How to Train a Hamster to Run Through Tunnels

Most hamsters love crawling in tight spaces, which means they may enjoy tunnels. With a little practice, you can teach your pet about these cool connectors. By training your hamster with food, selecting the right tunnels, and performing tunnel care, you can help your furry friend learn a new trick.

EditSteps

EditTraining with Food

  1. Allow a new hamster time to adjust to its environment. Let a new hamster settle into its home and get comfortable. Forcing your pet to perform a new activity, such as running through a tunnel, when it’s still getting used to your house may cause your pet stress.[1] If your pet is stretching its limbs, that is a good sign that it’s feeling relaxed.[2]
    Train a Hamster to Run Through Tunnels Step 1.jpg
    • Anytime after the first week when your hamster appears settled is a great time to begin training.
    • Offer your new pet a treat from your palm two or three times a day to make it feel at ease after the first week.[3] A piece of apple or strawberry works great.[4]
  2. Lay a trail of treats from one end of the tunnel to the other. Using some hamster seed mix or small pieces of fruit, create a trail from one end of the tunnel to the other. Choosing a horizontal rather than vertical tunnel will be easier for training purposes. Show your hamster the first treat to pique its interest.[5]
    Train a Hamster to Run Through Tunnels Step 2.jpg
    • Choose a treat that really entices your pet to keep its attention.
    • Reduce the amount of food your hamster is getting at its normal meals if you are using lots of treats during training.[6]
    • Most modular tunnels open easily so you can space treats. If your tunnels don’t, use a chopstick or another long, blunt object to push the treats to where they need to be.
  3. Reward your hamster if it completes the tunnel. Give your hamster a favorite treat or some little scratches to show your appreciation for its efforts. Whatever your pet enjoys most is best. If the hamster abandons the tunnel, be patient. It may still be getting used to this new part of its habitat.[7]
    Train a Hamster to Run Through Tunnels Step 3.jpg
  4. Space the treats farther and apart. Gradually space the treats farther and farther apart on training runs down the tunnel. You may need to switch up the treats occasionally to keep your pet interested.[8]
    Train a Hamster to Run Through Tunnels Step 4.jpg
    • Train your pet up to three times a day. More frequently may tire your pet and make it disinterested.
    • Train your pet for as long as you and the tunnels are holding its interest. If your pet wanders off or seems bored, don’t force things. Try again another time.
  5. Place a reward only at the end of the tunnel. Gradually leave fewer and fewer treats for your hamster until it completes the tunnel with only one treat at the end. From here on out, you can remove the treats and rely on your hamster’s natural instincts and curiosity to keep it interested in tunneling.[9]
    Train a Hamster to Run Through Tunnels Step 5.jpg
    • How long this takes will vary depending upon your individual pet and its inclination towards tunneling.
  6. Understand that your hamster may not like tunnels. While most hamsters enjoy burrowing in tight spaces, it may not be your hamster’s thing. Don’t force your hamster down the tunnel if it does not want to do it.
    Train a Hamster to Run Through Tunnels Step 6.jpg
    • With this in mind, it may be wise to start with only one tunnel before purchasing many tunnels for your cage.

EditSelecting Tunnels for Your Hamster

  1. Choose tubing wider than your hamster. Ensure that any tunnels are large enough for your hamster to move through easily. Consult with a professional at your local pet store about the right size based on the breed and age of your pet.
    Train a Hamster to Run Through Tunnels Step 7.jpg
    • Especially if you have multiple hamsters in a cage, choose tubing that will fit the largest hamster comfortably.
  2. Try modular tubing to connect multiple habitats. To keep your hamster interested in running through tunnels, use modular tubing to connect multiple cages for your hamster to explore. Choose plastic tubing that is thick and sturdy, so your hamster cannot chew through it.[10]
    Train a Hamster to Run Through Tunnels Step 8.jpg
    • If you can bend plastic tubing at all, it is too flimsy.
  3. Select tubing that fits with your cage. Stick with one brand of cage and tunnel, so that the parts fit together seamlessly. Tunnels with gaps or that fit together poorly may accidentally hurt your hamster or allow it to escape.[11]
    Train a Hamster to Run Through Tunnels Step 9.jpg
  4. Rearrange your tunnels occasionally. Keep your hamster engaged and interested by rotating your tunnel configurations. New structures may entice your pet to give tunnels a try.[12]
    Train a Hamster to Run Through Tunnels Step 10.jpg
  5. Use empty toilet paper and paper towel rolls as in-cage tunnels. Place empty paper-product rolls inside your hamster’s cage for a cheap tunnel alternative. Don’t use the rolls to connect between spaces, as your hamster may chew through them.[13]
    Train a Hamster to Run Through Tunnels Step 11.jpg
    • Replace cardboard rolls once a week to keep them from getting overly soiled.

EditPerforming Tunnel Care

  1. Replace broken tunnel parts. Examine your tunnels weekly to ensure they are in good working order. Look for signs of cracking, nibbling, or other wear. Replace any damaged parts to keep your hamster safe.[14]
    Train a Hamster to Run Through Tunnels Step 12.jpg
  2. Wash tubes with hot, soapy water once a week. To keep your tubes clean, use a bottle brush and a few drops of dish soap to clean inside your tunnels once a week. Rinse them thoroughly with hot water and let them air dry before reassembling.[15]
    Train a Hamster to Run Through Tunnels Step 13.jpg
    • Not allowing your tunnels to dry thoroughly can make them prone to mildew growth.
  3. Avoid using harsh detergents or chemical cleaners. Never clean your hamster tunnels with abrasive household cleaners that give off fumes. Particularly in the enclosed space of a tunnel, these cleaners can create toxic odors, which may make your pet sick.[16]
    Train a Hamster to Run Through Tunnels Step 14.jpg
    • If you want to disinfect your tunnels, opt for a cleaning solution formulated for hamsters’ habitats, such as Nature’s Miracle Small Animal Cage Cleaner. Disinfect up to once a month.

EditSources and Citations

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