My eldest child is a terrible nail bitter! It’s an awful habit and one I am keen to discourage. Oscar, (our hamster), however, seems to be suffering with the opposite problem in that his nails are growing quicker than he can grind them down.
Although most hamsters may never need a manicure, it is important to look after your hamster’s nails, as overgrowth issues can cause them pain and discomfort. A simple trim when they are looking too long will soon solve the issue.
Hamsters are relatively low maintenance in comparison to other pets and are well adept at grooming themselves in order to keep clean. Most people, however, do not realize that their furry friends may need some assistance in keeping other parts of their bodies healthy too – especially their nails.
Why hamsters nails may overgrow
In the wild your hamster would have spent their days foraging for food in rough terrain, digging in order to make a safe nest to rest and climbing over rocks and stones whilst out on their daily adventures – all of which act as natural nail files for a hamster’s claws.
Instead, however, you hamster happily pads around their cage on squishy sawdust, enjoys food on-demand in their bowl and has the luxury of curling up in a pre-made house when it is time to go to sleep. And, although this environment may appear more beneficial to your hamster’s health, the drawback is that their little claws may start to grow too long.
How to tell if your hamster’s claws are too long
If you regularly hold your hamster then it will be easy to tell when their nails get too long. Sometimes they start to scratch your skin during playtime or get caught on items of clothing – all of which are signs that they are due a trim.
Other things to look out for include:
- When hamsters nails get too long, they find it difficult to scratch and clean themselves.
- Your hamster may also struggle to grip on to their cage bars or climb up high.
- If you see your hamster struggling to hold their food in their paws, then take a look at their claws.
- Look out for drops of blood around their nails or in their cage as this could signify a nail infection.
- Observe how they wander around their cage. Long nails can restrict movement and cause discomfort.
If your hamster’s nails are so overgrown that they are folding inwards or curling sideways then action needs to be taken immediately. If the nails are left untrimmed, they could break off, split and become infected.
How to trim your hamster’s nails
It is important to note that most hamsters (regardless of their breed), will be able to maintain the length of their nails themselves. If, however, they start to grow longer than you would like, then you can trim them yourself – providing your hamster is tame enough and that you have the right equipment to hand.
Below are our top tips for trimming your hamster’s nails: –
- You want your hamster to be as relaxed as possible when you cut their nails. In order to make sure that your hamster is comfortable and calm, you should practice holding them in one hand and tipping them gently so that you can safely access their claws. Reward them with treats and plenty of playtime.
- Make sure that you know which area to trim. When you look at your hamsters nail the end will appear see-through, whereas towards the paw, the nail starts to look cloudy in color. This is where the blood supply to the nail ends, so beware not to cut them too short.
- Use a pair of small pet or baby nail clippers and keep a pot of styptic power close to hand, in case you catch the top of your hamster’s nail and make it bleed. This will help to stem the blood flow and can be bought from most pet stores.
- Make sure that you use a bright light close to the paw so that you can see the nail clearly. Starting with the longest, clip confidently to prevent your hamster from squirming. Move systematically from nail to nail, making sure that your hamster is happy. If they start to wriggle or show signs of distress, then take a break or leave the rest of the nail trim for another day.
- Do not forget to reward your hamster for a job well done with plenty of love and treats, before placing him back in his cage, where he can admire his manicure.
We know that not everyone is comfortable with cutting their hamster’s nails, so if you would prefer someone else to do the trimming, then you should visit your vets.
Helping your hamster to trim their nails naturally
In order to replicate some of the actions that your hamster would be doing in the wild in order to keep their nails trim, why not assist by providing them with the following:
- Plenty of substrate – this will encourage your pet hamster to burrow and keep their claws short.
- Cage bars – climbing on their cage bars can act as a natural nail file.
- Textured objects – our hamster Oscar has a bin cage, so is unable to put his mountaineering skills to the test by clambering up the bars. Instead, we use a stone and climbing frame which gives him the opportunity to scale and file his nails.
As our hamsters grow, it is important that we do our best to keep them fit and healthy. Although they need relatively little care, you should take the time to check that their nails, and teeth and are in check.
Quite often the thought of cutting your hamsters claws is overwhelming but providing you keep your hamster calm; you will soon figure out that there really is nothing to it.
If, however, you are struggling to clip your hamster’s nails yourself, then make sure you take a trip to the vet, as overgrown nails can be painful. The procedure is easy to learn with a professional showing you how and relatively inexpensive too.