All across the U.S. from New York to California, hamsters are one of the most popular pets for families. If you have a hamster, it’s essential to know how to care for them in the best way possible. Hamster bedding can quickly become an uncomfortable environment once it’s been soiled, so how often should you change it?
You should only change hamster bedding if it’s been soiled significantly, has an unpleasant odor, or if there’s no other viable option (such as spot cleaning). Hamsters find comfort in familiar smells, so changing their bedding too frequently can cause distress and confusion.
The rest of this article will discuss how often you should change hamster bedding in greater detail. It’ll also discuss the best ways to change bedding, alternatives to changing bedding, and how to maintain hamster bedding so that it remains as clean as possible.
You shouldn’t change hamster bedding every week unless spot cleaning doesn’t eliminate all the dirt or foul odors. Hamster bedding develops familiar scents, and hamsters rely on these in their day-to-day lives, so it’s good to avoid removing bedding whenever possible.
Since hamsters have lousy eyesight, their sense of smell is crucial for navigation. According to the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council based out of Alexandria, Virginia, you’ll be removing familiar odors if you change the bedding too often, so your hamster may not be able to navigate around as quickly and may get flustered or scared.
However, dirty bedding can also be uncomfortable and unpleasant for a hamster, so it’s essential always to watch it and change or spot clean it when it becomes soiled.
Generally, you can remove bits of old food and dirt from the bedding without removing all the bedding at one time.
Although changing all the bedding isn’t necessary every week, you should do a spot clean once a day to remove any dirt, feces, or old food. All you need to do is scoop up the soiled areas, and you’re good to go!
By doing a spot clean every day, you’ll keep your hamster’s cage clean and reduce the need to replace the bedding too often.
You should clean a hamster’s cage and bedding thoroughly once a week to keep it fresh and comfortable. You should only replace bedding if it’s necessary, so try to put back any unsoiled used bedding because the familiar smells will make your hamster feel safe.
Doing a deep clean once a week won’t take long and is highly beneficial for your hamster. If you don’t have the time to clean the cage once a week, you should aim to clean it every other week or every month.
Below is a simple guide on how to clean a hamster’s cage and bedding:
- Place your hamster somewhere safe and familiar. Since you’ll be using soap and messing around with the cage, you’ll need to remove your pet from the cage before beginning. It’s a good idea to place your hamster somewhere familiar, such as a spare cage or a hamster ball, so it doesn’t get too scared. Always ensure you remove it from the cage gently because hamsters can become worried or agitated very easily.
- Remove the contents of the cage. Now that your hamster is out of the way, you can remove everything else. This includes bedding, toys, food, and anything else that’s removable. You have the best chance of a deep, thorough clean by removing everything.
- Use soap, warm water, and a cloth to clean the cage. You must use a mild soap because anything too strong will irritate your hamster and may even be dangerous due to the chemicals. Be sure to scrub the whole cage without missing any spots; leaving leftover food, feces, or bacteria may lead to infection.
- Dispose of any soiled bedding. You should only dispose of bedding if it’s genuinely dirty. In many cases, you can reuse hamster bedding, so you should do that if possible. If some bedding parts are soiled but other parts are clean, only replace the dirty parts.
- Clean the toys. It’s easy to forget about the toys, but cleaning them is vital. Since your hamster likely plays with its toys a lot, there’s probably a lot of bacteria within them. You can wash hamster toys with hot water and soap, or you can use vinegar if you have it.
- Dry everything. Before putting the toys and hamster back in the cage, you should make sure everything is dry to avoid your hamster getting cold. Drying it’ll also decrease the chance of humidity and mold growth, so you certainly shouldn’t skip this step. You can either air it out or dry it with a towel or paper towel.
- Put everything back. Now that the cage is fresh, clean, and dry, you can finally put your hamster and its toys back inside it! Your hamster will be happy to come back to a clean cage, but it’ll also be happy to come back to a familiar scent if you’ve kept some of the old (clean) bedding.
If you never change hamster bedding, it’ll become increasingly dirty and develop a potent odor. It’ll also carry bacteria that could make your hamster ill or even worse; this is why it’s essential to clean or replace bedding whenever necessary.
A common disease that hamsters catch from dirty cages is wet tail. This is one of the most severe illnesses a hamster can get, so it’s essential to change or clean the bedding when it’s needed.
They can also get stressed if they’re forced to live in a filthy cage with bedding that never gets cleaned or replaced. Stress can weaken your hamster’s immune system, thereby making it more susceptible to diseases and even premature death.
Since hamsters have such a strong sense of smell, a foul-smelling cage and bedding may cause upset and, subsequently, illness. So, you should maintain your hamster’s bedding on an ongoing basis to ensure it’s as comfortable as possible.
There are a few ways to make hamster bedding last longer. The following sections will discuss them in greater detail.
Keeping your hamster clean will make the bedding less likely to get dirty. The best way to keep your hamster clean is by giving it a sand bath to remove any excess oils and dirt from the skin.
You can choose to keep a sand bath in your hamster’s cage permanently, or you can let it out every once in a while to have one. It’s often a good idea to keep a sand bath in the cage because it allows your hamster to clean itself whenever it wants.
Another way to clean your hamster is to use a cloth and spot clean any dirty patches; this will ensure that it doesn’t transfer any dirt onto the bedding. If a dirty hamster lies in bedding, it’ll spoil it, and you’ll eventually have to replace it.
It’s best to use materials that absorb as much moisture as possible because it lessens the chance of mold growth and dampness. Hamster bedding such as the Healthy Pet Natural Bedding (available on Amazon.com) will absorb water and foul odors, making it a longer-lasting solution.
Using material such as cotton wool is more difficult to clean and is also dangerous for hamsters, so choosing suitable materials is essential if you want the bedding to last as long as possible.
If you don’t want to remove bedding constantly, you can spot clean daily to help it last longer. All you need to do is remove any excess dirt and feces, and it’ll be (almost) good as new!
It’s also essential to remove and replace any urine-soaked bedding. Like dogs and many other animals, hamsters also tend to urinate in the same places within the cage repeatedly. So, you should already know which areas need bedding replaced, even if you can’t see the urine.
If you’re unsure of which parts of the bedding have urine on them, you should try to observe where your hamster relieves itself to get an idea.
You should change bedding in a small hamster cage once a week because it’ll get dirty much quicker than a large hamster cage. Changing the bedding once a week ensures that the cage will remain comfortable and clean for your hamster.
Small cages get dirty quicker than large ones because the hamster has less room to go to the toilet, eat, and play, so it’s much easier for the cage to become dirty.
Getting your hamster a large cage will undoubtedly improve its quality of life, mainly because they take longer to get dirty and don’t need to be deep cleaned as often as smaller ones. Additionally, your hamster will have more room to play and explore, so it’s a win-win situation.
If you don’t like the idea of replacing your hamster’s bedding very often, opting for a larger cage may be the right decision.
Also, small cages can cause hamsters stress due to the lack of space and the increased levels of dirtiness if you don’t clean them regularly; therefore, your hamster is more likely to be happy, clean, and relaxed in a bigger cage.
It isn’t good to change hamster bedding every day in most cases. In doing this, you’re constantly interfering with your hamster’s surroundings, making it nervous and scared. There’s also no need to change bedding every day because it’ll take at least a few days to become fully soiled.
You may think that keeping the cage extra clean will be healthy for your hamster, but it’ll likely cause more harm than good. Of course, being clean makes us humans feel nice and comfortable, but hamsters are very different from us.
As I mentioned earlier, hamsters have awful eyesight. One of the main things that help them move around and stay confident is their sense of smell.
Familiar smells will guide a hamster to where it needs to be and give it a sense of comfort, so constantly stripping its cage will affect this sense of comfort.
Also, tampering with your hamster’s cage daily can cause it to get stressed. Since you’ll likely be removing the hamster every day to replace the bedding, it’ll get upset and confused all the time.
Hamsters don’t like change, so constantly moving them out of their cages to clean them won’t do them any good in the long run.
Spot cleaning is excellent for hamster cages because you’re getting rid of all the dirty parts while keeping all the clean parts! Another great thing about spot cleaning versus completely changing the bedding is that you don’t even have to remove the hamster from the cage (unless you’re using any chemicals).
If you’re simply spot cleaning by removing the soiled parts of the bedding only, you don’t have to worry about stressing your hamster out. Pick up the pieces you want to remove, and then you’re done.
However, you should remove your hamster from the cage if you plan on using any chemicals or cleaning products to carry out the spot cleaning.
Related Hamster articles:
- How To Tame a Hamster
- Why Is My Hamster Biting Me
- How To Tell if a Hamster Is Pregnant
- What Does a Dead Hamster Look Like?
- Why Is My Hamster Biting the Cage
- How To Calm a Hamster Down
You should only change hamster bedding if:
- The bedding is soiled significantly.
- There’s an unpleasant odor.
- No other viable option is available.
Some other essential things to remember are:
- Hamsters rely on smells for navigation, so you should only replace bedding if it’s completely necessary.
- If it’s a small cage, you should change the bedding weekly.
- Changing bedding too frequently is bad, but not changing it enough is also bad.
- Do a thorough cage clean once a week to maintain sanitation.
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