Why does your hamster smell?
For something so small and sweet, hamsters can let off quite a stink. But what is the smell and where does it come from?
Most hamsters smell to some extent, which is usually due to waste in their cage or the secretion of an odorous pheromone from their scent glands. If you suspect your hamsters’ odor is more sinister, you should seek veterinary help.
Sensitive hamster scents
We had just returned from a family vacation when we noticed some noticeable changes in Oscar. Despite the fact that his cage had been cleaned on a regular basis, a strong musky scent lingered in the air, and Oscar had developed a couple of bald patches on his flanks. Concerned that he had developed a skin infection, I decided to do some research and discovered some helpful hints and tips on how to stop your hamster from stinking.
Why does your hamster groom itself?
If Oscar isn’t curled up all cozy asleep, he’s probably trying to set a stamina record by spinning on his wheel or constantly cleaning himself in the corner of his cage.
Contrary to popular belief, hamsters are not dirty animals, but rather meticulously thorough in their grooming routine, which is driven by both habit and instinct. In the wild, hamsters are near the bottom of the food chain and are hunted by almost every animal. As a result, in order to remain as innocuous as possible, a hamster will clean itself on a regular basis to ensure that it is as scent-free as possible, making it more difficult for predators to detect.
This is also true for owners; as much as your hamster enjoys a game or a cuddle, when cosseted in our hands, it does not want to smell like you and will remove your scent almost immediately.
Grooming is an important part of a hamster’s routine, so if it stops completely, it could indicate that something is wrong with your pet.
Hamster cage cleanliness
Although hamsters clean themselves on a regular basis, their cages do not.
Hamsters are considered low-maintenance pets, but it is critical that you clean out their cage on a weekly basis and provide them with fresh wood shavings and bedding. This will keep any offensive odors at bay. However, if you notice that the cage is already smelling after only a few days, try spot cleaning specific areas that your hamster may be using as a toilet area.
Although it is important to clean your hamster’s cage frequently because they have a sensitive sense of smell and can become ill if it is dirty, you should also resist the urge to change their cage too frequently as this can stress them out.
While cleaning out your hamster’s cage, choose a comfortable and secure location for them. Make sure to empty the cage completely and deodorize it with a mild soap or hamster-friendly cleanser. After you’ve rinsed the cage, make sure it’s completely dry before reintroducing your hamster to its new and fragrant shavings.
Potty training your hamster
Most hamsters are creatures of habit, and they will usually choose a corner of their cage to use as a toilet. Potty training your hamster is thus possible if you figure out where they prefer to go.
There are a variety of plastic hamster potties on the market that can be filled with a substrate such as sand. Sand is not only appealing to your hamster because it is diggable, but it is also excellent for absorbing liquid. Add some hamster litter and some urinated shavings to this to encourage your hamster to use it. To avoid confusion, make sure to spot clean the rest of the cage on a regular basis.
How to make your hamster smell nice
There are some simple changes you can make to make your hamster smell nice, which will make a big difference in their hygiene.
- Opt for a cage with plenty of ventilation and odor control.
- Deep fill your hamsters cage with plenty of wood shavings. This not only allows your hamster to dig but will help to absorb nasty smells.
- Spot clean your hamsters cage daily, scooping out poop and tossing out soiled bedding.
- Clean the cage thoroughly once a week.
- Add a potty to the corner of the cage.
- Monitor what you feed you hamster. Certain foods (especially those that are acidic) can affect your hamsters’ digestive system.
Hamster scent glands
A strong musky odor may emanate from your hamster’s cage, which is usually caused by their scent glands. Scent glands, which are often a source of concern when first noticed, are perfectly normal and are found in both male and female hamsters. Scent glands differ in appearance between sexes and among hamster species.
Hamsters use their scent glands, also known as flank glands or hip spots, to communicate with one another via pheromones (chemicals that are secreted from the body). They are more prominent in male hamsters, and they are located on either side of the flanks of Syrian hamsters like Oscar.
Female hamsters use their scent glands not only to mark their territory, but also to attract a partner by letting them know when they are about to mate.
You must recognize your hamster’s scent glands and keep a close eye on them for any signs of infection or changes in appearance. If you notice an increase in size, unusual discharge, redness, or bleeding, you should contact your veterinarian. Another sign of a scent gland problem is your hamster’s reluctance to be held or touched, as well as a change in behavior and temperament.
Can you give a hamster a bath?
Hamsters are clean animals that are perfectly capable of looking after their own hygiene. If your hamster gets particularly dirty, however, you should bathe it in sand rather than water.
A sand basin should suffice, as your hamster can roll around in it and the coarse texture will remove any grit and grime. However, bathing your hamster will remove any vital, natural protective oils from their coat and may cause them to catch a chill, which can be dangerous and potentially fatal.
So I’ve learned that those smells aren’t caused by Oscar, but rather by the environment he lives in and his instincts passed down from his wild relatives. And, as long as I continue to encourage the kids to clean his cage on a regular basis, monitor his diet, and light the occasional candle when he emits his territorial scent, we can all live together relatively stink-free!
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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