Healthy hamsters, whether they have short or long hair, will probably groom themselves every day. This means that owners of short-haired hamsters will need to do very little grooming, and even long-haired hamsters won’t require much. However, there are some things that you can do to give your hamster a helping hand, and it’s good to start doing these things while your hamster is young and amenable to new things.
For the majority of your hamster’s life, you’ll find that it’s not actually necessary to clean them as they’ll groom themselves on a very regular basis. They may need a little bit of help as they get older, but hamsters are really clean animals who will take on the vast majority of their own grooming.
If your hamster is really dirty, then you may want to allow themselves to get rid of a lot of dirt with a sand bath. Some hamsters will love having sand baths - they will wriggle around in the sand and remove lots of dirt from their coat in the process (be aware that some may not enjoy it, and will not move around in the sand at all). If the sand bath doesn't remove the dirt, and you're worried that the substance will not come out or could cause problems if your hamster eats or licks it, then a liquid bath may be necessary. If you need to give your pet a liquid bath, be sure to keep its head above water at all times and make sure that the water is warm, not hot. It's best for an adult to bathe the pet, to use a shampoo safe for hamsters, and to use the cool setting on your hairdryer to dry them off.
If your hamster is looking a little grubby, then keep an eye on them to make sure they are able to groom themselves properly. If your hamster has a leg injury or overgrown teeth, then they may be less able to groom themselves than usual. If they are suffering from a medical condition, then this could also be why they are looking a bit worse for wear. For example, hamsters that are suffering from mange often have matted or thinning hair, and very flaky, irritated skin. You may want to have a look in our Common Hamster Illnesses page, but if you can’t diagnose it from that or any hamster encyclopaedia you have handy, then you may need to take your pet to the vet to get them properly diagnosed, and possibly get treatment.
Whilst long-haired hamsters are very clean like their short-haired counterparts, they will need a little extra help cleaning themselves.
Long-haired hamsters may enjoy a sand bath, but they may also benefit from a brushing and trimming session.
To brush your hamster, place it on your lap and wait until it has calmed down before beginning to brush. We suggest using a wide-toothed comb at first, as using a very thin-toothed implement may be quite a painful experience for your hamster. We suggest brushing gently and holding the hair between the hamster’s skin and the knot, so that you can keep the hair between your fingers and the hamster’s skin slack. this will mean that untangling the knot doesn’t pull on the hamster’s hair root.
If you’ve brushed your hamster and it’s still very knotted and untidy, then you may need to trim the hair to get all of the knots out of it. Since hamsters hate being put on their back, we suggest you gently trim their hair as they stand on a surface. Try to only take a little bit off at a time.