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Hamsters have earned a reputation as clean and easy-to-care for pets. They typically self-groom when they are awake, usually at night, and enjoy the occasional sand bath to keep themselves clean. 

However, this doesn’t mean pet parents should ignore their hamster’s cleanliness. Some species, such as long-haired types like the Teddy Bear hamster, may require additional help with grooming, especially as they get older and may be less mobile. 

Here’s what you need to know about bathing and cleaning your hamster. 

Can You Give Hamsters A Bath? 

Unless your vet instructs otherwise, most hamsters don’t require additional bathing with soap and water. 

However, your hamster might require occasional help with cleaning their rear end to prevent caked fecal material or urine staining. Leaving a hamster with a dirty rear can result in urinary or reproductive issues. 

You can clean your hamster’s rear end with pet-friendly wipes or a warm, damp wash cloth. 

How to Give a Hamster a Bath 

If your vet instructs you to give your hamster a true soap-and-water bath, keep the following tips in mind: 

  • Ensure the water temperature is warm enough to not cause hypothermia, but it should not be scalding. Test the water on your inner wrist or elbow. It should be lukewarm and unoffensive. 

  • Use a hamster-friendly shampoo and rinse with warm water but be careful not to get any soap in the mouth or eyes. 

  • Bathe your hamster in a warm room, such as a bathroom, without drafts. 

  • Use an easy-to-clean waterproof container, such as Tupperware, that has high sides to avoid your hamster escaping. 

  • Fill the water up to your hamster’s shoulders so they can stand without having to swim or being fearful. 

  • Quickly dry your hamster off with a towel after the bath. 

  • Only place your hamster back in their enclosure when they are warm and dry. 

After bathing, thoroughly wash the container with common household products and allow it to dry well. Make sure to wash your hands. 

Hamster Sand Baths 

While hamsters do not typically enjoy or need a traditional bath, many hamsters (especially dwarf breeds) do like regular sand baths. Hamsters in the wild will use sand, instead of water, to keep clean, and it has many natural benefits. They love rolling, digging, and even playing in smooth, clean, sand as it helps “bathe” their skin and coat in a non-traditional way. 

Sand baths help decrease natural oils and dirt that may have accumulated in your hamster’s coat. They may also deter parasites. However, if you’re concerned about your pet having parasites, it’s a good idea to talk to your veterinarian immediately. 

Sand baths are also a fantastic way to increase environmental enrichment and keep your hamster busy with new, fun play. 

Chinchillas also require frequent sand baths, so fortunately there are a few ready-made products you can use for hamsters. Veterinarians often recommend giving small pets chinchilla sand versus dust to decrease respiratory and eye issues. 

To provide your hamster with a sand bath, fill a small dish with the appropriate sand and place it inside the enclosure. The dish should be small enough that your hamster can climb into it, but big enough for them to roll and bathe. 

When your hamster is done bathing, remove the sand from the cage. A typical sand bath lasts about 15-20 minutes, but it may take longer if your hamster is really enjoying it. Remove the sand afterwards, so it doesn’t become a respiratory or eye irritant. 

Depending on your hamster’s interest and need, a sand bath can be introduced as often as a few times a week. 

Hamster Grooming Needs 

Hamster coats should be brushed regularly, especially long-haired breeds. While brushing your hamster, pay special attention to matted hair. 

Hamsters also require periodic nail trims, especially as they get older. Contact your vet if your hamster’s nails are overgrown or look abnormal. 

At least every few weeks, inspect your hamster for any skin growths and check their rear end for fecal buildup or urine staining. 

Finally, hamster teeth need special care and should be checked regularly by the pet parent. Because their teeth grow continuously, hamsters need things to gnaw and chew to ensure their teeth wear down appropriately. When hamsters can’t chew, their teeth may become misaligned or maloccluded. This can result in abscesses and even make it impossible for hamsters to eat and store food normally. 

While it might be tempting to try trimming your hamster’s teeth yourself, it is critical to have this procedure done by a veterinarian. Incorrect trimming of hamster teeth can cause fractures, tooth root abscesses, and pulp exposure, which can be very painful. 

With good nutrition, proper cleaning, and adequate toys for gnawing and enrichment, hamsters should require little veterinary attention beyond an annual wellness exam.

Featured Image: iStock.com/Tatiana Stepanishcheva

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