Does My Hamster Need a Sand Bath?

Hamsters don’t like water baths, but if they begin to look a bit grubby, they may enjoy cleaning themselves in a sand bath. This is what they would do in the wild. A water bath would wash away the special oils on the hamster’s coat, and these help keep the animal healthy. Removing them could result in skin problems. Water should therefore only be used if there is something toxic on the animal’s fur, which would damage the hamster when it tries to lick it off.

So, a sand bath will be appreciated – even if there’s no immediate reason why the hamster needs to have a clean up. They simply enjoy it (well – most of them do!) If the hamster is dirty, ask yourself why. Is he not grooming himself properly, and is that down to some other issue? Is his skin scabby or crusty? Is he losing hair anywhere? Is it his rear end or genitals that are looking dirty?

If any of these are the issue, it’s probably not a bath that’s needed. The root cause of the grubbiness may be a more serious health problem. Talk to a vet for advice.

untidiness may mean poor health
Hamsters enjoy grooming themselves, but a sand bath may also be appreciated

Is Your Hamster Unable To Clean Itself?

Watch your hamster for a while to check that it’s carrying out normal grooming behaviors.

  • If your pet is not cleaning its face with its paws, it may be a leg injury preventing it.

  • If the hamster is not licking itself or reaching round to groom its back legs then it may have overgrown teeth.

  • If your hamster is grooming as normal but still looking grubby, it may have a skin condition.

  • Matted hair and thinning/balding could mean your pet has skin mites or sarcoptic mange.

  • An unclean rear end is sometimes a symptom of the life-threatening condition wet tail.

Check our Hamster Illnesses section for more information. If there are any worrying symptoms, you should always take your pet to a vet.

How To Prepare A Hamster Sand Bath

If you’re sure your pet is in good health, and merely requires a ‘dry shower’, you can prepare the sand bath. You will need a small container, big enough for the animals to wriggle around in without spilling over the sides. This needs to be half-filled with sand. If you can’t find a sand specially prepared for hamsters in the pet store, look for Chinchilla sand – this will do just as well.

Put your hamster in the sand container, and it will very probably sort itself out by squirming around in the sand. Most hamsters like these baths, but some don’t, so be prepared for your hamster to refuse to ‘bathe’! Sometimes he’s just not in the mood, but if you leave the sand bath in the enclosure over the next hour, he might get round to it when the mood takes him.

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