A smelly hamster is no fun. But do they exist ? Do hamsters smell ? If they do, how do you take care of that ? I know I had these questions when I first got my Teddy. I found outthrough trial and error what to do when there is a funky smell coming from your hammy’s cage. But let’s talk about whether hamsters do or do not smell first.
So do hamsters smell ?
No – hamsters themselves, the animals, do not smell. They don’t develop a stink that clings to their bodies.
But their environment can get a bit smelly, in some cases. That’s what some people might confuse with the hamster itself being smelly.
For example I’ve had my Teddy since August 2017. At the time of writing this he is nearly a year and a half old. In this time I’ve handled him often, and he’s never smelled bad. Or had any particular smell to him at all.
I’ve spoken to other hamster owners, and their pets don’t smell either.
But Teddy’s cage can sometimes get smelly, under certain circumstances. He is an adult Syrian hamster, but this applies across all hamster breeds.
Hamsters are very clean animals
In fact, hamsters clean themselves about as often and thorough as house cats. Half the time when you see a cat it’s cleaning itself, like it just came from the dirtiest place ever and needs a nice long shower.
That’s how meticulous hamsters are with their cleaning routine too. If you pick him up, you’ll see he starts cleaning himself almost immediately after you put him back down.
This is a habit and instinct that they’ve had since forever. In the wild hamsters are prey, and are hunted by basically every animal. Some of them fly, some crawl, some slither, and some run. But they will all look for the hammy’s smell.
So, the hamster will obsessively clean himself at every turn, to make sure he has as little scent as possible. This way his predators won’t find him as easily.
A hamster’s hideout will have his scent
While the hamster’s hideout will have his scent, it will not get smelly under normal circumstances. Hamsters actually pee outside their hideouts, so their predators will have a harder time finding them.
They also have a very sensitive nose, hamsters, so that’s another reason they avoid using their nests as bathrooms.
If you observe your hamster, you’ll notice he always picks a particular spot to use as his bathroom. Always the furthest from where you placed his hideout.
If anything, the hamster’s pee corner will be what gets smelly. The poo doesn’t smell, since it’s dry droppings, and his food doesn’t smell either.
Hamster are very clean little things, and watching them clean themselves is always cute. But as I said above, his cage can get a bit smelly sometimes. There are a few reasons for that, let’s talk about that.
Why the hamster’s cage can get smelly – and what to do about it
A hamster’s cage is where he will live his entire life. So of course he will eat, poo, sleep, run in this cage and these can all leave a mark, or scent. So here are the main reasons your hamster’s cage might get smelly.
The hamster’s pee corner is the main culprit
This is what smells most often, and what will stand out easily. You can find that corner by noticing your hamster when he wakes up to use that corner. Or, you can look for any recently wet or moist corners.
It’s usually easy to find, so you won’t have much trouble seeing or smelling it. If you’re not sure which corner it is, or your hamsters uses more than 1 corner, that’s fine. Just change the bedding in every corner if you want to be extra sure.
Hamsters do poo in their hideouts, you’ve probably seen this on the cleaning days. But they rarely ever pee there. I’ve never found pee stains on the nesting in my Teddy’s hideout, but I have heard of rare cases when this happened.
So, make sure you change the bedding in the corners more often than the whole bedding. If you change the entire bedding once per week that’s fine. The corners might need changing every 2-3 days though, depending on your hamster and how sensitive your smell is.
A litter box for your hamster
It might sound like you have a cat now. The hamster cleans himself regularly and now needs a litter box. But hamsters do use a litter box, if you give them one.
You can use the bottom half of a hideout, this one actually should be plastic for ease of cleaning. Then, place mineral sand in that halved hideout. Tadaa, litter box !
As long as you place it in the corner your hamster usually uses for peeing, everything will be fine. The hamster might kick some of it up and take a sandbath as well. But that’s okay, if you want you can place another sandbox for him for this reason.
If you’re not crazy about the litter box idea, you can just change the bedding in the corners every 2-3 days. If you want to know which kind of bedding is safe for hamsters, and which bedding to never get, read this list here. You’ll find out about the bedding and nesting materials your hamster will need, and how to clean them properly.
Your hamster might be sick
Sometimes this happens to hamsters, like wet tail for example. Wet tail is an illness more common in Syrian hamsters than Dwarfs. It’s basically brought on by stress, and one of the most noticeable signs is a very very runny stool.
This can be treated, but you need to call your vet as soon as you spot this. It’s not difficult to treat,but you need a vet and immediate attention.
Now, when or if your hamster gets wet tail, the stool will be a bit smelly, and will wet the bedding as well. Wet bedding doesn’t smell great either, even if it’s just with water.
Or, maybe your hamster has a different type of illness that can make his urine smell particularly bad. Like an infection for example. Again, contact your vet as soon as you notice this.
If your hamster seems to be moving very slowly, always has his ears folded, is more hunched than usual, and sleeps a lot, call your veterinarian.
The hamster might have some food hidden in his hideout
Some foods can get very smelly if left out for too long. The clearest example I have is when I gave Teddy some cabbage.
Well, I gave him a whole leaf, just to see how he’d react to a food 15 times larger than him. He was a funny sight, nipping at the cabbage from left to right like a typing machine. I took it out after a few minutes, since he didn’t need a whole entire leaf.
But he did take a few pieces which he didn’t eat straight away. Some of them he hid in his hideout, and I only noticed the next day. There was a weird, sulphury smell around his cage. I put Teddy in his exercise ball, and looked inside his hideout. He had some cabbage pieces, and they stank. Oh boy.
So, if you give your hammy a kind of food that can get smelly fast, give him very small amounts, and not often. This applies for vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, asparagus. They’re all related, and all get smelly.
Cheese of any kind, even tofu, should be give in very small pieces that you’re sure the hamster will eat quickly. Boiled egg white is in this category as well.
If you do find some food that’s very smelly in your hamster’s cage or hideout, remove it, and change the nesting material as well.
Hamsters have their seasons as well
By this I mean that hamsters have periods when their cage can get much smellier than usual. I’ve noticed this with my Teddy.
I could never track it to a specific season – like winter or summer, or rainy or very dry, or something else. But it happened about twice a year.
He’d have these periods when his cage would smell much more, and I’d have to change the bedding in his corners almost every day.
I chalked that up to him just being a male, and maybe marking his territory more aggressively. As to why exactly, I’m not sure since males do not go into heat the same way females do.
The period for Teddy goes away after a couple of weeks, and he never looked ill or lethargic, or out of place. Just a stinky cage, is all.
Female hamsters can get a bit smelly
As I’ve noticed from other hamster owners, the females can get a bit stinky in their mating periods. Females go into heat every few days.
Females can actually breed immediately after giving birth, so their mating periods are short but much more often than other animals. Every 4 days to be exact.
So, a female hamster might get a bit smelly when she’s in heat, to attract any male around her. However if you’re not planning on breeding your female hamster, this won’t have too much of a point for you as an owner.
A female going into heat is normal, and healthy. It can get a bit smelly, but again, changing the bedding more often will help with this.
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How to clean a hamster cage properly
This depends a bit on what kind of cage you have for your hamster. But keeping a clean cage for your hamster will keep it non-smelly as long as possible.
If you want to know what kind and size cage your hamster needs, check out this article. You’ll get a rundown of the most common cage types, and the pros and cons of all 3, including a care and maintenance guide for those cages.
Place the hamster in a temporary holding place
Pick up your hamster and place him directly where he needs to be, like the ball or transport cage. Always use a scooping and cupping method, and do not come from behind him.
If the hamster is not easy to pick up, or very difficult to handle, bait him with a treat. Place the treat inside the transport cage or exercise ball, then close it once he’s in.
Remove the toys and hideout
Take everything out of the hamster’s cage. If they need cleaning, do so with a warm moist cloth, or hot water and a very small amount of soap, and leave out to dry very well.
Food bowls and water bottles need cleaning more often than the wheel or hideout.
Take out all the bedding and nesting material
Keep just a bit of it, to make things more familiar for your hamster. If he’s been sick, skip this step.
Once all the bedding is removed you should be left with an empty cage or glass tank. Those can be wiped down and/or washed with hot water and a very small amount of soap.
In the pee corner you might see some very dry white substances. That’s just the work of the acidity of the urine, combined with the bedding and some dust from the bedding. It can be scrubbed off, but only if you allow it enough time to soak.
Use something very coarse like a metal brush will help. But unless you do this regularly every week, that corner will become white forever. This is why I recommend the litter box, since it’s easier to clean this way.
Speaking of, if you’re using a litter box, you will find some dried compacted sand, mixed with the hamster’s urine. Clean everything off with hot water, and use a toothpick or the metal brush to scrub and pick away at it.
Once you’re done cleaning and washing everything, make sure you dry everything completely. Use a hair dryer if you have to. Excess moisture can make the new bedding smelly, and even build up some moldy spots.
Place fresh, clean bedding and nesting material
Give your hamster 1-2 inches/2.5-5 cm of bedding and 2-3 torn up paper towels to use as nesting material. Place the toys and hideout back into his cage, and let the hamster back in.
If you’d like to know more about how to properly care for your hamster friend, you can check out this very thorough article on exactly that.
A word from Teddy
I hope you found your answers here, and know that us hamsters aren’t smelly. We’re actually very clean and like to take very long ‘showers’.
If your hammy’s cage is smelly, you can fix that with what you read from my owner. But if you want to know more about us hamsters, make sure to check the articles below ! You’ll find stuff like why we eat our poop, how much water we need, and why we’re sometimes scared of you.