Can hamsters drink tap water?

What do I need to know about hydrating for my hamster?

Tap water, filtered water, bottled water? New pet owners may be unsure of what water needs a hamster has. After all, they are from the desert. This is a guide on how to provide sufficient, clean water to keep your pet healthy, hydrated, and clean. 

So can hamsters drink tap water? Providing the water in your area is potable, yes, hamsters can drink tap water. However, the best option for your pet is filtered water to ensure minimal contamination. The short answer is whatever water you would be comfortable serving your family to drink should be the same water for your pet, since they are also your family. Because hamster bodies are so small, the amount of minerals such as chlorine and calcium found in tap water can be too much for their bodies to process and eliminate. 

How much water does my hamster need?

In the wild hamsters live in arid, dry environments. They are used to minimal water supply and therefore do not require a lot of water. 

Room temperature is best. 

According to Veterinary Partner, hamsters drink about 10 milliliters of water per 100 grams of body weight daily (which is about the average body weight of a hamster). 

Remember, Syrian hamsters are the biggest and dwarf hamsters are the smallest so there is some variability to this number. 

Take the size of your pet into account before you get too worried about them drinking too much or not enough water.  

Hamsters, like all pets, require adequate access to clean water at all times. To ensure optimal health of your pet, it is best to replace their water supply every day, even if the container is not empty. 

Water quality considerations

As mentioned above, providing the water is potable in your area, yes, hamsters can drink tap water. 

Some areas, like where I live, have very hard water. 

‘Hard’ water means that the water is high in minerals. These minerals are typically magnesium and calcium. 

If you have hard water or are unsure if there is hard water in your area, you can read more about it on the Water Research Website

There is more ahead on specific minerals and what you should know about your pet. 

Bottles vs bowls

Unanimously, bottles are much better for your pet than bowls for two big reasons. They keep your pet’s bedding dry while minimizing debris in their water supply. 

There’s also a safety consideration – hamsters really shouldn’t have access to a bowl of water.

Both of these are key to your hamster’s happy and comfortable survival. 

Some hamsters are known to climb the bottle if kept inside the cage (as opposed to outside the cage with just the metal dispenser inside) and consequently risk injury so it is fair to consider a bowl. If your pet has a bowl, it needs to be cleaned out daily. 

Whatever type of container you provide your pet, make sure it is always clean. 

Minerals and your hamster

Salt blocks and mineral chews are an option for small pets. They are typically recommended against because the feed you are providing them should have enough vitamins and minerals to keep your pet healthy. 

Like humans, too much salt can increase your pet’s blood pressure and too much calcium can cause your hammy to develop kidney stones. 

Chlorine can cause respiratory problems and skin and eye irritation. You can review the list of ingredients on the bag or box for your pet’s specific feed. Most brands provide enough vitamins and minerals for your hamster. 

Another consideration against mineral chews is how much YOUR hamster likes to chew. Some can chew quite a lot and can rip through a mineral block in no time. This may “overdose” their mineral intake, predisposing them to blood pressure or kidney problems. 

Other options for providing HamHam with enough vitamins and minerals, outside of what their feed provides, can be done by offering them an array of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. These need to be in moderation to their pellets or main feed because they can be high in fat and sugar. 

Conclusion

First and foremost, hamsters and all critters, require access at all times to clean water. Hamsters are a historically desert species and therefore do not require a lot of water, but it must be clean. Their bedding and food can contaminate their water supply quite easily. Bottles (vs bowls) help prevent this for your pet. Filtered water is best to minimize overexposure to particular minerals like calcium and chlorine. 

References

Brown, Susan. 2018. “Hamsters as Pets”. Veterinary Partner.

First Hamster. Accessed 2019. “The Truth About Mineral Chews For Hamsters – And Great Alternatives.” 

Oram, Brian. 2018. “Drinking Water Hardness Calcium Magnesium Water Corrosion Mineral Scale.” Water Research Center.