When keeping a hamster as a pet, unpleasant odors can accumulate. Hamsters are clean animals, but owners must sterilize their cages regularly to avoid bad smells.
A hamster won’t make a room smell bad, but an unclean cage will. Hamsters drink more water than other rodent pets, causing them to pee more frequently.
Hamster pee has a pungent odor due to ammonia. Spot-clean the hamster’s cage and remove soiled food and bedding to avoid foul smells.
Also, you can train a hamster to urinate in a specific part of its cage, making it easier to clean. Providing adequate ventilation will remove unpleasant odors.
Do Hamsters Smell Really Bad?
Hamsters hate to be dirty, so they stay clean whenever they can. By keeping clean, wild hamsters protect themselves from predators by remaining undetected, increasing their chances of survival.
Hamsters don’t wash with water; they lick and groom their fur, keeping the natural oils intact.
They also take a sand bath, which is a natural abrasive for removing dirt and debris from their coats. The sand absorbs excess oils without removing the natural oils.
Many new owners don’t realize that sand is an integral part of a hamster’s cage set-up, causing them to become unclean over time. If a hamster starts to smell, it’s likely for these reasons:
- The cage is filthy.
- Not potty trained.
- Insufficient ventilation.
- Too many acidic foods.
Syrian hamsters smell when they’re in heat. According to Physiology and Behavior, the flank glands release pheromones to attract members of the opposite sex, mark their territory, and assert dominance. They’re more prominent in male Syrian hamsters, but females also have them.
Unless you’re not keeping the cage clean or providing the right opportunities for a hamster to keep itself washed, it’ll eventually develop a urine or poop smell.
Hamsters drink lots of water and pee more frequently than other rodent pets.
Their urine has a strong scent, and if owners don’t wash their hamster’s tubes, tunnels, platforms, and running wheel often enough, the cage will smell.
Do Hamsters Stink Up Your Room?
A hamster won’t make a room smell if you practice good hygiene.
Hamster urine is the main reason for bad odors. Leaving it in a pet hamster’s enclosure won’t take long to make the entire room stink.
Keeping a hamster’s cage clean ensures you won’t have odors aside from the natural smell of bedding. This shouldn’t be unpleasant, but adequate ventilation will be beneficial.
Why Does My Hamster’s Urine Smell So Bad?
Hamster urine is unpleasant but relatively weak in small quantities, as it mostly consists of water. A hamster producing foul-smelling urine may have a health concern.
For example, bladder and kidney infections cause bad-smelling, discolored urine. Age is another factor because the kidneys don’t function as well in later life as when the hamster is young.
The common signs of a UTI or kidney infection include:
- Frequent urination.
- Staining or blood.
- Increased water consumption.
- Loss of appetite.
You’ll need to take your hamster to a vet specializing in small animals to get prescribed antibiotics.
Do Hamsters Smell Bad When They Hibernate?
Hibernating hamsters rarely smell unpleasant. Their bedding may become more smelly from where the hamster urinates and doesn’t move, but it shouldn’t smell bad unless it has a health concern.
Pet hamsters shouldn’t hibernate. They don’t live in harsh conditions, so they have no reason to do so. Hamsters don’t experience true hibernation but a condition called torpor.
This occurs when hamsters are exposed to cold temperatures for too long. Torpor isn’t hibernation as such because it lasts for shorter periods. It looks very similar, though.
If a hamster has stopped moving and smells unpleasant, there’s a high chance it’s died. To find out if a hamster is dead or hibernating, check for signs of breathing or rigor mortis.
Do Hamsters Smell Bad When They Die?
Hamsters produce a foul odor when they die. Whether you can detect the scent depends on how long the hamster’s dead because they won’t smell until they decompose.
If you find a hamster a few hours after it passes, the decomposition process won’t have started. It won’t smell much different from when it was alive.
It’ll begin to smell after a couple of days. Warm temperatures may also speed up decomposition, causing a hamster to smell bad sooner.
How Often Should I Clean My Hamster’s Cage?
Hamsters become stressed if their bedding is changed regularly because they feel vulnerable and no longer see their cage as their territory if they can’t detect their scent.
Similarly, hamsters make deep, intricate burrows and stash their food where it can’t easily be found. Destroying or removing their tunnels causes anxiety and stress.
That’s why it’s better to remove soiled sections of their bedding every other day and replace only what’s needed. Don’t remove more than 1/3rd of the bedding at one time.
Remove soiled or rotting food when removing urine-covered bedding so the hamster can’t get sick.
If you have a sand bath, sift through it using a sieve to remove clumpy, soiled patches and leave the rest.
If the hamster uses an area of its cage to go to the toilet, you can get away with spot cleaning most of the time, doing a more intensive cleaning once a month.
For hamsters that urinate all over their cage, once a week or bi-weekly should be enough. You’ll discover the hamster’s right schedule once you understand its habits more.
What To Do When A Hamster Smells Bad
While cleaning a hamster’s cage is the best way to remove nasty odors from your room, there are steps you can take to minimize any smells until it’s time to clean, including the following:
If the cage has bars, you shouldn’t need too much additional ventilation to remove the ammonia smell. Acrylic or glass tanks trap odors, so ventilation is needed for the urine smell to exit through the roof.
A mesh lid is ideal, as opening the window even slightly can waft the unpleasant aromas away. Ensure that this doesn’t make the room temperature too cold.
Odor Controlling Bedding
When choosing bedding, it must be absorbent and control odors. The best types include:
- Paper-based bedding like Kaytee Clean and Cozy, Carefresh, and So Phresh.
- Shredded tissue paper.
- Chipsi Original.
- Teabag bedding.
Buy absorbent bedding to keep bad smells at bay until you spot clean.
You can create a specific section of sand separated by wooden bridges or use a plastic box or a deep ceramic dish with a couple of inches of sand.
Dwarf hamsters enjoy sand baths more than Syrians, so they benefit from a larger section of their cage consisting of sand.
Encourage the hamster to use the corner of its cage by placing a potty tray or dish with a small amount of soiled bedding in the spot you’d like the hamster to pee and poop.
Hamsters are intelligent animals and will eventually learn where their toilet is located.
Acidic foods can affect a hamster’s digestive system, so only provide them in moderation alongside pellets, seeds, fresh fruit, vegetables, herbs, and plant matter.
The Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine explains how vets recommend pellets or lab blocks as the primary food source. Similarly, limit certain vegetables for hamsters, such as:
- Brussel sprouts.
Rotting foods will smell after a while, so remove them from the cage before they spoil. Also, only give the hamster what it can eat at the time.
When keeping a hamster, you’ll likely experience some smell, but it shouldn’t be too unpleasant. Stay on top of a regular cleaning schedule to avoid unwanted odor issues.