As hamsters spend their lives indoors, mainly in a cage, you may assume that they rarely encounter bugs. However, insects can gather in hamster cages when certain circumstances apply.
Bugs can enter a hamster’s cage through ‘untreated’ substrate or ‘wild’ wooden decorations. Also, bugs may be attracted to the smell of uneaten food or poop and urine that hasn’t been cleaned up.
Only introduce materials that have been sterilized and keep the hamster’s cage clean.
Stinging insects may hurt a hamster, while flies can lead to flystrike, a potentially fatal condition. All bugs in a hamster cage should be considered invasive and be ejected.
Do Hamsters Attract Bugs?
Healthy hamsters don’t attract bugs to their cage. Unfortunately, an old or unwell hamster may struggle to remain clean after pooping, which can attract flies.
Hamsters have certain habits that attract insects, and the problem will worsen if you fail to keep the cage clean. So you’ve got to remove poop, urine, and old food within 24 hours.
Hamsters instinctually forage for food and love to hoard. So, a hamster will scatter food in the substrate. Bugs will be drawn to the strong aroma of food that carries a scent or spoils.
The substrate used to line a cage could be home to tiny insects. Equally, if you’ve introduced wood from the outdoors into the cage for a hamster to chew on, it could contain bugs.
If a hamster lives in a well-ventilated glass enclosure, it’s less likely to attract bugs because the habitat is secure. Traditional cage bars provide access points for crawling and flying insects.
Are Bugs Harmful to Hamsters?
This depends on the bugs. If you ask, “Are flies harmful to hamsters?” the answer is yes. If you were to posit the same question about ants, they’re likelier to be a pest than a significant danger.
Either way, you shouldn’t let bugs remain in a hamster cage.
While most of us think of hamsters as herbivores, wild hamsters are omnivorous. As per Behavior, hamsters can display predatory tendencies.
However, hamsters will only eat insects in the wild if no alternative food source is available. Bugs in a cage are likely to be ignored and could grow problematic if allowed to breed and multiply.
What Kind of Bugs Get into a Hamster’s Cage?
The bugs that find their way into a hamster’s cage come in three forms.
- Parasites, such as fleas and mites.
- Crawling insects, like weevils and roaches.
- Flying insects, such as flies.
Never allow bugs to set up home in a hamster’s enclosure. However, before eradicating an infestation, glean insights into how and why insects made their way into the hamster’s living space.
Have you noticed tiny brown bugs in your hamster’s cage? If so, these are likely mites.
Hamsters may attract Demodex mites that live in their fur. These mites are found all over our homes, but they’re hard to see with the human eye. Some mites, such as wood mites, are largely harmless.
As per the International Journal of Acarology, new species of hamster-centric mites are still being discovered. Some parasitic mites can leave your hamster with dry, itchy skin or mange.
Fleas can enter a cage after hitching a ride on another pet’s body or your clothing. If the hamster is scratching, get a parasite diagnosis and the necessary treatment from a vet.
Sweet food smells may draw ants. Weevils (flour beetles) love grain products, meaning they may seek out uneaten hamster muesli. They’re unlikely to harm a hamster.
Weevils, in particular, will merely offer a source of protein. You’ll still need to eradicate any sign of crawling bugs in a cage.
Roaches are the main concern due to their propensity for multiplying and spreading disease. If a hamster has cockroaches, your home is also infested.
Some bugs, like gnats, are more annoying than anything, as they’ll bite a hamster’s delicate skin.
Wasps are more concerning. Like ants, wasps and bees will be attracted by sweet food smells in a hamster cage. Hamsters will be intrigued by the noisy, droning insect in their cage and investigate the noise.
A hamster may get hurt if it gets too close to a stinging insect.
A solid habitat for a hamster could be beneficial if you live in an area with a sizable bee and wasp population. This will also keep out flies, arguably a far more significant concern.
Can Hamsters Get Flystrike?
Flystrike occurs when flies feast on fecal matter clinging to a hamster’s fur. In doing so, the flies will lay eggs in the hamster’s anus.
Eventually, these eggs will hatch larvae – maggots that feast on your hamster’s flesh. This will be excruciatingly painful and deadly if allowed to continue.
Keeping Bugs Out of a Hamster’s Cage
The easiest way to keep bugs out of a hamster cage is to maintain a regular cleaning schedule.
Spot-clean the hamster’s habitat daily, cleaning up any poop to avoid attracting flies. Also, remove any visible food in the cage for more than 24 hours.
Deep clean a hamster’s cage periodically to ensure that any tiny insects you miss during spot cleaning are eradicated. Conduct a deep clean of the cage at the first sign of bugs.
Be mindful of any substrate or wild wooden toys you introduce to a hamster cage. It’s best to bake the substrate in the oven before adding it to a cage. Set the substrate to bake for 30 minutes at 200 degrees.
Wood should be boiled in water and left to air dry in the sun. Like baking the substrate, this kills any harmful bugs living in new enrichment items.
This doesn’t apply to store-bought toys, which will be varnished and bug-free by default.
Bugs in a hamster’s cage aren’t necessarily an indication of sloppiness or messiness, but regular cleaning and maintenance will keep insects out of the hamster’s habitat.
Take the time to regularly clean a hamster’s cage, and you shouldn’t encounter any problems.