An important part of hamster care is knowing how to properly clean their cage. While hamsters are creatures of habit and tend to use the bathroom in the same areas of their cage, this is not always the case. Anyone who has owned a hamster knows that they have very little control over their bladders and bowels and will relieve themselves whenever the urge strikes them.
The frequency with which you should clean your hamster’s cage will vary. The more hamsters you have living together, the more often you will need to clean them. Likewise smaller cages start to smell quicker. On average you should spot clean your hamsters cage every few days and do a deep clean at least once a month – but ideally weekly.
It is not only unsanitary but incredibly unpleasant for your hamster to have to live in their pee and poop all of the time. Imagine if it was you in that situation, and how much you would hate that.
Hamsters have a more developed sense of smell than humans, meaning that they can smell things more strongly than we can. This means that long before the cage smell becomes overwhelming for you, it will be incredibly unpleasant for them.
Different styles of cage and cage materials will also hold odors in different ways. Larger cages will need a deep clean less frequently than smaller cages, as the smells and fluids are spread out over a much larger area.
The advice given in this article is intended to be used as a guide instead of a strict set of rules. Take cues from your hamster, and in time, you will work out the best schedule for you.
It is a good idea to perform small spot checks of your hamster’s cage every few days. These will be easier to do once you understand your hamster’s habits and know where they like to use the bathroom. They will typically keep using the same areas as a bathroom, often preferring to use a sand bath for this.
While you are unsure what areas your hamster uses, an easy way to quickly locate pee-soaked bedding is to use a blacklight flashlight. This will illuminate the damp and contaminated areas so that you can quickly and easily remove them from the cage.
You should also remove any uneaten food from the cage each day. This is particularly true when you are feeding your hamsters fresh fruits or vegetables as they can quickly become moldy. It is also a good idea to wash their food bowls and water bottles daily like you would for your own dishes.
You should perform a deep, full clean of your cage at least once per month. Removing all of your hamster’s bedding and replacing it with a fresh load sounds like a great plan but could not be further from the truth.
Hamsters can quickly become overwhelmed and stressed if their environmental scent changes. They have a very poor sense of eyesight and rely primarily on their sense of smell to be aware of their surroundings.
We recommend replacing about a quarter of the cage’s bedding each week. This will allow you to stay on top of the cleaning schedule without stressing your hamsters out. It is a good idea to remove your hamster from the cage and place them in a travel cage or a playpen while you are performing the cleaning.
As and when necessary, you should clean the component parts of the hamster cage. If your hamster pees a lot while running on their wheel, you may want to clean it off daily.
Some hamsters will be very clean and the plastic elements of the cage will need less frequent cleaning. You can use water for daily cleans, but it is recommended that you use a specially formulated cage cleaning solution at least once per week in high-traffic areas.
For more information on how to clean your hamsters cage, check out our step by step guide.
What Bedding Should Be Used?
Many people think that wood shavings or sawdust are the best choices of bedding material for hamsters. This could not be further from the truth. Wood shavings and sawdust contain a lot of dust, which can really irritate your hamster’s respiratory tract and lead to health issues.
Some people like to use a hemp-based bedding material for their hamsters, such as Happy Trees hemp animal bedding. This is a very absorbent material and will last for a long time.
Another option is a more commercial bedding choice such as Megazorb. This is a bedding designed for use with horses that is also suitable for hamsters. It is an incredibly cost-effective choice and the bags are industrial-sized so they last for a long time.
How Do Hamsters Clean Themselves?
You do not need to wash or clean your hamsters. They are naturally very clean animals and groom a lot. You should supply them with a sand bath to assist with extra cleaning.
This is a small container or bowl of hamster-suitable sand that they use to roll around in. As well as helping to keep them clean, your hamster will also really enjoy just rolling around and frolicking in the sand.
You should ensure that the sand is formulated for use with hamsters, as you can also find dust baths that appear very similar. The dust is very fine and can cause respiratory problems or irritation in your pet.
Chinchilla sand is typically suitable for hamsters and will contain a lower quantity of dust. The sand particles will absorb excess oils and dirt particles from your hamster’s fur, helping to keep them clean.
You should not immerse your hamster in water. They would not naturally interact with water in the wild and are not used to it. This could cause a lot of agitation and stress for your hamster, and they are likely to bite you.
This will also strip away a lot of the natural oils on their fur, which could make them unwell. If you leave your hamster soaking wet they can also get very cold, and again this could make them unwell.
We always used to deep clean Oscars cage ever 7-10 days. He was not a particularly dirty hamster and used a specific corner when he needed to toilet. He was, however, a massive hoarder and would bury his food, so in order to ensure that he wasn’t foraging on moldy treats we would empty his bin cage and replace with new substrate. If his bedding was still clean then we would return it to the cage so that he was surrounded by a familiar scent.