Handling & Taming Syrian Hamsters
As the largest of the pet hamster species, Syrians are sometimes considered the best pet species for a child or adult new to rodents. It is true that they are generally slower and more robust than the smaller species. They can however, be more quick to nip when startled.
If your hamster has come from an ethical breeder or rescue, then they will have begun work on the taming process. Although this is easier if they have been handled from a younger age, with patience older hamsters can become excellent companion animals with regular work on building confidence through positive handling experiences.
Leave a new hamster to settle in before beginning this, as there will be many new sounds and smells for them to get used to - as well as their brand new cage and toys. When you feed them at a set time in the evening, you can start by talking to them in a calm voice to get them used to you. More confident hamsters may approach you at this point, and you can open a front-opening cage and let them climb into your hand.
Shyer animals, or those in a cage that opens from the top, may benefit from toilet-tube training. It is not helpful to approach a hamster from above, since this is what a predator would do and so does scare them. In these instances a toilet tube or box can be placed in their cage and then picked up, whilst blocking exit points. You can then open one side and let them walk onto a flat palm. Some hamsters like to walk across palms if you keep alternating them, others may like hands that are cupped together forming more of a tunnel. You may also find your hamster wants to snuggle into the crook of your arm, or climbers may decide that the very back of your neck under long hair is the most interesting place. As you hold them, make sure you are somewhere safe such as seated or over a surface to avoid risk of long falls.
If a hamster does nip you, you can gently blow on their nose and say 'no' in a firm but calm voice. It is important not to place them back in the cage at this point, otherwise they may learn to associate biting with you doing what they may want and returning them to their cage. Short but regular sessions are more important and try and finish on a positive note both for you and your hamster. See the kid-friendly guide to handling rodents referenced below for more ideas.