Can hamsters be potty trained?

Adding a hamster to your family can add love… and litter, to your life. Your hamster needs your help to maintain cleanliness. Hamsters produce a lot of waste – they poop A LOT! Which may lead you to wonder about the potential for potty training. 

So, can hamsters be potty trained? Yes, you can potty train a hamster and believe it or not, it’s not too difficult. Hamsters are intelligent and naturally prefer to keep a clean house. They naturally use one area of their cage to go to do their business. This makes it relatively easy to teach a hamster how to use a litter box

The pros and cons of potty training your hamster

Hamsters can be potty trained, yet if given ample room in their cage, they will continually use the same area for toileting as long as you clean it regularly. 

The first benefit of potty training your hamster is it makes it easier to dump out a container and refill it than to scoop bedding out of an area of the cage. Easier cleanup is always helpful!

Another benefit is that hamsters prefer the separation between their toileting and living area. Though some will still chew their litter box, they are naturally clean and tidy. Enclosed litter boxes help contain hamster waste and litter can further absorb the odor. Keep in mind however that this is not a substitution for regular cage cleaning.

Potential drawbacks to potty training your hamster include additional time required to reinforce their use of the litter box. You can make a litter box at home but this is also an investment of time. Before selecting materials make sure you are using items that are safe, nontoxic and have no sharp edges. 

An additional expense is incurred if you purchase a commercial litter box and litter. Be sure to research materials you plan to purchase to make sure they are hamster safe. Hamsters may also eat their litter so you want to make sure you aren’t using products with silica. You can find litter made from a variety of products including paper, grass, and wood.

You may also need to plan for a bigger cage for your hamster if you intend to include a litter box. It is not wise to keep them in an enclosure in which a litter box takes up most of their floor space. 

What you need to potty train your hamster

If you decide it is best to potty train your hamster, here are some easy steps to follow. 

Purchase or make a litter box. You can find commercial containers made of plastic which are durable and easy to clean. Bear in mind, you will need to replace these containers as your hamster will chew them over time. 

Containers that have been chewed should be examined for sharp edges that could potentially harm your hamster.

If you decide to make your own litter box, find a sturdy box and cut a small hole, leaving about an inch at the base. This way, litter doesn’t fall out with use. 

Be sure to sand down edges after cutting the entrance. This will prevent injury as your hamster can get cut or scraped from uneven surfaces.

Make sure the litter box you use can fit in the corner of your hamster’s cage. Hamsters typically go to the bathroom in corners so this makes the transition easier.

Some litter boxes even have a cover to make your hamster feel more secure!

Now you are ready to add the substrate. Sand is a good option since it’s diggable.

Time to add the litter. Consider a commercial litter intended for small animals. Pearl, wood, or paper litters are all good options.

When selecting litter, make sure the pieces are small and free of sharp edges. 

How to potty train your hamster

Now you are ready to help your hamster learn to use the litter box. Observe your hamster’s natural preference for bathroom location. When you have seen which corner of the cage he prefers to use, place the litter box there.

Place some hamster waste in the litter box to set an example. A piece of peed on substrate works well. This step is key. It teaches your hamster that this is a potty, not a bed. This step may need to be repeated a few times to reinforce the idea that the fun new container is a bathroom.

Additionally, sanitize the rest of the hamster’s cage. The message to the hamster is: potty here in this litter box, not anywhere else. Then set the example.

Remember if your hamster does get a little dirty in this process, a water bath is almost never necessary as hamsters clean themselves. But you can consider a sand bath. 

You may also place your hamster in the litter box and let them explore it. Likely, your hamster will make it’s way over to the litter box when it smells the peed on substrate.

Be patient, they may not start automatically using the litter box right away. Remember, all animals, including humans, needed a few tries to learn to develop toileting habits. 

Conclusion

Now that you have everything you need to potty train your hamster, you’ll need to be patient and consistent in your efforts. Your hamster may take to potty training quickly. Some hamsters are partially successful with their toilet use at first. It can take up to six weeks for hamsters to learn to use the litter box. Be patient and only use positive reinforcement, do not punish your hamster if he is not consistent. You and your hamster are working together to keep their enclosure clean and sanitary. 

References

Wikihow – How to potty train a hamster with images 

The PipSqueakery Hamster Sanctuary – Litter training your hamster

VanillaHamHam – How to potty train your hamster