Can Hamsters Swim? (& Do They Like To?)

Your pet hamster is extremely active. He loves running and digging and climbing but…

…Can a hamster swim?

Key Takeaway:

Hamsters are able to swim but will only swim when they are in a crisis situation. To clean your hamster, never submerge it in water; rather, give it a sand bath.

Why is it so bad for you to get your hamster wet? And what can you do to keep your little pet clean?

We’ll discuss the answers to these questions and more coming up next in this article. Check it out.

hamster swimming with a life jacket

Can Hamsters Swim?

Your pet hamster always seems to be up to something. He spends the day running on his wheel, dashing through his tunnels, and nibbling on his favorite goodies.

He has all kinds of things in his cage to entertain him, except one. A small body of water.

But, can hamsters swim? And should they?

Yes, hamsters can swim. But they don’t enjoy swimming.

Hamsters are perfectly capable of swimming when they are in the water. But they instinctively stay away from water whenever possible.

Hamsters do not like to go into the water. So, if you were thinking about opening up a paddling pool for your pet hamsters, you would not be very successful.

Putting a water bath in a hamster cage is definitely a bad idea.

Can Wild Hamsters Swim?

Pet owners of Syrian hamsters, dwarf hamsters, and any other breed must ensure they keep their animals away from water. Caged hamsters drown if they fall into their water bowls.

To prevent this from happening, always keep their water in a water bottle.

But what about wild hamsters?

Hamsters in their natural environment only swim when they are in a crisis situation and have no other choice, like when there is no other way for them to get from point A to point B, never for fun.

Can Hamsters Get Wet?

Hamsters are very intelligent creatures. Wild hamsters will do what they need to find food, climb to safety, and find a good place to dig burrows.

But what happens when a hamster has to cross a body of water to get to where it needs to be?

Can hamsters swim? Can a hamster get wet?

When caught between a rock and a hard place, hamsters swim to get to where they need to be. So the short answer is, yes, a hamster’s coat can get wet.

But although a hamster can swim, it is not good for it to do so. Here are a couple of reasons why.

hamster cold

Natural Oils

A hamster’s coat is covered in the natural oils the hamster needs to remain healthy. These are water-soluble and break down when in contact with water.

When wet, your furry friend will be more susceptible to diseases like wet tail. Swimming could even be life-threatening.

Too much swimming could also make his fur matted and dry.

Body Temperature

Hamsters find it difficult to regulate their body temperature. Immersing them in large bodies of water can wash away the natural skin oils that help to keep them warm and insulate their bodies.


When you force a hamster to bathe, it finds the experience very stressful. High-stress levels in rodents can lead to other illnesses like wet tail and even death.

Giving Your Hamster a Sand Bath

Does your hamster’s body look a little dirty?

Maybe he looks like he could use a quick bath just to remove substances like dirt particles off of his coat. It is important your hamster stays clean, but you must never immerse him in water.

So what can you do to give your hamster a bath without water?

An excellent way to do this is by giving your hamster a sand bath.

Never heard of sand baths and not sure how to give your hamster one?

Then stick with us as we’ll be going through everything you need to know about sand baths coming up next.

How to Give Sand Baths

To give your hamster a bath in the sand, you will need the following equipment.

  • A small tray with high sides, big enough for your hamster to roll around in.
  • Chinchilla sand. You will find this at most good pet stores. (You must not use any old dust baths or sand, it must be special sand that will not irritate your hamster’s skin).

Here’s how to do it.

  1. Fill a small dish with 1 inch of sand (use even less for Dwarf hamsters).
  2. Put the sand bath inside the hamster cage.
  3. Give your hamster time to roll around and play in the sand.
  4. Remove the sand from the cage when he has finished or after he has bathed in it for 20 minutes. (Too much bathing could cause dry skin).
  5. Change the sand once a week.

The Benefits of Sand Bathing

Your hamsters should be cleaned regularly, but you must not simply dunk them in a bath full of water to get them clean. Getting your hamster to bathe in the sand is the best way of keeping him dirt-free.

Here are some of the reasons why sand baths are so brilliant for hamsters and other rodents.

  • They keep your hamster clean without him feeling cold or affecting his immune system.
  • Hamsters enjoy playing and rolling around in the sand. They will roll in it two or three times a week.
  • The sand helps to keep their coats healthy, clean, and shiny by removing excess oils.

Things to Remember if You Must Bathe Your Hamster

Although hamsters can swim, you must avoid bathing them at all costs.


Hamsters are naturally clean animals and do all of their own grooming.

You might need to clean his cage more frequently if you find he is often dirty. Clean it once or twice a week and ensure you remove any rotten food from his cage.

But what if you have no choice but to bathe your hamster?

Perhaps your hamster’s coat is covered in the waste matter because your hamster is ill or he has a toxic substance on his fur. Then sand bathing him might not cut it.

There are a couple of things you need to remember if you are going to wash your hamster. Follow these steps carefully:

  1. Put lukewarm or warm water into a small container. Check the temperature of the water with your elbow.
  2. Do not put your hamster in water; rather, spot-clean him with as little water as possible. Rub pet shampoo onto a soft towel and dip it in the water. Rub the towel over the portion of dirty fur. Never immerse his head in the water.
  3. If you need to give your hamster a more thorough clean, use a soft toothbrush.
  4. Do not put a cold or wet hamster in the cage. Dry him thoroughly. Use a soft dry towel to remove any excess water from his fur.
  5. Put him back in a warm cage with plenty of bedding.
hamster bath

Never Make Your Hamster Swim

If a hamster is in a sticky situation with no option but to swim to safety, could it?

Can hamsters swim?

Yes, hamsters swim in emergency situations. This article has helped us to see that although your hamster is capable of swimming, you must never immerse him in water.

If your hamster gets wet, dry him immediately. Keep him in a hygienic, dry environment by cleaning out his cage at least once a week.

Did you find this article interesting?

At Oddly Cute Pets, we always strive to provide pet owners with the best information about Syrian, Chinese, and Dwarf hamsters. For more guides about stress, diseases, and the general well-being of your pet hamsters, check out our website.

Thanks for reading!

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