Hamsters rarely allow their fur to become greasy and unkempt. Sometimes, it’s unavoidable. For example, a long-haired Syrian hamster may look bedraggled upon waking.
Greasy hamster fur can be attributed to overactive scent glands or keeping a hamster in a hot room. Check for dry and irritated skin if your hamster’s coat is dry but messy.
If the fur appears greasy near the rear end, it could have wet tail disease (proliferative ileitis) or diarrhea.
If your hamster isn’t grooming, it may be struggling to move and contort itself sufficiently to groom. Consider whether this is due to old age, injury, or sickness.
Why is My Hamster’s Fur Sticking Up?
Dry skin will likely be to blame if your hamster is grooming but still struggling to keep its fur under control. There are three primary explanations:
Various mite species can attach themselves to a hamster and live within its habitat. Many of these mites are invisible to the naked eye and harmless to a hamster.
Alas, mites can still become a nuisance. Demodex criceti and Demodex aurati are the most common mites found on a hamster, although Laboratory Animals warn of nasal mites.
If your hamster has aggressive mites, it’ll soon become apparent. Your hamster will seemingly spend every waking moment grooming but remain incapable of maintaining neat, tidy fur. Bald patches will start to arise on your hamster’s fur over time.
Mites are a pest that must be eliminated. Consult a vet for a treatment that will terminate the mite infestation and clean everything in your hamster’s environment.
That means deep cleaning a habitat, replacing the substrate, and boiling any wooden toys, decorations, and furnishings. This process should be performed regularly until the mites are gone.
Hamsters can experience allergies to anything in their environment.
An allergic reaction will lead to a hamster scratching and itching constantly, so it’ll be unable to maintain its usual exemplary grooming standards.
You may also find that allergies cause sneezing. If a hamster regularly releases wet sneezes, nasal discharge may be rubbed into the coat.
Allergies can rarely be treated other than by removing exposure. Consider anything in your hamster’s environment that may have changed recently and remove it.
Eventually, this process of elimination will yield results, and your hamster’s symptoms will cease.
Ringworm is a contagious fungal infection that dries out the skin. It’s named after the characteristic rings the fungi leave on the skin. Seminars in Avian and Exotic Pet Medicine describe ringworm as rare in hamsters but not unheard of.
It’s hard to miss ringworm if it has arisen on your hamster. Your pet will scratch near constantly and likely suffer from bald patches of fur. These will reveal raised, bumpy, and red marks on the skin.
Your hamster will need a prescription for antifungal shampoo or ointment.
Why Does My Hamster’s Fur Look Wet?
Hamsters can swim, and some play in the water, but most hamsters prefer to remain dry. If your hamster’s fur looks damp or wet, it’s unlikely that your hamster took a recreational dip in the water.
You’ll need to investigate the cause of your hamster’s wet aesthetic. Pick up your hamster and look for any signs of urine or feces on its fur. Damp fecal matter is particularly concerning.
If you’re asking yourself, “why does my hamster look sweaty?” the answer may be straightforward – your hamster is too hot. Despite hailing from the desert, hamsters are sensitive to excessive temperatures.
The ideal ambient temperature for a hamster is between 65°F and 75°F. Anything above 80°F is placing your hamster at direct risk of heatstroke. Even if you avoid this outcome, your hamster will be in significant distress.
Hamsters that live in solid habitats are most at risk of growing hot and sweaty. If your hamster lives in a cage, a degree of ventilation will be available. If your hamster’s tank is made of plastic or glass, it’ll likely grow increasingly, uncomfortably hot.
Keep your hamster’s cage out of a direct heat or light source, such as away from a window or radiator. Equally, keep a thermometer in your hamster’s habitat.
If this apparatus soars toward 80°F, rehome your hamster temporarily.
Excitement and Stimulation
Hamsters have scent glands that produce naturally occurring oils that make a coat look greasy. On some occasions, a hamster will produce more oil than usual.
Some hamsters just produce more oil than others. This becomes especially apparent when a hamster is excited or overstimulated. On a Syrian, these glands are found on the hamster’s flanks. Dwarf hamsters host scent glands on their belly.
Scent glands are used to mark and claim territory. This will calm an agitated hamster down as it’ll help the hamster feel secure in its domain. As per Physiology & Behavior, a female hamster in heat will also scent-mark the habitat of a preferred breeding partner.
These glands are cleaned routinely, but a stressed or excited hamster will lick to excess. Monitor your hamster’s scent glands, ensuring they’re not inflamed or swollen.
Offer your hamster a sand bath to stay on top of any greasy fur. If this doesn’t work, clean your hamster with small animal wipes.
Only resort to washing a hamster with soap if there’s no alternative.
The most concerning explanation for damp fur in a hamster is proliferative ileitis or wet tail disease.
Wet tail takes its name from its key symptom, dampness around the hamster’s short, stubby tail. This is caused by loose diarrhea clinging to the hamster’s anus.
Wet tail is a bacterial infection commonly believed to be caused by stress and anxiety. Ceskoslovenska Patologie also links the condition to tumors in the digestive tract, referring to wet tail as an intestinal precancer.
Wet tail is common in young hamsters, especially those who move from breeder to pet store to owner’s home quickly. When a hamster develops wet tail, bacteria multiply in the gut.
Aside from dampness around the tail, symptoms of wet tail include:
- Loss of appetite
- Dull, lifeless eyes
- Blood in the feces
If you suspect that your hamster has wet tail, consult a vet at once.
Wet tail is often fatal if left untreated, sometimes in as little as 48 hours. Treatment will take the form of antibiotics, which may be chewable or administered as drops.
All hamsters can get slightly greasy or unkempt fur occasionally. This isn’t normal, as hamsters prefer to remain clean and neat. Greasy fur usually has a medical explanation.