Sand baths are an excellent and fun way for hamsters to clean themselves, and you can usually buy hamster sand in most pet stores across the U.S. However, you can find a vast amount of sand at the beach for free, so can you use that instead of buying sand from the pet store?
You shouldn’t use regular sand for hamsters because there will most likely be a lot of harmful bacteria in it, which could cause significant health issues for your hamster. Many people and animals walk on beach sand every day, so there’s no telling how much harmful material could be present.
This article will discuss why you shouldn’t use regular sand for hamsters in more detail. It will also discuss which types of sand are best, so keep reading to learn more!
Why Shouldn’t You Use Regular Sand for Hamsters?
You shouldn’t use regular sand for hamsters because you don’t know what’s in it. Hamsters are small and delicate, and they have weak immune systems; even a tiny amount of bacteria can seriously harm them. It’s always best to go with store-bought sand for this reason.
According to a study by the American Journal of Epidemiology, beach sand can contain fecal matter traces and cause gastrointestinal issues for humans.
Since humans have robust immune systems, this wouldn’t be life-threatening for us, but it could make us ill. However, hamsters are weak, and it could even kill them if the sand was severely contaminated.
So, it’s certainly not a good idea to let your hamster have a sand bath using regular sand because the risk of contamination is too high.
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What Is the Best Sand for Hamsters?
The best sand for hamsters is any sand that is natural and dust-free. This includes chinchilla sand, children’s play sand, and reptile sand. However, you should always avoid using any product with the word ‘dust’ written on it (unless it’s part of “dust-free”) because dust is harmful to hamsters.
An example of 100% natural and dust-free sand is this Supreme Tiny Friends Farm Bathing Sand from Amazon.com. It’s essential to buy dust-free sand because dust can cause respiratory problems in many hamsters, which you certainly want to avoid.
Children’s Play Sand Is a Good Choice
Most children’s sand is washed and disinfected before being sold, so it’s generally safe to bathe your hamster in it. Children’s sand is also one of the most affordable choices out there.
If you are highly concerned about safety, you could bake the sand in the oven for a half-hour to kill any possible bacteria. However, this usually isn’t necessary.
The Be Good Company Natural Sand from Amazon.com is affordable and safe sand that you can give your hamster, for example.
Although children’s sand should be safe and free from bacteria when you buy it, it can harbor bacteria once you start using it. It’s also possible for wet sand to get moldy, which can cause health problems for your hamster.
To avoid contamination and bacterial growth, you should keep it dry and replace the sand frequently if your hamster uses it a lot.
Chinchilla Sand Is Another Good Choice (NOT Chinchilla Dust)
It’s perfectly safe to bathe your hamster in chinchilla sand. As long as it’s natural and dust-free, your hamster should be fine.
However, you may come across chinchilla dust, which is different from chinchilla sand. Since chinchilla dust is often sold in pet stores, people assume it’s safe to use. This is not the case, and you should never bathe your hamster in chinchilla dust or any other kind of dust.
Many chinchilla dust products contain a chemical known as silica. Silica is a dangerous ingredient that has been proven to cause cancer in humans, so it is even more damaging for hamsters. Grains of silica are so tiny that you may not even notice you or your hamster breathing them in.
To ensure you’re buying the safest sand for your hamster, you should always check the ingredients before buying to make sure there is no silica in the product.
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Can You Use Calcium Sand for Hamsters?
You shouldn’t use calcium sand for hamsters because it is dusty, which can cause eye irritation, respiratory problems, and stomach problems. Calcium sand is also highly alkaline, so if a lot of it gets ingested, it can interfere with your hamster’s stomach acids.
Calcium sand is mainly aimed towards reptiles, but some people may use it for their hamsters. Since calcium sand is much more refined and dustier than other sands mentioned in this article, it’s one of the worst ones you could choose.
Additionally, it’s more expensive than other safe sands, like children’s play sand, so there is no need to buy it.
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Is Clay Sand Safe for Hamsters?
Clay sand is not safe for hamsters because it is too fine and dusty. Hamsters can easily inhale clay sand, which poses serious health risks. Additionally, most clay materials contain silica, which can cause cancer if inhaled frequently.
According to South Texas College, all clay materials contain some amount of silica, which can sometimes cause irreversible damage. They also recommend avoiding excessive clay dust exposure, so you should undoubtedly avoid bathing your hamster in clay sand.
Since clay dust particles are so tiny, it’s easy for hamsters to breathe in a lot of them. It’s also easy for humans to breathe in many particles, so it’s unsafe for you and your hamster in the long run.
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Can I Use River Sand for Hamster Bath?
You should avoid bathing your hamster in river sand because it generally contains clay and some impurities. It is mainly used in construction, so it’s likely too rough and sharp for hamsters. Children’s dust-free play sand is a better and safer choice for a hamster bath.
According to a study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, chemical impurities are almost always harmful and instigate health problems.
So, river sand should be seen as a risk to your hamster since it will likely contain many chemical impurities. It is also dusty, so it’s easier to inhale and ingest it without even realizing it.
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Can You Give Hamsters Powder Baths Instead of Sand Baths?
Like with dust baths, you should also never give hamsters powder baths. This is because they are unsafe for their health; powder particles are much more refined than hamster-appropriate sand, so they are easier for hamsters to ingest and inhale. Powder and dust baths are equally unsafe for hamsters.
You may see chinchilla powder in a pet store or online, but you shouldn’t buy it for your hamster. Sticking with animal-safe sand is the best option, but if you don’t have any, you should spot clean your hamster instead of giving it a dust or powder bath.
Avoid Baby Powder
Baby powder is a standard product in many households across the U.S, so you likely have some in your home. You may be tempted to use it for a hamster bath since it’s convenient and cheap, but your hamster will end up inhaling the minuscule particles easily.
Baby powder contains an ingredient called talc, which has a history of being unsafe for humans and animals. If inhaled, talcum powder can cause adverse effects, so you certainly shouldn’t bathe your hamster in it.
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Are Sand Baths Safe for Hamsters?
Sand baths are perfectly safe for hamsters as long as the sand is free from dust, harmful chemicals, and harmful bacteria. In fact, sand baths are usually good for your hamster’s health because they help clean grease and dirt.
If a hamster gets dirty and doesn’t clean itself, it may become uncomfortable or anxious. Dirt that has been sitting on a hamster for an extended period can begin to smell foul, and hamsters are very sensitive to smells.
Often, bad smells will stress them out and make them upset, so it’s an excellent idea to give your hamster a sand bath if it’s dirty. You can even leave the sand bath in your hamster’s cage permanently to keep it clean and entertained constantly.
If you choose to do this, you should regularly replace the sand to avoid contamination.
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Do Hamsters Enjoy Sand Baths?
Most hamsters thoroughly enjoy sand baths because they can roll around and play in the sand. It’s common for hamsters to get in a sand bath voluntarily because it’s a fun activity for them, so you generally don’t have to worry about them not enjoying it.
Hamsters can get bored of playing with the same toys day in and day out. There’s only so much running on a wheel they can do before they get tired of it, so a sand bath is a great activity for them to enjoy for a change.
If you feel like your hamster isn’t enjoying the sand bath, you can take it out and try something else, like spot cleaning. Sand baths are not a necessity, so you should only give your hamster one if it genuinely enjoys them.
Why Some Hamsters Don’t Use Sand Baths
You may have noticed your hamster seems disinterested in sand baths; this is relatively common, so there’s no need to worry. Many hamsters don’t want to have them, while others may only want to use them as a toilet.
Other hamsters may completely ignore the sand bath and act like it doesn’t even exist. If any of these are the case, you should remove the sand bath because it’s not much use and will only get dirty or take up unnecessary cage space.
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Can You Reuse Hamster Sand?
You can reuse hamster sand as long as you clean it after each use. However, you should replace the sand if your hamster has gone to the toilet in it or if it has a foul odor. You shouldn’t reuse hamster sand more than three times because there will be a higher chance of bacterial growth.
If you’re unsure whether your hamster has gone to the toilet in the sand or not, it’s best to discard it just in case. Leaving urine and feces in the sand for long periods can create unpleasant smells and may make your hamster sick, so you should only reuse hamster sand if you know that it’s clean.
You should check the sand for any droppings every time you clean the cage. Generally, you can remove any droppings from the sand without throwing all the sand out.
Is It Safe for Hamsters to Eat Bath Sand?
It is safe for hamsters to eat a small amount of bath sand as long as it’s not contaminated or full of chemicals. Hamsters will most likely taste sand the first time they have a bath, but they will quickly learn that it is not tasty and should stop putting it in their mouths.
Many hamsters will be curious when they have a sand bath for the first time, and they may confuse the sand for food. This is a normal reaction and shouldn’t be a cause for concern, but the sand must be organic and free from chemicals to be safe to ingest.
In most cases, the hamster likely won’t even swallow the sand because it will realize that it’s not edible just by putting it in its mouth. Once it’s tried eating it once, it likely won’t try to eat it again.
It Is NOT Safe for Hamsters to Eat Regular Sand
Although it’s generally safe for hamsters to ingest clean, chemical-free sand, it is not safe for them to ingest regular beach sand, even if the sand is from a beach as clean as Kailua Beach, Hawaii. As I mentioned earlier in the article, beach sand is not guaranteed to be clean, so you should always assume it’s contaminated.
Not only can beach sand contain contaminants from people and animals walking on it, but it can also contain contaminants from the sea. A study by the American Society for Microbiology showed many different contaminants found in beach sand, including E. coli, Staphylococcus, and various types of fungi and parasites.
Therefore, it’s highly likely that your hamster would get seriously ill (or even die) from ingesting beach sand, which is why you should avoid using it.
Related Hamster articles:
- How Long Can a Hamster Go Without Water?
- Why Is My Hamster Biting Me
- How To Tame a Hamster
- What Does a Dead Hamster Look Like?
- How To Tell if a Hamster Is Pregnant
- Is Vita-Sand Safe for Hamsters?
You shouldn’t use regular sand for bathing your hamster because it will likely be contaminated. The best types of sand are free from dust and harmful chemicals.
Some of the most important things to remember regarding hamster baths are:
- Don’t use dust or powder for hamster baths.
- Children’s play sand and chinchilla sand are the best choices for hamster baths.
- Avoid sand that contains silica.
- Clean out sand regularly because there could be droppings in it.
- It’s safe for hamsters to eat a small amount of clean sand, but not regular sand.
My name is Everly. I am a Milwaukee-based mom of 2 and have been a proud owner of many hamsters throughout my life. Like many of us, my introduction to hamsters happened when I was very young. My family saw several hamsters come and go through the years, and I enjoyed playing with them, but I never fully appreciated them until I grew up and my own children decided to jump on the hamster bandwagon. At that point, I was determined to learn all I could about caring for these adorable pets. Read more