Where to Look
The first thing to do is to look in some common hiding places. Do a thorough search as soon as possible after you lose your hamster, remembering your lost hamster is probably scared and will look for a secure hiding spot:
- Start your search near the cage and go from there.
- Check behind and under furniture, as well as down the sides and backs of sofas, under cushions, etc.
- Check cabinets, drawers, shelves and bookcases. Don't forget to look inside, behind, and under items kept in these places.
- Check the underside of furniture and beds for any holes through which a hamster could climb inside the furniture/bed.
- Check inside any boxes you have around the house, including tissue boxes.
- Look inside any backpacks, purses, other bags, and shoes.
- Check the undersides and backs of appliances for holes into which your lost hamster could have climbed.
- Check behind/under the water heater (or anywhere else where it might be warm and dark).
- Look for holes or spaces under cupboards or that could lead into the walls. Make a note of these for later.
Tracking a Lost Hamster
Unfortunately, it may be next to impossible to find a lost hamster. You may not even know which room your hamster is hiding in. Here are some tips on tracking hamsters:
- Remember that hamsters are nocturnal, so will probably only move about overnight.
- Place a small pre-counted pile of sunflower seeds on the floor in each room. If any seeds disappear from a room, that gives you a better general idea where your lost hamster is hiding (unless you have any wild mice that are stealing your bait!).
- Sprinkle a little flour or cornstarch on the floor around the piles of seeds. A trail of little white footprints may lead to a hamster's hiding place.
- Similarly, sprinkle some flour across doorways and in front of any suspected hiding spots (like spaces under the cupboards or holes in the wall, as noted on your search). Check for footprints to see where your hamster is travelling at night.
- In the evening, try placing tinfoil or crinkly cellophane on the floor (concentrate on possible hideouts, doorways, and around the cage or food), turn out all the lights and sit quietly. If your lost hamster comes out, you may be able to locate it by the noise made as it walks across the foil or cellophane.
- An ingenious owner sent me this tip: tie long strands of yard to some peanuts (in the shell) - your hamster may gather them and take them to his or her hiding place, in which case the strands of yarn will lead you to the hiding spot!
Catching Your Hamster
Sometimes, hamsters are not that easy to catch, even if you locate them, so you might have to set a "trap" to catch your lost hamster:
- Some hamsters will come back to the cage on their own. Leave the cage open on the floor (with a supply of fresh food), near its usual location (or closer to where the hamster is hiding if you suspect a distant hiding spot). You may have to stay up late to close the door on your hamster when he or she returns, though often they are happy to be home and settle in for a nap after eating.
- Set up a "bucket trap" by getting a bucket (deep enough that a hamster couldn't get out of but not so deep that a hamster would get hurt falling in), and place a thick towel on the bottom. On top of the towel you place some really tasty treats such as a thin layer of peanut butter on a cracker, apple slices, and/or cheese (something the hamster will easily smell). Then, make some sort of ramp up the outside of the bucket using wood, a wire shelf, or books stacked to make a staircase. The idea is that the hamster will go up the ramp in search of the food and jump into the bucket to get it, but can't climb back out. I have never tried this personally but have heard it works; the trick is to make the treat so irresistible the hamster will be willing to jump in the bucket for it.
- As a last resort, get a humane mouse trap, also called a live mouse trap (the kind that is a box that traps the mouse without killing it) and bait it with peanut butter. These do occasionally malfunction so could possibly injure your hamster, but that is fairly unlikely and they usually work well.
Remember to be patient and do not give up too quickly. Hamsters seem to manage on their own quite well for a few days, and I have heard from several owners who were sure their hamsters were gone for good then were surprised to have them turn up suddenly after a couple of days.