Anyone who has ever owned a hamster will know that they give off a pungent natural odor. You will get used to this over time, but there are some steps that you can take to minimize their cage smell.
When we talk about how to bathe a hamster this should not be confused with a bath full of water. Hamsters should not get wet as this can be fatal, but they may well benefit from a sand bath – a small container filled with hamster-safe sand.
Hamsters are naturally very clean animals and will spend a lot of their time grooming themselves. They should not get wet and will not profit from being placed in a traditional water bath. This will strip a lot of the natural oils out of their fur and can lead to skin problems.
If they are left wet then they can quickly become very cold, which could lead to a number of illnesses. This will also cause your hamster a great deal of stress, which can be fatal.
There are very limited circumstances where a water bath is the best option for your hamster. Only if something becomes stuck in their fur, or if they come into contact with a toxic substance should you ever consider it. If this happens, only use lukewarm water and ensure that you thoroughly dry your hamster before returning them to its cage.
The only thing that your hamster needs to stay clean is a sand bath. Do not get this confused with a dust bath, which is not an appropriate solution.
What Is Dust Bathing?
This is a natural behavior seen in a number of different animal species. It is characterized by the animals rolling around in a dry, powdery material such as dust or sand to get clean.
The small grains help to pull oils, parasites, and dirt out of animal furs and feathers. In some species, this is believed to serve as a form of communication, as strong odors are left in the sand or dust. It can be likened to dogs peeing to mark their territory.
What Is A Sand Bath?
A sand bath is exactly what it sounds like. It is a small bowl or container filled with hamster-safe sand. Your hamster will use this to clean themselves as they would in the wild. The sand bath should not be too deep as this poses a health and safety risk to your hamster.
You must use sand rather than dust for your hamster. They will stick their noses into the sand and breathe, and the tiny particles of dust are harmful. This is because their delicate respiratory systems can be irritated by dust. This could cause a number of health issues and may even be fatal.
How Do You Choose The Right Sand?
The sand you choose for your hamster should be calcium-free. This is because calcium carbonate will clump up and become compacted when it gets wet.
It becomes incredibly solid too, making it a choking or obstructing hazard for your hamster. There are a number of reports of hamsters passing away due to calcium in their sand, so it is not worth taking the risk.
Many people opt to use dye-free reptile sand for their hamsters. There are a number of sands designed specifically for hamsters, however, these tend to be quite expensive and only sold in small containers.
Many hamsters will use their sand bath as a bathroom, and so it will need replacing daily. This can quickly run up the costs, and so many people turn to reptile sand as this can be purchased in bulk for a cheaper price.
You can use children’s play sand for your hamster too. It must be baked in the oven before being placed in the hamster cage. This is to kill off any bacteria or fungi that are living in the sand.
If you do not do this, it could allow your hamster to become very unwell. This step also helps to dry out the sand a little further, making it more absorbent when used for your hamster. You should allow the sand to cool completely before placing it into your hamster cage.
To bake the sand, you will first need to preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Pour a thick layer into a deep aluminum baking pan and level out the surface. Add this pan to the preheated oven and bake for an hour to an hour and a half. Use a wooden spoon to move some of the sand around to check how dry it is.
Some examples of hamster-safe sand include Super Naturals Premium Aquarium Substrate, Zoo Med Reptisand, and Zilla Desert Blend Ground English Walnut Shells.
For more information on sand baths for hamster check out this informative guide.
If there is an area of your hamster’s fur that is not getting cleaned from the sand bath, you may wish to take more drastic measures. We recommend using a damp, soft-bristled toothbrush to gently brush the dirty region. Always brush your hamster’s fur in the direction of growth to ensure you do not hurt them.
If you do not have a spare toothbrush on hand, you can use a soft, clean cloth for the same purpose. Ensure you dry your hamster thoroughly before putting them back in the cage, as if they are left wet they could get a cold and become severely ill.
How Else Can You Reduce The Smell Of A Hamster Cage?
You should clean your hamster’s cage regularly as this is the best way to reduce odors. There is no way to completely eliminate the smell and if this is something that is necessary for you then a hamster is not the right pet choice. For more information on cleaning your hamster cage, check out our top tips.
There are a number of products available that are designed to reduce animal odors. Sweet PDZ makes a Pet Deodorizer powder that is sprinkled on the base of the cage, beneath the bedding.
Kaytee makes a Smellin Good Critter Spray. This is sprayed onto the top layer of the cage bedding and gives the cage an aroma similar to that of baby wipes.
You can also purchase Super Absorbent Cage Liners from Arm & Hammer. These are sheets of natural paper infused with baking soda and placed underneath the bedding to absorb odors.
There really is no reason at all to have to sit in a room that smells strongly of hamster odors. Providing that good hamster hygiene is followed, the cage is cleaned regularly and if necessary, a sand bath installed, then apart from the sound of a squeaky wheel or the chewing of cage bars you will hardly know that your hamster is there!