As pet owners, we give our dogs and cats baths when they start to smell bad or when they simply need a shower. However, does the same apply to our tiny hamster friends as well?
The answer is not exactly! In fact, a hamster’s grooming needs are quite different from its canine and feline friends.
In this article, we’ll share about the causes of odours from your hamster, when and how to give hamsters a bath and several alternatives to a bath.
*Disclaimer: This article provides general information that should not be used in place of professional advice from a vet. Please consult a vet about their recommended procedure for cleaning a hamster.
Do We Need to Bathe Hamsters?
Since the grooming needs of a hamster differ from that of their larger animal friends, do they still need a bath?
Hamsters are naturally clean animals with almost zero odours. Additionally, they tend to spend up to 20% of their time grooming themselves. Hence, there isn’t a need to bathe them unless absolutely necessary.
When to give hamsters a bath
Despite their cleanliness, there are certain situations when a bath is required. This includes situations where:
• There are sticky substances on your hamster’s fur
• There are toxic substances on your hamster’s fur such as nail varnish or paint
• Your hamster has a skin condition (such as a mite infestation or bacterial/fungal infection) that requires the use of a vet-prescribed medicated shampoo
Water strips your hamster’s fur of the natural and essential oils that give them a healthy and silky coat. Additionally, it makes them more susceptible to colds and this can be fatal.
Causes Of Odours In Hamsters
Though hamsters are typically clean animals, there may be certain occasions when you encounter terrible odours:
When your hamster’s cage gets dirty, it may produce bad odours. Thus, cleaning his cage frequently is important in maintaining the cleanliness and comfort of his home.
These are some general guidelines when it comes to cleaning his cage:
• Change bedding whenever it’s soiled/wet
• Clean the toilet area daily
• Place new bedding weekly
• Wipe his food dish weekly
• Clean his bottle weekly
• Clean the entire cage and accessories (including hamster toys and hamster wheels) with mild soap and water weekly
However, the cleaning schedule will also depend on the size of his cage and the number of hamsters you have.
Your hamster might be sick
Another reason for an odour emanating from your hamster is if he’s sick. When he’s feeling unwell, he may fail to clean himself frequently.
Some common hamster illnesses include:
1. Wet Tail
Wet Tail is the inflammation of the small intestine caused by a type of bacteria. It results in diarrhoea and can be fatal. Thus, it’s essential that you get your hamster to a vet immediately.
Young Syrian hamsters are most commonly affected by this condition.
2. Yeast or fungal infection
Yeast or fungal infections are often caused by contaminated or wet bedding.
These infections are highly common in Singapore due to the tropical climate and are contagious. Hence, you’re advised to change soiled beddings immediately.
Fortunately, this condition is not fatal and your hamster will recover in a couple of weeks with good and proper care.
3. Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
UTI is the infection of the bladder caused by bacteria. Hamsters suffering from UTI tend to consume more water and urinate more often. Their urine will also contain traces of blood.
UTI typically requires proper medication from a vet. Therefore, you’re encouraged to visit the vet as soon as possible to prevent it from developing into a more serious condition.
If you have multiple hamsters, place your infected hamster in quarantine as certain conditions can be contagious. You may also wish to switch out their bedding with kitchen towels temporarily to prevent further contamination.
How To Bathe A Hamster
If it’s necessary to give your hamster a bath, follow these steps to clean him safely:
Step 1: Wet a toothbrush
Grab a toothbrush and wet it with water.
Step 2: Place your hamster on your palm
Place your hamster on your palm and ensure that he stays as still as possible. Alternatively, place him on a flat surface.
Step 3: Brush your hamster gently
Using the wet toothbrush, gently brush your hamster’s fur to remove the sticky or toxic substance caught in his fur.
Step 4: Let your hamster dry in a warm space
Once you’ve cleaned your hamster, place him in a warm airy space to dry before placing him back into the cage. This will prevent him from catching a cold.
Alternatives To Bathing A Hamster
As water baths aren’t the safest option for hamsters, here are some alternative methods of cleaning your tiny fur friend!
Brushing or combing is a great way to clean your hamster safely if he’s dirty or has something stuck in his fur.
You can use hamster brushes and combs or even a regular toothbrush for this. For hamsters with longer fur, brushing should be done more regularly.
How to brush your hamster’s fur
Step 1: Pick up your hamster by the back of his neck
An easy way to pick up your hamster would be by the skin on the back of his neck. This usually keeps him calm and prevents him from struggling to get away.
Step 2: Brush his fur
Once you’ve calmed him down, grab the brush or comb and brush in a forward motion before switching to a backward motion.
Step 3: Observe for tumours and skin conditions
While brushing, observe for signs of tumours and other skin conditions.
When handling Syrian hamsters, if you notice a damp spot in their rear areas, you should take them to the vet since they’re prone to contracting Wet Tail.
Recommended brushes and combs
2. Trim their fur
In some cases, brushing gently might not get rid of the substances stuck in their fur. Thus, a pair of small grooming scissors may come in handy for trimming their fur.
Dog grooming scissors intended for sensitive areas like the back of their ears are great for this. They come with rounded edges, are precise and don’t cause pulling.
How to trim your hamster’s fur
Step 1: Gather the fur between your fingers
Start by gathering the fur you’d like to trim between your fingers and ensure that your hamster is staying as still as possible.
Step 2: Trim the fur
With the scissors in hand, swiftly and carefully trim your hamster’s fur.
3. Sand bath
This is the ideal method for keeping your hamster clean as it’s the safest and can be done frequently. In fact, sand bathing keeps hamsters’ coats clean and free of grease and many hamsters enjoy it!
When purchasing bath sand, it’s crucial to ensure that the product is indeed sand rather than dust. Dust can cause hamsters to suffer from respiratory issues when inhaled.
How to bathe your hamster in sand
Step 1: Prepare a container or bath house
Get a container or bath house that’s big enough for your hamster to roll around in.
Step 2: Fill the container or bath house with bath sand
Fill it up with specialised bath powder for small pets and watch as your hamster tumbles around in the sand.
Step 3: Dust the sand off your hamster
Once your hamster is done with his bath, dust the sand off him or let him do it himself. Dirt and hardened faeces that were caught in his fur will come off easily with the help of the sand bath.
Recommended bath sand
4. Spot cleaning
Spot cleaning is used for cleaning specific spots on your hamster. However, as it involves water, it should only be used as the last resort.
How to spot clean your hamster
Step 1: Find a warm room
Bring your hamster to a warm room where his fur can dry quickly.
Step 2: Get a wet cloth
Take some hamster wipes or wet a portion of a soft cloth or washcloth.
Step 3: Gently clean the hamster
Using the damp cloth or hamster wipe, gently clean the particular spot on your hamster.
Step 4: Let your hamster’s fur air dry
Once you’re done cleaning, allow your hamster’s fur to air dry fully before placing him back in the cage. This will minimise his risk of catching a cold.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do hamsters clean themselves?
Like cats, hamsters clean their coats by licking their paws and grooming their fur. They typically do this more than once a day.
Can you give a hamster a bath?
If you’re unable to remove certain substances by brushing or trimming your hamster’s fur or using a sand bath, you may resort to using water. However, it’s dangerous and could cause him to catch a cold.
Thus, you’re advised not to use water unless absolutely necessary.
How often should I change my hamster’s sand bath?
The frequency of changing your hamster’s sand bath depends on how often he uses it and this may differ depending on his breed.
In general, this is the frequency of changing sand baths according to your hamster’s breed:
• Dwarf hamsters: Every 1 – 2 weeks
• Syrian hamsters: Every 3 weeks or when cleaning the cage
• Other breeds: Every week
Additionally, if you see wet clumps in the sand, you should also remove them.
Bathing Your Hamster Safely
As a pet parent, it’s always best to opt for the safest option. Thus, when it comes to cleaning your hamster, you’re recommended to avoid using water unless absolutely necessary.
When in doubt, contact your vet for advice on the best course of action!