Helen's Hamster Pages and Hamster Pictures

Escape techniques of Houdini the hamster

How, what happens next and what can you do?

How does a hamster escape?

I know of six methods that a hamster will use to escape. There are four ways to escape from the cage and finally the easy ways of disappearing when you leave the cage open or let him out of the cage to play.

Tank cage

The hamster will pile the sawdust up in one corner with the wheel and everything else so that the wheel will not turn, then climb up the wheel and out of the tank.

Plastic cage

Such as rotastack or habitrail. Hamsters can chew through most plastics and the catches around doors and wheel fittings may be vulnerable. Check the cage regularly.

Cages with plastic lids

Hamsters are strong and if they can reach a plastic push-on lid with their nose, then they will be able to push the lid off.

Metal bar cage

If the clasp on a bar door is loose then the hamster will probably learn to unhook the door. If you break a bar, then he will squeeze out of the gap.

When the door of the cage is left open

This is the most common way for a hamster to escape. The only thing to do is double check that the cage is closed.

Out playing

You need to really watch a hamster when he is out playing, if you turn away for a second he may sprint away very, very quickly. I know from experience that a hamster will learn to sit behind the furniture watching you and will sprint for the door as soon as he sees you move away.

Before you take a hamster out of his cage you should check the area which he will have access to and close any gaps. A syrian hamster can fit through a gap of just one inch. I have seem a dwarf hamster go through a gap under a door of 1.5 cm. I have learnt that if the head goes through then so will the rest.

Other dangers to a hamster out playing and trying to escape

Try to remove anything dangerous which a hamster can climb up. They can climb up curtains, blankets, trousers, bags, books, chairs and beds. If the furniture is an inch away from the wall then they will go up the back of the furniture by walking with their back pressed to the wall and claws in the furniture. In this way they will reach the top of your wardrobes.

They can also mysteriously appear on top of things through no obvious means. I have found Fred on top of my tower PC, trying to walk on to my knee, presumably he climbed up the back through the wires.

Remove as many wires as possible from the floor level. Most importantly, remove any wires that are hanging at hamster head height as this seems to annoy them so much that they try to remove the wire by chewing it.

Hamsters also like to chew up carpets at the corners or at doors if they think that this will help them to escape. Try to stop them quickly so that this does not turn into a habit. One way to protect carpets is to cover the corner with a DVD case or empty tissue box.

What happens when the chance to escape is given to a hamster?

There are also two unusual variations on how a hamster may react to the idea of escaping.

Firstly, the hamster may choose not to escape if he is very shy or just too old and lazy to climb up and check that the cage is closed. This is why most escapees will be young hamsters.

Secondly, the hamster will escape and enjoy his freedom, but then return to the cage by morning. You may suspect that the hamster was free if you find the cage door open. If the hamster is very clever, he will escape and return without leaving evidence that he has found a way out.

Of the hamsters who have been my pets:

Wally was too shy to escape and would often try to hide in the wardrobe when I took him out of the cage.

Petra was lazy and she would not check her cage door.

My first hamster, Lightning, would escape and then return to the cage, but would pull the TV aerial lead several inches out of the floor every night he was out. I was blamed for allowing the hamster out and not watching him, until the night he boldly climbed out, ran around and climbed back into the cage while my parents were watching. He then had a new cage.

Muffy was too clever, either he did not check the cage door because he knows it is always closed during the night, or he escaped and returned to the cage before the morning when I left it open.

One thing that I learnt from Lightning was, don't just close the cage, also close the door to the room.

What to do when your hamster has escaped?

Often when a hamster does manage to escape they can completely vanish. They may turn up within an hour, in an unexpected place, wondering what all the noise and panic is about. Sometimes they appear running over your feet before you even knew that they had escaped. So far this is about the worst that has happened to me.

When to spot a hamster?

Hamsters are often at their most liveliest a couple of hours into their day. So if a hamster starts to wake up at 10pm, he might be climbing up your legs at midnight. The best time to spot a hamster is during this lively period when he is running about in easy-to-see places.

Where to find a hamster?

A hamster can escape and stay hidden away for several days. In this case they have likely created themselves a nest somewhere. You can leave the cage open so that they can continue to get food and water. Sometimes a hamster will move back into his cage. Or a hamster might find other food such as dog food in the kitchen. The best way to find out where a hamster is living is to put food and water in the centre of each room and keep the doors closed all night. Then check to see which room has lost its food. You can then search for the hamster under, behind and inside all the furniture.

From the stories that I have heard it seems that hamsters prefer to stay in the house, even if this means living in the basement for several months. This makes sense as hamsters prefer sheltered areas and avoid an open space. Normally hamsters do not go missing for more than several days. However they can get into places that you can not reach such as within the walls and they might use a chimney to move between floors. The biggest dangers are that they might become trapped or caught by a larger pet.

So my final advice is: firstly, close the cage and close the door, and secondly, create a safe environment with no holes into walls, no climbing access to open windows, switch off all electrical stuff with low level wires and remove larger pets from the room.

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