Skip to main content

How to properly clean your hamster and how often you should bathe them

The image is super cute: a little hamster taking a shower, sudsy and clean. But that doesn’t mean they’ll enjoy the process in real life. While we’re used to bathing ourselves and even our dogs, the same principles don’t necessarily apply to other critters. In fact, hamsters almost never venture into the water in their natural habitats, instead preferring to clean themselves.

As all pet owners know, that doesn’t always do the trick, and a good bathing may become necessary at times. Before you reach for the pet shampoo, first read our tips on how to bathe a hamster (and also what else you can do).

Hamster pretends to take a bath in a dollhouse

Is it safe to give a hamster a bath?

If done properly, it’s perfectly safe to bathe your hamster. Because he’s so small, you probably can’t even use the sink (unless it’s easy to put just an inch or two of water in without room for him to run around). Instead, pull out a small kitchen bowl — a salad bowl will work great — and fill it with warm but not hot water. Use pet-safe soap to gently work it through their fur and get the offending substance out. Avoid the face completely and make sure their ears, eyes, and nose don’t get splashed since this can cause them to get irritated.

You may be better served by scooping water over them rather than placing them into it. Either way, they will try to run and possibly nip. Some people choose to wear gloves, but your hamster recognizes your scent, which is calming to them (they know it’s their owner and not a stranger who has them hostage). Dry them quickly once you’ve finished and shower them with their favorite treats.

How often should hamsters bathe?

The short answer is, as little as possible. Mostly, they keep themselves fresh, and so your first option should not be a bath with water. However, a sand bath or a spot clean will work great in many circumstances. As with the liquid bath, always use pet-friendly products, including wipes or dry shampoo, both of which can be lifesavers to you and your pet (trust us, neither of you wants to jump into the water if you can help it). Typically, the only time you’ll really need to take the hamster-shower route is if they get something really sticky or toxic on them. In that scenario, don’t hesitate to go straight for the traditional bathing method.

Can you wash your hamster? 

While sometimes a bath will certainly be necessary, you should mostly stick with other options. Specifically, they’ll love the opportunity for a sand bath and it’ll keep them shiny and clean. Also in your tool kit should be brushing, spot cleaning, and trimming. Depending on the situation that greets you, you’ll choose one of these first to try to get your hamster back to normal. That way, you’ll use the full-bath treatment only as a last resort and won’t overdo it. 

Hamster gets a spot cleaning bath from his owner
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Why does my hamster smell?

You might get a whiff of your hamster and immediately assume that a bath is in order. But hold that thought for just a second. While our go-to as humans is to jump into the shower, that’s not the case for these little guys. First off, look closely at their cage since this is usually the culprit. Hamsters are only as clean as their homes, and it’s up to us to maintain their environment. If you’ve diligently kept up with it, next look into their food. Check their digestion and bowel movements — too many treats can lead to diarrhea, which will stick to their fur more easily and might escape your eye. Lastly, some diseases, like tumors and wet tail, smell bad. These are both highly serious, and you should get your pet to the vet ASAP. 

While you may end up adding a bath to your routine as a rare activity, you can also investigate why they need it in the first place. Is it smell? Appearance? Scratching? All these issues have underlying causes that will usually be solved more easily with other methods than with a shower. If you do find yourself in a bathing-worthy situation, it can’t hurt to call the vet as well, especially if the offending issue is a toxic chemical. Your animal doctor might give you additional instructions to consider.

Rebekkah Adams
Rebekkah’s been a writer and editor for more than 10 years, both in print and digital. In addition to writing about pets…
Can you keep pet seahorses in your home aquarium? Here’s what you need to know
How to keep seahorses as aquarium pets
Yellow seahorse in water

Good news, aquarium hobbyists: Yes, you can keep seahorses as pets. Seahorses are very entertaining fish to watch. In fact, they are one of only two fish that swim upright. Also, unlike most of the animal kingdom, male seahorses hold the eggs until they hatch. These swimmers are quite interesting creatures, and if you’re interested in having a pet seahorse, read ahead to learn about what that entails.

What is so unique about the seahorse?
As discussed, there are a few things that make these creatures stand out from the crowd. For starters, it seems like they do actually stand up because they swim vertically and lack pelvic fins. It's in part because of this that they swim so slowly and sometimes — yes we'll say it — badly.

Read more
Can guinea pigs eat apples? Yes, but there are risks involved
These are the fruits your guinea pig can eat (and the ones to avoid)
Guinea pig eats an apple

Sharing a meal brings us closer to other humans and to our pets. It's fun to break out the snacks and cut a carrot in half — half for you and half for your small creature. Many of the little guys, such as guinea pigs, rely on these foods as part of a balanced diet.

Guinea pigs are herbivores that love to munch on a variety of plants, including fruits. Too much of one thing, though, will throw off their diet, and you need to be careful not to give your rodent anything they can't digest. These guys have naturally delicate systems, so be careful before you reach for just anything in your kitchen. Can guinea pigs eat apples? Certainly, if they're prepared properly. 

Read more
Best hamster bedding: The safest options for your furry friend
Try out these hamster bedding options in the cage
Hamster in wood shavings in cage

To be healthy and happy, your hamster needs bedding that he can burrow into. Bedding absorbs urine and gives your hamster a soft, safe surface. But finding the best hamster bedding can take time, especially if you're new to owning a hamster.

Best hamster bedding
While it's sensible to look for cheap hamster bedding options, it's just as important to ensure that you're buying a product that's also safe for your little guy. The following bedding types are not only affordable but also pet-friendly and available at stores and online retailers.
Aspen shavings
Wood shavings are probably the most widely used type of small-animal bedding available. Shavings are a great, cheap hamster substrate, and when you buy a larger package, you can get even better value.

Read more