Hygiene is important for hamsters to maintain good skin health and to keep their fur in good condition. Although hamsters generally take care of their own hygiene needs, there are some occasions when you may feel the need to clean your hamster. There are several ways of doing this and this overview gives you the information your need for each of these methods.
How Often Should You Clean Your Hamster?
In the wild, hamsters clean themselves and the same applies to domestic hamsters. However, you can help them to keep clean by offering dust baths twice a week and by making sure their habitat is needed. If your hamster gets food or droppings stuck to tis fur for some reason, then you may need to assist with cleaning. You should only spot clean a hamster as and when it is needed, and you must never bath a hamster by immersing it in water as hamsters do not like water and it will remove natural oils from their fur and skin.
Ways of Cleaning Your Hamster
There are several ways you can support your hamster’s hygiene needs and each of these applies to different situations. The four main ways you can clean your hamster and promote good hygiene are dust baths, spot cleaning, and cleaning their habitat. The following is a guide to each of these methods of cleaning your hamster.
Providing your hamster with a dust bath means it can clean itself in the closest way possible to what it does in its natural habitat. A dust bath is a small vessel, with or open or contained, that you fill with a substance called bath dust. This is usually volcanic ash or ground pumice. A hamster rolls around in the bath dust and it absorbs any excess moisture and oil from the fur or skin. You should offer your hamster the dust bath twice a week and change the bath dust weekly.
On some occasions, a hamster may get food or droppings stuck to its fur or the fur of long-haired breeds can become matted. In these instances, one of the best options is to spot clean the hamster yourself. You can do this using the following steps.
- Fill a bowl with warm water and have a towel, flannel, or cloth ready to use.
- Remove your hamster from its cage.
- Hold your hamster firmly but not tightly, leaving the affected area of their fur exposed.
- Dip the cloth into the warm water and squeeze out any excess water so the cloth is only damp.
- Stroke the cloth across your hamster in the natural direction of their fur growth.
- Repeat these steps until the dirt is removed.
Another way you can clean your hamster is by grooming. Although most hamsters do not need grooming, it can help a long-haired breed of hamster to remove wood shavings and dirt from their long fur. The main part of a grooming routine is brushing your hamster once a week using a specialist brush for grooming small animals that you can buy from pet stores or online. However, there are also some other aspects of grooming that are beneficial to all hamsters. These are as follows:
- Check their claws- Hamsters will usually wear down their own claws and do not need to have them clipped. However, if the hamster is scratching itself or the claws are curled under, you need to take the hamster to a vet.
- Check their teeth- A hamster’s teeth continue to grow throughout their life and wear them down by gnawing. If your hamster has no worn them down sufficiently, they can become overgrown and lead to dental problems. Check their teeth during grooming and visit the vet if you think there is a probably.
- Check for matting- While grooming, you may notice matted hair. This is a relatively common problem among long-haired hamsters. If you find matting, spot clean the hamster using the method described above.
The most important element of keeping your hamster clean is to provide them with a clean habitat in which they can live. It means they are less likely to need extra help with cleaning as they will not have problems with droppings, soiled bedding, and leftover food getting stuck to their fur. Keeping their habitat clean also reduces the risk of them suffering from many health conditions. This means you need to clean out their habitat on a regular basis and establish a good cleaning routine.
- Soiled bedding- You should remove any soiled bedding daily. Most hamsters will soil only one or two corners of their cage and you only need to remove these areas. You can use a scoop to make removing the soiled bedding easier before replacing with new bedding.
- Bedding- You should remove all the bedding in your hamster’s habitat weekly along with any spilled food and then replace with clean bedding. This will help to keep your hamster clean and healthy.
- Habitat cleaning- Every month, you should give your hamster’s habitat a thorough wash. You will need to remove your hamster from its habitat to do this. You can place it in a well-ventilated container during this monthly cleaning routine. Use lukewarm soapy water to wash the habitat making sure you get into all the corners and crevices. Do not use any ammonia-based products to do this. Rinse the habitat in warm water to remove any soap before drying. This process will reduce the build-up of bacteria in the cage and reduce the likelihood of your hamster becoming ill. It will also help them to stay clean in the environment where they live.
Although a hamster is self-grooming, you can aid their cleaning and promote good hygiene in several ways. Providing a dust bath twice a week is the simplest solution, while long-haired breeds will benefit from grooming. Spot cleaning is something you only need to do if your hamster gets particularly dirty or matted. An important aspect of keeping your hamster clean and healthy is creating a good cleaning routine for their habitat.