Many of us like to have decorative or aromatic candles to make our homes more appealing and soothe our minds. Unfortunately, hamsters and candles aren’t always a good combination.
Candles are bad for hamsters because they release Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) into the air.
Hamsters’ lungs work less efficiently when exposed to smoke, soot, chemicals, and other toxins. They may struggle to breathe, sneeze frequently, and experience red, watery eyes.
If you use candles in your home, scented or unscented, keep them at least one room away from your pet hamster to protect its sensitive respiratory system.
Also, if you allow the hamster out of its cage for exercise, ensure that there aren’t any lit candles in the vicinity to avoid creating a fire hazard.
Why Are Candles Dangerous for Hamsters?
The most significant risk that candles pose to hamsters is restricted breathing.
Hamsters are diminutive animals, which makes their vital organs equally small. A hamster’s lungs will struggle to cope with smoke, soot, and chemicals released by candles.
Most candles release chemicals known as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). The impact of these chemicals on hamsters has never been confirmed, but they’ll likely be toxic if inhaled constantly.
Smoke And Soot
Candles often release smoke into the atmosphere, which means a burning candle exposes the hamster to carbon dioxide. Also, candles create soot particles while they burn, which can become airborne.
Trimming the wick is the best way to manage smoke on a candle. This helps the wick draw on wax to create a flame. If the wick is too exposed, it’ll flare, generating smoke and soot.
Candles have the following types of wicks:
|Paper wicks:||These are popular as they remain upright as wax melts. Paper wicks burn bright and hot but generate smoke unless regularly trimmed.|
|Zinc wicks:||These are solid and burn comparatively cool but are best used in small candles, like tealights. Zinc wicks generate excessive smoke and soot in a larger candle.|
|Cotton wicks:||These are dipped in wax, ensuring a steady and reliable burn. This minimizes CO2 release. Cotton wicked candles are the safest choice for a hamster-friendly home.|
Any time the lit flame of a candle meets a draught, the air current will fluctuate. As a result, smoke will rise from the candle. The stiller the air, the less likely the candle is to generate excessive smoke and soot.
Many of us use scented candles to relax, but there’s no artificial aroma that has this effect on a hamster. A smell like lavender will cause a hamster to become increasingly upset.
Hamsters have poor eyesight and rely heavily on their olfactory senses to negotiate the world. This means that strong, cloying scents, such as those released by candles, can become overpowering to a hamster.
Volatile Organic Compounds
Releasing any chemical into the atmosphere is potentially harmful to hamsters.
Scented candles are of particular concern. Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology confirm that these consumer goods are safe for humans, but there’s no way of knowing if the same applies to hamsters.
The following volatile organic compounds are released from burning candles:
|Acetone:||The nose, throat, eyes, and lungs are irritated, leading to nausea, headaches, and hormonal changes.|
|Benzene:||They’re linked to irregular heart rate, cognitive slowdown, and muscle tremors.|
|Toluene:||They can impact the brain and body, leading to hallucinations, seizures, and convulsions.|
Despite the presence of these VOCs, the levels are too low to harm a human.
What Candles are Safest for Hamsters?
Understanding what a candle is made of is fundamental to understanding how dangerous it may be to a hamster. Before making a purchase, consider its impact on a small caged animal.
Candles come in various forms (and price points), made from a range of materials, including:
A basic, unscented wax candle is made from paraffin wax.
Of all candle types, paraffin wax is the likeliest to release dangerous VOCs into the atmosphere. These candles should be avoided, especially if you live with a small animal.
According to Human and Ecological Risk Assessment, the more VOCs are released, the purer the wax used to create a candle. The cheaper the candle, the likelier it is pure paraffin wax.
The chemicals released by candles are insufficient in quantity to immediately damage human health, but prolonged exposure is risky. This suggests that hamsters are particularly vulnerable.
Soy wax is usually better than paraffin wax. Unfortunately, many manufacturers of soy candles still include paraffin wax as a filler product.
While a soy candle will release fewer VOCs than one made from pure paraffin wax, it’ll still be present. The same applies to smoke and soot – it’ll be less problematic than a pure paraffin wax candle.
Another downside to a soy candle is that it can occasionally be inconsistent, blowing itself out. Thankfully, they’re unscented unless you choose a product with essential oils.
Hailing from the palm oil trees of South America and Asia, palm wax is a 100% natural product.
It leads to a fast and clean burn that releases no VOCs, making it a useful option if you need to light candles around hamsters. It also produces less soot than other waxes.
The only downside to palm wax comes with its sustainability.
Coconut wax is extracted from coconuts. This is a comparatively recent addition to the realm of candles, and it’s as close to safe for hamsters as candle wax gets.
Coconut wax burns bright and clear, releasing almost no soot or smoke, especially when paired with a cotton wick. It’s also unscented, beyond the mild aroma of coconut that you’d expect.
Coconut wax is expensive, so few candles are made from this material.
Beeswax is very solid, so it’s ideal for long-term candle burning.
Perhaps more importantly, beeswax candles won’t release VOCs into the air, and any smoke or soot will be minimal, especially if you’re careful with positioning and wick trimming.
Beeswax is a natural air purifier as a candle, releasing negative ions into the atmosphere. VOCs are positive ions, so the presence of a beeswax candle will neutralize their presence.
Can Hamsters Eat Candle Wax?
A hamster will be attracted to the fats found in melted candle wax.
It’s unlikely that a hamster would encounter candle wax during playtime. However, clean up any dripping wax if you use candles in rooms that hamsters occasionally visit.
Alternatives to Lighting Candles
Visit a hardware or home décor store to find battery-operated candles.
These will offer the same illumination and aesthetic as traditional candles, without smoke or chemicals. Many models can even be set to flicker like a burning candle.
Another alternative is a lantern. Whether operated by batteries or hand-cranked, lanterns can be strategically placed around the home to offer a light source.
You’ll find these for sale in outdoor stores, such as those that specialize in camping equipment.
It’s recommended that candles aren’t lit in the hamster’s living space. If you light candles, use soy or coconut wax candles because they release fewer VOCs.