When considering owning a pet, even one as small and low maintenance as a hamster, one of the most important factors that many people consider is how much of a mess will they make and whether or not they smell.
Bad odors are not pleasant or welcome in most households and a frequent question that we come across for new pet owners is do hamsters smell?
Hamsters themselves are very clean animals and do not tend to smell or have bad odors as a result of self-cleaning. If you even notice a bad odor coming from your hamster then it’s likely coming from the cage and could be the result of poor maintenance and an infrequent cleaning regime by the owner.
One of the best characteristics about a pet hamster is that they are relatively low maintenance and will clean themselves regularly (not only do you not need to bathe them but that is actually highly unrecommended!).
There will be occasions though when you notice bad odors coming from your hamster cage and it’s therefore important to distinguish between natural odors, signs that a cage needs cleaning, or even when a trip to the vet might be needed.
Do Hamsters Smell
Hamsters are very clean creatures and have meticulous cleaning regimes. If you want a clean pet, hamsters are one of the cleanest options available. The reason for this is because hamsters are very thorough self cleaners.
The main reason being that hamsters are very low down on the food chain and in the wild, they need to do all they can to avoid attracting attention from predators. Hamsters will self clean themselves frequently to remove any scent that can be picked up by predators.
Even after handling your hamster, you will find that they enjoy an occasional petting but as soon as you put them down they will quickly start to clean themselves in order to remove your scent.
A hamster cleaning themself will also coat their fur, washing a hamster can wash away a hamster’s natural oil subjecting them to the cold and potential illness.
It’s for this reason that you should never attempt to clean a hamster, not only will you wash away their oils but you could end up subjecting them to discomfort, cold, and even illness.
While hamsters are generally clean, they could let off an odor in the form of their scent glands (especially common for female hamsters during heat) so it’s important to learn this scent and differentiate it from other odors you might pick up around the cage.
How to Keep Your Hamster Cage Odor Free
While hamsters typically clean themselves, a bad scent can usually be coming from the hamster’s environment and not necessarily the hamster itself. For this reason, proper cage maintenance is essential for a fresh-smelling environment.
The key to keeping your hamster cage odor-free is to have a regular cleaning schedule and sticking to it. It’s recommended that you should clean your hamster cage once per week and this should include a very thorough clean.
You should also spot check the cage daily cleaning out any soiled bedding, poop, and old/rotting food.
Cleaning your hamster’s cage properly involves emptying the contents completely and fully cleaning the cage with a mild soap. This should include all areas including the wheel, toys, and food bowl to fully deodorize the cage.
Something you may notice is that hamsters will go to the toilet in a set place, usually in a specific corner of the cage and usually at a point furthest away from their bed. This is something that you can take advantage of to reduce the odor in the cage throughout the week.
A further step you could take to ensure your hamster cage is clean throughout the week is to potty train your hamster (yes, this actually works!).
How to Potty Train Your Hamster
Training your hamster to go to the toilet in a specific place is actually an effective and easy to achieve task. This might seem like a longshot but training your hamster to go to the toilet in a specific place can be an easy task as long as you monitor your hamster’s toilet routine.
As mentioned above, hamsters will choose a certain corner of the cage that they will frequently go to the toilet in. This is usually an instinctive habit as in the wild, hamsters will go to the toilet away from their burrow in order to keep the scent away from where they sleep.
You can use this to choose the location for the potty. Once you have the desired location, you can then use the following steps to train your hamster:
- Simply place the potty in the corner where the hamster usually goes to the toilet
- Line it with sand which helps to mask the smell
- Use something with the scent of the hamster’s urine and place it inside the potty so that they can associate this with the toilet
The short video below shows how simple it can be to potty train a hamster. It might take a few weeks for them to adapt to this new routine, however, it will be worth it in the long run and will help keep your hamster cage fresh and relatively odor-free.
Hamsters are one of the cleanest and most scent-free pets that you can possibly own. If you notice a scent coming from your hamster, it could be their glands, they may have rolled around in something, or most likely, the cage is what is letting off a bad smell.
Regular cleaning of your hamster’s cage once per week and potty training it (to easily keep it clean on a daily basis) are simple methods that you can use to keep your hamster and it’s environment clean and scent-free.
Never wash a hamster in a bath, you can provide them with bath sand to rub anything off their coat but mostly the hamster will clean itself with surprising regularity.
Any noticeably bad odor coming from your hamster for an extended period of time would be the only real indication of an issue and would be the correct time to seek veterinary advice.