Whether removing dirty paw prints from carpets and furniture, cleaning up waste, or reducing odors, most pet owners spend more time cleaning their homes than average.
Hamsters live in cages, so any mess they create is limited to their habitat.
They’re fastidiously clean small animals that don’t create many odors. If you stay on top of cage cleaning to remove old food, soiled bedding, and feces, hamsters won’t be messy or smelly pets.
Sometimes, hamsters fling poop to scent-mark territory. Usually, hamsters are clean, but they need some owner assistance. Neglecting hamster cage hygiene will result in a messy and smelly home.
Do Hamsters Clean Themselves?
Hamsters are widely considered clean animals and easy to care for pets.
They groom their fur when awake (usually when it’s dark because they’re crepuscular). So, you’ll see them licking and pulling at their fur to remove any dirt and debris before spreading oils over their fur.
Hamsters don’t wash in water, as they take sand baths. This is how hamsters clean themselves in the wild.
If you provide a sand bath (not a dust bath due to respiratory issues), you’ll see the hamster rolling around to remove any excess oils, dirt, and debris.
A hamster doesn’t need a permanent sand bath in its cage because it can lead to dry skin due to overuse.
Do Hamsters Make a Mess?
If you’re house-proud, the idea of a cat or dog treading mud and dirt around the house is unappealing. Of course, small animals like hamsters (and any mess they create) can be contained in a cage.
You’ll need to spot-clean the cage daily, but hamsters are comparatively clean pets.
This is why hamsters are considered starter pets that are ideal for children. The need to clean a hamster’s cage is an effective way for children to learn responsibility for caring for another living creature.
Aside from a hamster treading poop or food into the carpet when free-roaming outside a cage, most of the mess made by hamsters is only found inside the cage.
Why Does A Hamster Mess Up its Cage?
Hamsters are particular about how things are arranged in their cage.
What you consider tidy may make little sense to a hamster. Consequently, a pet hamster will rearrange things to meet its preferences and avoid boredom.
You could spend hours arranging different depths of bedding for a hamster, but it won’t hesitate to move the bedding around and reorganize it to create a resting area.
Another consideration is food, as hamsters hide their food in bedding and sometimes flip over their bowls, as they’re instinctively driven to hunt and forage.
Do Hamsters Smell Bad?
Hamsters are so small that they shouldn’t start to smell, assuming you stay on top of cleaning.
However, hamster urine can smell bad due to the ammonia content. However, Laboratory Animals explains that hamsters can be toilet trained to pee in a certain location.
Put a small container with a soft material and mix it with some soiled substrate. Once training is complete, the hamster will urinate in the same place.
This makes cleaning and odor control easier, but the same can’t be said of feces—hamsters poop ‘on the go,’ usually several times per hour.
Hamster feces should take the form of small pellets, which are easy to gather during spot cleaning. Also, hamsters eat some of their fecal matter (cecotropes), deriving more nutrients from their digested food.
How Often Should a Hamster’s Cage be Cleaned?
A hamster’s cage requires two types of cleaning: spot cleaning and deep cleaning. Spot cleaning is a daily activity, while deep cleaning is undertaken at least once weekly.
Spot cleaning involves removing any new mess. Think of it as picking up after yourself as you walk around the house, ensuring that shoes, magazines, or TV remotes aren’t lying around.
Start by examining the substrate. If you see any feces, collect and dispose of it. Equally, damp patches of substrate that have been urinated on should be removed.
These concerns will be less frequent if you have successfully toilet-trained a hamster. In this instance, you’ll need to throw away anything in the potty area and replace it.
While spot cleaning, check for rotting food. If left out for too long, they’ll become moldy and smell.
Deep clean a hamster’s cage at least once a week.
Deep cleaning is the act of removing the hamster from its cage and sanitizing the habitat. You’ll also replace the substrate and clean any tunnels, logs, and toys (including the running wheel).
If you keep several dwarf hamsters in the same habitat, step up deep cleaning to twice a week. More hamsters will result in more urine, feces, and rotting food.
The first step is relocating the hamster to a temporary home.
The cleaning could take an hour or longer, so don’t let the hamster run free. Fill a high-sided container with substrate and entertainment. A wheel, water, food, and toys should also be present.
Once your hamster is settled into its short-term accommodation, follow these steps:
- Empty the cage of all toys, exercise apparatus, bedding, and substrate.
- Throw away any soiled bedding.
- Wash the cage with warm, soapy water or a small animal cage cleaning spray.
- Rinse the habitat with cold water and dry it thoroughly.
- Wash and dry any food dishes, water bottles, and tubes.
- Throw away and replace anything that looks worn.
- Replace any bedding you’ve removed once the cage is dry.
Once this has been done, the hamster can be returned to its cage.
Do Hamsters Like Their Cage Being Cleaned?
Hamsters take their cleanliness seriously, so they don’t understand why you’re cleaning their cage. The cleaning process can unsettle hamsters because they rely on their strong sense of smell.
When you clean a hamster’s cage, you’re rendering its habitat temporarily unrecognizable. A hamster will tolerate having its cage cleaned at best.
Unfortunately, a hamster will feel unsettled and need to learn the new layout and scent mark its territory.
After cleaning, return some familiar toys alongside new forms of enrichment. Hamsters welcome fun things to do but need familiarity as they’re neophobic (fear new things).
Consider changing one of its less favored toys, but don’t change everything at once. Also, avoid changing too much of the hamster’s bedding, as they find comfort in their scents and pheromones.
Hamsters are comparatively clean pets, provided you meet their basic care needs. Due to their diminutive stature, hamsters aren’t messy animals.