How to Train a Hamster or a Mouse to Walk on a Tightrope

Three Methods:Setting UpWalking Across the TightropeRefining the Tightrope Walk

Hamsters and mice are very smart and easy to train. However, do not attempt to train hamsters to walk on a tightrope, because their pudgy little bodies will be unable to negotiate the rope.[1] Mice, however, have no problem walking across a tightrope. Be sure you have the right kind of rope. Set up proper safety precautions so your mouse doesn't get hurt, and entice your mouse to cross the rope with treats and praise.

Method 1
Setting Up

  1. 1
    Choose the right size rope. The rope should be at least 24 inches long and have a circumference of one inch.[2] This will give the mouse an adequate distance when making its tightrope walk and provide enough purchase for its little feet.
    • Do not buy a rope of sisal. It might make your mouse sneeze.[3]
  2. 2
    Set up the tightrope.[4] Tie a rope between two solid, heavy objects. The rope should not be very high off the ground. A height of three to five inches is sufficient. This way, if your mouse falls, it will not be injured. Pull the objects away from one another until the rope is tight.
    • Tying a rope between two table or chair legs is a good option.
    • Each end of the tightrope should have a small ledge or platform from which the mouse can ease itself onto the tightrope, and onto which it can step once it has traversed the entire length of the rope.
  3. 3
    Place a layer of soft bedding below the tightrope.[5] Even though you’re placing the rope at a low elevation, it’s best to be extra cautious to prevent your mouse from suffering an injury. With something soft below your tightrope, you’ll ensure that your mouse isn’t hurt if it falls. You could use several pillows or fluffy blankets to pad the area below the tightrope.[6]
  4. 4
    Ensure your mouse will not escape. Mice are quick little creatures. They can easily slip under the crack beneath a door, or disappear through an open ventilation duct. Ensure that the room in which you’re training your mouse is secure and offers no opportunities for your mouse to escape.[7] If that happens, not only will you be sad, but your mouse will be in danger of being stepped on or caught by a cat.
    • Stuff blankets into the crack beneath your door.
    • Think like a mouse. Get down on the ground before training your mouse to walk on a tightrope and look for gaps, cracks, and other areas into which your mouse could escape. Take action to seal these exits appropriately.
    • If you’re worried, you could invest in a baby cage with solid sides. These are square or rectangular open-topped structures designed to keep babies confined, but they could just as easily serve to keep your mouse within a safe area.

Method 2
Walking Across the Tightrope

  1. 1
    Familiarize your mouse with rope walking.[8] Putting a few low-hanging, easily accessible ropes in your mouse’s cage. This will give your mouse the opportunity to develop its balance by playing and walking on the ropes.
  2. 2
    Earn your mouse’s trust. Train your mouse to do other, simpler tricks before training it to cross a tightrope.[9] This will give your mouse confidence when you
    • For instance, you could train your mouse to come and sit in your hand when called. To do this, offer a treat by placing it toward your wrist, so that the mouse must come onto your hand to obtain the treat.
    • When your mouse performs any trick or obeys any command successfully, say, “Great job!” and give it a tasty treat.
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    3
    Provide proper motivation. If your mouse has nothing to gain from walking across the tightrope, it probably won’t want to do it. However, if you reward your mouse with a small treat, they will respond enthusiastically to the tightrope training. Tasty treats you could use to train your mice include:
    • cauliflower
    • unsweetened cereals
    • blueberries[10]
    • When your mouse first starts walking the tightrope, you should hold a treat just out of range of its snout. Move the treat along the length of the tightrope so that your mouse follows it. When your mouse successfully traverses the tightrope, give it the treat.
  4. 4
    Extend the length that the mouse must walk.[11] There are two ways to extend the length of rope you get your mouse to walk. One way is to lengthen the rope, and the other way is to place your mouse further away from its end goal each time you have it walk the tightrope.
    • To extend the length of rope that your mouse walks on, start out with a very short length of rope of about six inches. Place your mouse on one of the platforms that each end of the rope connects to. Slowly lengthen the rope each time your mouse successfully walks the tightrope.
    • For instance, you might start out with a rope of about six inches, then push your mouse to cross a rope of eight inches, then a rope of ten inches, and so on.
    • The other way you can get your mouse to negotiate longer ropes is to start out with it very close to the finishing end of the rope.
    • For instance, you can place your mouse on the last four or five inches of the rope, and place a treat on the platform where the rope leads. The mouse will scramble across the rope to get the treat. Next time you practice the trick, place your mouse six to ten inches away from the end of the platform with the treat on it. Continue moving your mouse further away from the treat each time so that it has more time on the tightrope.

Method 3
Refining the Tightrope Walk

  1. 1
    Be patient.[12] Mice, like people, have limited attention spans. If your mouse starts losing interest in the training session, put your mouse back in its cage and try again another day.
    • Don’t expect each mouse to learn at the same rate.[13] Every mouse is different. While some mice might learn to walk across the tightrope quickly, others will need more practice. Don’t hold every mouse to the same standard.
    • If you have more than one mouse, and one of them a particularly brilliant student, let your other mice watch that mouse walk the tightrope first, then encourage the others to follow. They will learn from the first mouse’s example.[14]
  2. 2
    Train frequently. If you only train once a week, or once a month, your mouse will not learn how to walk across a tightrope. Practice the trick at least once each week. The more frequently you practice the trick, the faster your mouse will learn it.[15]
    • However, do not wear your pet out. Performing the trick two or three times each day should be the maximum. More than that and you not only risk stressing your mouse, you also risk indigestion, since your mouse's little stomach will fill quickly with all the treats you deliver when it completes the tightrope walk.
  3. 3
    Look for signs of stress. Walking a tightrope can be a harrowing experience. (If you doubt it, just try it for yourself!) Mice that are hesitant or stressed by the experience might poo or pee excessively.[16] If your mouse is stressed, discontinue training.
    • Never force a mouse to walk the tightrope by, for instance, just picking it up and dropping it in the middle of the rope.[17]
  4. 4
    Get help. If you’re having a hard time getting your rodent friend to walk across a tightrope, consider working with a professional. There are many professional mouse and rat trainers available.[18] Check the American Fancy Rat and Mouse Association’s list of trainers at http://www.afrma.org/afrmalinksrmweb.htm#training to find a trainer near you.

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Categories: Mice and Rats