Hamsters love sand, and there’s no question about it. However, you cannot just offer any sand to your hamsters since certain types of sand can put them at risk for injuries. Vita-sand is one ordinary pet sand that many hamster owners think of using, but is it safe for hamsters?
Vita-Sand is not safe for hamsters as it contains added calcium. Sand with added calcium tends to clump up into tiny choking hazards that can potentially damage a hamster’s respiratory system. Sands that are safe for hamsters include no added calcium, dyes, fragrances, or other additives.
Aside from reptile sand, I’ll also tell you other types of sand you can get for your hamsters and which ones you should avoid. I’ll also discuss why it’s essential to give your hamsters sand and how to prepare sand baths for them properly.
Hamsters need sand to clean themselves. Unlike humans, hamsters should avoid getting wet and thus, cannot bathe in water. So, in their natural habitat, hamsters roll around in the sand to rid themselves of dirt and grease. The sand will also exfoliate and absorb excess oils from their coat.
In short, bathing in the sand is the only way for hamsters to clean their fur thoroughly. Without sand baths, your hamsters will become dirty and smelly.
For that reason, you should provide your hamsters with regular sand baths. That way, their fur will stay clean, healthy, and free from parasites.
Hamsters can’t get wet since water can strip the oils from a hamster’s coat. As a result, it will lose its insulating properties, leaving the hamster exposed to the elements. Moreover, the hamster will also become more susceptible to various diseases and skin problems.
Furthermore, these small rodents originally came from dry and warm areas, such as dunes, steppes, and deserts. So, if you live in colder states, such as New York and Minnesota, your hamster can easily catch a cold when its fur gets wet.
You should never bathe your hamster with water unless something toxic is on your pet’s fur. Water is not beneficial for hamsters’ coats, but if there is something more dangerous than water in their fur, such as cleaning chemicals or hazardous pests, you may have to scrub it off.
So, generally speaking, you should never bathe your hamster in water.
That said, there’s always an exception to the rule. Experts say that you’re allowed to bathe your hamster in water in emergencies. For example, if there’s something dangerous stuck on its coat.
However, even then, you should use as little water as possible and avoid submerging its head in the water. You should also dry the hamster thoroughly and immediately place it somewhere warm.
If possible, try spot-cleaning instead. To do this, wet a cloth with warm water and wring it out. Gently dab the cloth to clean dirty spots on the hamster’s fur. Once the hamster is clean, immediately use a dry towel to absorb excess moisture from its coat.
A hamster sand bath is typically a small container filled with sand in which a hamster can roll around to clean its fur. Since hamsters cannot bathe in water, sand baths are essential for sloughing off dirt and excess oils from their bodies.
Additionally, sand baths are a fun environmental enrichment to keep hamsters entertained.
With how essential sand baths are for hamsters, you must pick the right kind of sand for your little friends. While the correct sand can keep hamsters clean and happy, the wrong ones can potentially injure and even kill them.
In the following sections, I’ll tell you the best and worst types of sand you can get for your hamsters and offer some recommendations for a happy, healthy, clean pet.
Now that you understand why hamsters need sand, it’s time to figure out what type of sand you should get. As mentioned earlier, you shouldn’t just get any random sand. Choosing the wrong product can injure your hamster.
First, here are some properties you should look for when looking for sand for your hamster:
- It should not contain additives, such as calcium, dyes, and fragrances.
- Granules shouldn’t be very fine or dust-like.
- The package should say that it is safe for hamsters or small pets.
- Able to clump into scoopable lumps.
Keeping that in mind, the best types of sand you can get for your hamsters include:
- Hamster sand
- Chinchilla sand
- Plain reptile sand
- Children’s play sand
Now, let me tell you why these sands will be perfect for your tiny rodent buddies. Additionally, I’ll give you some excellent sand recommendations that I’ve used for my pets.
Hamster-specific sand is always a great place to start! Sands in this category are usually made specifically for cleaning a hamster’s coat.
The sand particles are typically abrasive enough to eliminate any dirt and grime of a hamster’s fur. The proper sand can also absorb excess oil and moisture for your hamster’s skin and coat. However, hamster sand is usually gentle enough not to hurt your hamster’s delicate skin.
That said, you shouldn’t immediately trust any sand with a “hamster-safe” label. Plenty of hamster-safe sand marketed in the USA includes dangerous chemicals and additives that can harm your hamster.
Only choose plain hamster sand that contains no additives, such as this Niteangel Hamster Desert Bath Sand from Amazon.com. This sand is all-natural and completely dust-free, making it a safe and fantastic choice for your tiny rodent friends.
Chinchilla sand is another excellent option for your hamsters. It usually has decent clumping and odor-control abilities.
That said, not every chinchilla sand is safe for hamsters. Plenty of them are too fine for hamsters. You should avoid any product labeled only as “chinchilla dust.”
Instead, opt for multi-pet bathing sand for chinchillas, hamsters, and other small animals. Any substrate with a dusty quality poses a substantial risk to a hamster’s respiratory system.
Supreme Tiny Friends Farm Bathing Sand from Amazon.com is one of the best chinchilla sands you can get for your hamster. It’s dust-free and contains no additives.
Furthermore, the grain size and density have been proven to effectively clean a hamster’s coat without posing any health risk.
High-quality hamsters and chinchilla sands can be super expensive. If you wish to save a couple of bucks, reptile sand can be an effective and affordable choice.
Reptile sand is typically dust-free but still fine enough not to hurt hamsters. Furthermore, reptile sand can also clump lightly. So, it’s easy to clean, but it isn’t a choking hazard for your hamster.
However, note that many commercial reptile sands contain calcium carbonate, which harms hamsters. Just make sure to pick plain reptile sand without any colorants or calcium, and you’re golden!
Zoo Med ReptiSand from Amazon.com is one of the best reptile sand you can get for your hamsters. The sand is all-natural, free from dyes and fragrances, and includes no added calcium.
Plus, it’s also ready to use out of the bag, so you don’t have to worry about cleaning and sterilizing it before giving your hamsters a nice sand bath.
Children’s play sand is another affordable option for your hamsters. It’s by far the cheapest option on this list. Still, make sure to pick plain play sand that does not contain glitters, fragrances, dyes, or small toys.
Also, note that you must sterilize play sand before giving it to hamsters. You can do this by baking the sand.
Here’s how you can bake play sand and sterilize it for hamsters:
- Preheat the oven to 350 °F – 400 °F (176.6 °C – 204.4 °C).
- Pour the sand into a baking pan.
- Bake it for at least an hour.
- Check if the sand is dry. If not, let it bake for an additional 20 minutes.
- Allow the sand to cool completely before giving it to your hamsters.
On the other hand, you should avoid offering these types of sand to your hamsters:
- Sand with additives
- Clay-based sand and dust
- Calcium sand
- Aquarium sand
This section will elaborate on how they can be harmful to your hamsters.
Sand with additives, such as dyes, deodorizers, and fragrances, is a big no-no for hamsters.
Since they love burrowing into the sand, they might accidentally inhale or ingest these potentially harmful substances.
Unfortunately, some commercial pet sand marketed in the USA belongs in this category.
First, colored sands, even those marketed as safe for hamsters, should be avoided at all costs. In the best-case scenario, it might stain your hamster’s coat. In the worst-case scenario, the dyes might harm your hamster’s digestive or respiratory system.
In addition, deodorant sand may seem like a good choice for preventing foul odors. However, there’s usually no information regarding what chemicals give the sand its deodorizing properties, and some of these materials may harm your pet. Plus, scented sand can easily irritate a hamster’s respiratory tract.
Clay-based sand and dust pose a severe threat to your hamsters. When inhaled, they can cause respiratory issues.
Difficulty breathing is an ordinary problem hamsters face after rolling around in the dust. Prolonged exposure may eventually cause a decline in your hamster’s breathing ability and capacity. Additionally, research shows that inhaling clay particles can result in scarring of lung tissues.
In short, clay-based sand and dust might cause hamsters to suffocate slowly. So, never use them!
As its name suggests, calcium sand contains calcium carbonate. Aside from being a choking hazard when ingested or inhaled, calcium sand poses an even more significant threat to your hamsters.
If ingested in large amounts, calcium carbonate can cause alkalosis and hypercalcemia. Those conditions will make your hamsters unable to digest their food correctly and cause constipation. Those conditions can eventually result in muscle weakness, nerve damage, paralysis, and death.
You should also avoid using aquarium sand for sand baths. First, aquarium sand is usually too rough and gravelly. So, it might cause your hamsters to cut themselves as they bathe.
Furthermore, aquarium sand typically contains calcium or silica. I’ve already explained why calcium sand is harmful to hamsters, but what about silica sand?
Silica is a known carcinogen. It’s usually in regular sand in the wild. Still, while a tiny amount of silica is generally safe for mammals, aquarium sand usually contains far too much silica for a hamster to handle.
Prolonged exposure and silica inhalation could damage the hamsters’ lungs and autoimmune system.
Check out, Is Aquarium Sand Safe for Hamsters?
Now that you know which types of sand to choose, you’re ready for the next steps! Let me give you some tips and pointers so you can prepare the best sand baths for your furry friends.
Choosing the perfect sand container is just as important as picking the best sand. Hamsters like to feel safe as they bathe, so here’s what you should look for in your sand bathtub:
- Lightweight containers are preferable.
- Must provide enough space for a hamster to roll around.
- It should not have holes as hamsters can get stuck.
- Containers with hides or coverings above are preferable.
Next, let’s figure out how much sand a hamster needs in its sand bath.
A hamster needs enough sand that it can roll around without touching the bottom or sides of the container. There’s no need to fill the container up to the brim. Usually, just one or two inches of sand should suffice.
Don’t forget to adjust the amount of sand to the hamster’s body size as well. Larger breeds like Syrian hamsters will require more sand to bathe comfortably. On the other hand, dwarf breeds don’t need as much sand.
Naturally, the sand bath will get dirty after a while, especially since some hamsters love peeing inside their sand baths. So, to maintain your hamster’s hygiene, you should clean the sand bath regularly.
Aim to clean the sand bath at least once a week or whenever it gets stinky. To do this, sift the sand to remove any seed casings, clumps, and bits of poop. You should also wash the sand and the container every month to keep everything fresh and clean.
Related Hamsters articles:
- Where Do Hamsters Live in the Wild?
- Can You Die From a Hamster Bite?
- How To Get Rid of Hamster Mites?
- Why Is My Hamster Not Drinking Water
- How To Get Rid of a Hamster
Sand baths are a necessity if you want to keep your hamsters happy and clean. That said, don’t just pick any random sand you see at the pet store. While Vita-Sand isn’t safe for hamsters, there are many other types and brands of sand you can offer for your hamsters.
Make sure to avoid any sand with additives, dust, or fine granules. You should also avoid clay-based sand and aquarium sand as they can hurt your hamsters’ respiratory system. Always do your research beforehand so your little rodent friends can stay happy, clean, and healthy!
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