Hamsters smell bad only when they overly mark their territory or get a disease like wet tail; otherwise, poor self-grooming, poor enclosure maintenance, or an inappropriate choice of bedding material would almost certainly be to blame.
Why do hamsters smell bad?
Hamsters only stink in rare circumstances because they are generally clean animals who never neglect their hygiene.
So, here are some reasons why your hamster or its enclosure might stink:
- Female hamsters in heat may become stinky
If your hamster is a female in a rut, she will release sexual pheromones into the air by marking her bedding with vaginal secretions every 4 days (estrous cycle) or so to attract any nearby male hamsters.
The female hamster’s period will occur every fifth day until she mates and becomes pregnant.
If your hamster is a female, this could be the cause of her strong odor and even stinking up your room; the cause is vaginal marking (some kind of sexual advertisement) in the presence of a male, especially on day 4.
If you have two females in the same enclosure, they’re probably marking their territory with flank-marking, which is why they both stink.
- How to reduce the smell of a heaty female hamster?
To begin, do not keep two female hamsters in the same enclosure to avoid marking-related secretions.
Second, because it is extremely dangerous to put a hamster under anesthesia, you cannot spay your female hamster; it is too dangerous!
Avoid all types of air fresheners, chemical products, and scented beddings that are supposed to mask your hamster’s odor because they have a very sensitive sense of smell.
To reduce the odor of your “heaty” female hamster, get into the habit of cleaning the backside of your pet with a clean tissue (up to 7 times a month, during ovulation cycles) to remove secretions before she spreads them throughout the bedding.
I’ve also read that petting your female hamster will help to calm her down and encourage her to reduce her secretions, but in the end, you just have to get used to the smell, which you only notice when you bring your hamster close to your nose!
- A male hamster that marks its territory could smell really bad
Except for about twice a year, male hamsters do not emit foul odors. They have two larger bilateral scent glands than females and mark their territory by throwing themselves on their sides and rubbing their flank area on the substrate and the other elements by wiggling their hips.
Male hamsters may rub their scent glands on everything in their enclosure, but we’ve noticed that twice a year, they make a kind of advanced marking of territory, secrete more hormones (pituitary – LH and FSH and by their testis), which leads to more androgenic steroids, and the marking of territory is accentuated.
If your hamster stinks, it could be due to his intense territorial marking.
- How to deal with a stinky heaty male hamster?
Calcium Chloride Neutering and Surgical Neutering are both unsafe for your male hamster. Furthermore, your hamster will not spend its entire life scratching itself against the cage elements in order to mark its territory.
You can clean the litterbox and remove the urine-soaked bedding (peeing spots) on a daily basis if he has learned to use it.
This period of excitement will pass, and your male hamster will soon return to his former life and cease this territory marking behavior, and the odor will vanish on its own after a light cleaning or bedding replacement.
- Sick hamster may become stinky
If your hamster stinks, he’s probably sick; his fur is probably soaked with stinking urine if he has a kidney infection or bladder problem (infection that causes the urine to smell bad), or his watery stools if he has diarrhea, or even a more serious wet tail.
If your hamster has a wet bottom (diarrhea), or you notice almost liquid stools in his pen or bits of fecal matter attached to his fur in his anal area, know that he stinks, he is sick, and he needs to see a vet right away.
A skin infection could also be the source of your sick hamster’s foul odor.
You should also always check to see if your hamster has a wound that has become infected and is the source of the bad odor, such as oral problems.
You should also look inside his cheeks to see if there is any fruit or worm stuck inside that is starting to rot and emitting that foul odor.
- Hamsters may smell bad because of their diet
Hamsters can fart, yes, they can release farts into the air, and believe me, they do not smell like roses!
To keep your hamster from smelling bad due to farts, feed him a well-balanced diet and avoid dairy products like cheese and yogurt.
Certain lactose-rich fruits, such as apples, and cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and cabbage.
A high-protein diet may also be the cause of your hamster’s gas production; consider varying his diet and providing more high-fiber vegetables.
Avoid salty and sweet foods to keep your hamster from producing too much stinky urine, which will quickly fill the room with bad odors.
Excessive consumption of sweet fruits or salty foods will force your hamster to drink more water and produce more urine, particularly urine with a stronger odor.
Remember that fresh seeds and herbs are essential for hamsters, so avoid carbohydrates and acidic foods.
- Testosterone and androsterone could be the cause of bad male hamsters smell
Everything is fine if you keep two hamsters in the same pen until they reach adulthood and sexual maturity.
The testosterone war will then begin between your two hamsters, and they will most likely secrete more odors and begin a territory marking war using their scent gland, with each hamster attempting to put its odor on elements of the cage already marked by the other hamster, and they will both end up stinking.
Your hamster’s stale urine and strong sweat will also contribute to the bad odor.
If you don’t want your hamsters to scent mark the enclosure, limit them to one per enclosure. In order to claim ownership of the enclosure, each hamster will usually try to deposit more scent than the other.
- Hamster that neglects its self-grooming gets a bad smell
It is possible that your hamster’s hygiene has deteriorated to the point where he no longer grooms himself or takes sand baths.
This can make him dirty and smelly because his fur will become saturated with the body oils secreted by the hamster and will remain stained with urine.
There are two reasons why your hamster may neglect its cleanliness: old age, stress, or illness, and the most common, injury (broken leg).
If your hamster is not sick, but its fur is dirty, unkempt, and stinks, it is most likely injured from a fall and is unable to clean itself or take sand baths, both of which are essential for its hygiene.
Check to see if your hamster has a fracture or is partially paralyzed.
Older hamsters are also known to urinate and sleep all over the cage, and if they have Alzheimer’s, they are very likely to sleep on their urine and smell bad.
- Long-haired hamsters need help to stay clean
If you have a long-haired Syrian hamster, you should be aware that they require more cleaning than short-haired hamsters. He may need extra grooming and assistance to keep his fur clean.
He has long hair and can lick it, but he gets bored or tired before he is completely clean.
Bits of fruit or litter can also get stuck in his fur and he can’t pull them out or get them to fall out.
They can quickly develop odors, especially on hot days.
During his sandbath, he simply throws sand on his back, but this is insufficient, so you must assist him by putting sand on his back and brushing him.
- Poor cage maintenance
You don’t clean the cage frequently enough; you should spot clean every day to change the bedding in the areas where your hamster uses the toilet (the pee spots).
You must also clean your hamster’s enclosure every 20 or 30 days (less than 2 weeks in the summer) and change between 50% and 70% of its bedding (The top and bottom layer and keep only the middle).
Choose from Carefresh, Kaytee, or Aspen bedding (at least 4 inches of bedding).
Sprinkling some baking soda on the bottom of your hamster’s enclosure may help absorb urine odors and will help to to get rid of the bad odor.
- Your hamster urinates all over the cage
Some hamsters do not use one or two toilets, but instead urinate everywhere, even in their wheel and especially in the sand bath, and the problem is that they then take another sand bath!
In this case, you should try potty-training your hamster by purchasing one or two small plastic sandboxes and placing one in his sandbox and the other in a corner of the cage where he has already urinated several times.
Fill these plastic hamster pottys with sand (kids’ playsand) mixed with some of his urine-soaked bedding to encourage him to use these “urinals.”
When your hamster becomes accustomed to using these “litter boxes,” it will be cleaner, the cage will be cleaner, and the bad odors will disappear.
You can stay awake by rewarding him with a tiny piece of candy every time he uses the litter box. Your hamster will quickly learn to urinate only in the litter box because they are creatures of habit.
Old hamsters are also known to pee everywhere in the cage because they do not take the time to go to their toilet corners. It is therefore necessary to adapt the cleaning of the enclosure to this bad habit by removing the top layer of its bedding at least once a week and replacing it with clean bedding.
Remember to change the sand in the sandbox as well.
- Your hamster is hiding fresh food
When the hamster hides the rest of its fresh food in the cage, it will quickly go moldy, especially if you don’t discover it during the spot cleaning and if the room is also hot.
This food, whether a piece of vegetable or fruit, or even worse, a piece of meat or cheese, will cause mold and bacteria to grow and emit an odor that will stink up the entire room.
If your hamster has a habit of hiding food everywhere inside his bedding, he may forget some hiding spots and end up urinating on them, which will speed up the deterioration of the food and make the enclosure smell bad again.
- The cage stinks due to the bedding
If you use wood shavings or other non-paper-based bedding, be aware that your hamster’s enclosure will smell of urine because these cheap beddings do not absorb urine and do not retain bad odors.
Avoid using scented bedding because it will stress your hamster, who has an extremely sensitive nose.
A thick layer of bedding is required to keep the cage from smelling like urine.
Hamsters require at least 12 inches of bedding; they enjoy tunneling, but this layer prevents your hamster’s urine from reaching the cage floor and drying out and stinking permanently.
If the cage is made of a wood that absorbs fluids, it may stink.
If your hamster’s cage is not a bin cage or an aquarium, and it is made of a wood other than Melamine, this wood may be absorbing your hamster’s urine, and even if you clean the cage thoroughly, the smell of urine remains persistent.
I recommend a large cage or enclosure of at least 1000 square inches. The Ikea Detolf are an excellent solution for housing your hamster; simply remove the shelves and place it on a piece of furniture.
To eliminate odors from your hamster’s cage, clean and disinfect all the elements and the cage walls with a mixture of water and vinegar on a daily basis and once a month.
Allow it to dry thoroughly or use a hair dryer in the winter, but do not put your hamster back in if the enclosure was heated during drying; instead, allow it to cool to room temperature before reintroducing your hamster.
This way, your hamster and its cage will always be clean, and it will always smell like fresh, clean bedding.
What should I do first if my hamster begins to stink?
If you are certain that the hamster is the source of the odor and not the cage or enclosure:
- Examine him for a wet tail or diarrhea.
- Examine whether he has a fracture or anything else that prevents him from taking sand baths.
If your hamster’s coat only has urine on it, do a spot cleaning by wetting a cloth with warm water, wringing it out until only the moisture remains, and gently cleaning your hamster’s coat.
Place more bedding than usual, especially in their favorite peeing spots.
Improve the ventilation in your hamster’s enclosure and consider moving it to a better-ventilated room.
What never do when your hamster stinks?
You should never yell at or blame your hamster!
The answer to the question “Can you give a hamster a bath?” is never wet or shower your hamster with water!
All you have to do is dampen a small piece of tissue with warm water and wring it out thoroughly before cleaning any urine or food stains from your hamster’s fur.
If you wet your hamster, you will remove the oils that cover and protect his fur and he will produce an excess of these oils and then smell even worse than before.
Sand baths and brushing are the two most effective ways to keep your hamster clean and prevent him from stinking.
You should never put deodorant in the room, especially in the enclosure, or worse, put perfume on your hamster; they have a sensitive sense of smell, and you will stress him out and possibly cause a wet tail, which can kill him in less than 3 days!
You should never forcefully air the room where your hamster is to get rid of the odor; this will make your hamster sick, most likely with a cold.
If you must air the room, do so during the day and especially after covering the hamster’s cage to avoid exposing it to drafts.
Cleaners and odor neutralizers should never be used on cages; instead, use warm water, a little soap, and disinfect with a mixture of equal parts water and white vinegar.
In most cases, it is not the hamster that smells bad, but rather its cage as a result of poor or insufficient maintenance, or even poor bedding.
First and foremost, understand that if your hamster stinks, it is most likely not his fault!
Accept it if you can’t stand the smell of pets!
Following that, it is possible that your hamster smells a little strong for one of the reasons mentioned in this article, but remember that this is a temporary situation; you simply need to identify the source of the bad smell.
Check the condition of the cage first, then determine whether the hamster is stinking and resolve the issue.
Another thing to remember is that female hamsters only smell bad when they are in heat, whereas male hamsters only smell bad when they are sick.
So it is rare that your hamster stinks; instead, look at the side of cage maintenance; if your hamster walks on its own urine, it will be soaked and will smell the urine!
If you want more helpful advice on looking after your hamster, including tips on food, toys, accessories and accommodation, add a comment below to let us know!
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