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Hamster Sand Bath

If your hamster is looking a little grubby, then you might want to give them the opportunity to clean themselves with a sand bath. Sand baths are the method by which hamsters would clean themselves in the wild - they don’t tend to enjoy water baths like we do! Water and liquids wash away lots of the special oils on their coat that are important to their health, and so removing these substances can cause your pet some skin problems. It’s best not to water-bathe your hamster unless it has got something harmful on its coat, such as human food that it shouldn’t digest.

Before you give your hamster a sand bath, you might want to question why your hamster is dirty. Are they not grooming themselves properly? Is their skin scabby? Are they losing hair? Is the place that looks unclean around their rear end and genitals? If any of these are the case, then bath might not be what’s needed. The root cause of the grubbiness may be a health problem.

untidiness may mean poor health
Hamsters do lots of their grooming themselves, but they might benefit from a sand bath from time to time

Watch your hamster for a while to see if it’s carrying out normal grooming behaviours.

  • If it’s not cleaning its face with its paws, then it may have a leg injury that needs attention.
  • If it’s not licking itself or reaching round to groom its back legs then it may have overgrown teeth.
  • If your hamster is grooming itself as normal but is still looking grubby, then it may have a skin condition.
  • Matted hair and balding could mean that your pet has a problem like skin mites or sarcoptic mange.
  • An unclean rear end is a symptom of the life-threatening condition known as wet tail.

Identify what’s making your pet untidy, and then see if you can use this symptom to figure out what your hamster is suffering from in our hamster illness section. If there are any worrying symptoms then we recommend you take your pet to see a vet.

If you’re sure that your pet is in good health, then feel free to go ahead with the sand bath. Find a small container that your hamster can fit in, and fill it halfway to the top with sand - chinchilla sand is a good option if you can’t find one specifically for hamsters. Put your hamster in the little container, and it may then have a little bath of its own accord by squirming around in the sand. Some hamsters like these baths, and other’s don’t, so be prepared for your hamster not to take to it.

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Kash, 22 August 2021

Here’s a solution: don’t use silica sand with harmful particles. There are sands on the market packaged for hamsters and small rodents that are softer without dusty silica particles.

Yeahidontthinkso, 29 May 2021

Are sand baths NECESSARY? I'm reading on message boards and YouTube that it is "ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY!!!" But I'm reading on supply lists where sand bath isn't even mentioned. Even PETA and ASPCA don't mention sand baths. I understand water is a big NO. Their suggestion is let them bathe themselves. I keep his cage clean, I clean it twice a week and perform spot cleanings every day. He has a large containment and he isn't dirty. I wash my hands with Dawn before and after I pick him up to prevent from spreading diseases to the other animals (in fact, I handwash before and after picking up any of my pets). I do have sand. I got child's play sand and saw that it was very dusty. So donned with a mask, I went outside and held a personal fan in one hand blowing on sand as I poured it from four foot distance to another container. This blew out the dusty sand. I repeated this until the sand no longer blew particles away. Then I stuck the sand in a preheated oven and baked for 15 minutes and turned off the oven. I left the sand in the oven to cool. "They" recommend baking an hour, but my microscope didn't show signs of bacteria after 15 minutes. So, I DO have the sand and have danced the recommended steps to prepare the sand. It's ready to go and I'd love to be able to use it. But herin lies my concerns: sand has quarts that consists of silica. Silica is a carcinogen that can cause cancer if inhaled. Like asbestos, once silica enters the lungs, it lodges itself and never goes away. While in the lung, it can cause COPD and lung cancer. Silica is fine, if touched or eaten (I take it as a supplement, actually). But inhaling silica is very dangerous. I am not sure how much silica can cause pulmonary illness, but why take a chance, just because people online require it? Yes. I was about to join one Facebook hamster group until I read the rules. Failure to heed to their recommendations results in exmembership. If you're thinking, "Its kids harmful can it be?", that's what I thought, too. Yet OSHA requires complete outfitting of protective equipment for all workers, when preparing and packaging the sand. On the child's play sand package is a California carcinogen warning (this is what prompted my research). Along side the warning is a recommendation of use: "best used when damp". My husband worked for an asbestos abatement company. One way to contain the asbestos from flying through the air is to wet it down. By moistening the sand, it is no longer airborne and is safe to remove, use or work with. But sand dries. Furthermore, hamsters are supposed to use dry sand. They do not like to be wet. If they enjoyed wet sand, it would eliminate the need for sand, altogether. Another thing to consider is if this is bad for OUR lungs, imagine how much worse it is for the hamster's tiny lungs! They would be rolling in it and digging in it, and their respiration rate is much faster than ours is. Is sand really best for hamsters? Wouldn't a clean habitat be enough? There are some sands without quartz silica, but it contains calcium, which I understand to be another big "NO!!" On the message boards. I'm not trying to cause issues. I'm trying to raise awareness of the dangers of sand. It's not safe. And if it isn't safe, it shouldn't be used...should it? I've been doing a lot of research on the subject, and I don't feel comfortable using sand. What do you think?