Hamsters may have many weaknesses, but staying clean isn’t one of them! These cute little critters are fastidious about cleanliness and clean their fur several times daily. That’s why it’s surprising and even worrying if you notice your hamster smelling bad.
Your hamster stinks, likely because of poor cage hygiene. Hamsters sleep in their bedding, and without proper cage cleaning, they’ll spend most of their time in dirty, soiled bedding. Maintain a regular cleaning schedule to ensure your hamster and its cage always smell good.
Read on to find out more possible causes of that off-putting smell you notice on your hamster. You’ll also learn how to safely get rid of any unpleasant odor from your pet.
Hamsters are naturally clean animals that hate to be dirty. They spend a significant part of their day cleaning and generally grooming themselves.
Little wonder AVMA’s 2012 statistics show that hamsters are the fourth most popular exotic pets in the United States, with 877 out of every 1,000 households owning one of these cute animals.
Like any other animal, these short-tailed rodents have their natural smell, but they usually don’t have an offensive odor.
That said, hamsters can start to smell bad in certain situations.
Here are some of the reasons for that disagreeable smell you notice on your furry friend.
Indeed, your cute hamster will naturally groom itself for as long as it can every day. But the pet can’t clean its cage.
It’s normal for your pet to smell like its environment. If your hamster’s enclosure is dirty, it won’t take long for your hamster to stink.
Cleaning a hamster’s cage (or any pet’s cage, for that matter) may not be the most thrilling task. Yet, ignoring regular cleaning can make your pet stink to high heaven! That’s apart from the increased risk of health problems resulting from living in a dirty environment.
Part of being a responsible pet owner is taking the cleanliness of your animal’s enclosure very seriously.
Hamsters need to eat a balanced diet to stay healthy and smell nice. Unfortunately, not everything your hamster loves to eat is good for its health.
Some foods can cause your pet to stink once the animal consumes and processes them.
Your best bet to keeping your pet happy and healthy is to avoid foods high in acids and offer more high-quality commercial pellets in addition to fresh herbs and seeds.
Offer a few treats a couple of times a week to keep things fun for your pet. But don’t overdo it because it can lead to health problems.
Sick hamsters may start to stink. Bad smell from illness is usually common if the animal has diarrhea (or wet tail), which leads to stinky watery stools.
Bladder problems and womb infections in female hamsters can also make your hamster smell bad.
Like most mammals, hamsters have scent glands that produce pheromones. The smell of the scent gland varies in different hamsters.
Some hamsters may have a strong, musky smell because of their scent glands. Yet, the smell may be unnoticeable in some hamsters.
For example, some female Syrian hamsters can have a very potent smell. Also, you may notice a stronger smell in dwarf breeds after handling them.
Sexual maturity in hamsters can make them smell differently.
Mature male hamsters will rub their scent glands on almost everything around them to mark their territory. They do this a couple of times a year, and you may notice a stronger smell at these times.
Mature female hamsters secrete sexual pheromones to attract males. This natural process will happen once every four days in females, even if you don’t have any male hamsters around. The only exception is when the female hamster is pregnant.
Of course, there would be no need for the natural attraction process to continue after conception.
Figuring out why your hamster skink is one half of the equation; knowing how to stop or reduce the smell is the next logical thing.
Here are the most effective ways to rid your adorable hamster of the unpleasant smell:
If your hamster smells odd, your first port of call is to clean the cage.
But this isn’t just a one-off thing.
Every responsible pet owner must establish a regular cage-cleaning schedule and stick to it.
True, removing soiled bedding and fecal matter isn’t as fun as cuddling your adorable little hamster. But your cute buddy won’t stay so adorable for too long if you leave it in its mess.
Of course, it’s not practical to thoroughly clean the cage every day. That would be too demanding.
Do the following instead:
- Spot-clean the cage daily. Take time to go through your hamster’s enclosure every day to remove leftover food, clean the potty area, and change any soiled bedding. If you don’t clean your hamster’s cage regularly, the cage can quickly become stinky; thus, your hamster will become stinky, too.
- Do thorough cleaning once a week. Wipe down the cage and change the bedding. Wash the water bottle and food dishes. Remember to keep a small portion of the old bedding to help your hamster recognize the old scent. Your hamster may get stressed out if you throw all of the old bedding.
- Deep-clean the entire cage once or twice a month. Empty the cage and thoroughly clean it using clean water and unscented soap. Wash and properly dry all toys and pieces of furniture before returning them to the clean cage. Add fresh bedding.
Some foods are not healthy for hamsters. They can even cause your pet to smell slightly odd. For example, yogurt, cheese, and some other dairy products can make them pass gas.
Although hamster farts shouldn’t smell too bad because the gas is too little for you to perceive, excessive farting might be an indication of a poor or inappropriate diet.
Changing your pet’s food may improve its smell if the odor isn’t a result of an underlying health issue or poor hygiene.
Your hamster may start to smell a few days after eating something new. It can be helpful to note any new food and take it off the menu if you think it is responsible for the bad odor.
Many first-time hamster owners make the mistake of housing their pet in small enclosure, probably because of their small size. And to make things worse, they put the cage in a stuffy area in their homes.
Putting your hamster’s cage in a location with little airflow can increase the chances of odd smells, even if you maintain a regular cleaning schedule.
Move the enclosure to a well-ventilated area in your home to improve the smell.
However, make sure to put the cage in an area without a draft.
You should pay close attention to the amount of airflow in the cage location. Doing so is especially necessary if you live in Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, or any of the windiest states of the U.S. (or whatever part of the world you live).
Take your hamster to a vet as quickly as possible if it has a condition known as the ‘wet tail’ or any bowel problems.
A foul smell is the least of your concerns in this case because diarrhea can be deadly in hamsters, particularly in the Syrian breed.
However, diarrhea isn’t the only health condition that can cause a hamster to stink. Your pet may have other health problems you may not know about and can cause it to smell.
It’s usually best to see a vet if you are sure the unpleasant odor from your hamster isn’t a result of an unclean environment.
Hamsters hibernate during the colder months when temperatures drop below 40°F (4.5°C). In the USA, the hibernation period for hamsters falls between December and February.
Of course, this means hamsters don’t groom or clean themselves when they’re hibernating. So, does that mean they’ll stink?
Hamsters don’t stink when they hibernate, fortunately. During hibernation, your hamster’s body may be cold to the touch and even appear lifeless, but your hamster isn’t dead and shouldn’t give off any foul odor. If your hamster smells awful while hibernating, it’s probably dead.
How can you tell if your pet is merely hibernating or dead? Should you wake a hibernating hamster if it smells bad?
You can wake your furry friend from its deep “sleep” if the unpleasant smell persists. But don’t just go poking it.
Here’s how to do it:
- Move your hamster’s cage into a warm room with a temperature of around 68°F (20°C).
- Keep an eye on the pet for up to three days.
A hibernating hamster should come out of the hypothermic condition within two to three days if the weather conditions are right.
If your pet isn’t awake within that time, that means it’s dead, hence the bad smell.
You shouldn’t bathe your hamster, even if it looks dirty or smells bad. Bathing your hamster will remove its natural skin oil and expose it to the cold. Your hamster can clean itself when dirty. The only exception to this is if your vet expressly tells you to bathe your hamster in water.
It’s crucial to let your kids know the dangers of cleaning a hamster with water. Water can make the pet too cold and eventually kill it if you don’t provide warmth. Hamsters are not dogs or cats that enjoy bathing in water.
Also, hamsters aren’t like ducks, so they don’t like swimming in the water. If anything, water can easily agitate and stress them.
But bathwater is not the only thing you should keep away from your little critter.
Avoid cleaning your hamster with disinfectant wipes or wet wipes. Any of these can harm your pet.
So, if water is off the table, what should you do to help your cute little friend clean a spot on its body it can’t seem to reach on its own?
In that case, consider any of the following tips:
Add pet-safe sand in your pet’s cage if you want to help it with “bathing.” Your furry little friend will roll in the sand to remove any stains on its body.
However, make sure you only choose sand specifically made for hamsters.
Look for unscented bathing sand without calcium. Reptile sand is great for hamster baths. The product is available in many stores across Kansas City, New Jersey, New York, and nearly everywhere in the United States.
You can also order from many online stores.
Whatever you do, avoid sand dust or extremely fine sand.
Your furry friend can inhale the tiny particles of the sand dust. If this happens, it can cause severe respiratory problems for your pet.
Spot cleaning is another way to get rid of stubborn stains from your hamster’s fur. You’ll need a waterless shampoo product for pets to do this correctly.
Spray the waterless shampoo on a soft cloth and wipe off the stain.
Be cautious with the product when you apply it to the cloth. Although waterless shampoo is generally safe for pets, you don’t want it anywhere near your hamster’s mouth or eyes.
Related Hamster articles:
- Is Vita-Sand Safe for Hamsters?
- Why Is My Hamster So Hyper All of a Sudden?
- Why Is My Hamster Running Around Like Crazy?
- How To Calm a Hamster Down
- How Long Can a Lost Hamster Survive?
A clean living environment makes for a nice-smelling hamster. For this reason, it’s important to maintain a regular cleaning schedule to reduce any smells in your hamster’s cage.
Change soiled beddings and remove leftover foods from the enclosure every day to reduce the buildup of foul odor. Ensure that your pet is in good health. See a vet as quickly as possible if you think your hamster stinks because it is ill.
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