Do Hamsters Smell Bad? (And Why They Might)

Do hamsters smell?

Newbie hamster owners might be curious about the answer to that question if they want to keep a good-smelling home.

Key Takeaway:

Hamsters are very clean animals. So many hamster owners might wonder, why does my hamster smell bad? A dirty cage, reproductive cycle, and illness might contribute to bad-smelling hamsters.

In this article, we’ll look closer at why hamsters smell, what role the hamster cage plays, and what steps you can take to prevent bad odors from coming out of their enclosure.

hamster smells bad

Do Hamsters Smell Bad?

All rodents are stinky, right?

Not so fast!

Hamsters, which are rodents, do not smell bad. They don’t have a notorious bodily scent that we humans can pick up on.

However, a hamster’s cage can get quite smelly. It’s easy to see why some people think hamsters smell, but if they are properly taken care of, they won’t smell bad.

Hamsters Are Very Clean Creatures

Like other creatures, hamsters dislike being dirty. Still, if their cage isn’t cleaned regularly, they won’t have any control over their bodily cleanliness.

Hamster’s clean themselves almost as frequently as house cats. Even so much as picking up your hamster and placing it in its cage can inspire a bathing session. Your smell, germs, and oils transfer to your hamster’s fur and make it feel, for lack of a better word, icky.

But all their obsessive cleaning has a purpose.

Hamsters are driven by instinct to protect themselves from predators. Their scent glands cause a transfer of smell that puts them at risk of being eaten. The cleaner they are, the less likely they are to be tracked in the wild.

That instinct doesn’t go away because they’re your pet. Leaving behind as faint an odor as possible is the best way for a hamster to protect itself.

Do Hamster Cages Smell?

Yes, a hamster’s cage can smell bad. They eat, poo, sleep, and run around their cage, leaving marks and scents everywhere.

Most nasty cage smells come from your hamster’s urine. Because they try to be clean creatures, hamsters usually pee in one corner of their cage. To locate that spot, observe your hamster regularly to see if it spends time in the same spot after eating or drinking. Alternatively, you can spot-check its bedding for moisture. You must change out that bedding regularly to keep a clean cage.

Hamsters tend to defecate in their hideouts, so keep that in mind, too.

Replacing the bedding in the corners every 2-3 days is a good rule of thumb to avoid a gross-smelling hamster habitat.

Can I Give My Hamster A Litter Box?

It might sound crazy, but some pet owners potty train their hamsters to use a litter box, just like a cat. Since they clean themselves regularly, giving them a tidy place to do their business makes sense.

Hamster litter boxes can be anything, including the bottom half of a hideout, for example. Add mineral sand to it, and you have yourself a litter box. Keep the litter box in the same corner they use for peeing, and it won’t take long for them to start using it.

If you don’t want to use a litter box and would rather swap out your hamster’s bedding every 2-3 days, check out this quick hamster care guide for our top bedding recommendations. You’ll also learn about their favorite snacks and much more.

Is My Hamster Smelling Bad Because It’s Sick?

So, we’ve ruled out your hamster’s pee corner as a culprit of the lovely fragrance surrounding their cage, so what else could be causing it? Do sick hamsters have a bad odor?

The answer is yes; some illnesses do make hamsters smell bad. For example, wet tail can cause bad odors. This illness is common in Syrian hamsters in particular. Experts believe it is brought on by stress. One sign of wet tail is a runny stool.

It is a treatable illness but does require immediate attention from your vet. It also causes a nauseous smell because it leads to wet bedding. If your hamster gets wet tail, you’ll need to clean its bedding daily until they recuperate.

Infections, too, can cause your hamster to smell bad. If their urine smells gross, it could indicate an infection. Contact your vet if you notice this.

hamster wet tail

How the Female Hamster Cycle Affects Its Smell

Hamsters reach sexual maturity at 4 to 6 weeks and go into heat around 6 to 8 weeks. By week 8 of life, female hamsters are ready for pregnancy.

While humans have a distinct menstrual cycle, hamsters have a four-day cycle. On day two of the cycle, a female hamster’s ovulation ends, and she excretes a whitish vaginal discharge. On the third day, she excretes a solid, wax-like discharge. She may also have a drop of blood in the process. This cycle repeats every four days.

When is Female Hamster Discharge a Bad Sign?

Pyometra & Discharge

If you notice vaginal or rectal discharge with a bad odor and a distinct yellowish color, it could be a sign of a condition called pyometra. This is an infection in the uterus that causes puss to be excreted. Other signs accompanying a foul-smelling discharge include lethargy and a swollen belly. Speak to a vet right away if you notice these symptoms.

Blood In Discharge

Spotting during the cycle is quite normal, but if your hamster has bloody secretions rapidly, it is likely a sign of internal bleeding. This could be caused by injury or illness. If your hamster is on antibiotics, this could also be the cause. Check with your veterinarian for treatment.

Should I Bathe My Hamster?

Experts do not recommend water baths for hamsters. Water removes the natural oils from a hamster’s coat. A good alternative to a water bath is a sand bath!

In the wild, hamsters give themselves sand baths as often as they can find sand, so this is a great way to simulate your pet’s natural habitat and keep them clean.

Check out this video for great tips and tricks for sand baths, or read a brief synopsis below to get started.

All About Hamster Sand Baths!

All About Hamster Sand Baths!

Hamster Sand Bath Tips:

  • Avoid dust or powdery sand.
  • Children’s play sand from the local hardware store is perfect (it’s affordable).
  • Check if the play sand is heat-treated; if it is, no sanitization is needed. Non-heat-treated sand should be baked at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes to kill bacteria.
  • Get a shifter to shift through the sand to avoid any problems with roughing up your hamster’s coat.
  • Reptile sand is also a great option. Slightly more expensive. Look for all-natural sand with no minerals or calcium added.
  • Chinchilla bath sand is another option but much more expensive.
  • Grab a large container to place in the cage for them to use whenever they like.
  • Leave the sand bath container in their cage 24/7, but clean it regularly.

In general, your hamster won’t be stinky unless they are sick since its self-grooming skills are nearly perfect.

So, what’s causing your hamster to smell if it isn’t sick?

Chances are, it’s the cage.

Next, we’ll look at how to keep your hamster’s cage clean and smelling great!

hamster sand product

How to Clean A Hamster Cage

Before cleaning your hamster’s cage, wear latex gloves or an equivalent if you’re allergic to protect yourself from transmittable viruses and bacteria like salmonella and lymphocytic choriomeningitis. Once you finish cleaning, thoroughly wash your hands.

Hamster cage cleaning comes in two parts: daily and weekly.

Daily Cage Cleaning

Once per day, hamster owners should clean the bathroom area of their pet’s cage. Most hamsters have only one or two special spots for going to the bathroom, making cleaning a bit easier. Use a scoop to remove soiled materials and dispose of them in a bag. Replace it with clean bedding.

Water and food dishes should also be washed daily. This prevents food contamination and bacterial build-up leading to sicknesses.

Weekly Cage Cleaning

Once per week, swap out all bedding in the hamster’s cage. If you notice a bad odor like ammonia building up more quickly, you may need to swap it out more frequently. The same goes for a multi-hamster enclosure.

Step By Step Instructions for Cleaning Your Hamster’s Cage

Now let’s see what to consider when cleaning your hamster’s living space.

Step #1. Move Your Hamster to a Safe Area

Take your hamster and move it into a hamster exercise ball or pet carrier. This reduces the stress they experience and prevents injury as you clean their home. Gather your supplies before you transfer them to another spot to reduce the time it takes to clean.

Consider specially formulated solutions for small pet habitats or even mild soap and warm water to do the cleaning. Avoid full-strength bleach.

Step #2. Empty Out The Cage

Next, remove all bedding and toss out the used material. Even if you think the bedding is clean or odor-free, toss it out to keep a clean environment for your pet. Be sure to also remove water dishes, tunnels, wheels, and toys along with it. This is the best way to prevent soiled food particles from staying trapped under their items.

Step #3. Time to Wash The Cage

Once you have the cage emptied, it’s time to scrub it with mild soap and warm water. You can also use vinegar, but be sure to rinse out anything that might be left behind.

If your hamster lives in a large cage, you can also take it apart to ensure every area is completely clean.

Once you’ve thoroughly scrubbed and rinsed the cage, set it aside to dry and eliminate any excess moisture. At this point, it should be fresh smelling and ready to go.

Step #4. Clean Their Toys & Food Bowls

Your hamster’s toys, dishes, tunnels, and wheels should also be cleansed. Your goal should be to remove any signs of urine, feces, and bacteria. Ongoing exposure to dirt and germs can lead to ear infections or eye issues.

Once again, ensure the items are thoroughly cleaned and rinsed before reassembling.

Step #5. Drying & Reassembling

Dry all pieces of the cage. Eliminate all signs of water to prevent soggy bedding and mold. You can even use a hair dryer to dry the cage components to be extra sure no excess water buildup occurs.

Once you’ve checked that all parts are dry, it’s time to reassemble the cage and fill it with all the wonderful new bedding your hamster needs. Aim for two to three inches of appropriate bedding.

After all toys and accessories are added to your hamster’s cage, you can return them to a perfectly clean home.

Step #6. Toss Out Soiled Bedding

Throw out any soiled bedding, paper towels, and disposable cloths you used to clean your hamster’s enclosure. Any rags should also be fully sanitized before being reused. Wash your hands thoroughly, as well.

Congratulations! You’ve successfully cleaned your hamster’s cage, eliminated any bad smell, and given your pet a happy, healthy place to call home.

Don’t Worry, Most Hamsters Smell Great!

If the smell of hamsters has put you off from owning one, fear not! Most hamsters do not smell bad and actually have great hygiene. Their near-perfect personal grooming skills prevent their coats from getting stinky.

Key Takeaway:

When you follow the cleaning tips we’ve outlined above, you won’t have to worry too much about having a smelly hamster. To keep your hamster smelling great, all you have to do is a deep clean of their cage once per week. Removing soiled bedding and cleaning out the cage is the best way to prevent bad odors from wafting out of their cage into your home.

Once you set up a consistent cleaning schedule for their cages, you can quickly learn how easy it is to care for them. Most hamsters are super low-maintenance house pets. This is just one of the many reasons most people love having them! Just like a cat, hamsters don’t need to be bathed unless you want to let them take a sand bath, and they can even be trained to use a litter box.

The cleaning process is similar whether you opt for male or female hamsters. Females may require a bit more cleaning during their cycles, however.

Want more help taking care of your hamsters? Follow the Oddly Cute Pets blog and share our tips and tricks on your social media profiles to spread the word!

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