You notice your child's hamster is a little dirty. Should you give your child's hamster a bath? Is it safe? Does the hamster really need a bath or is there something else you should do instead? As a pet grandparent to a few rescued hamsters, I would never recommend bathing a hamster in water for several reasons.
Hamsters naturally bathe themselves in sand. When in their natural wild habitat, hamsters roll around in sand for cleansing purposes. They finish it off by grooming themselves. Many pet supply stores have Chinchilla sand and ceramic sand dishes you can provide to your hamster for this purpose. Never use the scented varieties or those made with powder. Only the unscented sand is safe for your hamster. The other products may irritate your hamster's respiratory system.
Wet baths are not recommend unless absolutely necessary. Because wet baths can cause chills, they are only to be used in extreme circumstances, such as your hamster getting covered in oil. Bathing your hamster can cause illness and even death. Hamsters get cold very quickly because of their small frame. Their skin is also irritated easily. Also, bathing products get absorbed into the hamster's fur and skin. When the hamster grooms later, these products will be ingested, which can cause poisoning. Even many of the products marketed for this purpose are not safe.
What if my child's hamster is dirty? Hamsters being properly cared for are not likely to get dirty enough to require bathing. Provided your hamster does escape and get into something messy, a bath may be warranted. Generally, you would use special pet wipes that are safe for use on hamsters or a damp cloth to spot clean the area. If your child's hamster is getting dirty often, check to see that the bedding is being changed properly and as often as needed. If your child's hamster smells, take the hamster to a vet to make sure there is not cause for concern. Foul odors can be a sign of illness.
When in doubt, call the vet. If something happens to the hamster that may require an emergency bath, call a 24-hour emergency vet for proper instructions. Only a licensed professional should ever bathe a hamster in water without proper advice and only a licensed professional should advise someone on how to bathe a hamster this way. In all other instances, wiping down the hamster with the proper wipes or a warm moist cloth should be enough.
*Always contact a licensed veterinarian for the health of your animals. The information above is not meant to replace the advice of a qualified professional and is derived solely from the author's own personal experiences.
More Hamster Care Resources:
Hamsters; Dumb Friends League
Small Mammals; American Humane
Small Angels Rescue Hamster Care Packet; Small Angels Rescue, Inc
*I originally published this via Yahoo Contributor Network