All pets can stink if you neglect the kind of care that they deserve. Many parents are hesitant to buy their children a pet hamster, because of its foul smell. What they do not realize is that the bad smell in these pets is mostly due to the neglect of their own pet parents. As a hamster parent, it is your responsibility to help your little pet stay clean and smelling fresh.
Hamsters Are as Fastidious as Cats
If you observe these little creatures, you will see them rubbing their two little front paws against their faces. The hamster cleans this part of its body because it is where its mouth is. Can you imagine eating without washing your mouth? Debris and dirt surrounding the hamster’s mouth can enter its body when it eats. It will also rub its paws against the rest of its body, at least wherever it can reach them.
The point here is that hamsters are as fastidious as domestic cats. If you pick them up, you will see them grooming themselves the moment you put them back in their cage. That is how clean these furbabies can be. They do not like germs sticking onto their body.
There is another reason why hamsters and other prey animals are very keen on keeping themselves clean and not stinky. In the wild, they need to smell as fresh and inconspicuous as they can. They know that having a strong bad smell is a natural attractant for predators. Some may be circling above while others may slither their way on branches. Others may dash for their target while others take a steady crawl. However these predators move, they always hone in on their “smelly” targets.
So, it is unfair to accuse the hamster of being stinky. The bad odor you smell comes from its environment and not from the animal itself.
The Sand Bath
For obvious reasons, self-grooming alone will not remove all the dirt from their body. There are certain body parts that their little paws and tiny tongue can never reach to clean. Hence, there must be a way in which they can remove these debris.
It is for this reason that hamsters bathe themselves. However, their idea of a bath is not the same as what we have in mind. Hamsters and water don’t do well together. First, the animal can drown. Second, bathing with water strips the little creature of precious natural oils from its skin. It is also possible for the hamster to catch a cold and get sick. As such, it is a must that they do not get anywhere near water.
So, how do hamsters take a bath?
These tiny creatures are known for taking a sand bath. It is nothing more than rolling themselves on coarse sand, allowing them to rub their bodies and remove dirt and debris. The “hard” texture of the sand grains also helps redistribute the natural oils on their skin. It is like a massager that allows them to relax and feel good, while keeping clean.
However, it is important to understand that they do not take a bath on any sand. It has to be a pet bathing sand that you can purchase from your local pet supplies store. This sand is coarse and will never clump. They will also not stick into the hamster’s skin and fur. It is safe for the little furball, too.
Assisting the Hamster in Its Grooming
Sometimes, there are dirt and debris that are so stubborn that self-grooming and sand-bathing are insufficient. Longhaired breeds like the Syrian hamster tend to have dirt or debris trapped in their long, thick fur. Shorthaired breeds can also get dirt on their fur, which they cannot remove through self-grooming and sand-bathing.
In such instances, it would be appropriate to lend your hamster a hand. Pet parents of longhaired breeds often trim the fur of their hamsters. This will help make brushing a lot easier. As for the brush itself, it is best to use a fine and soft-bristled pet brush. You can buy one from your pet store.
Focusing on the Hamster Cage
We know that the hamster cage is the creature’s little ecosystem. It is here where the animal eats, lives, sleeps, plays, and defecates. If your little friend is so meticulous about grooming and sand-bathing itself yet still stinks, then there is a good chance the odor you smell comes from its cage.
Knowing hamster behavior, these tiny creatures will never pee and defecate in or near their hideouts. They do not want to smell the odor of their pee or poop whenever they are trying to get some sleep or rest. Hence, they will almost always conduct their “business” as far away as possible from their hideouts or sleeping quarters.
Take note, too, the distance of this area from their feeding and drinking stations. Hamsters are like cats. They hate it when they’re eating and all they can smell is the foul odor of urine and feces. That is why the placement of the hamster’s feeding and drinking areas matters a lot when it comes to ensuring optimum hamster health and happiness.
Given this bit of information, you can now determine the possible area where it stinks. It is as far away as possible from its sleeping quarters and its dining area. Start in this place and look for signs of soiling. With luck, you will notice soiled bedding. It is important to remove these very often. A good routine will be to check the hamster’s bedding at least every 8 to 12 hours to make sure that there are no soiled areas. However, whether you notice soiling or not, it is a good idea to replace the bedding on the “rest room” of the hamster.
Soiled bedding can attract germs. In turn, they will grow and proliferate because of the organic debris present in both hamster wastes and the bedding material. In the presence of moisture, these microorganisms can multiply very fast. The problem is that, as they grow, they also eliminate their own waste products. These are often in the form of noxious gases that can permeate through the air. This is the stink that you smell.
You may also want to change the hamster bedding. Replace it with something better. When picking a hamster bedding material, it is best to stick with those that have high absorbent properties. This will help reduce the chances of emitting foul smell from its bedding. Another important consideration is that the bedding should be free from dust and artificial fragrance. You do not want the little creature inhaling these compounds and making it ill. Of course, the bedding should also be non-toxic.
Look for Other Areas in the Cage That Might Stink
If, after changing the bedding you can still smell the stink, then try to focus on the hamster hideout or nest. It is possible that there is some leftover food in its nest. Over time, this can rot and cause the cage to turn stinky. There are certain food items that can rot very fast. For instance, cabbage, cauliflower, asparagus, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts can stink quite fast. As such, if you decide to give your hamster these foods, then it is best to give them small amounts only. Other foods that can stink are cheese, tofu, and boiled egg, among others. For more options, check out our detailed review of hamster food.
Hamster Mating Season
What if your hamster still stinks after cleaning its cage? Well, have you ever asked yourself if your hammie is a female? Hammies are solitary creatures. However, this doesn’t prevent the females from announcing to their male counterparts that they are “in heat” and ready to mate.
Syrian hamsters are examples. The females of this breed can emit a very strong, musky, and acrid smell during certain times of the year. Oftentimes, the stink will go away for a few days before returning with a vengeance – smelling worse. This is a sign that the hamster is in heat and is sending out signals to male hamsters.
Consider Hamster Illness
If your hamster is not in heat and you’ve already cleaned its cage, it is possible that the stink you smell is already a sign of an illness. Hamsters can have what fanciers call the “wet tail”. This is a stress-related disorder in hamsters that often presents as very runny stool. You can call it hamster diarrhea.
Because of the super-wet stool, the hamster soils on its bedding and other parts of the cage. What is worse is that the stink adheres to these surfaces like glue. As such, if you suspect your hammie to have wet tail, it is best to have your veterinarian take a look.
Hamsters are as fastidious as cats. It is unfair to call them stinky when they’re not left with many choices within their small cage. It’s your responsibility as the hamster parent to find out what’s causing the animal or its cage to smell that bad.