bucket.

When you do get your hamster back, check it over to make sure they haven’t come to any harm and return it to the cage.

Finally, it’s very important that you do not let a cat or a dog into the room containing the bucket, for obvious reasons.

Also, don’t forget to find the escape route to prevent your hamster from escaping again in the future!

Method 3 – The Havahart Trap

As a last resort, you could use a Havahart Trap.  I say as a last resort, because they do occasionally malfunction, so it is possible that it could injure your hamster, but it is fairly unlikely and they usually work quite well.

The traps themselves are basically rectangular wire boxes with trip doors at each end that close when the food on the drip tray inside is disturbed.

It is also possible to make your own humane trap, like the one in the video below.  

Smells That Attract Hamsters

Hamsters have an extremely good sense of smell and you should use this to your advantage when trying to find your lost hamster.  

When you’re putting food out for your hamster, you can increase the chances of your hamster coming out of its hiding place by using odorous foods and treats.  Vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage are odorous vegetables which are good options.  

You can also try using peanut butter, peanuts, apple pieces and cheese.  Your hamster will easily be able to smell any of these treats and will hopefully provide you with vital clues as to its whereabouts.

Finding A Hamster Outside

If you think that your hamster has escaped into the great outdoors, then make no mistake about it, finding your hamster is going to be extremely tricky as it is likely to have strayed quite a distance away.

Unfortunately, leaving treats out for your hamster in this instance is not going to work as birds and other animals like cats will take the bait.

The best thing to use in this instance is a humane mouse trap, like a havahart trap that I mentioned previously.

This will ensure that larger animals can’t get in and take the bait.

Hopefully your hamster will get hungry and be tempted in to take its favorite treats.

Finally, make sure that you check the trap several times per day.

How To Stop Your Hamster Escaping

Prevention is always better than cure, so if you can prevent your hamster from escaping in the first place, or preventing your hamster from escaping for a second time, then that’s much better.

All types of cages/tanks should be checked for signs of wear or gnawing which could lead to your hamster escaping.

If your cage is a glass or plastic tank, then make sure that you don’t put tall toys inside that your hamster can easily climb up.

If your cage is a wire cage, then the weakness will usually be in the door catch.  This is the most common escape route for a hamster.  

Either the door will be left open after topping up its food and water, or after returning it to its cage after handling, or the hamster has managed to open the door itself.  This can be fairly easy for a hamster to do especially if the cage has been in use for a while.

If you suspect that your hamster has opened the door by themselves, then you need to make it more secure either by using pliers to re-bend the door catch or by putting a small padlock on the door.  

Using a lock on the door has the added benefit of preventing young children from opening the cage unsupervised.

Finally, it might be that your hamster has escaped from a hamster ball, which is very common.  I would advise against putting your hamster in a ball, not only because they are easy to escape from, but in my opinion, they aren’t humane.

Additional Tips
Here are a couple of additional tips and things to keep in mind:

  • When searching for your hamster, make sure that you shuffle your feet as you move around the house and instruct others to do this as well.  It won’t take much to crush and kill a hamster if you’re not careful.
  • Before sitting down on chairs, make sure that you check the cushions underneath first as your hamster may be hiding underneath!
  • If you have established which room your hamster is likely to be in, put a sign on the door of that room asking people to stay out of the room until the hamster is found.

How Long Can A Lost hamster survive?

This depends a lot on where they go missing and what your hamster gets up to whilst they’re missing, but generally, hamsters can survive between 3-5 days if they have access to food and water.  

Water is the key to your hamster surviving, otherwise it will become severely dehydrated.  So it’s a good idea to put out a water bottle in the room that you expect them to be in or place a bowl of water on the floor.

Although I say 3-5 days, your hamster could potentially survive for longer.  One owner reported on the hamster hideout forum, that they had lost their hamster for over two weeks and then appeared, safe and healthy, from behind a wardrobe!

To maximise your hamster chances of survival, it’s imperative that you remove your cats and dogs from the area in which you’re searching.

Having said that, there is a chance that if you have a cat then your cat may find your hamster, like what was reported in this forum, and be unable to reach it or just completely ignore it.

You also need to look for places where your hamster may be able to fall.  Hamsters can gnaw through things and fall or they may step off a ledge which is a far bigger drop than they had realised.  This is because hamsters are short sighted.  

Remember, hamsters are very small animals with fragile bones that are easily broken.

Wrapping Up

If you’ve lost your hamster, don’t give up hope immediately or too quickly, remember to be patient.  Hamsters are able to manage on their own quite well for at least a few days by feeding off of crumbs or eating the food that they’ve stored up in their cheek pouches.

Many people are often sure that their hamsters are gone for good and then suddenly, a few days later, they find them.

Good luck with your hamster search!