Hamsters are relatively clean animals – constantly grooming and toilet training themselves – but how important is it for them to take a bath?
Is sand good for hamsters?
Sand baths offer a good solution for keeping your hamster clean and odor-free without posing any risks to their health. Providing their cage and bedding is changed regularly, there should be no need for hamsters to have a regular sand bath.
Whilst you should never give your hamster a water bath; as by doing so means that you are removing a lot of important molecules and oils from your hamster’s coat; you could try placing a sand bath in their cage instead. Here we explain how they work.
What is a hamster sand bath?
Sand baths provide an alternative method of keeping your hamster clean without risking their health. As the sand is abrasive, it removes excess particles from your hamster’s coat and can absorb oils and moisture from their skin.
In the wild, hamsters will use sand to maintain their hygiene, so a sand bath when placed in your pet hamsters cage, could encourage their natural bathing instinct!
Sand baths are not expensive and whilst there are bags of sand specifically advertised for hamsters; chinchilla sand, reptile sand and even children’s play sand can all work just as well.
Some people often mistake dust baths for sand baths, but you should pay particular attention to the materials used, as dust baths can cause respiratory problems from your hamster.
Do hamsters like sand baths?
Whilst some people believe that Dwarf hamster breeds do like to indulge in a sand bath more than Syrian hamsters, the reports and research we find seem to suggest that it is less to do with hamster type and more to do with personality and individual preference.
If your hamster does enjoy rolling about in a sand bath, then it is not only a good way to keep them clean but provides ample entertainment.
If your hamster is one of the few one doesn’t enjoy sinking their paws into sugar soft sand, then you could try burying some treats beneath the grains to encourage them to climb inside.
How often should a hamster have a sand bath?
Sand baths are by no means mandatory, as your hamster is capable of cleaning themselves, but it does provide another place for them to go, wash and even play.
Whilst some people prefer to keep the sand bath in their hamster’s cage as a permanent feature, others tend to use one less frequently. The most important thing to remember is to keep it clean. Failure to do so could lead to your hamster starting to treat it as a toilet tray.
How to give your hamster a sand bath
Sand baths are simple to prepare and can be made from shop-bought dishes or from containers that you may already have around your home – as long as they are sterile and dry. Make sure you choose a large enough dish for your hamster to roll around in.
Depending on the depth of the dish, fill it halfway with sand before placing it in your hamster’s cage. It is always best to position it in a corner if you can as this will minimise the amount of sand that gets kicked around.
Make sure that you keep a close eye on the sand itself, as you want to remove and replace it if it starts to become soiled. This will eliminate the risk of accumulating odors.
Treating a hamster that smells
Hamsters are not known for being smelly animals, but if you are concerned about the cleanliness of your hamster and a sand bath is failing to reduce the odor, then you should visit a vet to check that all is ok.
It’s important for all owners to be aware of certain health conditions, and to keep an eye out for any symptoms.
Best kinds of sand to use for hamster baths
As mentioned above, it is important to pick the right kind of sand of your hamsters’ bath, as not all varieties of sand are suitable to use. Here we review the best bags of sand that are available to buy on Amazon.
This sand has had a bad reputation of late, with negative reviews claiming the sand has become incredibly dusty. Although the brand claims that there have been no changes made (other than to their packaging design) it is made from Sepiolite minerals (a naturally occurring clay mineral), which when mined, can cause natural variations to the product. Therefore, although it is bacterially clean and tested for grain size and density to ensure that it penetrates your hamster’s fur, there may be slight differences from bag to bag. If you have any concerns, then we would recommend trying one of the other sand types as listed below.
If you are considering using reptile sand, make sure you chose a brand that is natural and does not use dyed sand, as it is likely to contain chemicals and calcium – both of which can be dangerous for your hamster. This reptile sand is safe to use for hamsters as it is 100% natural and made of very fine quartz, so it feels soft beneath their paws, and encourages burrowing. Unlike other types of sand, it has the added benefit of sliding off the fur rather than sticking to it, leaving your hamster feeling clean all over.
Most chinchilla sand is incredibly dusty, not to mention expensive, so can be harmful to your hamster and your wallet too. This chinchilla sand, however, is made from natural pumice powder, and not only cleans your hamster’s skin and fur but can protect it too. This claim is backed up by a 100% happy pet guarantee, so if it doesn’t live up to your expectations then you can get a full refund or replacement product.
Children’s play sand is probably the best value for money but does require a certain amount of processing in order to make it safe for your hamster to use. Ideally you should always use heat treated sand, to ensure it is bacteria free. If not, then you will need to bake it beforehand in an oven. Also, you should make sure that you sift the sand before tipping it into your hamster’s bath, so that only the smallest grains remain in the cage.
A word of warning about sand – Upon opening a bag you have bought, if it looks dusty in consistency, it is likely to contain added calcium, colorants and other chemicals. Hamsters love digging into sand, often pushing it around with their tiny noses but should they inhale these dangerous substances then they could harm their delicate respiratory systems. You should also never be tempted to collect sand from the beach and bring it back, as it will not be properly sanitized.
Best baths to use for Syrian, Dwarf and Robo hamsters
You do not need to invest in a fancy sand bath for your hamster when a simple plastic container will work just as well. But, if you are looking for a brightly colored, fun accessory then we recommend the following hamster sand baths.
Too much clutter in your hamster’s cage means less space for them to run around. This is why this wooden digging pool works so well, as it not only functions as a sand bath but has plenty of room for your hamster to play and includes a place for them to sleep too. It also comes with a terracotta bowl so that they can enjoy a treat whilst relaxing in their bath. It is made from pet-safe birch wood and does not include any nails or sharp sides. So you can relax, safe in the knowledge that whilst your hamster is rolling around getting nice and clean, they won’t come to any harm.
This hamster sand bath comes with a scoop for everyday cleaning which means it can remain in your cage as a permanent fixture. Recommended only for dwarf hamsters due to its size, this practical yet compact container is made of plastic and contains no toxic or otherwise harmful substances that could endanger your hamster’s health.
Most hamsters will get along just fine without ever having a single sand bath, but this is only true if their cage is kept meticulously clean and they have no health or other physical problems that prevent them from grooming themselves adequately.
If you do want to treat your hamster to an indulgent bath, then remember to always check the ingredients of the sand beforehand, as some contain chemicals that can be dangerous. Always make sure to provide them with enough space to burrow, play and roll around in