You might have picked up on some weird quirks in your hamster. It might pull its fur a lot, clean itself behind the ears, comb through its body, and do other little things that seem cute. However, finding your furry baby going overboard with these oddities can be a little concerning.
So, should you be worried about your hamster cleaning itself more than usual?
Well, the truth is that hamsters are very clean animals by nature. They love maintaining their hygiene and cleanliness because of their instinct to keep their scent to a minimum to avoid attracting predators. However, it is not normal for your hamster to groom itself excessively multiple times a day.
In fact, if you find your furry baby cleaning itself too much, it might have skin parasites, dandruff, or infection, or it might be stressed.
Read: Do Pet Hamsters Need a Heat Lamp?
Hamsters and their Instinct to Clean Themselves a Lot
In the wild, hamsters repeatedly cleaned themselves so their scent would not attract predators. Judging by the size of a hamster, many animals pick it up as prey. However, hamsters have learned to develop methods to keep themselves safe over the years.
If they do not groom themselves, predators like owls, wildcats, or snakes might catch their scent and devour them when they least expect it.
Grooming themselves is what keeps hamsters safe. In fact, when they get rid of their scent, they become invisible to their predators. Their self-cleaning method is what keeps them alive in the wild. Without this, we would have no hamsters to keep as pets.
Hence, if your hamster has had the slightest interaction with some element with a smell, you can expect them to start their grooming routine. This means that if they interact with other animals, even hamsters, or lay on a human for some time, they will start cleaning themselves after a while. They usually begin their grooming routine after they have eaten their food.
The next time your hamster is cleaning itself, make sure to pay attention to it. Hamsters usually groom themselves from the hip area and upwards. This is because hamsters secret a scent from their hips that spreads throughout their fur. However, when they clean their hip region, they manage to reduce their smell.
Another reason hamsters clean themselves a lot is because their ancestors lived in the wild in underground areas. These areas are usually caves filled with funnels and nests that are dirty.
So, when a hamster moves around in their house, its fur gets filled with dirt. They have no access to water in their hiding space, so they clean themselves excessively to prevent getting too dirty.
Read: Why is One of My Hamster’s Eyes Closed?
Why is My Hamster Cleaning Itself a Lot
1. Hygiene Purposes
There are very few animals on earth that are as clean as hamsters. On average, a hamster will spend several hours a day cleaning itself. If a hamster is not eating, playing, or sleeping, you will find it licking its fur, paying full attention to its grooming process.
During their hygiene routine, hamsters will use their tiny feet to scratch all over their bodies. They lick their hips, feet, body, and other parts they get their paws on. Hamsters also brush their hair and ears repeatedly to keep them clean.
However, all hamsters are built differently. While some are great at grooming themselves, others are lazier. Hence, do not be alarmed if one hamster cleans itself a lot while the other does not.
If you feel something is wrong with your hamster, you can always consult a veterinary professional for guidance.
Hamsters are timid creatures who get scared and scarred easily. This means that if your hamster has just relocated or has been mishandled, it will start shows signs of stress or depression. Hamsters use grooming as a coping mechanism to deal with this stress.
In fact, this is why a hamster will start cleaning itself immediately after it is brought home from a rescue center or pet store – they are shifted into a new, unfamiliar environment where they do not feel safe yet.
When they feel stressed, hamsters start to groom themselves excessively. Most people can instantly tell the difference between stress grooming and routine grooming. One way to reduce stress and make your hamster feel better is by refraining from touching it too much.
Moreover, if you have other pets around the house, do not let them get too close to your hamster.
Keep in mind that loud noises and location changes can also stress out a hamster. You want to keep your little friend as calm as possible, avoid significant dietary or environmental changes, and not touch it frequently to settle in and calm down.
If you are unsure if your hamster is stressed, keep a close eye on it. Is it biting its cage repeatedly? If yes, you should assume that your hamster’s grooming habit is associated with high stress.
During this time, you must try everything to lower your pet’s stress levels. Too much stress can lead to death so take good care of your hamster.
3. Marking Territories
You might not think so because of the size of a hamster, but these creatures are highly territorial. They are very intolerant of any smell on their bodies apart from their own. Hence, if you have been playing with your hamster and suddenly find it cleaning itself, don’t take it personally.
Since hamsters are solitary creatures, they like being on their own. However, if your hamster recognizes you, it will play with you a little before retreating into its enclosure.
If you have other pets around your house in the United States who have developed worms, they risk infecting your hamster with worms and parasites. Hence, if one of your pets feels unwell or develops an unnatural condition, take it to the vet as soon as possible before it infects other creatures.
Of course, your hamster will try its best to get rid of the parasites on its body by itself. However, some parasites can be severe and do not leave a host’s body quickly. Your hamster will only feel better if you take it to a vet.
If a vet is unavailable, give your hamster a sand bath and see if it feels better. However, this temporary solution may not resolve the problem long term.
5. Allergies or Skin Infection
If a hamster is suffering from a skin infection or allergies, it may start grooming itself excessively in an attempt to feel better. Hamsters usually develop skin conditions if they play around in dirty places. Moreover, tropical insect bites can also lead to skin infections.
If you find your hamster scratching itself more than usual, look closely at it. Do you see any weird patches of skin that require immediate attention?
Just like humans, hamsters can also get dandruff. Since hamsters have thick fur, dandruff can cause a significant amount of itching. If you find your hamster excessively grooming and itching with its tiny paws, it might have dandruff in its fur.
Your hamster can develop dandruff for many reasons, such as improper diet or dry bedding.
The best way to fight dandruff is to get in touch with your veterinary professional. Your vet might recommend that you switch up your hamster’s diet.
One standard treatment is adding cheese, carrots, and olive oil into their daily routine. Combining these three food items might help cure your hamster’s dandruff problems.
Read: Do Dogs and Hamsters Get Along? [7 Explanations]
How to Stop Your Hamster from Cleaning itself a Lot
Before making significant decisions, remember that it is a hamster’s instinct to clean itself. If your hamster is grooming itself without showing other signs, it might be completely okay.
However, if this self-grooming technique becomes excessive, you need to take your hamster to a vet who can check your hamster for any problems.
Here are some ways you can stop your hamster from cleaning itself a lot:
1. Give its Cage a Good Scrub
As we have mentioned before, hamsters are neat creatures who do not like dirt. Cleanliness is a huge part of their personality, and they do not compromise. Hence, if you want to keep your hamster healthy and happy, you need to keep it in clean surroundings.
This means cleaning your hamster’s enclosure from time to time. Pay special attention to the corners of the cage and get rid of the litter so that mites are not attracted by it. If you want your hamster to stop cleaning itself excessively, give it a clean cage to live in, and it will thank you silently.
If you feel like your hamster’s cage is outdated, you should consider getting an upgrade. You can easily find a ton of options online in the US.
Hamsters do not do well in the dark. They do not deal well in a cold climate, so to keep your hamster healthy, provide it with a bit of sunlight. Place the hamster’s cage strategically around your house so sunlight enters it.
Another tip is to keep your hamster’s cage in a ventilated area. This is bound to help your hamster calm down and, eventually, put a stop to its excessive grooming behavior.
Just as diet is vital for humans, a hamster’s food also determines its health. A healthy diet keeps a hamster’s immune system healthy and happy. If you ignore your hamster’s diet, it can become aggressive, clumsy, and overweight.
When hamsters get angry, they will start grooming themselves excessively. If you are unsure what to feed your hamster, talk to your vet and get an approved list of foods you can provide to ensure that it grows well.
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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