Hamsters are very popular pets, because they are cute, low maintenance and very clean. They groom themselves multiple times a day. But should you help them giving a good, warm bath?
No! You should never bath your pet hamster! Bathing a hamster strips off the natural and vital oils on its coat, which will cause more harm than good.
Wild hamsters have adapted to warm and dry regions like steppes and the edges of deserts. Since there are few water sources in such areas, hamsters have adapted to grooming themselves.
Pet owners are advised against bathing hamsters since it also exposes them to health complications like colds.
You should only bathe your pet in exceptional circumstances like when their coat has a harmful substance that would cause stomach upsets if ingested.
Some pet owners often complain about hamster smells from cages. Hamsters do secret pheromones, but a musky odor may relate to the cleanliness of their houses.
Can Hamsters Clean Themselves?
Hamsters are clean animals, and they prefer to live in tidy environments. You may have noticed that your hamster separates their dining, bathroom, and living areas.
Grooming falls naturally into a hamster’s routine, and they can use as much as 20% of their day in self-care.
Part of this motivation for cleanliness lies in a hamster’s territorial nature. If you observe a hamster meeting for the first time, they will smell each other up for identification.
The animal has to keep redistributing these natural oils to maintain their scent.
In the wild, hamsters are preyed on by many kinds of animals, and having strong scents makes it easier to be caught. The animals are also burrowers, and they collect a lot of dirt living in underground tunnels.
If you notice your hamster grooming after you have handled them, this is just a way of removing your scent. The animals will also groom in new environments.
A hamster will comb through their fur to remove any foreign elements. You can even observe them pulling on their ears to remove any accumulated debris.
Since hamsters are strict about grooming, you can tell if there is a problem with your pet if they are not keeping up with their hygiene.
Changes in your hamster’s grooming routine can indicate injury or illness.
Do Hamsters Need a Sand Bath?
Sand baths will keep your hamster clean without posing any health risks. Sand is abrasive, and it will remove any particles on your pet’s coat and absorb excess oils.
You can use sand to remove odors on your hamster, but you must first ensure that the smells are not linked to disease or stress.
Observe if the grooming schedule of your pet has changed, and use sand baths if you are confident that there is nothing wrong.
You should source for pet-safe sand that is suited for hamsters. Most pet stores will have hamster sand, but you can also use reptile sand or chinchilla sand.
Avoid using dust baths as they are made of fine particles that can cause breathing problems.
Sterilize and dry a large container, and pour about two inches of the sand. The basin should be sturdy so that your pet does not tip it over, and it should be wide enough for them to roll around comfortably. Change the sand once it gets soiled.
Sand baths are safe for hamsters, as long as you are using the right kind. Some hamsters will be hesitant to roll in the baths, which is perfectly fine.
You can remove the container in case they start using it as a toilet.
Can Bathing Kill a Hamster?
If you observe dirt, food pellets, and beddings tuck on your hamster’s fur, your first instinct may be to bath your hamster.
Getting your pet wet, however, is dangerous and life-threatening.
A hamster’s coat has protective oils that keep them healthy. Removing these oils will leave your pet susceptible to colds and pneumonia.
Hamsters cannot handle sudden temperature shifts, especially if the natural oils on their fur are stripped. Colds can be fatal if they are not addressed early enough.
If your pet gets a toxic substance like paint on their coat, you can use a brush to get it off. The RSPCA advises pet owners to use an unused, soft toothbrush and warm water to clean isolated spots on the hamster’s coat. Pat your pet dry before putting them back into their house.
How to Clean Your Hamsters?
If you can detect hamster smells, the problem may be the cage’s cleanliness. You can help your hamster maintain a clean environment through:
– Improve Ventilation
Is the hamster’s enclosure well ventilated? Pet owners who use glass or plastic cages have problems with odors because there is little aeration.
Invest in a caged house that is built specifically for hamsters.
– Use Better Bedding
Using the proper bedding can solve any odor problems from a hamster cage. The right bedding should be absorbent, which is why you should avoid straw or hay as they don’t absorb hamster urine well.
Beddings like aspen shavings and wood pulp lock in urine odors without staying wet, and you should use a thick layer in your hamster’s cage.
You can layer baking soda under the bedding to take advantage of its odor-locking attributes.
– Potty Training
Your hamster will locate one corner of their cage and designate it as their bathroom. This is often the area that will make the cage smell during the week.
You can fill a litter box with chinchilla sand and place it near your pet’s “bathroom.” Add some soiled bedding to the litter box to encourage your hamster to use it.
– Clean the Cage Regularly
Cleaning a hamster’s house regularly is essential because they hoard food. Such food items can start to rot and make the cage smelly.
Clean the cage at least once a week, and wash the accessories with mild dish soap. You should also replace the bedding, and let everything dry up before re-furnishing the cage.
The above tips should eliminate any hamster odors in your home. If the smell persists, however, it may be advisable to take your hamster to the vet to rule out any health issue.
Hamsters do not fare well in water, and you should avoid bathing them. If their coat is especially dirty, you can let your hamster roll in a sand bath.
Hamsters are strict groomers, and they will rarely smell if they are kept in a well-ventilated and clean cage.