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Can you tolerate more crap than a fifth grader?
It seems hamster ownership is a basic right of passage for children in the United States. Parents tend to believe this experience is going to teach kids responsibility and turn them into great animal care-takers. But surprise, the lesson is on you! Your child’s tolerance for the mess these tiny animals make will quickly surpass your desire to guide them down the path to responsibility. Hamsters poop a lot, and the upkeep will soon overwhelm a child, leaving mom or dad holding the scooper.
It’s important to know how to clean hamster poop. Hamsters are indiscriminate poopers, possessing very little bowel control. The volume and randomness of their movements require daily spot cleaning and a full cage clean at least once a week. Depending on the bedding, spot cleaning requires a scooper, rubber gloves, or both. While it may be tempting to fill your hamster’s cage with sand, it’s essential for your pet to tunnel and burrow. So material like wood shavings and bedding, while messier, are an important part of a hamster’s overall environment.
The daily upkeep
The good news is that hamster poop is typically small, solid, and not nearly as smelly as other pets.
But if left unchecked for a few days, the volume of excrement will be overwhelming.
Daily spot cleaning is the best practice. Hamsters are nocturnal animals and play hard throughout the night.
Take a look next time you wake up, and you’ll become a believer in their “play hard, poop hard” mantra.
The best time for a good spot clean is first thing in the morning, while they’re sleeping off their evening antics.
A sand cage lining is a popular option for simplifying spot cleaning. People who take this route use a small cage scooper.
This is really efficient, but I don’t recommend it because hamsters need to burrow and tunnel.
Burning energy and mental engagement is really important for these little guys, and paper bedding provides the right environment to make that happen.
Let’s consider an option that will keep your pet both clean and happy.
While picking out little poops may not be for the faint of heart, the best way I’ve found to spot clean is to just dig in. You can purchase a one hundred count box of rubber or nitrile gloves for less than ten dollars.
This may sound gross, but it’s a heck of a lot better than making my tiny pets feel like their stranded in the Sahara.
A Golden geyser. So much pee
For me, the worst part about cleaning a hamster cage every week is the instantaneous gagging from the scent of urine-soaked bedding. Hamster bladder control can really be a problem, and potty training your hamster is something you should seriously consider.
Untrained, hamsters will pee everywhere. My favorite was when they just decided to let it go while running on the wheel. It looked like someone parked their car on a fire hydrant.
Something I’ve added to Daisy’s cage is substrate made of recycled newspaper. About a 1 inch layer at the very bottom of the cage below the bedding has really helped alleviate the urine smell issue. The nice thing about the recycled newspaper is it’s lightweight and fluffy enough for her to burrow and tunnel through without a problem.
The good news is, your hamster will clean herself. The cage might be smelling until you clean it but she shouldn’t be.
Cleaning the cage
There’s really no getting around the weekly cage cleaning to get rid of all the poop. If your hamster takes well to potty training, you might be able to extend it out a little but she’ll still need a clean home.
Every week, we take out her food bowl, water bottle, toys, and wheel (and of course Daisy comes out) and remove all the bedding and substrate.
Our cage is pretty easy to work with. I just unsnap the sides and the entire top comes off leaving the solid basin to dump out all the bedding (and poop and pee).
Then it’s time to get a good cleaning. I use a bottle of vinegar and water to spray out the basin then dry completely with paper towels before refilling with the substrate and bedding.
All the while, Daisy watches from a Sterilite container, munching on a carrot.
The entire process takes roughly 20 minutes. Not too bad!
If you implement the cleaning techniques we’ve recommended today, you’ll hopefully find that hamster ownership merely requires some simple routine maintenance. The benefit will be hours of enjoyment and a lifetime of pleasant memories for your children. Better still, with a solid cleaning plan in place, you should have a jumping off point to work closely with your child to show them that pet care isn’t horrible drudgery and that the payoff is worth the work. As a fellow parent, I doubt that will be the case. But I like to end these blogs on a positive note. Good luck, and remember, the bigger the pet, the bigger the poop!
Hopping Hammy – Spot cleaning my hamster cage