How do I find a lost hamster?
August 24, 2004 8:03 PM   Subscribe

Lost hamster!! Our daughter's been watching a hamster for a neighbor. Somehow it got out of the cage. If we have to return an empty cage to the neighbors it's going to be ugly. This must happen a lot -- what are some tricks to recapturing the little guy?
posted by stupidsexyFlanders to Home & Garden (12 answers total)
Trail of food pieces did the trick everytime we lost ours as kids.
posted by bonaldi at 8:14 PM on August 24, 2004

Can you ascertain which room the little guy's in? You may want to set up a box, propped up on a stick, kinda like the old Bugs Bunny cartoons. As a trigger, put a coaster (or old CD) laid across a pen, with food in the middle. Put the prop for the box on the cd and voila! Hamster trap. This worked for my hamster, Booger (RIP) when he escaped a while back.

The other solution (if it works) is to lay the cage on its side, with (used) bedding, and sometimes they'll crawl right back in and bed down to sleep.
posted by notsnot at 8:14 PM on August 24, 2004

Start looking in obvious places: Behind furniture, under beds, behind bookshelves, in closets, cupboards, and more. Be careful moving stuff around, as you may squish the furry item in question. Many cupboards have open areas that are easily accesible to small mammals, and some have "dead spaces" - empty, non-human accesible spaces - where you can't even see without tearing apart the cupboards. If you have any obvious holes into your walls or house/apartment infrastructure or to the outside world, you may want to consider it gone.

Watch very carefully when entering and exiting doors to prevent escape.

Get a "live trap" from a hardware store, pet store or vet.

An easy to make "live trap" is simply a smooth-walled container, like a bucket or storage box, with either A) a semi-rigid piece of paper or cardboard leaning out over the bucket, or B) a rigid piece of paper, cardboard, or wood, both in the style of a plank to be walked.

In the case of A, affix the plank somehow to the bucket, and make sure it flexes at the end under the estimated weight of the hamster. In the case of B balance the plank somehow so that it will tip into the bucket under the weight of the hamster. Provide a way to climb to the plank and bucket edge. (Couch cushions, cardboard or wood rampway, habitrail tube-piece, whatever.) Bait the plank with something tasty, especially something the hamster loves if you know it. (Do *not* leave a "breadcrumb" trail, unless you're talking about the smallest of crumbs. Think dust-sized particles. You don't want to give away the bait. *Do* feel free to create a scent trail by rubbing your bait on the desired path.)

Leave it out overnight near somewhere likely to be a hiding place for a hamster, or near the place that it was lost. (Chances are it'll return to where it exited the cage, or linger there.) If the container is large enough/deep enough, place some food in the bottom, maybe a water dish, and maybe some bedding or tissue to nest in, but be sure it can't use it to escape.

Wait. Be patient. Eventually the critter will get hungry. This is a good opportunity and reason to remove any available food sources, if any.
posted by loquacious at 8:26 PM on August 24, 2004

bonaldi has it right on. Leave the cage out in a corner of the room - make a trail of food leading to the cage. If you're lucky it'll snag the food and go back into the cage to hide its loot in its favorite spot.

Hamsters like darker rooms, so turn off most of the lights in that area. It'll probably be scampering close to the walls, under furniture and things - they don't like to cross open spaces. And like notsnot said, they'll get into cardboard boxes too. Anywhere snug to hide is fun. As long as people are running around calling for it, it's gonna stay hidden somewhere it feels safe - they tend not to like loud noises. If you sit quietly and wait it out, the little guy will sniff out the seed or food you have out for it and come to investigate. Having patience is the real trick to getting it back into the cage.

Good luck - let us know when you catch him again.
posted by batgrlHG at 8:31 PM on August 24, 2004

Sigh . . . reminds me of simpler days. Just me and MC Hamster. She escaped more than once. Dad trapped her behind a door one time. Another time I happened to find her *weeks* after escape. She just sorta showed up one day while I was watching TV.

None of which helps you. As suggested, keep looking around where the cage was - they can't get very far on them stubby legs.
posted by aladfar at 8:35 PM on August 24, 2004

Buy a new hamster in the same colour and size, and say nothing.
posted by zadcat at 9:03 PM on August 24, 2004

Ok, stop and think. Is Richard Gere near by?
posted by holloway at 9:20 PM on August 24, 2004

Buy a new hamster in the same colour and size, and say nothing.

Then wait for the neighbors to notice the stench slowly building in a corner of your home.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 10:43 PM on August 24, 2004

Response by poster: He's back!!!

I left the cage overnight with a welcoming open door in the room where I thought he might be. I also set up a deep bucket with a stairway of goodies leading into it. The stairway was ignored but he was asleep in his cage this morning when I came down for breakfast.

Thanks all. You don't know how bad this would have been when my daughter (8) came home today from her sleepover at a friends.

And the Richard Gere comment was great.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 3:41 AM on August 25, 2004

Ok, stop and think. Is Richard Gere near by?

Teehee. Made my day.
posted by iconomy at 5:31 AM on August 25, 2004

I have to admit, I searched for this entry just so I could check on whether the hamster came home.
I do love a happy ending.
*wipes away tear*
posted by batgrlHG at 10:52 PM on August 25, 2004

mine always hid in the piano. i have vivid memories of one shooting out between the pedals, going straight for the peanut butter.
posted by littlegirlblue at 8:38 PM on August 26, 2004

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