Hamster nails continuously grow. While hamsters keep them short through natural wear and tear, they can grow too long and cause several problems.
If your hamster’s nails start to curl round, they’re too long, so you’ll need to trim them.
You can cut them yourself with a strong pair of clippers if your hamster is tame enough to let you. Providing sand, rocks, wooden items, and soft sandpaper will file the nails down naturally.
Trimming your hamster’s nails can cause stress, so overgrown nails are something you should aim to prevent rather than subsequently resolve.
How Long Should a Hamster’s Nails Be?
There are no set guidelines as to how long hamster nails should be. However, they’re considered too long when they begin to curl around.
Overgrown nails are a problem for the following reasons:
- Nails can get stuck or snag on the hamster’s substrate
- Hamsters find it difficult to groom themselves
- Hamsters are more likely to scratch and hurt themselves with long nails
- The nails can split, resulting in discomfort and bleeding while increasing the chance of infection
- Long nails make it difficult for hamsters to run on their exercise wheels
- Hamsters with overgrown nails have difficulty holding their food
- They accidentally hurt their owners when handled
- The nails can grow back in on themselves, becoming ingrown
You can tell whether your hamster’s nails are too long by observing how they look. If they’re no longer short and straight and begin to curl under themselves, they need a trim.
Elderly and sick hamsters are most likely to develop excessively long nails, so be sure to check on them as often as you can.
Should You Clip a Hamster’s Nails?
Overgrown hamster nails are painful and uncomfortable, so you mustn’t leave them to grow too long. However, nail clipping isn’t a natural process.
Hamsters should have the opportunity to keep their nails short through natural wear and tear. You can achieve this by placing abrasive accessories in your hamster’s enclosure, like sand and a nail stone.
There are times when these items aren’t enough to prevent the nails from becoming overgrown. In this case, you’ll need to clip them. This is safe to do, as long as you know what you’re doing and are careful enough to prevent injuries.
Inexperienced owners should seek help from a veterinarian. There’s a high chance of cutting the nails too short, making them bleed. This is an uncomfortable and painful process for hamsters that will cause trauma and stress.
Your hamster will likely get stressed from having its nails clipped. Stress is a problem for hamsters because it precipitates harmful bacteria, increasing the risk of sickness and disease.
For that reason, many hamsters can only have their nails trimmed under sedation.
Do Vets Cut Hamsters Nails?
Vets trim nails, but it’s not the most straightforward procedure because most hamsters don’t cope well. As crepuscular animals, they must be woken up early to make their appointment.
Hamsters are wary of unfamiliar people due to their prey instincts, meaning they may not respond well to being handled. That being said, the pain and discomfort caused by overgrown nails outweigh this, requiring a vet trip to sort them out.
Vets have the necessary tools to carry out a nail trim, and they also have nurses they can call upon for help. As mentioned, sedation is an option they have at their disposal. Sedation can be risky, particularly if the hamster is old or unwell, but it’s the only way to cut some hamsters’ nails.
How Much Does It Cost To Get Your Hamsters Nails Clipped?
All vets charge different consultation fees, which average $20-$60, while the nail clipping procedure costs around $10-$20. The price will depend on the number of overgrown nails.
However, sedation costs more, so this needs to be carefully considered.
How To Clip A Hamster’s Nails
Clipping a hamster’s nails isn’t an easy task, particularly without help from another person.
However, you must trim your hamster’s nails to a healthy length to ease your hamster’s discomfort.
Nail Clipping Equipment
Before clipping your hamster’s nails, you’ll need to gather the right equipment. Regular nail clippers you have at home may not be sharp enough. You will also want equipment that will protect you.
This will include The following:
- Strong clippers. You’ll need these to cut through your hamster’s tough nails.
- Thick gloves. These will protect your hands from scratches and bites.
Also, watch online videos to give yourself an idea of what to do.
Restrain Your Hamster
If you have a tame, calm hamster, it may allow you to trim its nails.
According to Ferrets, Rabbits, and Rodents, pet rodents used to frequent handling usually only require minimal constraint. Many hamsters won’t allow this, though.
Animals that aren’t as cooperative need to be restrained with a towel or blanket. Unfortunately, if your hamster’s not tame enough for you to handle it and trim its nails, you’ll need to go to a vet.
Practice Holding Your Hamster
Your hamster may be tame, but that doesn’t mean it’ll accept being handled in the right position for nail trimming for too long.
Before attempting to trim your hamster’s nails, spend a few days getting your hamster used to being held in a suitable nail-trimming position. There isn’t a right or wrong way to hold your hamster.
You must find a comfortable position for you both. This could be upright so that its paws sit above your fingers or flat while you grasp its feet within your hands. Spend some time holding your hamster’s paws, too, grasping them firmly without hurting your pet hamster.
Every time your hamster stays still while you handle it, reward it with a treat. Keep repeating this until your hamster seems comfortable long enough for you to trim its nails.
Check Nails for the Quick
Familiarize yourself with your hamster’s nails, paying particular attention to the location of the quick.
The quick is the center of the nail where the nail’s nerves and blood supply are located. If you snip the quick, your hamster’s nails will bleed. It’ll also be painful, with your hamster refusing to let you trim the nails as a result.
To find the quick, look for the part of the nail that’s cloudy, which is where the nail meets the foot.
Clip Your Hamster’s Nails
Hold the clippers in your dominant hand and hold your hamster with the other, ensuring you have a firm grip. Clip the nails one by one, looking at each one as you clip it.
Take your time and go slowly to minimize the risk of injury. You may need to take regular breaks to give your hamster a chance to recover.
How Do Hamsters Shorten Their Nails?
As mentioned, hamsters shorten their nails through natural wear and tear.
Wild hamsters keep their nails healthy by:
- Walking and running over wood
- Treading on stones and other abrasive materials
- Bathing in a sand bath
- Foraging for food.
Captive hamsters need the same opportunities to keep their nails in check. That’s why with the right accessories, your hamster’s nails will stay short without you needing to cut them later on down the line.
How To Keep Hamster Nails Short
It’s far easier to keep your hamster’s nails short than clip them when they grow too long.
You can do this by adding the following items to your hamster’s enclosure:
Hamster Nail Stone
A hamster nail stone provides an abrasive surface that files the nails down every time the hamster walks over it. Even better, provide a couple of rocks strategically placed across the enclosure to give your hamster plenty of opportunities to shorten its nails.
The stones you choose should be smooth, dry, and rough without sharp points. They must also be unpolished. Make sure the rocks are flat so your hamster can tread on them without hurting its feet.
Stones small enough for your hamster to pouch are dangerous, so opt for ones it won’t be able to get inside its cheek pouches.
Sand is an excellent substrate for keeping nails short. Live Science explains how sand is naturally found in their environment, so it is a vital material for captive hamsters.
Hamsters groom with sand, coating their fur by rolling around and rubbing themselves in it. The abrasive nature of sand means that excess oils, dirt, and debris are removed, maintaining the coat’s insulation.
The added benefit of sand is that the rough texture files the nails down naturally, keeping them healthy. Most hamsters bathe in sand multiple times a night, giving them opportunities to shorten their nails while they’re awake.
While not quite as abrasive as sand or rocks, it helps keep the nails filed down alongside sand and stones.
Wooden bendy bridges and cork logs are excellent accessories to have in your hamster’s cage. Every time your hamster walks over them, the nails will wear down slightly.
Soft sandpaper can ensure healthy nails. The most suitable type of sandpaper for hamster nails is the smallest-sized grit possible, like the paper used on an emery board.
You can place it next to your hamster’s food bowl or on the exercise wheel where you know the nails will be exposed to the paper. However, if you notice your hamster’s nails bleeding, remove the paper as it may be too abrasive.
Long nails are a problem for hamsters, so check them during handling to ensure they’re not curling around. That way, you can prevent overgrown nails instead of cutting them because they’re too long.