Hamsters have earned a reputation as clean and easy-to-care for pets. They typically self-groom when they are awake, usually at night, and enjoy the occasional sand bath to keep themselves clean.

However, this doesn’t mean pet parents should ignore their hamster’s cleanliness. Some species, such as long-haired types like the Teddy Bear hamster, may require additional help with grooming, especially as they get older and may be less mobile.

Here’s what you need to know about bathing and cleaning your hamster.

Can You Give Hamsters A Bath?

Unless your vet instructs otherwise, most hamsters don’t require additional bathing with soap and water.

However, your hamster might require occasional help with cleaning their rear end to prevent caked fecal material or urine staining. Leaving a hamster with a dirty rear can result in urinary or reproductive issues.

You can clean your hamster’s rear end with pet-friendly wipes or a warm, damp wash cloth.

How to Give a Hamster a Bath

If your vet instructs you to give your hamster a true soap-and-water bath, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Ensure the water temperature is warm enough to not cause hypothermia, but it should not be scalding. Test the water on your inner wrist or elbow. It should be lukewarm and unoffensive.

  • Use a hamster-friendly shampoo and rinse with warm water but be careful not to get any soap in the mouth or eyes.

  • Bathe your hamster in a warm room, such as a bathroom, without drafts.

  • Use an easy-to-clean waterproof container, such as Tupperware, that has high sides to avoid your hamster escaping.

  • Fill the water up to your hamster’s shoulders so they can stand without having to swim or being fearful.

  • Quickly dry your hamster off with a towel after the bath.

  • Only place your hamster back in their enclosure when they are warm and dry.

After bathing, thoroughly wash the container with common household products and allow it to dry well. Make sure to wash your hands.

Hamster Sand Baths

While hamsters do not typically enjoy or need a traditional bath, many hamsters (especially dwarf breeds) do like regular sand baths. Hamsters in the wild will use sand, instead of water, to keep clean, and it has many natural benefits. They love rolling, digging, and even playing in smooth, clean, sand as it helps “bathe” their skin and coat in a non-traditional way.

Sand baths help decrease natural oils and dirt that may have accumulated in your hamster’s coat. They may also deter parasites. However, if you’re concerned about your pet having parasites, it’s a good idea to talk to your veterinarian immediately.

Sand baths are also a fantastic way to increase environmental enrichment and keep your hamster busy with new, fun play.

Chinchillas also require frequent sand baths, so fortunately there are a few ready-made products you can use for hamsters. Veterinarians often recommend giving small pets chinchilla sand versus dust to decrease respiratory and eye issues.

To provide your hamster with a sand bath, fill a small dish with the appropriate sand and place it inside the enclosure. The dish should be small enough that your hamster can climb into it, but big enough for them to roll and bathe.

When your hamster is done bathing, remove the sand from the cage. A typical sand bath lasts about 15-20 minutes, but it may take longer if your hamster is really enjoying it. Remove the sand afterwards, so it doesn’t become a respiratory or eye irritant.

Depending on your hamster’s interest and need, a sand bath can be introduced as often as a few times a week.

Hamster Grooming Needs

Hamster coats should be brushed regularly, especially long-haired breeds. While brushing your hamster, pay special attention to matted hair.

Hamsters also require periodic nail trims, especially as they get older. Contact your vet if your hamster’s nails are overgrown or look abnormal.

At least every few weeks, inspect your hamster for any skin growths and check their rear end for fecal buildup or urine staining.

Finally, hamster teeth need special care and should be checked regularly by the pet parent. Because their teeth grow continuously, hamsters need things to gnaw and chew to ensure their teeth wear down appropriately. When hamsters can’t chew, their teeth may become misaligned or maloccluded. This can result in abscesses and even make it impossible for hamsters to eat and store food normally.

While it might be tempting to try trimming your hamster’s teeth yourself, it is critical to have this procedure done by a veterinarian. Incorrect trimming of hamster teeth can cause fractures, tooth root abscesses, and pulp exposure, which can be very painful.

With good nutrition, proper cleaning, and adequate toys for gnawing and enrichment, hamsters should require little veterinary attention beyond an annual wellness exam.

Featured Image: iStock.com/Irina Orlova At some point, you may wonder whether your hamster needs a bath. If your furry friend is so stinky they have you pinching your nose when you pass their cage, you may wonder whether they’re dirty. Is a bath the solution? Are there any risks associated with bathing your hamster that you should know about? I’ve researched this topic in-depth to bring you the answer. Bathing Your Hamster: What Every Owner Needs to Know Hamsters are adept at cleaning themselves, so there’s rarely any need to bathe them, especially in water. If you must bathe them, a sand/dust bath is preferable. This reduces their risk of catching a cold. And if the cage stinks — make sure you clean it thoroughly on a daily basis. A sand bath? What is that even? We know this is a lot to grasp at once, especially if you’re a first-time hamster owner. That’s why we’re going to break down whether you need to bathe your hamster, how often, and how to do it safely.

Can I Bathe My Hamster?

Bathing your hamster is often unnecessary unless they’re really, truly dirty. Here’s why. Hamsters innately know when they’re unclean and will tidy themselves up. The next time you hold your hamster, watch what they do when you put them back in their cage or enclosure. They’ll probably start grooming themselves. It’s no offense to you, but your hamster doesn’t want to smell like you. The hips of a hamster are home to their scent glands. By rubbing their hips and then grooming the rest of their bodies, they spread that scent and get rid of yours. To them, they’re then considered clean. Hamsters can get dirty in plenty of ways. If they make waste in their enclosure and you don’t immediately clean it up, it could get stuck in their fur. Old nesting, discarded food pellets, dirt, and other messes can also get matted in there. If you see something smooshed into your hamster’s fur, your first inclination is going to be to wash your pet. This is most often the wrong inclination.

When Should I Bathe My Hamster?

The only time the average hamster needs a bath is when something dangerous or toxic has gotten stuck in their fur and won’t come out through normal grooming methods (like brushing or combing). Due to their susceptibility to colds, there are some considerations that you should make when preparing a bath for your pet.

  • Make sure that the room and the water are both warm. Coldwater increases their risk of becoming sick.
  • Dry their fur immediately after their bath, as close to completely dry as you can get them.
  • Due to the sensitivity of a hamster’s ears, it is not advisable to use a loud blow dryer to get their fur dry.
  • Hamsters should be placed back into their cages as soon as they are completely dry to the touch.

What Are the Risks Associated with Bathing Your Hamster?

Bathing your hamster tends to do more harm than good. Hamsters are already predisposed to getting colds. If left untreated, these colds can be fatal (read more on what can kill your hamster). Putting your hamster in a sink and soaking them in water increases their chances of illness even more. Another major risk associated with bathing your hamster is the health of its coat. Not only does your hamster’s coat contain scent glands, but it also has protective oils. These oils keep your hamster healthy. Without them, they’re much more susceptible to getting a cold.

What Other Cleaning Methods Are Available?

Now that you know it’s best to keep your hamster away from water, how can you clean them if they get dirty? You can try any of the following methods.

Brushing your hamster

Instead of reaching for the faucet when your hamster is dirty or has something matted in its fur, you should reach for the brush instead. Brushing keeps your hamster dry but can remove most dirt, feces, and other caked-on messes. You can use a specialized hamster brush for the job or even a toothbrush if that’s handier. If you have a breed of hamsters with longer fur, brushing should be a regular part of pet ownership anyway. You want to brush slowly and gently, going from one body part of the hamster to another. While you’re doing this, keep your eyes open for signs of abscesses, tumors, and other skin conditions. If you notice that the hamster’s rear has wet areas, especially if it’s a Syrian hamster, then you’ll want to get your pet to a veterinarian, stat. They could have the wet tail disease, a condition that affects the intestines.

Trimming the fur (carefully!)

If brushing fails to clean your hamster’s fur to your liking, then you might want to trim out the feces or other substance gumming up their fur. We recommend you use a small pair of grooming scissors for this. Gather the fur you want to trim between several fingers. Make sure your hamster is holding as still as possible. Holding the scissors in your other hand, swiftly yet carefully trim the matted, dirty fur.

Sand Bathing a hamster

If you’d rather not get a pair of scissors anywhere near your hamster (good call!), you can always opt for what some people call a dust bath and are actually a sand bath. Despite the word “bath,” there is no water in a sand bath. You simply fill a container with sand. Make sure your hamster can fit in said container. They need sufficient room to move and roll. As your hamster tumbles about in the sand, most messes on their fur will come off. This is especially true of dirt and hardened feces. Don’t just grab dirt from your garden or sand from the beach. You need to buy specialized sand that’s designated for hamsters and other small critters, like this product. Double-check that the product you get is actually sand. Your hamster could have respiratory issues if you use dust instead. After their sand bath, you can simply dust your hamster off or let them clean themselves. They should be a lot less dirty. Take a look at the video below:

Spot Cleaning

Finally, you have the option to spot clean your hamster. You will have to use water for this, so it’s not recommended. You should try to exhaust the above options first. Use a soft cloth or even a washcloth for spot cleaning. Wet a portion of the cloth and then clean the dirty area(s) of your hamster. Make sure the temperature in the room is warm, as this will help the hamster dry. Let them air dry fully. Feel the area you spot-cleaned to check that it’s dry. Once it is, put your hamster back in their cage or enclosure. You can also get pet wipes like these to quickly and effectively do some spot cleaning as may be necessary.

Products You Should Avoid Using

Some owners wonder about using dry shampoo or baby wipes to clean their hamsters. Neither of these are safe grooming options for these pets. Both contain chemicals that, while safe for us, are not safe for hamsters. They can cause irritation and even rashes to appear on the skin, which can prompt the hamster to scratch at the itchy spots. If your hamster has long fur, it can be hard to detect this irritation at a glance.

How to Safely Bathe Your Hamster

There are some scenarios in which bathing your hamster is the only option. If your hamster got into poisonous substances, a bath is the safest choice considering the overall risk management. A bath does not mean you fill your sink and toss your hamster in. Sure, most hamsters know how to swim, but they prefer not to. You can either bathe your hamster by wrapping them in a wet cloth or brushing them with a wet toothbrush. If you use a wet cloth, then it’s important you rub the cloth over the hamster’s fur. This should dislodge any messes. A toothbrush allows you to target the areas you can see that are dirty. If you must bathe your hamster, the goal is to keep them as dry as you can. This preserves their natural protective oils. Water is all you need to clean them; never use dish soap, shampoo, or conditioner. Just as important is drying your hamster. They must be fully dried before they go back into their cage. If they’re even damp, they could get sick and potentially die. You can either let your hamster air dry, as we mentioned before, or use a dry cloth. Never use a hairdryer or put them near a heater or other heat source!

How to Keep Your Hamster Clean

Contrary to what is commonly accepted as true, hamsters are very clean animals. They love to be clean and live in a clean space where they can burrow, roll around and play. The overall cleanliness of the pet and their environment depends almost solely on the owner. Routine Care and maintenance of the cage is the most critical aspect of keeping hamsters healthy and clean for the duration of their lives. Your hamster will generally keep themselves clean, but you can help them in the following ways:

  • Clean your hamster’s enclosure weekly. See our guide on how often to clean a hamster’s cage.
  • Change out the litter every day.
  • Always keep an eye on your hamster’s enclosure. If you’ve noticed they’ve made waste and are too close to it, you may opt to clean it up yourself.
  • Keep toxic substances away from your hamster. These include gum, paint, nail polish, and certain foods (see the full list of foods to avoid here). This will reduce your need to bathe your hamster.
  • Reduce handling unless necessary.

A Dry Hamster Is a Healthy Hamster!

While you can bathe your hamster in water, as we’ve mentioned, this is reserved for worst-case scenarios only. If your hamster has not gotten into toxic substances, then try a sand bath, brushing, trimming, or even spot cleaning first. Above all else, don’t forget that your hamster knows how to keep themselves clean. Leaving your pet to their natural grooming process and keeping them dry is best for their health. Hamsters are so darn cute especially when they are clean and properly taken care of. Looking for more care tips for your hamster? Check out 37 Hamster Care Tips that will take you to the next level, this is the perfect post for you! Hamster sleeping on fleece blanket Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo Reviewed & Fact-Checked By dr Paola Cuevas Know, MVZ The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research. Learn more » What is that on your hamster? Likely, it is a clump of poop, old food, or shavings that have gotten stuck in its fur. These sights are quite common for hamster owners. Seeing your hamster with grossness stuck to it might leave you tempted to try and give it a bath. But hamsters do not need baths as people do. Not ever. Still, the thought might linger in the back of your mind. Hamster baths should only be given in extreme circumstances under express orders from a veterinarian. If you must bathe your hamster, you can do it at home in these seven steps.

divider-rodent Preparation: Get Your Vet’s Approval

Hamsters never need water baths at home on their own. Ever. Do not bathe your hamster unless expressly told to by your veterinarian. Most of the time, hamsters have to see a veterinarian that specializes in exotic pets for the best care. If you have not been told by your vet to give your hamster a bath, stop. Do not proceed any further. On the rare occasion that your vet does prescribe a bath, you must take extreme care in bathing your hamster. Follow these steps carefully to ensure that your hamster safely emerges clean, warm, and dry after its bath. syrian hamster playing Image Credit: _Johannes Menge, Shutterstock

1. Fill Container With Warm Water

Choose a small container that will hold your hamster but isn’t too big. You want it to have sides so the hamster can’t escape, but you do not want it to be too big for you to adequately handle your hamster. Most people suggest using a small plastic container to do the job. Fill the container with warm water. Make sure the water is not scalding but also make sure that it is not cold. Cold water can shock your hamster and cause hypothermia. You should never wash your hamster in a sink or tub. Always wash your hamster in a small, appropriately sized container.

2. Place Your Hamster In The Bath

hamster on human hand Image Credit: Vilde Lauritzen, Flickr Next, gently place your hamster into the bath. Make sure that the water does not reach higher than your hamster’s shoulders. Hamsters are not known to be good swimmers. Do not make the water any higher than the shoulder. If you need to, dump some of the water out and check the temperature again if it is too deep. Your hammy might get scared when it is put in the water. This is a normal reaction. Make sure no water is getting in the hamster’s eyes or nose.

3. Use Hamster Friendly Soap

If you have been asked to bathe your hamster by the vet, they should have also either provided or suggested a hamster-friendly soap. Do not use any regular soap on your tiny little guy. Make sure you are using the proper cleaning supplies for your hamster. If you are not sure about what kind of soap to use with your hamster, call and ask your vet before proceeding.

4. Wash and Rinse Hamster

Gently wash your hamster with the prescribed soap with a warm damp rag. Wash with the fur, as if you are petting the hamster, as not to upset it. Be very gentle while washing the animal. They are small and can be easily injured. Wash with the fur until clean. Rinse the hamster with warm water. Do not rinse with cold water. Again, make sure the water is not scalding or too cold before rinsing.

5. Keep Hamster Warm

hamster in a hammock Image Credit: Pixabay Throughout the process, it is important to keep your hamster warm. The best way to achieve this is to use warm water while bathing the hamster. It is also advised to wash your hamster in a warm enclosed room like a bathroom. The biggest danger to your hamster during a bath isn’t drowning. It is hypothermia. Hamsters are not used to being wet.

6. Dry Hamster

person holding a hamster Image Credit: Akkalak Aiempradit, Shutterstock After you are done bathing your hamster, it is time to dry it. Use a hand towel and gently dry your hamster all over. Do not pinch or squeeze or grab your hamster. Being gentle is essential. But the hamster must be dried. Do not return your hamster to its enclosure without making sure it is completely dry. Dry your hamster until it is no longer wet. Make sure to keep your hamster warm and cozy throughout this process. It is important.

7. Return Hamster To Enclosure

Finally, once you are sure that your hamster is completely dry, return it to its enclosure. It is a good idea to put the hamster back into a clean environment after a bath, so you might need to change the bedding before putting it back. Keep an eye on your hamster for the next hour to make sure that it is not behaving strangely. Look for signs of shivering, lethargy, or injury. If your hamster seems happy to be home and acting normal then you are finished. Good job. divider-hamster

Do Hamsters Need Regular Baths?

No. Hamsters never need to be bathed in the traditional sense. If you do not take your hamster to the vet and if your hamster is happy and healthy, there is no need to ever wash them. Hamsters are not like people. They don’t need regular showers to remain clean and healthy. In fact, bathing hamsters can be dangerous and even lead to death if you do not do it properly. That is why it is only prescribed under very specific circumstances by professional veterinarians. hamster enjoying a sand bath Image Credit: IRINA-ORLOVA, Shutterstock

What Kind of Baths Do Hamsters Enjoy Naturally?

In the wild, hamsters never bathe in water. They do, however, enjoy a good sand bath. Hamsters and other similar species love to roll around in fine dust to keep their coats clean and healthy. While that might not sound very appealing to humans, it is great for hamsters. If you are worried that your hamster needs a bath, but you have not been told to give them a water bath by your vet, you can provide them a dust bath to enjoy.

Can You Clean Your Hamster Without Bathing It?

Yes. In fact, washing a hamster’s butt is a common action. However, most of the time a hamster never needs a full bath. Cutting away matted bedding or poop that gets stuck to your hamster is completely safe. Even using a damp rag or wipe to get some gunk off of its behind is great too. None of those things requires your hamster to be placed into water.

divider-rodent Conclusion

If you absolutely must bathe your hamster, you can do it in these seven simple steps. Just be sure to use extreme caution when doing so and consult your vet if you have any questions or concerns. If you haven’t been told to bathe your hamster, consider trimming its fur or providing a dust bath instead. They will be much happier with that decision than a true bath with water. Featured Image Credit: Alex Milan, Shutterstock

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