Hamsters are wily little creatures who are well known for their skills as escape artists. You’d be surprised at how they can fit into the tiniest of spaces and squirm into crevices in your home that you never even knew existed. What makes it a little harder is that your hamster will usually only move around at night - this means that if you’re trying to catch your hamster by sound you’ll have to wait until it’s dark to hear it moving around.
One of the most important things to do before you start looking for your hamster is to make sure that your other pets can't find it either. If you have larger pets, then your hamster is in danger and will need to be found quickly. As soon as you know your hamster has escaped, one of the first things to do is to remove other pets from your house temporarily, such as cats, dogs, large birds and ferrets. One option is to put any other pets you may have into their carry cases (especially cats, dogs, ferrets, large birds and reptiles) and put these in one room of the house. Check that room on your hands and knees, investigating every nook and cranny that you can find. Once you're certain that your hamster isn't in that room, then you can let your other pets out of their carry cases (unless they’re a danger to one another). It's best to keep your other pets in this room until you've found your hamster, as they can do serious harm to your smaller pet.
If your hamster manages to escape, then there are some things that you can try before you search the rest of the house on your hands and knees. Below we’ll teach you how to use a bucket trap, but if there are lots of different methods owners have developed over the decades, such as surrounding treats with foil, or using a hamster’s wheel to hear when your hamster is in a certain area of your house.
Don't panic - there are lots of different methods you can use to find your lost pet
The bucket trap is a method that lures your hamster into a little trap. As well as keeping dogs, cats, birds and ferrets out of the trap room, an absolutely crucial thing to remember with the bucket trap is that the bucket needs to be the right size, which is about nine or ten inches deep. This is a size at which the hamster can’t easily clamber out, but it’s also a size that means the hamster won’t hurt itself when it falls in. Once you’ve selected the right bucket, be sure to pad the bottom of it with towel or lots of very soft bedding.Try to get a good balance between providing padding for your pet and giving it too much so that it can use the material to climb out.
Next, you’ll need to put something delicious in the trap. This needs to be something with a strong odour so that your hamster can smell it and be tempted by it. This could be a slice or two of apple, or something such as broccoli. Be sure to keep this food fresh, as hamsters can get sick from eating mouldy or over-ripe foods.
Next you’ll need to provide some means for your pet to reach the lip of the bucket. The easiest way to do this is to build a little stairwell with a few books.This way, your pet will clamber up the steps and fall into the little bucket onto the nice soft bedding. If you think your hamster is big enough to not be supported by a bit of tissue paper, you may want to put a sheet of this over the top of the bucket and place the treats on top of the paper, so that your hamster will be fooled by the paper ‘floor’ and head straight for the treat.
Check the bucket a few times a day to see if you’ve caught your errant pet. If the bucket trap trick doesn’t work, then you may have to set more bucket traps around your house (and exclude animals from more rooms) or locate your hamster manually by setting out its wheel and laying a couple of sound-trapped treats. If you listen very carefully, then at night you may be able to hear your pet scrambling around.
With the TV off and everyone in the house silent, listen for the tell-tale noises of your pet scrambling around
To prevent your hamster from escaping again, we recommend that you have a thorough look at your cage to determine how your pet escaped. It’s good practise to check your cage often so that you can make sure that there are no gaps that your hamster can escape through again. Hamsters can fit through truly tiny gaps and gnaw their way through wood and plastic, so if you spot an area of the cage that has been bitten and is looking quite thin, this might become a hole through which your pet may soon escape.
You may also need to think carefully about where you place your cage. If your hamster is stressed or unhappy due to noise or light then it might have more incentive to get away from this area by escaping the cage. Have a good think about noise levels or whether or not any other pets can be scaring your little hamster. You may also want to think about how happy your pet is. Does it have enough to do? Is its cage large enough? A hamster that keeps trying to escape might not be happy in its little home.