When it comes to water, hamsters do need it for drinking. But how much should you give to your hamster ? Does it need any special treatments ?
This is what I asked myself when I first got Teddy – how much water will he need ? Does he need a big bottle ? Is a bowl okay ? This article will answer all of those questions, and more.
So how much water does a hamster need ?
The short answer is that a hamster usually needs around 10 ml/100 gr of hamster, every day. So that’s 0.33 fl oz per 3.5 ounces of hamster. This is the same whether we are talking about syrian hamsters or the small types.
So if your hamster is like my Teddy, an adult syrian hamster, who weighs around 170 gr, then he’d need around 17 ml per day. That’s 0.57 ml for 6 oz, every day.
This does change according to how much your hamster is running around. A more active hamster will need the full 10 ml per day. But a sedentary hamster or one who is very old and does not run as much will end up drinking less.
Another factor is your hamster’s diet. What you feed your hamster will make him drink more or less water. If you feed your hammy exclusively dry food (pellets, grains, seeds) he will drink more water. But if you give him mostly vegetables then he will draw a lot of water from them, and not use the water bottle much.
For more info on what to feed your hamster, and what foods he draws water from, check out my article here. I also cover the wide range of treats a hamster can safely eat.
How to give your hamster water
The best way to bring water to your hamster is with a water bottle or tube. This is what I have for Teddy, and he grew up drinking out of a water feeder.
You can see in the photo above the kind of water bottle he has. It’s easier for hamsters to lick the end of a tube than to drink like dogs or cats from a bowl.
Those water bottles have a small tube that goes into the cage itself, and have a small ball at the end, to make sure water doesn’t flow freely. But your hamster can easily drink like that, since all he has to do is push the ball with his tongue when drinking.
It may sound strange for a human, but for hamsters it’s normal and he has no problems drinking like that.
The temperature of the water does not really matter, as long as it’s not very warm water. For example Teddy drank both room temp water, and cold tap water. He was fine with both, and there was no immediate difference.
You can try bottled water, or tap water. Hamsters are fine with both.
When does a hamster usually drink water
Hamsters are mostly nocturnal, so that’s when they’re most active. So, that’s when they’ll be drinking water the most.
Teddy does come out during the day for a small drink, or because he’s heard movement in the house. But most of his drinking is at night.
I often put him in an exercise ball and let him roam the house. After about half an hour I put him back in his cage, and he goes straight for the water tube.
You can read my article on how to properly exercise your hamster in his exercise ball, and how long to leave him in one.
So like humans, hamsters will drink a lot of water immediately after a workout. Aside from this, they will drink water after eating very dry food, and small sips of water when their body needs it.
But since your hamster is very active during the night, when you’re most probably asleep, you won’t see him drink often. Rest assured that your hamster probably is drinking water.
How often to change your hamster’s water
There is no definitive answer to this. It depends a lot on your disposition, the quality of the water you give, and how clean the water bottle is.
For example I change Teddy’s water once per week, when I clean the whole cage. He has a full water bottle, that reaches 150 ml/ 5 fl oz and he drinks out of that the whole week.
If you want, you can change your hamster’s water every day, or every few days. This depends a lot on the quality of the water.
Where I live the tap water is fresh and clean, safe for any human or animal. I know that there are places where this is not the case. So the water I put Sunday evening when I clean his cage, is still good next Sunday.
If you know your water is not very fresh, I suggest changing it more often. Or switching to bottled water and leaving that for more days if you wish.
There really is no clear answer, your hamster is capable of drinking condensation on water pipes so taste is not a matter to him. But do keep the water as fresh and clean as possible, to avoid any problems for your hamster.
If your hamster is very very active and drinks his water very fast, then obviously you will need to provide more water, or change it more often. A sedentary hamster can live with less water and not really need much.
How to clean the water bottle
I usually clean Teddy’s bottle when I change the water. So I unscrew the tube part from the bottle, throw out the remaining water, and get a clean paper towel.
Rinse out the bottle just to be safe, then wrap the paper towel on the end of a spoon or fork. This way I can reach inside the whole bottle and wipe it all down. If your water bottle is not very long and you can get your fingers in, then do that and a paper towel.
Of course, you will have to keep changing the parts of the paper towel so it’s always dry and you can completely clean the bottle on the inside.
Then, rinse once more and put enough water in the bottle.
Do not clean the water bottle with any kind of soap or disinfectant. Those require much rinsing and even then it might not be safe for your hamster to drink.
I’ve had Teddy’s bottle since I got him in August 2017 and it’s been fine since then, with just regular cleaning. If the water bottle is damaged or really needs a thorough cleaning, consider getting a new one. They’re usually inexpensive, and most of them hold a large amount of water.
I looked around for a good water bottle, and looked at the reviews as well. You can find a good water bottle for your hammy on Amazon, and it can hold about 11 ounces of water for your hamster.
Also make sure to clean the water tube itself with a Q-tip on the inside. Be careful to not leave cotton fibers on the tube, so your hamster will not catch its teeth in it.
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How to know if the water bottle is working
If you haven’t seen your hamster drinking from the water bottle, then you might worry it’s not working.
The water bottle usually works, but here is how to check it. The small ball at the end of the tube must move freely, even at the smallest touch. There should be no resistance when you try to push it with your finger.
So keep the water bottle in the cage, and reach for it. Gently push with one finger to see if the ball gives way. If it gives way you will also see a bit of water come out. That means it’s working and your hamster can drink.
If it doesn’t move much, consider adjusting the position of he bottle. If it’s the kind of bottle that has clasps that go onto the cage wires, try moving the clasps until the angle of the tube changes. You might have to take the water bottle out and put it back in a better angle.
Some cages have a small hole on the side, to put the tube through. If it does, then you can be sure that the position the bottle will stay in is correct.
If none of this works, and the ball does not move when you push with your finger, take the water bottle out. Get a clean Q-tip and fiddle around the tube itself until you see what the problem is.
Make sure the tube is facing upwards, so you don’t spill water on you. Or, unscrew the water tube part and rub it inside with the Q-tip.
What to do when your hamster does not drink water
Your hamster not drinking water is a serious thing, and it must be checked.
You can check for signs of dehydration by pulling very gently on the scruff of your hamster’s neck. He will not be hurt by this, since he has part of his pouch there, and it is used to expanding to great sizes.
Hold your hamster in your hand, and gently tug at his scruff. When your let go, the skin should snap back easily. This means your hamster is not dehydrated and is drinking water.
But if the skin on his scruff does not snap back easily, and instead slowly goes back to its initial shape, your hamster is very dehydrated. Especially if you still see a bit of raised skin where you tugged.
If your hamster is indeed dehydrated, do the following:
- Check that the metal ball on the water bottle is fine, and lets water drip. You might see air bubbles come out when you check, this is a good sign.
- Provide your hamster with ‘wet’ food, a lot of veggies like cucumber, carrot, lettuce, and even some fruits like seedless grapes and apple.
- If after a couple of days of changing his diet and checking his water, your hamster is still dehydrated bring him to the vet. He could be having a more severe problem.
A word from Teddy
I hope this article helped you understand how much water we need, and how to make sure we’re hydrated. I hope your hamster is drinking enough water, and he’s happy.
Remember, a very active hamster will drink more water and more often, so make sure you provide lots of water for him !
If you’d like, you can check out the other articles on here. You’ll find great info on how to best care for hamsters, what kind of cage we need, and how to tame one of us.