Can Hamsters Be Bathed?

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When it comes to hamster hygiene, should you lather, rinse, and repeat?

Maybe you’ve heard that hamsters have a foul odor, or maybe your hamster has started giving off a smell that is not as cute as he is. If you are contemplating whether your hamster should be bathed, you may be in for a surprise.

Can hamsters be bathed? Not only is it unwise to bathe a hamster, it can be dangerous. Hamsters naturally groom themselves and are capable of keeping their hygiene routines without human intervention. Bathing a hamster can lead to illnesses like hypothermia

Hold the soap and water

Hamsters communicate through scent. They naturally produce oils on their skin which carry an odor that humans can’t smell, but other rodents can. 

If you give your hamster a bath, even with mild soap, you will be stripping your pet of their natural oils. Doing so eliminates part of their body’s natural defenses and can lead to illness or even death.

Another risk associated with bathing hamsters with soap and water, is the potential for illness from being damp and cold. It is extremely stressful for hamsters to be immersed in water as well. 

While it may seem like you are helping a hamster by giving him or her a bath, you are actually potentially endangering your hamster and should avoid giving your hamster a bath unless it is an emergency. 

Alternatives to bathing a hamster… since you shouldn’t do it

A healthy hamster will groom him or herself regularly

You will see this behavior often as they preserve their natural scent by doing so. Under normal circumstances, your hamster will groom when their bedding is changed, after being handled, or when introduced to new surroundings. 

When it comes to hygiene, hamster knows best and should be allowed to maintain their cleaning routines.

Your hamster is so concerned with cleanliness, in fact, they will groom themselves any time they are exposed to a new and unfamiliar scent, even when that scent comes from being lovingly held in your hands. 

Maintaining their natural scent is essential to their well being. When they groom, they are not only ridding themselves of unfamiliar odors and debris, they are also redistributing their body’s natural oils to preserve their scent. 

A sand bath is a good alternative. Watch this video of a hamster taking a sand bath:

Alternatively, you can use a soft toothbrush to remove tangles or debri. 

Finally, if your hamster has a chunk of something sticky they will not be able to clean themselves or can’t be brushed out (craft glue, anyone?), you can very carefully cut the chunk out of their hair. Be very careful and keep the scissors away from its skin. Consider safety scissors.

Is it ever necessary to bathe a hamster?

Most veterinarians agree that it is typically not necessary to bathe a hamster. It is possible for your hamster to live a full, happy, healthy life never needing human intervention in their bathing process. 

If you notice your hamster is slacking on their natural grooming routines it is a cause for concern. Usually, this is a sign of illness. Consult your veterinarian immediately, as hamsters can deteriorate quickly when ill. 

Perhaps your hamster is still grooming but has developed a noticeable foul odor. Rule out illness with the help of your veterinarian. An infection or wound can cause a change in their scent and should be taken seriously. Also, consider if your cage cleaning routine has been lax. 

If you are maintaining hamster house cleaning and your hamster is maintaining their grooming routines, yet you still smell a foul odor, another possibility is a hamster in heat. Female hamsters produce a musky odor during their cycle. This scent is not permanent and does not warrant a bath.

Live and let groom

When it comes to hamsters, the rule of thumb is live and let groom. They can take care of their hygienic needs in most normal circumstances. Though they don’t need you to intervene on their bathing habits, they do need a hand keeping their cages clean. Only when it is an absolute emergency should you consider assisting hamsters with their grooming routines. Even then, consider a sand bath, brushing with a soft toothbrush or when absolutely necessary, cut a sticky chunk out of their hair. 

References

The Pipsquakery Hamster Sanctuary – Bathing hamsters (Don’t do it!)

Hamsterific – Bathing hamsters

Victoria Raechel – All about hamster sand baths

WikiHow Pets – 3 ways to keep a hamster clean 

Pets on Mom.com – Are hamsters supposed to take a bath?

Pets on Mom.com – When does a female hamster first come into heat?