How to Properly Clean Your Hamster and Hamster Cage
While it’s true that hamsters make great first pets, these animals still require a lot of dedication and care to help them live their happiest and healthiest lives.
One area that new hamster parents might not know a lot about is hamster grooming and, more specifically, hamster habitat cleaning and care. Here’s what every hamster parent needs to know to ensure that their furry ball of fuzz has a clean and safe habitat in which to live.
Can you give a hamster a bath?
Hamsters are fastidious groomers and do a good job keeping themselves clean, baths, as we tend to think of them, are not necessary. However, it is possible to spot-clean them, if they truly need it. It is especially important to check their bottom as sometimes bedding can stick after going to the bathroom.
How to clean a hamster
If your hamster has a spot that is dirty and they can’t seem to clean themselves, you can use a damp washcloth or pet-friendly wipe to help clean that particular area. Since hamsters are small, you’ll want to make sure they don’t get too cold, so always use lukewarm water (never hot) and keep them out of drafts while they dry.
Dust baths for hamsters
Dwarf hamsters can also benefit from something referred to as a dust bath. To perform a dust bath, provide your hamster with a small dish of small animal dust for them to roll around in on their own. A dust bath will help your hamster remove oils and moisture from their fur in a natural way. Don’t leave the dust bath in their habitat for longer than 12 hours at a time. Dust baths also are a type of enrichment and can give your hamster a fun activity.
Hamster grooming needs
Besides the occasional spot or dust bath, your hamster will have some other grooming needs, as well. These include:
- Brushing: Long-haired Syrian hamsters — often referred to as Teddy Bear Hamsters — benefit from a weekly brushing to help remove wood shavings, food and dirt that might get stuck in their coat. Use a special small animal comb or a soft, fine toothbrush.
- Nail checks: Most hamsters don’t actually need to have their nails trimmed, but if you notice your hamster scratching themselves during self-grooming, or if their nails have started to curl, consult with a veterinarian about what to do.
- Teeth checks: The health of your hamster’s teeth will be very important, since they never stop growing. Provide plenty of animal chew sticks and toys for your hamster to wear down their constantly growing teeth, and if a tooth ever becomes overgrown, broken or chipped, a visit to their veterinarian is essential.
- Skin care: As hair helps retain skins natural oils, hairless animals often need a very small amount of coconut oil or unscented baby oil rubbed into their skin to help prevent dryness and maintain healthy skin.
How to clean a hamster cage
Just as with all pets, it’s important to keep your hamster’s home clean to keep them healthy and comfortable. This includes daily, weekly and monthly maintenance routines to keep everything fresh. A good hamster habitat cleaning routine will include the following steps:
- Scoop out soiled bedding every day. Hamsters usually urinate in one or two specific corners of their habitat, so scoop out any wet bedding every day and replace it with fresh bedding. A small animal scoop can help with this task.
- Clean food bowls and water bottles daily. Just as we’d like clean dishes, so would your pet. Clean containers are a basic requirement for maintaining your pet's health and help reduce the chance of contaminated food and water.
- Replace bedding weekly. Besides scooping out dirty bedding every day, plan to change out all of the bedding in your hamster’s habitat once a week. This includes removing any food your hamster may have stored throughout the week, as well.
- Wash the entire habitat once a month. Your hamster’s habitat should be deep and thoroughly cleaned at least once every month. Place your hamster in a safe, temporary habitat, such as a critter carrier while you perform your deep clean. This will include clearing out all of the debris and washing the habitat, hideaways, accessories and hard toys with lukewarm, soapy water, taking special care to avoid any potentially harmful ammonia-based products. To ensure you’re washing your pet’s items with a safe product, you can consider a specialized habitat cleaning spray. Then, thoroughly rinse the habitat with water to remove any residue, and let it completely dry before adding fresh bedding back in.
Providing your hamster a clean habitat and the items they need to maintain their grooming routine will help them remain healthy and happy.