Do hamsters swim?

Doggy Paddle Pros or Landlubbers?

Just like any four-legged, furry pet, hamsters have specific likes and dislikes, abilities and things they’re not so great at. Though they surely aren’t aquatic, you may find yourself among the many pet owners wondering: can hamsters, in fact, swim? ????‍♀️

When it comes to a hamster’s potential swimming ability, the answer is “yes, but” situation. While yes, hamsters technically physically are able to swim, they vehemently despise it. That is to say, yes they can swim. BUT they hate it so much you should not put your hamster in water and make them swim. In fact, the stress that puts on their little bodies can be detrimental.

Do NOT ‘Just Keep Swimming’

Just because they can stay alive in the water does not mean your hamster wants to. Or that it will not harm them down the line. 

Wild hamsters live in deserts and much prefer a dry environment. Swimming is just not an activity they enjoy. 

Though, as with many animals, they may instinctively know what to do with their legs to keep them afloat. That does not mean they are natural-born swimmers.

More than them just not liking to swim, however, is the fact that forcing your hamster to swim actually puts them under an enormous amount of stress, both physical and psychological. 

And, as stress is wont to do, this can ultimately weaken their immune systems leaving the more prone to falling ill or catching a disease. 

Further, if the water is too cold or if your hamster stays wet for too long a time after, the poor thing is at risk for catching a severe (sometimes deadly) cold or pneumonia, which hamsters are especially sensitive to. 

Specifically, if stress increases weaken a hamster’s immune system, they can contract wet tail disease, which presents severe diarrhea and can be fatal.

The bottom line? Your hamster has no natural reason to go into the water, so it’s best to do all you can to keep them safe and dry. There are really no upsides to having them go for a swim, while there are any number of downsides.

So what about bath time?

If you find yourself with a dirty hamster – or one of normal amounts of grime that you just think needs a good cleaning – don’t resort to a bath.

Remember that hamsters, rather like cats, are fully evolved to be able to clean themselves with their own tongues and saliva. In fact, they are naturally hygiene-freaks, too, and so they are usually on top of it when it comes to keeping their fur free or dirt and buildup. 

Veterinarians do not recommend bathing your hamster. Clean their cage and let them do the rest.

If you are super set on cleaning your pet yourself, though, do not resort to water. As mentioned above, the serious side effects just aren’t worth it. 

Instead, consider some drier alternatives to bathing. (If you are worried that your hamster needs a bath because of a strong odor, it is important to note that hamsters rarely smell, so if you do detect a strong scent, it may be a sign of an infection or tumor and you should have a vet check out your hamster.)

One such alternative is a sand bath:

They will hop on in to clean themselves. The coarse sand is just the right amount of abrasive to aid in scouring off dirt particles.

What if my hamster falls into water?

If an accident happens and your hamster does fall into water, you should be prepared to remove them safely and provide the right care. 

They will most likely be both panicked and cold when you remove them from the water. Gently wrapping them in a warm cloth will help bring their body temperature back up and provide them with a feeling of safety. 

Not only will this help prevent pneumonia, but it cuts down on the amount of time the hamster is wet. This helps with reducing heart and immune risks that come with air drying.

You could also use a hair dryer that is set on a low setting to speed up the drying process. 

Just make sure your hamster is calm and relaxed, as you do not want to stress them out further. Signs to be aware of after they are dry include sneezing, sniffling and behavioral changes. 

If any are present, you may want to consult a vet.

Conclusion

Pretty simply, hamsters drink water and that’s about it. They don’t need baths in water and they certainly don’t enjoy swimming. There are multiple harmful effects of hamsters in water so it’s best to just avoid it all together. If your hamster gets dirty, consider an alternate like a sand bath. If he accidentally gets wet, dry and warm him as soon as possible to avoid any respiratory illness.