Thursday, May 10, 2007

Claudie, the Hamster Whisperer

I think I've mentioned Claudie, the Hamster Whisperer, before... she takes unruly, biting hamsters and does magical things to them and they end up being sweet little monkeys who love to be held. She seriously has amazing patience and kindness for these little guys.

Well, anyway, here's a stealth picture of Claudie with Strawberry. Strawberry was a somewhat unfriendly hamster who went upstate to live with Claudie, and has now blossomed into a sweet, lovable munchkin who is ready for love :)

Hooray for happy endings!

And hooray for Claudie!

36 Comments:

At 2:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cute, friendly-looking hamster. I'd like to know, how does Claudie work her hamster magic?

Ellen

 
At 12:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Claudie's my friend, and I attest that she's an amazing person who defines compassionate. She adores these little critters and offers loving care to each one.

Polpuffin

 
At 1:45 PM, Anonymous Claudie said...

Hi Ellen, thanks for your interest.

In Strawberry's case, she was not a biter, just incredibly terrified and a screamer. Neither Jessica nor I had ever heard a hamster make such horrible sounds before. Every time either of us picked her up or tried to pick her up, she just shrieked and whimpered and shrieked some more, it was just so sad. Jessica had done all the right things trying to tame her, offering her little treats and being very gentle with her and trying to get Strawberry used to her slowly, but to no avail.

So, I brought her home and tried a different technique. I got into a dry bathtub with my clothes on and put Strawberry in there with me. As long as I didn't try to touch her with my hands, she didn't cry, though she was clearly scared. Since the "give her her space" technique hadn't worked at The NYHH, I decided to try what I call "insistent love". In spite of the shrieks, I insistently picked her up while lying in the dry bathtub with her, saying her name softly and gently, and cuddling her up against my neck under my chin. I did this about every 5-10 mins for maybe a half hour or so, holding her for perhaps 10 seconds at a time. At the end of this exercise she was shrieking a little less and just whimpering a little more.

Then, I put her back in her tank and left a little treat (a raisin) for her. For the next 3-4 hours about every half hour, I insistently reached into the tank and picked her up and cuddled her under my chin and said her name softly. By the end of the evening, she was no longer crying or even whimpering and would even come to me when I put my hands in the tank! She was tamed! I guess she finally realized that I wasn't going to eat her:-).

The next day, she was still tame, and two little girls, 5 and 8 years old, came over to play with my hamsters, and even they were able to hold Strawberry, she was totally calm, the transformation was amazing!

Now, every evening she clamors to come out and be held, she is just a little love bug:-).

If you're interested in how I've gotten biting hamsters to stop biting, just let me know.

Thanks,
Claudie

 
At 6:01 PM, Blogger mc78 said...

I would love to hear biting advice. I've had a hamster for almost 2 months and he's not hand tamed because he liked to bite at first.

 
At 6:02 PM, Blogger mc78 said...

Yes please! for some biting hamster advice.

 
At 12:09 PM, Anonymous claudie said...

Hi! Regarding getting a hammie to stop biting, the two approaches with which I've had some success (and in some cases a complete "personality transplant" to a non-biter!) are these:

1. Don't "reward" the biting by putting the hamster down or back in his/her cage when (s)he bites. The hamster is biting because it is frightened, it is its instinctive behavior as a defense so that you as predator will let it go (and not eat it). If you continue to hold the hamster when it bites, it learns that biting doesn't get it anywhere. If the bites are so bad that they're breaking the skin, try this with gloves on.

2. When (s)he bites, immediately blow it his/her face and then say a loud, stern, "No!". The blowing doesn't hurt them (it doesn't have to be a big blow, a gentle but quick one should do), but, apparently, it is annoying as hell to them. The the loud "No!" is startling and unpleasant to them, too.

Also, make sure that you wash your hands before handling the hamster so that your hands don't smell like another hamster (if you have one) or food!

I have a little dwarf named Cujo who was dumped back at a petstore because she was an incorrigible biter. Her fosterers warned me that I'd have to wear gloves to ever handle her. I applied the techniques above and now Cujo is a little love. She clamors to come out and be handled and never bites, it was really an amazing transformation. It did take several months, but it was worth it! She knows the deal: she doesn't bite, and I don't blow:-). And she knows that I'm going to give her a little treat, not kill her:-).

Hope this helps,
Claudie

 
At 4:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heya!
Well i have tried out the two methods you suggested about how to stop my hamster from biting. I am using gloves and the hamster is still biting them but i am concerned that if it eventually stops biting the gloves and i take them off it might decide to bite the new tasty flesh! Should i be keeping the gloves on for a certain amount of time? And also what do you think about my point on when i remove the gloves?
Thanks for your help so far and i look forward to hearing from you soon.

Emilie

 
At 6:26 PM, Blogger NYHH said...

Emilie,
I would first try and get to the place where the hamster doesn't bite, even with the gloves. Do you blow in her face when she bites and say no loudly? I'd hope that would help. How long have you been working to stop the biting with this hamster? I'm not sure exactly when you should be taking the gloves off--I'd wait until the biting subsides, first. It could take a couple of months, or just weeks, who knows.

Maybe Claudie herself will have further advice, too... let's see!

Best,
Jessica
Founder, NYHH

 
At 7:03 PM, Anonymous Claudie said...

Hi Emilie,

Those are good questions from Jessica.

I have to confess something: I have a dwarf hamster named Pipsqueak who still bites after months of my trying the tips I described in my earlier posting. So it doesn't work with all hamsters, unfortunately.

HOWEVER, Pipsqueak bites only when I put my hand in his cage; once he's outside of his cage, he doesn't bite. I am thinking that he is just so incredibly territorial that he can't help biting if anyone encroaches on his turf (his cage).

So, what I do is take an empty toilet paper tube and hold it while I introduce it into his cage through the open door. He inevitably climbs into the tube which I then remove from the cage with the palm of my hand against the open end where his head is, so he can't fall or jump out. As soon as he's out of his cage, he calms down and doesn't bite!

Is your hammie a dwarf or a Syrian, by the way?

Also, does he bite even when he's outside of his cage for awhile?

I agree with Jess that you'd probably want to getting him to stop biting the gloves before trying to hold him in your bare hands. But you might want to make sure that the gloves don't smell of something that could be causing him to bite! If you can wash them in unscented detergent, that might be a good idea.

If and when he stops biting the gloves, you can try holding him with only *one* glove on. That way, you can be protected (one hand, anyway) but still get him used to the look and smell of your bare hand.

Another thought, you might want to make sure you're washing your hands with a soap that doesn't contain a fragrance he might be finding either tasty or threatening/annoying. With all the aromatherapy fragranced hand cleaners out there, I'm wondering if that might be an issue.

If you just can't get him to stop biting, and so you just can't feel a loving bond with him, Jess and I are here to help (I often give a loving forever home to incorrigible biters that no one else wants), and Jess has lots more needy hammies for adoption. So do not despair!

(BTW, I love the name Emilie, one of my hamsters has your name:-).)

Best,
Claudie

 
At 10:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heya!
Thankx very much for your very quick and useful response. I am a bit busy now but i will get back to you with the answers to your questions later on.
Thankx again!

Emilie

 
At 3:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heya!
Sorry i could not get back to you sooner! Well thankx again for you very quick and usefull response. Surprisingly i tried out some of those things before you had even mentioned them! So yeah! I have 2 dwarf hamsters. One of them is really friendly and always wants to come out but the other one which i have been talking to you about really bites and is quite unsure.

She bites when she is in the cage and out of it to! Sometimes its a little nip and other times it can actually draw blood! I have been trying out your methods for about a 1 week now or maybe a bit more. I am using gloves which on one day she will bite yet others she seems more confident and doesn't!

When she bites i do blow on her and say 'no' in an angry and stern way. When i blow on her she does jump but ocasionally then she bites again straight away! Do you have any other ideas of what i can do!?

One thing i found was when the other hamster is being held at the same time as the biter, she does not bite as much!

I would NEVER give up these hamsters but i really want her to stop biting! Any more information would be gratefully recieved!

BTW- Thats funny that me and one of your hamsters have the same name...i didn't think my name(spelt like that) was popular!

Thankx,
Emilie

 
At 1:15 PM, Anonymous Claudie said...

Hi Emilie,

Well, I confess I had originally named her "Emily" but I changed it to the spelling of your name:-).

Here's a posting from the Yahoo! group pets.yahoo.groups/group/1hml, a well-known hamster newsgroup, by David Imber, to someone asking about biting, maybe you'll get some tips from him:

===================================

>Sorry to respond so late, but I've been busy and this all went into my
>hamster folder that I forgot about. Maybe you already got to this,
>but any
>hints on how to train out biting behaviour would be appreciated. Funny
>thing is that Hershey loves my daughter and doesn't bite her much, but
>always bites me! And when she bites, she often draws blood. Don't like
>that!

That would mean there's something that you're doing that
your daughter isn't, or perhaps there's another answer. It could be
the way you hold the ham, but I kind of doubt that. A better guess
is that it's something about your scent. Do you apply a lotion or
use a scented soap that your daughter doesn't? Hams really respond
to what their nose tells them. So if you use apple-flavored soap,
for instance, her nose will tell her there's an apple in front of
her (yum) even if she can't see one.

Can you think of anything of that nature that would apply?

As far as training out biting behavior goes, it's a big
topic, but there are several short articles that can get you
started. Have a look here:

http://www.geocities.com/calhamassoc/Newsletter.html

Scroll down to the articles on "taming". Lots of good,
useful tips that should help a lot.

It's about 30% strategy 70% patience. But don't give up
hope! Even the "incorrigibles" can be transformed in time.
===================================

Good luck, Emilie, please let us know what works!

Thanks,
Claudie

 
At 2:28 PM, Anonymous Angeluv26 said...

Hi Claudie how are you ?
i just got my 7 year old son a hamster its been here for oh 2 days and he really is a sweet heart and i know he is probably scared and doesnt yet trust us but my husband took him out of his cage last night trying to hold him and let my husband hold him for about a minute and was smelling is fingers then lightly bit his finger just enough to break a little skin no my son is a very sick child and i dont want him to get bit i would like to try and get the Oreo to be a none biter he was the only in the pet store who didn't try to bite so that's why we bought him he has everything you can get for a hamster we spent 300 dollars to buy everything for him including two cages that connect to each other but i am worried because at the top of the cage is a little petting area and he brought his food and things up there and he stays up there all the time is there anything i can do to make him more comfy in his home ? he is a very sweet little thing i do have a cat and they seem to be getting along fine she is old now but still has an eye on him do you have any good ideas on how to i dont wanna say make but to keep them getting along ? and as well his little nip he didn't bite hard but how can i make it so it is OK for my son to pick him up with out worry he will get a bite for the little guy
? if you could get back to me i would really appreciate it thank you so much Jen

 
At 3:05 PM, Blogger NYHH said...

Hey Jen, this is Jessica--I run the New York Hamster House. I'll let Claudie know that you asked this question, and in the meantime, here's MY answer :)

It's great that you bought your son a hamster, but one thing that happens when you buy from a chain store as opposed to adopting from a shelter is that the animal was probably housed in a cage with many other hamsters and did not receive a lot of personal attention. Your pet probably needs a LOT of tender loving care from you all right now!

As for biting, it's not that bizarre for a hamster to nip or lightly bite before they are used to you. Did your son wash his hands before fore he held the hamster? Hamsters rely on smell a lot, and he may have been smelling food or something else on your son's hand when he nibbled on him.

You can read Claudie and my suggestions to other people on this page about things you can do to get your hamster used to your family. Put your hand into the cage and let Oreo come to you. Always wash your hands first. If Oreo bites again, blow on her face. Have your son hold her a lot so she gets used to his smell and his hands.

As for Oreo spending all his time in the "bedroom" of the cage (that is what I call them), that is fairly normal. Hamsters LOVE small spaces, so they will tend to sleep and eat and sometimes pee in small places like the petting area or in tubes. At night, though, when they are active they will explore and run on the wheel, don't worry!

As for your cat, as long as she can't break into the cage and you don't leave the cage open, they will be fine. They don't need to get along, just ignore each other.

And, next time you think about getting a new pet, consider adopting from a shelter! You still get a sweet new animal, but you get to save one who needs a home, and you don't encourage the pet stores to continue buying from animal mills.

Best of luck,
Jessica

 
At 4:08 PM, Anonymous Angeluv26 said...

hi jessica thank you so much and i will do the things you said and i did not know that they came from animal mills :( im sorry he wants to get oreo a play mate so if i do get him one it will be from a shelter i didnt know you could get hamsters from a shelter either so it was a big oops on my part but it will not happen again, and when he niped my husband he had not washed his hands so now i know to have everyone wash hands first and you are very right at the pet store there was like 5 other hamsters in there and he was the sweetest my son really loves him and my cat cant get in the cage she hasnt even bortherd with him the only time she show much interest in him is when he is playing around in his purple ball but she is a cat and it is a ball she likes to play balls like all cats do but she is trained well and i am happy to hear as long as he doesnt get out witch he wont i have nothing to worry about with the two of them but thank you so much for your help have a great day and one more thing sorry about the typeing errors in my last message it is only tuesday but the week has gotten off to a rough start thanks again take care Jen

 
At 4:20 PM, Blogger NYHH said...

Jen,

Don't worry about not knowing that you can adopt hamsters! That is why I mention stuff like that, so people will know for the future and will also tell their friends. You are still giving an animal a loving home!

One thing you said caught my eye, though... about your son wanting to get a playmate for his hamster. Hamsters are solitary animals and almost always live alone. I don't know what kind of hamster you adopted, syrian or dwarf... but syrians ALWAYS live alone, and will fight to the death if they come into contact with another hamster. Dwarf hamsters sometimes get along with siblings from their same litter, but rarely with anyone else. Unless you are trained at introducing dwarf hamsters to each other, I would not try it. Also, if you accidentally house a boy and girl together, you can end up with ten babies in just a month! So, unfortunately I would tell your son that he will just have to have the one hamster--or that if you get another one, it needs to live in a separate cage, and the two hamsters can never meet or play.

It sounds like you and your family really want to take good care of this hamster.. that's great! Best of luck with everything...

:)
Jess

 
At 5:04 PM, Anonymous Angeluv26 said...

Oh wow i did not know that thank you again jessica. he is syrian i am so glad you told me that because i even called and asked the vet they didnt know i am so glad i found this web page and that you are so wonderful to answer all these question. i have learned a lot to day because of all your help thank you so much
Jen

 
At 6:17 PM, Anonymous Claudie said...

Hi Jen,

I agree with everything that Jess wrote. Syrians *have* to live solitarily. Oreo will be happiest with human companionship -- they are very inquisitive and curious little furries who enjoy attention, exploring, and new activities.

Unfortunately, most vets really just know about cats and dogs. Fortunately, in my general area (Westchester County north of NYC) there is an extraordinarily good "exotics" vet, Dr. Laurie Hess. Her web page is here: www.avianexoticsvet.com. She specializes in all non-cats and dogs veterinary care, including hamsters.

Also, I believe that Jess knows a great exotcis vet in Manhattan as well.

If you live away from our area, I would recommend looking into trying to find a good exotics vet -- hamsters sometimes need veterinary care just like cats and dogs (though they don't need vaccines). For example, many antibiotics that are appropriate for people, cats, and dogs, are actually toxic and *fatal* for hamsters!

I have two cats but never leave them alone in the room where I have my hammies because a curious kitty can knock over a cage or bat at the tubes or whatever, possibly leading to a hamster escaping! Or sometimes a door may simply not have been latched or a tube connection becomes loose -- hamsters can and do escape! If you possibly can, I'd recommend keeping Oreo in a room where the cats can not go unsupervised.

Oreo sounds as if she is one lucky hamster to have such a caring and concerned family!

Best,
Claudie

 
At 3:36 AM, Anonymous Angeluv26 said...

Hi Claudie & Jess . thank you both so much for all your help i am sorry it took me so long to reply my son has been very ill and i have not had the chance to be online . thank you for the web site i have saved the site and i hopefully i can find one out here in southern california and i also wanted to let you both know that oreo only nipped one other time and we did what jess said to do he has not nipped or bit since my son held him for the first time today and oreo didnt nip or bit he did very well and is the sweetest tamperd hammie i have seen very playful and he has started to come when i call him or stand up it is so cute i am just glad he is a sweet and happy hammie and i spoil him but i spoil my kitty to and she is doing well with oreo she has lost all intrest in him he sleeps up high and the area is blocked so that she can not jump up and get to him they both sleep in my son's room and when he go's in his purple ball she doesnt borther with him so im happy to see they can atleast ignore each other, my cat is getting old and does a lot of the same things he does and that is sleep thank you again Claudie & Jess i learnd a lot by talking to you both i would love to send you a picture of oreo if you would like one thank you again have a great rest of the week and a great weekend Jen

 
At 8:13 PM, Anonymous Jen said...

hi Claudie & Jess
I have a question oreo loves to eat raisins and i was wondering is it safe for them to eat them ?

 
At 5:13 PM, Anonymous HamsterWhisperer said...

Hi Jen,

I'm so glad your son is well now, and that little Oreo is turning into the sweetheart she was meant to be!

About raisins, there's more of a risk for developing diabetes in dwarf hamsters than in Syrians like Oreo, but there's still a little bit of a risk. My exotics vet recommends limiting little treats that contain natural sugar such as raisins maybe only one raisin 2-3 times per week, and commercial treats with added sugars not at all.

But you may find that Oreo equally enjoys some natural vegetable treats, such as a little piece of raw, well-washed broccoli, spinach or other dark, leafy green veggies (stay away from iceberg lettuce, though, too watery and can cause diarrhea).

There's a good write-up on hammie food here:

http://www.hamsterific.com/Nutrition.cfm

And click the Recommended Foods link near the bottom, too.

That may give you some ideas about healthy treats for your adorable Oreo that she may enjoy as much as raisins (that lucky girl!).

Best,
Claudie

 
At 7:13 PM, Anonymous Jen said...

Hi Claudie.. yikes i didnt no that.. well only a raisin here and there for him ill go get him some nice veggies and thank you for the web site that will come in handy..
my son is still ill so i havent been online so im sorry i didnt reply sooner thank you for all your help. we want to do everything we can to keep oreo healthy and happy i dont want to give him something that could make him sick i have been giving him treats at night when we got him we had bought these strawberry yogurt chips he gets them nightly because the package said under the feeding instructions one a day for hamsters gerbils and mice 2 a day for rats so i have been giving him one a day i didnt know he could possibly get sick off them. we were giving them to him at the end of the day after playing with him and holding him.. i am going to have to get a new treat for him..the yogurt chips are made by kaytee are those ok to give him everyday as the bag says or should those be a once a week treat for him as well ? thank you again i hope im not asking to many question i just want to do what is best for oreo so he has long happy and healthy life.. hope your having a great weekend take care

Jen

 
At 5:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heya, its me again Emilie
I was wondering how do u know wether a hamster is pregnant?!

Love from,
Emilie
xxxx

 
At 5:17 PM, Blogger NYHH said...

Emilie,

I've never actually known that my hamsters were pregnant until they popped out the babies... If you had a female hamster in a cage with a male hamster, chances are that she is pregnant. You aren't trying to breed hamsters, are you?

Best,
Jess

 
At 4:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey,
well, no i am not trying to breed hamsters but when i went to the pet shop they were not sure wether the hamsters were male or female, so the other day my hamster seemed to be getting fatter so i was just wondering if she is just getting fat, or pregnant! But she hasnt been getting any fatter so i have a slight feeling she is not!
By the way, if you go into a pet shop and your looking for a hamster, how do u know wether one is pregnant or not?!

From,
Emilie

 
At 4:32 PM, Blogger NYHH said...

Emilie,

I'm glad you aren't trying to breed, since there are already way too many homeless hamsters!

I don't know of any way of telling whether a hamster is pregnant or not, short of taking her to a vet or just isolating her in a cage by herself for 35 days... if she doesn't have babies in that time, then she's not pregnant! Or, buy a boy.. they are definitely not pregnant!

That's pretty bad that they couldn't tell if the hamsters are male or female if they work at a pet shop... it's not that hard! If you google "hamster sexing" or some variation thereof, you will find many diagrams that show you how to tell the difference between a girl and a boy.

Best,
Jess

 
At 6:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heya

Thankx, that is very helpful, one problem they are rather furry so u cant see their bits very clearly, but i will give it a go.

Thankx
From
Emilie

 
At 4:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heya!

I was wondering, as my hamster is not really responding to blowing on her face and saying 'no' in an angry and stern voice. SO do you think spraying her with water would train her?! my friend was saying thats how she trained her hamster, but i am not sure wether it is the right thing to do?! wot do u think?

Love from,
Emilie

 
At 5:23 PM, Anonymous Claudie said...

Hi Emilie,

I don't think that would be a good idea, but maybe Jessica has another idea about this. From what I've read, hamsters are very susceptible to getting sick if they get wet.

I'm sorry your hamster is still biting:-(. Can you hold her comfortably with gloves on?

 
At 12:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heya!

I can hold her with gloves on quite comfortably but she still bites lots and always wants to go up my arm which is not protected! so i have to stop her! Yer its a real shame, i was hoping i cud hold the 2 together!

From
Emilie

 
At 9:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heya!
just a quick question, my hamsters have made 2 seperate beds, and i am not sure if it is because they dont get along any more or not! Or is there is another reason?!

from emilie
xxxx

 
At 4:21 AM, Blogger Chynna said...

Heyas!!



I have a Syrian hampster who is still pretty young and in the pet store she was kind of like the mama to the litter she was with. Her name is Mumbles (named by little brother) and she is like the SWEETEST hammie I have ever known.


I hadn't read that they only like to live alone. I asked a lady at the petstore if I could introduce another hamster and she said I could go ahead and try.


SO! I bought a sweet little dwarf hamster and named her Lilly. She is a real tiny one and sort of the runt of her group. She was getting kind of picked on so I thought maybe they would be a good match.


So far Mumbles (the Syrian)loves Lilly and has made absolutely no sign of agression. Lilly was a little freaked at first, but has since smelled out Mumbles. They are sharing a cage and have yet to fight or bite.


I supervise their time together and seperate them when I'm not going to be around for a few hours.


Is this a friendship that is going to last?

 
At 2:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey I Have Had My Hamster For 1 Year Now And I Have Seen A Big Problem With Her.When I Get Her Out And I Put Her Back Because Have to Go To Bed Or Go Somewhere She Seems To Rage Or Get Really Angry She Would Perpously Throw Her House(Bed)/Kick Her Bed Off Her Platform She Would
Bite The Bars Really Fast Not Because Of Her Teeth Because There Are Gnawing Toys In There For Her Which She Uses I Think She Is Trying To Get My Attention Or Something Because As Soon As I Open Her Cage Door She Quickly's Climbs Out But When I Go To Bed Or Something She Cant Get Out.Im Scared That She Gonna Get Really Angry And Push The Door Open And Escape Because She Is Biting The Door Now
What Shall I DO?

 
At 9:57 PM, Blogger Sprout3 said...

I've had a hamster for almost a year, and she's just the crankiest, most nervous thing. I don't know what to do. . .I can't hold her or pet her without her making a run for the cage door. Is there anything I can do?

 
At 6:35 AM, Anonymous Angeluv26 said...

HI Claudie how are you ? i am not sure if you remember me or not i had written you a while back asking diferent diet questions for my hamster oreo i wanted to thank you for all the help you gave as it turned out oreo had cushings disease we found out he had it two months ago and sadly on may 27th 09 at 6:50pm oreo passed away it had been a very hard few months as with cushings they get infections and open sores sadly our little baby got one on his neck from side to side it 24 hours from not having it he was on so many different meds these last two months but he is in peace now we love and miss our oreo so much but i am writing you guys today because you had gave us so much helpful adivise with oreo thank you for that and wanted to give you guys an update on how he was doing

sincerely

Jennifer

 
At 9:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi,i just got a russian hamster a few days ago and im terrified to hold it even it nibbleing freaks me out what can i do to hold it. please and thank you

 

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