Just like any pet, a hamster comes with certain responsibilities. In addition to giving them plenty of love and attention, you need to handle them regularly, feeding them daily and clean them when required.
Hamsters are relatively clean animals, but in order to maintain good hygiene and avoid any nasty infections it essential that you clean your hamster’s cage on a regular basis. Take a look at our top tips on how to clean your hamster cage.
It is important that you keep their cage smelling fresh without overcleaning it, as this can cause your hamster stress. We tend to thoroughly clean our hamster’s cage every 10-14 days, taking care to spot clean specific areas daily.
Easy ways to clean your hamster cage
No one likes doing chores but cleaning out your hamster’s cage shouldn’t take too long – in fact, I find it extremely satisfying to see a freshly changed cage sitting on the side. If you want to make life easier for yourself, make a bin cage or purchase one with a detachable base, as these are by far the easiest to cleanout. Modular cages with multiple compartments, levels and tubes may look nice but are a pain to clean as they need to be disassembled and put back together again each time!
Examining the contents of your hamster’s cage can also tell you a lot about your hamster’s personality (what foods the like and dislike for example) and can even alert you to any health issues such as signs of diarrhea.
Top tip: Before beginning the cage cleaning process, have everything to hand. This includes fresh bedding and substrate, cleaning wipes or warm water and hamster food supplies.
1. Remove your hamster from the cage
You will need to remove your hamster from their cage and place them somewhere safe in order to get full access to their cage. We let our hamster Oscar, run around our hallway where there are no holes, gaps, wires or means of escape. Alternatively, you could place them in a playpen, exercise ball or secondary cage.
2. Remove additional items
Take care to remove all additional items such as your hamster hideout, water bottle, toys, wheel and food bowl from the cage.
Top tip: Try to clean your hamster cage accessories on a separate day to the actual cage. This will ensure that your hamster’s scent remains which put them at ease when placed back in what might at first appear to be an unfamiliar cage to them. This also applies to the hamster hideout. Try to mix some of the unsoiled original bedding in with the new.
3. Discard dirty bedding and sawdust
Remove all of the dirty bedding and sawdust, remembering to recycle any in a biodegradable bag.
Top tip: Try and keep your hamster’s food hoard, replacing it in the same area as you took it from. This hoard is food they have collected, just like they would in the wild, which they store to eat at a later date. Just imagine how you would feel if someone stole your favorite snacks!
4. Clean the cage and tubes
Wipe down the cage, bars and any tubes with warm, soapy water or one part vinegar and two parts water. Pay particular attention to the corners as these areas are likely to be grubbier. Wipe dry with a clean cloth once washed.
Top tip: You can buy pet-safe disinfectant, but as hamsters are not particularly dirty, we would only suggest purchasing this if your hamster has been unwell. Hamsters, like humans, need to be exposed to a certain level of bacteria – especially if they are handled regularly outside of their cage.
5. Fill the cage with substrate/sawdust bedding
Fill the cage with clean substrate and bedding, taking care to ensure that their favorite items are included. This is also a good time to change the layout of the cage slightly to prevent your hamster from getting bored.
Top tip: Choose a substrate with a good aroma. Wood-based substrates are not only affordable, but they tend to be better with odor control than paper-based ones.
6. Transfer your hamster back
Once everything is in its place and the cage is sparkling clean, transfer your hamster back inside their home – ensuring that they are rewarded with a well-earned treat.
How often should you clean a hamster cage?
Hamsters are relatively clean creatures and like to keep their eating, sleeping and toilet areas separate. This makes it relatively easy when it comes to cleaning them out.
The phrase “little and often” sums up how often you should clean your hamster’s cage, although factors such as size of the habitat, how toilet trained your hamster is and how regularly you scoop the poop will also have an impact.
It is important to try not to thoroughly clean your hamster out every single week unless it is particularly smelly. Turning their cage upside down every 7 days can be distressing for them. By replacing old smells with new ones and throwing away their cozy bedding is like someone coming into your home and throwing out your favorite duvet. How annoying!
Cleaning them out too much is not only stressful for them but can be incredibly expensive for you. Alternatively, leaving their cage dirty for a prolonged period of time could cause your hamster to become sick.
As hamsters are small you should only need to do a full cage clean every couple of weeks – providing you spot clean in between. Spot cleaning should be done on a regular basis (daily or alternate days) as it allows the cage to stay fresher for longer, prevents odors from occurring and means that you can get rid of any unsightly faeces or rotting food debris. This is also the perfect time to replace the water and fill up the bowl.
When spot cleaning, you should take time to focus on the area that your hamster uses as their toilet. Unless they are litter tray trained, this tends to be the corners of the cage, inside their hideouts or within their sand baths.
How to litter train your hamster?
If your hamster’s cage smells a lot, then you should consider litter training your hamster. It is the urine that causes such a strong odor, so by convincing them to use a tray will make a huge difference.
It is easy to toilet train a hamster and all you need is a shop-bought or homemade litter tray placed in the corner of the cage (or their usual toilet place). By filling the litter tray with a different substrate to that which is used for the cage will enable your hamster to differentiate between the two quite quickly.
If they ignore the litter tray at first, continue to move the substrate to the new soiling area so that your hamster soon picks up on this sign to use it as a toilet.
Once they have mastered the litter tray you should clean it out on a daily basis.
Cleaning out your hamster’s cage is part of their care and should be done a regular basis. Hamsters are creatures of habit, so over time, they will get familiar with the cage cleaning process. As detailed above, there are some simple steps that you can put in place to prevent it from being a stressful time for your hamster, whilst making it an effortless experience for you.
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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