Wild hamsters live in hot habitats where there is no need to swim. They are capable of swimming when exposed to water, although their swimming techniques are less sophisticated than those of larger mammals.
A hamster will only swim if they have no other choice, and you risk getting them stressed if you force them in water.
Some pet owners also make the mistake of washing hamsters as they would any other animal like dogs. Hamsters can self-clean, and you should preserve the natural oils on their fur.
It is vital to understand the relationship between hamsters and water, as discussed below:
Can Hamsters Drown in Water?
Yes, hamsters can drown in water that is deeper than their body length. If your hamster feels out of depth, they can get tired and drown while trying to stay afloat.
Some pet owners let their hamsters swim in bathtubs where they can control the water level. Do not take your hamster into a swimming pool as these are too deep with steep sides.
If a hamster finds itself in a natural pool, they will paddle quickly to the shore. In man made pools, however, there are no escape routes for the animals, which means that they will panic and possibly drown.
Will a Hamster Die if They Get Wet?
Hamsters cannot handle sudden temperature changes, and getting them wet exposes them to health risks that can be lethal.
Exposing your hamster to water can result in respiratory complications like pneumonia.
Watch out for sneezing, wheezing, coughing, loss of appetite, and mucous discharge from the eyes and nose.
Pneumonia can lead to your hamster’s death if antibiotics are not given immediately. Your pet can be placed on oxygen therapy if the pneumonia is advanced.
Your hamster’s immune system can also be weakened by water, making them susceptible to diseases like wet tail.
Hamsters are incredibly sensitive to distressing situations, and they may even contract hypothermia and become unable to regulate their body temperature.
If your hamster gets wet, use a soft dry towel to remove the excess water. You can use a hairdryer on a cool setting to dry the pet’s fur.
Ensure that the cage is warm before placing them back in and observe them for any unusual behavior. Look out for breathing problems that can indicate pneumonia or for diarrhea.
Should You Bath Your Hamster?
A hamster’s coat has natural oils that protect the animal from external elements. Unlike most other pets, hamsters do not require regular water baths. Removing these oils will make your pet vulnerable to catching colds and pneumonia.
You should only bath a hamster if it is absolutely necessary. Hamsters groom themselves, and you can opt to bath them if something toxic spills onto their coat.
Water may be needed to remove substances like chewing gum, nail polish remover, corrosives, and disinfectant.
If bathing must be done, use plain lukewarm water. You can use a soft brush if the substance is isolated on one spot.
You can also add unscented pet shampoo but keep it away from your pet’s face. Rinse off the shampoo thoroughly and pat your pet with a soft towel. Ensure that the animal is dry before placing them back in their cage.
Hamsters are slippery, and they can easily slip from your hands when you are cleaning them. You should, however, avoid bathing hamsters as much as possible.
How do Hamsters Get Clean?
Hamsters are mistaken to be dirty animals, while they are actually keen on self-grooming. Their grooming routine includes the distribution of their natural oils across their bodies.
You may notice that your hamster grooms after you have handled them, which is a way of getting rid of your scent.
If hamsters are so clean, however, what is that musky smell from their cage? The animals communicate through pheromones from their sweat glands.
These chemicals are more prominent in males, although females release plenty of them when they are ready to mate.
Hamster cages can also smell if they are not cleaned regularly. Keep in mind that your hamster goes to the bathroom in their enclosure, and you can fill a litter box filled with absorbent materials like aspen wood shavings to minimize urine smells.
You can help your hamster stay clean by replacing their bedding weekly. Bedding absorb plenty of waste during the week, and they are probably the culprit if the cage is smelly.
Hamsters are also skilled hoarders, and you need to get rid of any rotting food in their cage.
Do Hamsters Need a Sand Bath?
Sand baths are an excellent way of cleaning your hamster’s coat without risking their health. Sand is abrasive enough to absorb excess moisture and oils from the animal’s fur.
You can source for hamster sand, reptile sand, or chinchilla sand in your local pet store. Pour around two inches of the sand in a bowl that is large enough for your pet to roll in comfortably.
The container should be sturdy as a hamster can easily flip it over when getting in or out. Remember that a hamster may chew bowls made of wood or plastic.
The frequency of sand baths is up to the pet owner. You can leave the bowl in the hamster cage for your pet to bathe as often as possible. The sand should be clean, and it may be better to leave the sand bath out of the cage for you to monitor its cleanliness.
Some hamsters may take some time to figure out the sand’s use. Leave it in the enclosure for a while, and inspect it regularly in case the pet mistakes the bath for a toilet.
Some pet stores will stock dust baths, but these have finer particles that can accumulate in your pet’s respiratory tract.
Although hamsters can swim, water is not suitable for their well-being. Hamsters do not like to swim, and they will look for escape routes if they find themselves in large bodies of water.
The animal can panic in water, and the stress can result in a compromised immune system. You can provide sand baths as an alternative to using water.