So you brought a hamster home. You got all the toys and bedding it needs, and you’ve ensured that your furry baby is eating and sleeping well. Here comes the tricky part.
Your hamster’s maintenance isn’t only about eating, sleeping, or playing. Today’s elephant in the room is: do hamsters need their nails trimmed?
Do Hamsters Need Their Nails Trimmed?
In short, yes, they do but not always. Nail trimming is a part of any animal’s grooming, but for a hamster, it isn’t a necessity. Fortunately, there are several facilities in the United States where you can take your hammy for its regular grooming sessions.
The question of the hour is, when does nail trimming become necessary? If your furry friend has overgrown nails that have harmed you or anything else in their surroundings, it’s time you do something about them.
How Do Hamsters Trim Their Nails?
The good news is that most hamsters can trim their nails by themselves. No, we’re not referring to a nail cutter or a filer here.
Since most hamsters actively engage in activities such as digging, burrowing, and climbing, they often trim their nails without realizing it.
When Should You Interfere?
Overgrown nails certainly need trimming. However, it isn’t only the size of the nails that are a problem.
The longer they get, the more likely they will start to curve in. In the end, they may fall off, but there’s no guarantee they won’t hurt your hamster before that.
They will also become yellow and cracked if left without trimming for too long. Your hamster may end up eating the accumulated dirt in it, and the consequences can be painful.
While pet hamsters don’t engage in many dirty activities, they can still have overgrown nails with accumulated dirt and bacteria.
Can You Trim Their Nails At Home?
Hamsters aren’t easy to tame. They tend to get hyperactive and even try to run when you get too close. Clipping your hammy’s nails will always be challenging, but it isn’t impossible. Here’s how to go about it.
You won’t be able to do it in one ago. The sooner you accept it, the better. It’s crucial to ensure that your hamster is comfortable. Only then can you try to put them on their back.
Find the Right Position
Try holding their back against your chest or stomach. Then, hold their paws gently. You can leave your hamster on all fours if nothing works and then hold its paws.
Be Prepared for a Reaction
No hamster likes being held that way. Some fidget while others squirm. Nonetheless, there will be some form of movement as an expression of their protest against the activity. Use the nail clipper gently because the sound can easily freak them out.
Don’t Start Trimming Right Away
Find the right kind of lighting and see the length of the nails properly. Make sure it isn’t too bright, as it will harm your hamster’s eyes. Inspect the nails properly. Figure out where to start.
Look out for the pink area of the nails as you aren’t supposed to cut into it. It will begin bleeding and pose a threat to your hammy’s sensitive body.
Reward Your Hammy
Every time you successfully clip a nail, reward them with a treat. This will be your way of communicating to them that they’re in safe hands.
Seek a Veterinarian’s Help
If you haven’t trimmed a hammy’s nails before, seek professional help. Not everyone is skilled to do it at home. One wrong move can cause a serious injury to your furry baby’s skin.
Hence, taking it to a vet is probably in your best interests. A vet will recognize sensitive spots immediately and be a lot more experienced in the process. Even if there’s accidental bleeding, the vet will know how to go about it.
What Happens If You Leave Their Nails Untrimmed for Long?
Why do you need to trim their nails after all? Don’t hamsters in the wild survive even without it?
The fact is that wild hamsters use their nails against hard surfaces. They’re not as prone to overgrown nails as pet hamsters are.
The more they curve in, the more pain your hamster will be in. In the worst-case scenario, the nail can also start growing inside the paw, causing infection and immobility. Furthermore, grooming becomes a pain-inducing task because, with long nails, they won’t be able to walk.
The overgrown nail will eventually fall off, but the process is far from pleasant. It will take days or, in some cases, even weeks to fall off.
During this time, your hamster will undergo discomfort and pain whenever it tries to do its usual business. The lack of activity will further harm their health.
Can You Prevent the Nails from Overgrowing?
The saying “prevention is better than cure” is also applicable here. However, it’s important to understand what causes your hamster’s nails to grow in the first place.
Is it the lack of activity, or is it a sign of an illness? It is unusual for hamsters to have overgrown nails because their daily business is such that their nails tend to wear down quickly.
Once you’ve found out the cause, look into their bedding. Is it too soft? Extremely soft bedding isn’t ideal for an animal that loves creating tunnels and digging.
If their nails don’t have a challenging surface to hit against, they will lose momentum and stop the activity altogether. Hence, ensure that your little one has at least a few rugged, hard surfaces to climb onto.
How to Encourage Your Hamster to Wear Its Nails Down
The best way to make your hamster wear its nails down is by giving them something challenging to play with. Bring in some flat stones from outside and place them around its cage.
This way, whenever your hamster steps out of the cage, it will have no choice but to step over the stones. Similarly, you can place them close to the food bowl, so your hamster crosses them to get to their meal.
Some pet owners also recommend using emery boards. Since this material is highly used to file nails, you want to go for the smallest size not to hurt their paws.
At the same time, you also want to ensure enough space for your hamster on the board. The best way to make your pet get on it is by placing a treat on the other end of the board.
Then, as you begin tilting it, your hammy will have to try harder to get to their treatment. In their quest to get a better grip, they will dig their nails harder.
You have to make your hammy walk on the board several times, and you’ll see their nails trimming down in no time. Nonetheless, make sure to check on their paws now and then.
How Long Is Too Long?
Sometimes, long nails on your hammy aren’t that apparent. The transparency can make it even harder to determine where they are starting and ending.
However, there are ways to determine if your hamster’s nails are too long. These are the signs you can look out for.
- They find it hard to hold their meals
- There is obvious discomfort in moving or walking
- They find it hard to clean or scratch themselves
- There are blood droplets around their paws and nails
- You can feel the sharpness of their nails when you pick them up
- There are scratch marks or nail
Avoid Using Sandpaper
Sandpapers can be effective in dealing with long nails. However, it’s best not to involve them in the picture, especially with a hamster in it.
It is quick to irritate the soles of their feet, and it can also pose a threat to their health if chewed. The consequent dust production can also trigger respiratory problems.
How to Deal With Nail Bleeding
Be very precise with where you’re starting from. If you end up cutting too much, you may induce unnecessary bleeding, which can also attract different infections.
The first step is to control the bleeding. Apply some styptic powder to the wound and wait for the bleeding to stop. If you notice it getting worse, head to the vet right away. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
To answer the question “Do hamsters need their nails trimmed?” yes and no. Overgrown nails are necessary to cut, but nail cutting isn’t generally a part of your hamster’s grooming. Most of them trim their nails on their own.
If you notice the nails growing beyond a certain point, you may want to look into the cause. It is likely that your hamster doesn’t have anything to exercise pressure against. The right amount of digging, burrowing, and creating tunnels will eventually trim their nails without much effort.
However, you do not want to attempt trimming their nails at home if you haven’t done it before. Take them to a vet and seek professional care.
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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