If you are a first-time hamster owner or thinking about getting a pet hamster, you are probably wondering about the hygiene habits of these adorable little rodents. Similarly, you may want to know how involved you have to be in the process of cleaning a hamster. Like cats, hamsters do an excellent job of keeping themselves groomed and washed. Usually, hamsters do not even emit any sort of odor. In fact, if your hamster does have a scent, they may have a medical issue that requires attention.
However, hamsters do need you to clean them in a few specific circumstances. Keep reading to discover how hamsters clean themselves, as well as what you need to do to keep them clean. This article also covers some frequently asked questions about cleaning hamsters.
How and Why Do Hamsters Clean Themselves?
As mentioned above, hamsters are superb at staying clean. They groom themselves quite frequently, and these little guys inherently prefer to stay tidy. Again, as cats do, hamsters stay clean by licking themselves and using their paws to brush at their skin and fur. In addition to simply wanting to be clean, hamsters are territorial when it comes to scents on their bodies and in their space. They will remove all traces of your scent after any handling. Due to these factors, you will glimpse your hamster grooming after you have held, fed, or played with them. Hamsters also groom themselves a lot after using the bathroom.
Please note that hamsters also resort to grooming themselves when they are stressed. Hamsters have a tendency to become stressed easily, especially if they are exposed to new people and places or if they are not being handled properly. Stressful grooming is much more frantic than typical grooming. A stressed hamster may also bite their cage. Stress can kill a hamster, so do your best to relieve them if need be. Touching your hamster less is often a good tactic, but if that does not work, contact your veterinarian to determine the source of their stress.
How Should I Clean My Hamster?
Although hamsters take care of most of their grooming needs on their own, there are a few things you can and sometimes should do to help your hamster stay clean. There are also a few things that you ought to avoid doing in the process of keeping them clean. Here are the things you need to do to boost your hamster’s hygiene, as well as a few tips on what not to do.
If your hamster gets any stray feces or bedding stuck in their fur, you can brush out the debris gently with a toothbrush. Such sticking is more likely to happen to long-haired breeds, but it can happen to short-haired hamsters, as well. Only groom them like this when they need the assistance. Do not use an actual brush on your hamster, especially not a grooming brush for other pets, as the larger bristles can hurt them, and the smells may stress them out.
While hamsters rarely need a nail trim, yours may if their nails get long enough to curl, or if they start to scratch themselves involuntarily as they are grooming. Contact your veterinarian about getting their nails trimmed if you notice either sign.
If you notice that your hamster has flaky skin, they may be having trouble retaining the oils that come from their fur. Hairless hamsters are especially susceptible to dry skin. Other hamsters probably need to be picked up less often. Rubbing a dab of baby oil, unscented, into their skin will also combat dryness.
Teeth are the one thing that you must constantly help your hamster keep tidy. All hamsters have teeth that grow continuously, so it is important to supply them with toys and chew sticks to cut their teeth on. Broken or overgrown teeth absolutely require an appointment with your vet. Your hamster cannot eat or groom themselves properly until their teeth are fixed.
Do Hamsters Need Baths?
A hamster should never be given a traditional bath. They are incredibly vulnerable to the cold, and the shock and stress of a water bath could kill them. If your hamster has a small, dirty place that they have missed, you can do what is called a “spot clean” by using a damp cloth to blot at the area until it is clean. To do so, use water that is lukewarm, never cold or hot.
Do Hamsters Need Sand Baths?
Although hamsters do not need sand baths, most hamsters enjoy them. To give your hamster a sand bath, put a small container that is half-full of sand into their cage. Make sure that the container is big enough for your pet to fit in without spilling sand over the edges. Most pet stores carry hamster sand, but chinchilla sand will work if they do not have hamster sand.
Do Hamsters Need Dust Baths?
Not only do most hamsters like dust baths, they can be beneficial for your pet. In addition to them finding it fun, a dust bath allows your hamster to remove any moisture from their coat. To give a hamster a dust bath, do what you would for a sand bath, but replace the sand with animal dust. As with sand, most pet stores sell hamster-specific dust.
Important Information to Remember
Hamsters groom themselves meticulously and are incredibly clean animals, like cats. They will clean themselves after any sort of handling to remove your scent and ensure that they are tidy. However, a stressed hamster will groom even more often and more frantically. Watch for signs of stress, as it can kill a hamster. Hamsters also need you to clean them in specific situations, such as if they get bedding stuck in their fur or if their teeth chip. Additionally, water baths will induce shock and stress, so they should always be avoided. If you want to bathe your hamster, opt for a sand or dust bath, instead. These baths should be removed from your hamster’s cage after twelve hours.