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What is a Hamster Sand Bath?

Hamsters are a great option as a pocket pet. There are some necessary items as well as some nice-to-have items for your hamster, in order for them to live a long and happy life with you. One item that you may have heard about is a hamster sand bath. What is a hamster sand bath and does your hamster need one?

Dr. Jess answers this question about sand baths below:

red and white hamster standing on arm of couch

What is a Hamster?

A hamster is a small rodent that is commonly seen as a pocket pet here in the U.S.  Hamsters are covered in a soft fur, with large eyes, round bodies, and short stumpy tails.  

They are quite active and can make great pets as long as you know how to properly care for them and all of their needs.

Hamster Basics:

Hamsters are small mammals.  Their coats are soft and come in many different coat colors and color patterns.  There are many different types and breeds of hamster.  

A common hamster is about 4-10 inches long, with some breeds shorter than that average and some breeds longer than that average.  

Adult hamsters can weigh anywhere from half an ounce to over 10 ounces, depending on age and breed of hamster. 

Hamsters are nocturnal, meaning that they typically sleep during the day and are active at night.  Therefore, if you or a family member is a light sleeper or has issues sleeping at night, it is not suggested to house your hamster in that same room, as they will be active during the night

A hamster’s teeth are continually growing.  Therefore as a reliable pet owner, you need to provide your pet hamster with materials to help them keep their tooth length at bay.

Hamsters are omnivores, eating both plant material and animal materials. 

In captivity, hamsters typically have a diet that consists of items such as hamster pellets, hay, grains and nuts, and fruits and vegetables, to name a few foods. 

No matter what you and your veterinarian decide is the best diet for your hamster, make sure that it is balanced for your hamsters lifestyle.

Hamsters have a cute personality.  Some are outgoing and friendly with others,while other hamsters like to live a life of solitude.  

Hamsters like to burrow and tunnel, so having some sort of tunnel system is fun for many captive, caged hamsters.

How To Clean or Bathe A Hamster:

Bathing a hamster isn’t as simple as you may think. You should never give your hamster a bath or shower like how a human takes a bath or shower.

Why? Well, there are medical reasons why we shouldn’t just jump right in and get a hamster damp or wet.

So what is so wrong about bathing your hamster like you do your family dog?

Well, hamsters are prone to infections due to damp or improper environmental conditions that can contribute to an increase in the wrong type of bacteria.

This increase in bacterial imbalance can cause a multitude of issues for the hamster. One major concern, is causing Wet Tail, a bacterial infection that causes…. you guessed it, a wet tail and back end, diarrhea, and digestive upset.

Hamsters with wet tail can become very sick and even die if not taken care of and treated appropriately by veterinary staff.

So how do you clean your hamster without getting them damp or wet with a bath? The answer is simple – you can offer your hamster a sand bath.

What is a Sand Bath?

A sand bath is exactly what it sounds like. It is a container full of specifically-made sand in which your hamster can go into and bathe themselves.

How does this work? Well, when your hamster gets dirty, say they have a spot on their side that has become matted.

Your hamster can enter into their clean sand bath, dig and roll around in the sand granules, removing the matted area in the process. Think of it kind of like an exfoliator for their coat and skin.

Any debris from their coat will eventually fall off, most likely into the sand bath, which you can scoop out later, after your hamster has left their sand bath area.

Does My Hamster Need A Sand Bath?

Eventually, you will likely run into a situation where your hamster needs to be cleaned, if it is just one spot on their body, or just a general all-over cleaning.

No matter how large the area that your hamster needs to be cleaned, make sure that you are not making the situation worse by getting them more wet than necessary.

Many times your hamster can clean themselves if you offered them a sand bath – they will know just what to do.

Other times, when you aren’t sure what to do, ask your vet what would be the best way to clean your hamster. It may be as simple as a sand bath – or they may recommend another route under medical supervision.

Let’s just make sure that before you offer a sand bath that the sand bath that you offer your pet hamster is as safe as you can make it for them.

red and white hamster on their back inside a small white bathtub

What Are The Best Hamster Sand Baths?

The best hamster sand baths will have a couple of qualities in common to keep your pet as safe as possible.

No matter what, keep an eye on your hamster while they are using their sand bath, and afterwards, to make sure that there are no issues between your hamster and their dry bath.

If you have any concerns, or your hamster starts to act differently after using their sand bath, contact your local veterinarian immediately.

Some things to look for in your hamster sand bath include:

  • Made specifically for hamsters, or at the very least, small pocket pets.
  • Sand grains are not dust-like or very fine – dust-like sand baths can cause respiratory issues if breathed in, and can also easily slip into your hamster’s eyes. Ouch!
  • Should not have additives like calcium or fragrances. Some sand baths will have nutrients added to them. Your pet hamster does not need this. Secondly, your hamster would rather not have any fragrances in their sand bath. In fact, most hamster sand baths are scented for the human owner and not because your hamster wants it.
  • Clumpable – the easiest way to keep your hamster’s sand bath clean, is for it to be easily scoopable. When the sand gets dirty, wet, or contains debris, some sand baths will clump, kind of like cat litter, to help you spot what should be removed.

Here are some of the most recommended hamster sand baths currently available:

Best Hamster Sand Baths

How Much Sand in A Hamster Sand Bath?

Each package of hamster sand will likely tell you a different amount to use.

As a bare minimum, have enough sand in your hamster’s sand bath that will allow them to roll around in it without your hamster coming in contact with the bottom or sides of the sand bath container.

Picture it like the amount you would fill a cat’s litter box. You wouldn’t fill it up to the top brim, but you want enough substance in it for them to be comfortable.

So read the label on the sand’s package and adjust as your hamster needs. An inch or two deep worth of sand will likely do the trick.

How Often Should Your Hamster Use a Sand Bath?

Your hamster will use their sand bath as often as they need AND want to use it.

Many times, your hamster doesn’t actually need a bath, but they thoroughly enjoy sand baths, so they want to roll around in it for fun.

How Often to Clean Your Hamster Sand Bath?

You should clean your hamster’s sand bath as often as necessary, when it becomes dirty, or at the very least, at least once a week.

Most of the time, the scent coming from your hamster is actually coming from dirty conditions inside their enclosure and not from them.

So, if you keep their cage and sand bath clean, they are less likely to “produce” a smell. It’s typically not their fault!

Sand Bath Summary:

Hamsters are pretty darn good at grooming themselves and keeping themselves clean all on their own. However, there are times when your little buddy may need some help.

A sand bath is an easy and enjoyable way for your hamster to rid them of dirt and debris.

The safest way to offer a sand bath to your hamster is to offer the correct type of sand to them and keep their sand bath clean.

Always observe your pet while offering them a sand bath and contact your veterinarian if you notice anything “off” while using it.

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The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional veterinary help.