In general, it is not necessary to wash a hamster, unless a veterinarian recommends you to do so. Just like cats, hamsters can clean themselves by licking and groom their coats.
Washing a hamster puts him at risk of losing healthy protective oils on their skin and getting a cold. However, if the smell of your hamster is really bothering you, then there are several things you can do to make your pet smell better by modifying your hamster’s environment.
Here are some things you can do:
Talk To Your Veterinarian
Usually, hamsters do not have a bad smell. They are pretty clean animals that will clean themselves for as long as they can. If your hamster stinks, it either means that he rolled in something smelly, and he will clean himself shortly, or he is sick and needs medical attention.
Therefore, if you have noticed an odor on your hamster without any changes in the environment, it is definitely a good reason to take him to a veterinarian to find out what is going on. Very often, an unpleasant odor indicates an undiagnosed health problem.
Maintenance of the Hamster’s Enclosure
If you noticed an unpleasant smell coming from your pet’s living enclosure, most likely, it means that you are not cleaning your hamster’s cage often enough, or you are not doing it properly.
First of all, you should remember that fecal matter, old or uneaten food, and soiled bedding should be removed every day. Also, once a week, you should scrub the cage and wash it with soap, and completely replace the bedding.
If you have more than one hamster in the cage, then you may have to clean the cage more often.
It is also important to choose the right enclosure. You should avoid plastic enclosures, especially if they are entirely plastic, because they trap odors.
The same thing with aquariums: they have bad airflow because of their glass walls. Therefore, when a hamster pees in an aquarium, the ammonia builds up by creating an unpleasant odor.
If you have an aquarium and want to make it smell better, you can add a cage tank topper. However, you should know that the best enclosure for a hamster is a full caged one.
You just need to make sure that your hamster is not able to squeeze between the bars.
One more method that will help you keep the enclosure cleaner and avoid bad smells is to teach your pet to use a litter box. Although the idea of teaching a hamster to use it sounds odd, it is actually one of the most effective and easiest ways to prevent odors.
All you need to do is pay attention to where your hamster usually pees. Once you indicate the spot, place the litter box near that area. Do not forget to throw some solid bedding into the litter box, and just wait.
Most likely, your furry friend will start using it. However, if your hamster keeps ignoring the litter box, you can just change the bedding in the corners of the enclosure every few days.
Stuffy and small spaces are prone to smell worse than ones that are large and thoroughly ventilated. Therefore, if the closure of your hamster smells bad and is located in a small room with no airflow, the best thing you can do is to move it to a better ventilated area.
Just make sure that you keep your animal away from the draft, so it does not catch a cold. The place should not have temperature fluctuation and irregular lighting.
Reconsider Your Hamster’s Diet
There are certain foods that have a negative impact on your hamster’s digestive system and make him smell bad. Therefore, it is important to monitor what exactly your pet eats throughout the day.
Hamsters will eat pretty much everything, so you need to be careful and mindful of giving them certain foods. A healthy diet of your hamster should include vegetables (especially organically grown), fruits (they should be consumed quickly in order not to rot in the cage), and herbs (mint, sage, dill, and basil).
It is also important to make sure that you give your hamster the right amount of food. If you give him too much, your hamster can hide it in his hideout to eat it later. As a result, this will cause a sulphury, weird smell.
For this reason, it is better to give him very small amounts and not too often. This especially applies to such smelly vegetables as cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, asparagus, broccoli, and cabbage.
Improve the Bedding
Improving your hamster’s bedding can significantly help with controlling bad smells. The first thing you should do is to make sure the bedding is not too shallow.
To make it thicker, you can add an additional layer of bedding substrate. The bedding should be at least 2-inch-thick. Thicker bedding will not only help absorb odors but will also provide your hamster with more cushing, so he will feel more comfortable.
Here are the few most popular bedding options you can use:
- Shredded paper. It is the cheapest option. However, make sure that it is just paper, not a newspaper that contains ink and other chemicals
- Aspen wood shavings. Another affordable option that can be found in most pet stores. However, we recommend you to avoid cedar and pine shavings because they can splinter into sharp pieces and be abrasive.
- Wood pulp bedding. This type of bedding is known for its superior odor control. However, you should know it may be more expensive than the previous two options.
Use Baking Soda
Baking soda is well known for its ability to absorb smells. Therefore, you can add a layer of baking soda underneath the bedding in your hamster’s cage.
However, make sure that you add just a little bit of it because baking soda can actually be poisonous to rodents.
Deodorize the Enclosure and Area Around It
Pick a cleaner that you will use for deodorizing the hamster’s enclosure and the area. You can either use an all-in-one cleaner to clean and deodorize the enclosure, or clean the enclosure first and then deodorize it.
The best and most effective products are those that contain enzymes.
Remember About Seasons
You may not know it, but hamsters have the periods when their enclosures are much smellier than usual. During these periods, that happens twice a year, you will have to change the bedding and clean the enclosure almost every day.
Female hamsters also get quite stinky during their mating periods. Since female hamsters are able to breed right after giving birth, their mating periods are short but much more frequent. They occur every four days.
Try a Sand Bath
As it has been mentioned above, you should not give your hamster a regular bath unless your veterinarian told you to do so. If your pet is really smelly and you cannot stand it, then you can always try a sand bath.
The hamster will roll around in the sand, which will make the dirt fall off naturally and absorb the smell. You should be careful when choosing sand. Make sure you buy sand, not dust because inhaling dust can lead to serious problems with the respiratory system.
You can get either chinchilla sand from a pet store or children’s play sand from a hardware store. If you decided to use the children’s sand, do not forget to sterilize it first by baking it in the oven at 400F for about 15 minutes.
Wash Your Hamster With A Damp Cloth
If a sand bath does not help, you can make your hamster smell better by using a damp cloth. Fill a bowl with two cups of room temperature water and add one drop of unscented cat or dog shampoo.
Wet a cloth in the bowl and wring it out. Then use it by rubbing the animal gently. Make sure that you are rubbing in the direction of the hamster’s fur like you would when you are petting him.
When you are done with washing, wipe the hamster off with a dry and soft towel to remove all the dampness and water. Before placing your clean four-legged friend back to the enclosure, make sure it is fresh and clean.
In order to prevent the hamster from catching a cold, place the cage in a warmer place and make sure that there is absolutely no draft or cold air.