Should you give your hamster a sand bath? Why, how and how often?
Should you give your hamster a sand bath? Why, how and how often?
In this article we will look at sand baths for hamsters. Some of the things we look at is why you should give your hamster a sand bath, what the benefits are for your hamster and the practicals of sand baths. We dive into the size of the bowl or container, the type of sand you should use and more importantly the types of sand which can be harmful for your hamster (and which you should therefore avoid!).
Why should you give your hamster a sand bath?
Hamsters are naturally very clean animals. Even so many people think that hamsters (like other pets) need to have a bath every so often.
However, hamsters don’t like water, as a matter of fact, they are petrified of water. In the wild they will only ever go into water if there is no other way out or when they are being chased.
On top of that, when a hamster is put in water, they will lose their natural oil in their fur. This can lead to over production of oil, which is not a good thing.
When your hamster has access to a sand bath, any excess oil in their fur will be removed by the sand and they will end up with a nice clean coat.
Is a sand bath good for hamsters?
Sand baths are not only good to keep your hamster’s coat healthy, it’s also good for their mental well-being. Many hamsters are being kept in too small cages with little stimulation. Sand baths are not an optional add on as many people see it, they are a necessity to add to your hamster’s environment. It stimulates their senses as it’s a different type of material in their territory. It gives them a different area to explore and somewhere else where they can dig.
What should you put the sand in?
You can put the sand in a shallow dish or bowl which your hamster can easily access. The bowl needs to be quite large so your hamster can dig, roll and walk around in it. The bath is not just for cleaning, it’s part of their environment and territory. The problem with the size of the sand bath is the size of the cage. Often this is limited and actually too small for your hamster. The larger the living space, the happier your hamster will be. The same goes for the sand bath. So, try to create a sandy area in about a quarter of the cage if you are using a normal store bought metal/plastic cage.
What kind of sand do you need?
It’s important to get the right sand of your hamster’s sand bath. Anything dusty or powdery is not good as it can lead to respiratory infections due to the small particles in the sand. If you buy sand in the pet shop and you see either word, don’t give it to your hamster.
In Europe you can use Chinchilla sand, however, in the US this is too dusty and is best avoided for your hamster. Bird sand should also be avoided.
Kids play sand is a good sand to use and is the most cost effective. You can buy this in bulk in most hardware stores. It’s important to check if the sand has been heat treated (which will kill any organisms in the sand). If you can’t find heat treated children’s play sand, then you can sift through it to remove any large bits and dirt so it’s not too rough for your hamster’s fur. You will then need to bake it in the oven to kill any organisms like fungi and bacteria. (20 minutes on 350 C is enough to sterilize the sand). You can do this in bulk, so you’ll have enough for quite some time.
Another sand possibility is reptile sand. This is finer sand than children’s play sand and is easier as you don’t need to sift it as it’s already soft sand. You also don’t need to bake it as it is already clean sand. You will need to make sure it’s not too powdery though and that it isn’t dyed and hasn’t had calcium added (or any other minerals). It’s best to choose an all-natural sand.
You can buy chinchilla sand at most pet shops, and this is a cleaned, ready to use sand. However, many chinchilla sands are powdery and very fine, which is not suitable for your hamster. This is especially the case in North America. Most chinchilla sand brands in Europe are less fine and can be used just fine.
Can you leave the sand in the cage all the time?
I have heard of people who put their hamster in a bowl of sand to ‘wash’ them. This is not the way to go about it. The sand bath
You can leave a bowl of sand in your hamster’s enclosure permanently. The sand will do no harm to your hamster, and this will give your hamster the choice to use the sand whenever they want.
You will need to keep an eye on the sand bowl though. Remove any poop you find in the bowl. Some hamsters like to pee in the sand, so you will want to remove this as well. You don’t have to replace all the sand every time your hamster pees in it. Just remove the wet sand and when you think it’s getting dirty with bedding and other things, just replace the sand. The rest of the time you can fill up the bowl when you take out scoops or when your hamster has thrown most of it out.
How often do you need to replace the sand?
Your hamster might be pooping and peeing in their sand bath, which might make you wonder how hygienic this sand bathing actually is and if your hamster comes out dirtier than when they got into the sand!
There is no need to worry about that. Firstly, make sure the sand bath is large enough for your hamster to rummage in.
Secondly, remove any poop or peed on sand daily.
Thirdly, top up the sand bath if the sand gets low.
And lastly, replace the sand and wash out the dish every fortnight or so, though earlier if your hamster pees in their bath most of the time.
How big should the sand bath be?
Most people put a little round bowl in their hamster’s cage. In fairness the bath often seems quite big compared to the size of the cage. However, most hamsters have a living space which is too small for their needs which can lead to stress, depression and even cage rage.
Most people put a little round bowl off sand in their hamster’s cage. In fairness, the bath often seems quite big compared to the size of the cage. However, most hamsters have a living space which is too small for their needs which can lead to stress, depression and even cage rage.
Your hamster needs to be able to roll in their bath and dig and walk around. If they have a bowl where their snout and their backside touch the sides of the bowl, then it’s too small. Try doubling the bowl size, big enough to even put a hideout in the sand. Your hamster needs stimulation. A sand bath is not only good for cleaning. The fact that the sand is different from the bedding is good for your hamsters’ senses and makes their habitat more interesting and less boring.
How deep should your hamster’s sand bath be?
Not only do you want to provide a sand bath of a reasonable size, you also want to ad enough sand so your hamster can dig without hitting the bottom straight away. As with the bedding in the cage, you want more rather than less.
About 2 inches deep would be ideal, however if that’s not possible, make sure the sand bath is at least an inch deep.
Do Robo hamsters need sand baths?
Robo hamster live in dry and sandy environments in the wild and their habitat should therefore be at least 1/3 sand. Hamsters have been pets for a relatively short time and it’s therefore even more important to mimic their natural surroundings as much as possible.
How do you clean hamster sand?
The easiest way to clean your hamsters sand bath is to use a little tea sieve. The sand is fine enough to fall through the sieve while any wet sand will stay in the sieve, as well as any bedding, food and poop.
When there is not much sand left in the bowl or container, either fill it up or replace it with clean sand.
Hamsters ingesting sand
There is a chance your hamster will ingest some of the sand from their sand bath. Especially when they are digging a lot. This is no problem when you use safe sand which doesn’t become dense and sticky. It will just pass through their digestive system. Avoid ‘clay like sands’ as they become sticky when wet. This is actually a concern with Tiny Friends Farm Hamster Sand as this becomes solid once wet. You can wet the sand before you give it to your hamster and see if it stays powdery. In that case, there is no concern should your hamster ingests some.
Is Tiny Friends Farm hamster sand safe to use?
There have been many complains from hamster owners about the Tiny Friends Farm hamster sand. Many say the formula has changed, though according to the company the sand is the same as it has always been.
Some hamster owners claim that the sand is too much like clay and becomes dense and heavy when wet, which means it can cause blockages when ingested. Others claim it’s too dusty and has filled their hamsters noses and lungs with powder. Some even claim their hamster has died due to this product.
There is no evidence that this is the case, however, it’s clear from many hamster owners that they are unhappy with the product. I personally think it’s too fine and I won’t use it for my hamsters. It’s up to you if you want to use this sand for your hamster, but just be aware there are safe known alternatives. The internet is full of unhappy users, so caution is really needed.
These are some reviews from Hamster owners of Tiny Friends Hamster Sand:
This killed my hamster. DO NOT BUYReviewed in the United States on August 30, 2018I purchased this product about a year when it was less than $10 and it was called SAND. I ran out of my last box so I ended up purchasing a new one. The price INCREASED and when I received it, it was gray and dusty. I was hesitant but I knew my hammy loved the sand so I let her use it.
She has only been using the new dust for a few days now and I wake up to her dead. I noticed she also had the gray sand on her nose. I believe this sand killed her cause this was the only new change I made in her house. DO NOT BUY THIS PRODUCT EVER! I will certainly be returning this trash back to the company. I’m higky disappointed in their cheap alternative to sand, and I very sad my sweet girl passed away.
Natalie Barron on Amazon
Used to love this sand Product used to be twice the size and actual sand. Now it is dust, half the size, and cost more.B Drummer on Amazon
This dust is deadly to hamsters. Three days after using his product two of my hamsters died.
I had an autopsy done on one of them and the vet said her lungs were full of dust and the cause of death was lack of oxygen due to respitory depression from the dust!
The overall comments all over the internet are that the product was changed by Supreme Petfoods who own Tiny Friends Hamster Sand. However, Supreme Petfoods claims that the sand is a natural product (Sepiolite) which will look different depending on the mining location.
There are ofcourse also possitive reviews like this one:
I have been using this sand for the last 7 months for my Dwarf Hamster. She loves it! I was concerned at first with her ingesting it but there have been no issues at all. She uses this as her potty, and when I put the new sand in she loves to roll around in it. She has a three level cage and I will watch her go from the top all the way to the bottom to use her potty.
The true test was when I went away for 2 weeks and left her in the care of someone and I did want them to worry about changing the sand so I took the sand out. She proceeded to urinate in another corner of the cage and it was a smelly mess when I returned. Now her sand is back in and she is happily using her potty again! I tend to go through one container every 4 months. I change her sand at least every three days if not sooner. Its totally worth itS. Varnum on Amazon
The fact that there are so many bad reviews on the product, makes me cautious. As said before, I thought it to be too dusty to use for my hamsters, but you should make up your own mind.
To be safe, I think it’s best to stick to the three options mentioned in this post, being heat treated children’s play sand, natural reptile sand or chinchilla sand (as long as it’s not too fine).
But like I said, be cautious but form your own opinion on what you think is best for your hamster.
Should you give your hamster a sand bath?
Giving your hamster a sand bath is not a luxury but a necessity to keep your hamster healthy, happy and sane. The sand bath should be relatively big so your hamster can walk around the sand bath. 2 Inches of sand would be ideal, though a minimum of 1 inch sand should be a minimum at all times.
Make sure the sand bath is not so small that your hamster touches the sides when in the sand bath. Your hamster will want to walk around it and dig in the sand. A hideout would be ideal if it fits in the container.
It’s important to use the right sand as powdery sand can cause respiratory infections in your hamster.Children’s play sand which has been heat treated, natural reptile sand and rough chinchilla sand are all good options of sand to use, depending on your budget and availability in your area.
A sandy area is especially important for robo hamsters as they live in a sandy environment in the wild.
Many hamsters live in cages which are too small for them. Try to buy the largest cage you can afford, which can comfortably fit in the space you have planned for the cage.
Sand baths can add to your hamsters health, happiness and well-being!
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