Wondering how to get your hamster cleaned up with a sand bath? Or maybe if you should offer one for your hammy's amusement? Sand baths are a great solution for keeping a hamster clean and odor-free without posing any risks to their health. This thoroughly-researched guide to sand bathing will teach you everything that you’ll need to know about using sand baths to keep your hamster fresh and clean.
Giving your hamster a sand bath includes several steps -
- Choosing the right sand and bath dish.
- Filling up the dish with 10 spoonfuls of appropriate bath sand.
- Placing the dish in the corner of the hamster's cage.
So, how do you choose the right sand and the right bath dish? And how often should you provide a sand bath? We've covered these in this detailed guide, as well as additional questions to ask yourself may pertain to your particular hamster’s species. Do dwarf hamsters have the same hygiene needs as Syrian hamsters? All of these and more will be answered below, so read on!
How do you give a hamster a Sand Bath?
Hamsters are very clean animals by nature, but that doesn’t mean that they never get dirty. While you should never give your hamster a bath in water, there is an alternative that you should know about, just in case your pet becomes a bit on the smelly side.
Bathing in the sand is a natural instinct that hamsters have, as this is what they do to maintain their hygiene in the wild. Hamster owners can replicate this experience in their homes. It is important for a hamster’s health that their owner make these decisions carefully and use only the highest-quality products.
The preparation of the sand bath is easy and takes only a couple of minutes before you’re ready to place it into your hamster’s enclosure. Follow these brief, step-by-step instructions to easily and quickly set up the dish so that bath time may begin.
- Clean the bathing dish thoroughly, making sure that it is totally dry before use.
- Using a tablespoon, fill the dish with around 10 tablespoons of your chosen chinchilla/hamster/reptile sand.
- Place the sand bath in the cage, preferably in a corner to minimize the amount of sand that gets kicked around and outside of the bath.
See? It’s easy!
Once the hamster is done with their bath, the sand might be soiled. It should be removed from the cage promptly to eliminate the risk of accumulating odors.
How do I Choose the Right Sand for Their Bath?
In nature, hamsters will burrow into and roll around in the sand or coarse dirt in order to clean their skin and fur. Hamster owners can buy commercial sand bathing product online and at their local pet supply store. These products have been designed to imitate what they would do to keep themselves clean outside of the more sterile condition of their owner’s home.
The coarse particles of the sand are abrasive enough to slough dirt and other forms of grime off of the hamster’s body without the need for water, which can make them vulnerable to sickness. The sand itself will also absorb oil and moisture from their skin – that is, if you choose the right sand for the job.
In pet stores and online, the sand you need will often be labeled “chinchilla sand” or “hamster sand.”
This sand is free of dust and is not so fine that it poses respiratory health risks to your pet. For small pets like hamsters and chinchillas, the bath sand helps to ensure ideal skin and coat health without irritants in its all-natural formula.
Reptile Sand as an Alternative to Chinchilla/Hamster Bath Sand
Because certain high-quality types of chinchilla or hamster bath sand can be difficult to find or afford, owners have gotten a bit creative over the years to discover other types of sand that work equally well to keep their hamsters happy and clean. Reptile sand is one such alternative, but like with other types of sand, you need to be careful in making your choice. Certain types of reptile sand, especially the ones that contain calcium, can be dangerous to hamsters.
Reptisand by Zoo Med is a popular sand used by many hamster owners. It is free of dust and potentially harmful calcium, making it a great option for concerned caregivers of hamsters. This sand is ready to use, right out of the bag, and tends to cost a bit less than chinchilla bath sand.
Children’s playtime sand is also a popular alternative to the commercial chinchilla and hamster sand bath products. However, unlike chinchilla sand and hamster sand, it must be sterilized prior to introducing it to your hamster’s environment.
How do I Select the Best Dish for Their Sand Bath?
There are several criteria by which you should judge whether a dish is suitable for your hamster’s sand baths. When shopping around, ask yourself these questions as you make your considerations:
- Would my hamster topple this dish over as they get in or out?
- Does the shape of the dish make it easy for sand to get stuck in the corners or edges?
- Is the dish too tall for my hamster to get in and out easily?
- Is the dish wide enough for my hamster to roll around freely?
Dishes that are in the shape of a wok are very popular due to the stable construction, lack of corners and deeper center that make rolling around fun for the hamster. However, nearly any short, wide container would work for this purpose.
You may also purchase specialized hamster bathhouses, if you’re so inclined, like the one by Kaytee sold here.
How Often Should I Give My Hamster a Sand Bath?
Because you are using pet-safe and dust-free sand, there’s no saying that you can’t let your hamster bathe themselves every day if they want to. Many owners like to leave their pet’s sand bathing dish in their cage so that they may clean themselves and roll around at their leisure.
What’s important here, is making sure that the sand remains clean. Dirty sand will not clean a hamster’s body. For this reason, there are plenty of hamster owners who like to keep their hamster’s bath outside of their cage. This makes it easier to monitor the condition of the sand and clean it as necessary before offering it to their hamster once more.
So, really, it is all up to you and your hamster. If your hamster really enjoys their sand baths, you can let them indulge whenever they’d like to without any harm – as long as you keep their bath sand clean!
Do All Hamsters Need Sand Baths?
Most hamsters will get along just fine without ever having a single sand bath, but this is only true if their cage is kept meticulously clean and they have no health or other physical problems that prevent them from grooming themselves adequately.
Do All Types of Hamsters Like Sand Baths?
Hamsters of all common household species, including Syrian hamsters, have been observed as loving their sand baths. The same is true of the opposite: hamsters of all species have also turned up their noses at the sand bath. This matter has less to do with the hamster’s breed and more to do with their personality and individual preferences.
Anecdotally, it seems that dwarf hamsters seem much fonder of sand baths than Syrians do, but that doesn’t mean that your Syrian hamster won’t adore the occasional roll-around in the sand. It also doesn’t mean that your dwarf hamster won’t be entirely disinterested in their sand bath. It’s worth trying with each hamster to see what their preference is. You’ll probably need a larger bathing dish if your hamster is a Syrian.
If your hamster has no care for sand baths, don’t leave the sand dish in their cage unless you are okay with them using it as a fancy potty box.
Common Sand Bath Problems
As long as you use the proper type of sand and dish for your hamster’s bath, it will pose no risk to his or her health. Still, some hamster owners have experienced at least one of these two problems with their furry friend:
- Refusal to use the sand bath
- Using the sand bath as a litter box
Most hamsters will take to their sand bath with little convincing, but some never really get into it – and that’s okay! Your hamster isn’t likely to get sick just because they don’t want to roll around in the dust. If they don’t seem keen on using it, you should remove the sand bath from their enclosure right away. This will prevent them from relieving themselves in what was supposed to have been their bath.
Can Hamsters be Given Dust Baths Instead of Sand Baths?
Some animals benefit greatly from dust baths, but hamsters are not one of them. Bath dust is made up of significantly smaller particles that can be easily inhaled by your pet and lead to respiratory (breathing) problems. To avoid making this mistake with your hamster, you should avoid any products that contain the word “dust” in the name and are not labeled specifically for pet use.
Sand Baths are Great, Clean Fun for Hamsters!
The benefits of sand baths for hamsters are significant in terms of cleanliness and fun. For hamsters who enjoy flopping and rolling around in the pet-safe sand, there is no better way to get fresh and odor-free! But if your hamster doesn’t seem to enjoy it as others do, you don’t have to worry. Dust baths are not necessary to the health and happiness of hamsters, so long as their owners keep their enclosures clean on a regular basis and remove all soiled bedding from the cage daily.
You can’t let your hamster bathe too much or too little, so you’re free to let them do it on their own terms. Just make sure that the sand, like the rest of their environment, is clean at all times. When you do this, your hamster will consider this part of the grooming process to be quite a luxurious experience.