Hamsters are friendly, cuddly creatures that make for exceptional pets. They take up very little room and are easy and inexpensive to care for, making them some of the lowest maintenance pets you can keep in your home. However, a hamster cage can sometimes become smelly enough to turn into a nuisance.
Here’s how to keep a hamster cage from smelling:
- Check your hamster’s health.
- Select an appropriate cage.
- Provide suitable substrate and bedding.
- Properly maintain the cage.
- Potty train your hamster.
- Clean your hamster.
- Ventilate the room.
- Use an air purifier.
Following the simple steps outlined in this article will help you make sure that your hamster cage stays in excellent, odor-free condition. This way, your hamster will be able to enjoy an atmosphere in which it can thrive, while you won’t have to explain that weird smell to any of your house guests.
1. Check Your Hamster’s Health
Hamsters are relatively clean animals. As a prey species that is pretty low down in the food chain, they have evolved to spend a lot of time cleaning themselves. They learned this behavior in the wild, where it helped them evade predators by masking their scent.
Because they regularly groom themselves, hamsters do not usually smell bad when healthy. Therefore, if your hamster cage is smellier than usual, it might indicate a change in your hamster’s health condition. If this is the case, you should address the issue immediately.
Make Sure Your Hamster Is Eating a Well-Balanced Diet
Hamsters are omnivorous animals that need a varied and well-balanced diet to maintain good digestive health. If your hamster’s diet isn’t well-balanced, your pet can develop digestive issues. That bad smell emanating from your hamster cage might be a result of unhealthy feces or gasses being passed within the confined space.
To prevent these types of issues, you’ll always want to make sure to feed your hamster a balanced and nutritionally-rich diet. It is alright to feed your hamster a store-bought grain mix, but you should regularly top this up with fresh fruits and vegetables, herbs, and animal protein. This way, your hamster will get all the necessary fiber, vitamins, and minerals it needs.
Fluker’s Freeze-Dried Reptile Treats, available on Amazon.com, are a great source of essential proteins and amino acids for your hamster. Freeze-dried mealworms are less cumbersome to store than live worms and require less processing than raw meats.
I also recommend Higgins Group Sunburst Herb Garden, which is manufactured by the Higgins Group (based in the US) and available on Amazon.com. It comprises a wide assortment of ingredients that are highly beneficial for your hamster’s health, including peas, oats, carrots, beets, spearmint, chamomile, parsley, and alfalfa petals.
Finally, avoid feeding your hamster dairy products such as cheese or vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower, which are known to produce gas build-up. Moreover, try to avoid too many carbohydrates and highly acidic foods.
Check if Your Hamster Is Sick
A stinking hamster cage can also indicate that your hamster is sick. Your pet might have a bladder or urinary tract infection that is causing its urine to smell unusually pungent. If you’re unsure of the source of the problem, you should consult a vet at the earliest.
A hamster may also have diarrhea. In the worst cases, diarrhea or ‘wet tail’ may also be a symptom of Proliferative ileitis, a potentially fatal bacterial infection. If your hamster’s health doesn’t improve through changes in its diet, consult a vet immediately.
Your Hamster May Be Exhibiting Normal Reproductive Behavior
Female hamsters release pheromones every four days or so as part of their routine sexual behavior. While pheromones are attractive to male hamsters, they can often leave a funky smell in your hamster’s cage.
Similarly, male hamsters are territorial animals. They have larger scent glands than the females and regularly mark their territory by rubbing their scent glands on every surface inside their enclosures.
If this seems to be the case, follow the general guidelines for good housekeeping, which I’ll cover more in-depth in the following sections of this article. Most importantly, regularly clean your hamster cage and ensure it is well ventilated.
Finally, it’s best not to keep more than one male hamster in a cage. Two or more male hamsters in a single enclosure can become aggressive about marking their territory if they see each other as threats.
2. Select an Appropriate Cage
Housing a hamster in an inappropriately small or poorly ventilated enclosure is a common reason for a smelly hamster cage. Small cages provide so little room that sometimes hamsters may even end up covered in their own feces or urine.
Similarly, a poorly ventilated cage will trap any unpleasant smells, whereas in a well-ventilated enclosure, foul odors will dissipate as fresh air from outside circulates through.
Another benefit of a spacious enclosure is that it requires less frequent cleanings. You may only need to do a thorough cage clean once every month or two if you have an appropriately sized cage. Of course, you’ll still need to do the regular spot cleaning.
The California Hamster Association recommends an enclosure with a minimum floor area of 2903 sq cm (450 sq in). Their website also offers sound advice on cage selection and explains the pros and cons of different cage styles.
A roomy cage will not just keep foul odors away; it can also improve your pet’s well-being.
In their natural habitat, hamsters enjoy large territories. One study reports a minimum of 118 m (387 ft) between hamster burrows in the wild. As pets, they continue to need room to eat, sleep, exercise, and explore.
Without adequate room, not only will your hamster cage stink, but it will also house one unhappy hamster.
3. Provide Suitable Substrate and Bedding
Hamsters are burrowing animals. Their cages need to be laid with an adequately thick layer of the proper substrate so that your hamster can burrow and build nesting materials to bed in. A suitable substrate will also keep your hamster cage hygienic by absorbing urine.
Hamster bedding should be comfortable and safe for your hamster. It should be non-toxic and hypoallergenic. At the same time, it should have good absorbency so that your hamster cage remains hygienic and odor-free.
Choosing between comfort and good absorbency can involve trade-offs that make the decision challenging.
For instance, hamsters love a wood shaving substrate because it closely mimics the materials they encounter in nature. However, wood shavings also have poorer absorbency than some artificial substrates available in the market. As a result, they can quickly start emitting a strong odor.
If you’re looking for some highly absorbent hamster bedding, I recommend the Kaytee Clean & Cozy Small Animal Pet Bedding from Amazon.com. It absorbs six times its own weight in liquid and twice as much as wood shavings.
If you’re willing to put up with a little more odor and prefer bedding made of wood shavings for your hamster’s comfort, consider the Kaytee Aspen Bedding from Amazon.com. Their product is made from natural Aspen shavings, specifically processed to eliminate dust and wood debris.
4. Properly Maintain the Cage
Once you’ve bought a suitable cage and stocked it with proper bedding and toys, you’ll need to keep a regular maintenance schedule to ensure your hamster cage stays fresh and free of foul odors. This can also be vital for your pet’s health.
Spot-Clean a Hamster Cage Daily
While you don’t need to thoroughly clean a hamster cage every day, doing a daily spot-check can make it easier to keep your hamster cage cleaner for longer. By doing so, you’ll only need to conduct a thorough cleaning once every month or so (as long as you have a larger enclosement).
Ideally, you should remove any old food that has accumulated inside the hamster cage. You should also replace the water and any soiled bedding inside the hamster cage every day.
Replacing the water in a hamster cage ensures there’s no algae build-up from stagnant water that has been sitting around in the cage for a long time. Similarly, replacing soiled bedding ensures that the ammoniac stench of hamster urine doesn’t fill your room. However, both of these cleaning approaches also protect your hamster’s health.
Thoroughly Clean a Hamster Cage
A standard-sized hamster cage needs to be cleaned thoroughly at least once a week. On the other hand, as long as regular spot-checks are done, the largest cages need to be cleaned only once every month.
Before performing a full cage clean, transfer your hamster to another location to avoid stressing it out or exposing it to any cleaning agents. Make sure that your pet is not only safely secured but also stress-free in its temporary home.
Once your hamster is safely kept away, remove all the items inside its cage. Clean all the surfaces of the enclosure with a diluted mixture of mild soap and warm water.
I recommend the Natural Chemistry Healthy Habitat Cleaner and Deodorizer from Amazon.com. It is all-natural, hypoallergenic, includes no harsh chemicals, and is safe for your pet.
Once you’re done cleaning, meticulously dry out the cage using a dry towel. Only once it is completely dry should you restock the cage and return the hamster to it.
When you restock the hamster cage after cleaning it, be sure to replace the bedding. Clean your hamster’s food and water dishes, and remove or replace any damaged toys. Finally, give the hamster cage a good once over to see if there’s any damage from your hamster’s chewing activity.
5. Potty Train Your Hamster
Usually, hamsters will use only one section of their cage as a toilet. However, if your hamster’s toilet behavior is a bit erratic, it could quickly lead to a smelly, hard-to-clean cage. Luckily, by taking a few simple measures, you can potty train your hamster and solve this problem.
To train your hamster to use a litter box, place one in the corner that it has used most recently. Putting some soiled bedding and chinchilla sand into the box should trick it into following a more hygenic routine within just a few weeks.
For a step-by-step outline on how to potty train your hamster, check out the following YouTube video:
6. Clean Your Hamster
Hamsters are generally very good at grooming themselves. As long as their environment is kept clean, they should not get excessively dirty. On the odd occasion when your hamster is a little extra smelly because of dirt, food, or waste sticking onto it, you may need to clean it.
However, even if you want to clean a hamster, you should never bathe it. Bathing a hamster with soap can remove the essential oils in its fur and leave it vulnerable to infections.
To clean a hamster, use a soft, dry brush designed specifically for cleaning small animals. You should be able to get one at your nearest pet store.
7. Ventilate the Room
Another way to alleviate the smell of a hamster cage is to ensure it is placed in a well-ventilated area. Circulating air through the enclosure is the best way to ensure your room stays fresh and any bad smells don’t linger.
If you can’t leave the windows open throughout the day, make sure you give the room proper airing at least once a day. You could also use a fan to aid air circulation through the room if it’s cramped or the windows aren’t big enough.
8. Use an Air Purifier
If your room is poorly ventilated and you have nowhere else to place your hamster cage, you can use an air purifier to improve the air quality in the room. The filter in a purifier will eliminate particulate matter circulating through the room and should alleviate any bad odor lingering in the space.
Hamsters are generally very clean. Like any animal, they emit some smells as part of their routine biology. However, as long as they’re healthy, properly housed, and well-cared for, hamsters should not stink.
If a smelly hamster cage is fouling the air in your room, check to see if any of the following solves the problem:
- Check on your hamster’s health.
- Check if its cage and bedding are suitable and well maintained.
- Clean and potty train your hamster.
- Improve the ventilation or air quality in your room.
You may like the following hamster articles:
- Why Is My Hamster Limping?
- How To Cremate a Hamster?
- Why Is My Hamster Hissing?
- How Many Times Can a Hamster Get Pregnant?
- Why Is My Hamster Cold?
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