Last Updated on: 24th September 2023, 07:19 pm
Hamsters love sand, whether playing in it or taking a dry bath to get clean.
Coarse, fine sand isn’t ideal as a substrate, but it’s a fun addition to a hamster’s cage. However, you’ll need to observe certain safety protocols before introducing sand to a hamster.
Children’s play sand is suitable for hamsters, but it should still be sanitized before usage.
You can make sand safe for hamsters by removing debris, cleaning it to kill bacteria, and baking it in the oven for up to 90 minutes.
Never put sand straight from the beach into a hamster’s cage.
Sand is a ‘nice to have’ for a hamster but not essential, aside from bathing. If you take the time to sanitize the sand and make it safe for a hamster, it’ll positively impact its quality of life.
Do Hamsters Need Sand in a Cage?
When prepping a cage for a hamster, you’ll need to line the habitat with a substrate. As many species of hamsters hail from desert climes, new owners often consider adding sand.
Choosing the right substrate for hamsters is essential, as this is where they’ll spend most of their waking hours. As hamsters are crepuscular (awake between dawn and dusk), you need to know they can keep themselves entertained overnight.
A hamster’s favorite way to pass the time is burrowing in a substrate and making tunnels to hide. Perhaps more than most alternatives, it’s easy for hamsters to move through fine grains of sand.
However, sand isn’t ideal as a sole substrate and doesn’t cope well with water.
While a hamster may not lap from a bowl like a cat or a dog, water can leak from a wall-mounted bottle. Sand also offers limited odor control and can dry out, damaging the hamster’s tunnels.
While it’s perhaps advisable to use a different substrate, hamsters still benefit from having sand in a cage. Hamsters like to play and bathe in the sand, so a small container is ideal.
Alternative Substrates to Sand for Hamsters
Among the best alternatives to sand are:
- Toilet paper.
- Straw or hay.
- Aspen wood.
- Wood shavings.
Some woods, especially cedar and pine, are toxic to hamsters.
Is Beach Sand Safe for Hamsters?
If you’re looking for sand to add to the hamster’s cage, you may be tempted by beach sand.
This will instinctually appeal to the hamster’s instincts, as it mirrors their wild conditions. Collecting sand sounds like an ideal pastime if you live near a beach.
However, remember that a hamster from a pet store has never roamed in the desert, so beach sand holds no more appeal than any other kind. All sand should be sanitized before being put in a cage.
Can Hamsters Play in Beach Sand?
As discussed, sand isn’t ideal as a substrate because a hamster needs something more substantial to burrow and hide from threats. For digging and exploring, sand is okay.
You don’t need to restrict the hamster’s sand exploration to the cage. If you get a child’s sandpit, the hamster will enjoy playing in it. You’ll need to take certain precautions, though.
If kids play in this sandpit, ensure the sand is sanitized before placing the hamster inside—erect barriers around the side of the sandpit. As much fun as your hamster will have, it’ll attempt to escape.
If the hamster manages to escape the sandpit, you’re unlikely to see it again, as they’re good at hiding.
How To Make Beach Sand Safe for Hamsters
Beach sand is home to harmful bacteria, fungi, mold, and hazards like broken glass.
So, sanitizing it before use will remove these concerns. You must also sanitize store-bought play sand before introducing it to your hamster to be on the safe side.
To make beach sand safe for your hamster, follow these steps:
- Spread the sand and rake through it to remove any large debris, then sift it with a colander or sieve to capture anything smaller.
- Check the sand left, ensuring there are no traces of black mold.
- A mixture of hamster-safe cleaner and water (1:1 ratio) in a bottle and spray this onto the sand.
- Rake the sand thoroughly, then repeat it three times so that every grain has been cleaned.
- Let the cleaned sand dry in the sun. Once dry, pour into a deep baking pan or dish.
- Bake the sand for 60-90 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Once the sand is cool, it can be applied to the hamster’s cage.
If you’ve purchased play sand from a reputable vendor, you can start baking the sand in the oven. This sanitation process is only related to beach sand or play sand, not construction sand.
Can Hamsters Bathe in Beach Sand?
Fine, sanitized beach sand and play sand will be okay for a sand bath. The hamster will dive into the sand and roll around, covering every inch of its fur to banish any dirt and oils clinging to its coat. Then, it’ll emerge looking clean and revitalized.
As mentioned, bathing sand is one area where paying pet store prices is recommended. Check the small animal section for chinchilla sand, which is designed for dry baths. This product is hamster-safe and will remove all the concerns we’ve alluded to above.
Of course, you can’t bring sand straight from the beach, but it must always be sterilized first. The safest option is to purchase play sand, but take a safety-first approach and ensure it’s sanitized.