Should I let my hamster swim?

wet hamster been swimming

There are many “funny” hamster videos online in which hamsters dressed up, swimming and doing all sorts of things. While these are being portraited as being funny, the hamster obviously doesn’t have a say in the video production at all. And I think it’s important for people to know when hamster videos are ok and when they’re not. So, let’s dive into whether hamsters should be swimming, or not. 

Should I let my hamster swim? No, you shouldn’t let your hamster swim. Hamsters are hydrophobic which literally means ‘the fear of water’.  If put in a bowl of water your hamster will try to swim to safety but won’t be able to get out because of high edges of baths and bowls. Your hamster will become stressed and possibly cold which could easily lead to severe illness which will shorten your hamster’s life. Hamsters are not swimmers; they merely paddle their legs to survive! 

Should I let my hamster swim: 

Can hamsters swim? 

Yes, hamsters can swim for short distances. They paddle their legs frantically to get to the bank to safety as they won’t be able to keep it up for very long and risk drowning. Wild hamsters will swim if they need to, to escape predators for example, they will never go in the water at any other time. Not for swimming and not for bathing either.

If your hamster were to fall into water, he will try to paddle himself to safety rapidly. However, your hamster can’t keep their head above the water for very long and will be panicked and in survival mode. So, make sure don’t have deep exposed water nearby to which your hamster could have access when out of their cage.  

Should you let your hamster swim? 

No, you shouldn’t let your hamster swim. Ever. Hamsters live in dry, desert like areas in the wild and are NOT water animals. It would be cruel to put your hamster in water to swim, as your hamster will be scared and will only swim to survive. While a swimming hamster might look funny to some people, it really isn’t and causes your hamster severe stress.  

Besides that, it if you let your hamster swim in a bath, container or bowl, there is no way for your hamster to get out on their own which means they are depending on you to get out. Your hamster will be bumping into the side of the ‘swimming pool’ trying to get out of the water. Please don’t put your hamster in water! 

Is it bad for hamsters to swim?  

Yes, it’s bad for hamsters to swim for several reasons, because your hamster: 

  • would be scared as they are not natural swimmers 
  • could drown as it can only keep itself floating for short periods of time 
  • will lose natural oil from its fur which it needs to stay warm 
  • could get a cold or pneumonia and die 
  • will be prone to disease due to weakened immune systems 
  • chlorine in pools will be very toxic for your hamster! 
  • your hamster can get exhausted from the strenuous exercise  

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Do hamsters like getting in water?  

Hamsters are not water animals and don’t like getting in water at all. You will find that when you try to bathe your hamster, or when you put your hamster under running water, he’ll be wriggly and trying to get away. If you must wash your hamster as an emergency, make sure you use water at room temperature and as less as possible. Just a little layer of water in a bowl is better than deep water or running water. 

Can hamsters swim in water? 

Yes, hamsters can swim in water, but they would only do so to survive. You put your hamsters live at risk by putting him in the water, as your hamster can get ill from getting thoroughly wet. Besides this, it will be hard to provide a swimming possibility for your hamster with easy access to dry land as water bowls and swimming tubs will have steep edges, stressing your hamster out even more. 

Can hamsters drown in water? 

Hamsters can easily drown in water, and it will happen quickly. If you put your hamster in a bowl or tub for a swim, they will try to swim to safety. However, they can only swim small distances and once their head goes underwater, large amounts of water will be taken in.

If you don’t get your hamster out at once, he will drown. And while you might think you have taken your hamster out on time; your hamster will now be severely stressed and cold. As hamsters are prone to stress and stress related disease AND don’t do well with severe body temperature changes, there is a good chance your hamster will get sick. 

Can hamsters swim in a bowl 

Bowls are dangerous for hamsters to swim in as the edges are steep and your hamster has no way of getting out by themselves. As bowls are small, your hamster will reach the edge quickly and realize there is no way out. If you imagine yourself in a big bowl of water with no way out, you can quickly see how stressful this situation would be for your hamster. Hamsters don’t like swimming, so don’t put them in water for a swim! 

Can dwarf hamsters swim? 

Dwarf hamsters will have severe difficulty swimming due to their short legs. While they can survive in water for a very short period of time – which might just be enough to safe themselves – they are prone to drowning quickly. Wild dwarf hamsters can be found in the deserts of central Asia where there is little to no water. It’s fair to say that dwarf hamsters can paddle their tiny stumpy legs for a short time if they would find themselves in water but are not swimmers. 

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Can Syrian hamsters swim in water? 

Syrian hamsters are better swimmers than dwarf hamster breeds as they have longer legs. However, while they can keep themselves above water for longer, you shouldn’t let them swim as they are not natural swimmers and don’t like it. In fact, it’s very stressful for your Syrian hamster to find themselves in water. And stressed hamsters can become sick hamsters. Hamsters only swim to bring themselves to safety. They don’t like swimming.  

Do wild hamsters swim?  

Wild hamsters live in dry desert like environments and while they will try to swim to safety if they find themselves in water, they are not water animals, and you will never find a hamster going for a leisurely swim. They can swim for short periods of time and will be able to get out of most natural pools easily as long as there are no high banks. That is if they have not been spotted first by the many predators in the water. 

Why shouldn’t you put your hamster in water? 

First, hamsters don’t like being submerged in water. It stresses them out.  

Secondly, hamsters will get too cold too quickly 

Thirdly, it will take too long for your hamster to dry thoroughly exposing them even more. 

And lastly, your hamster will lose their protective oils in their fur, leaving them exposed even more. 

Should you let your hamster swim to clean them? 

Hamsters are very capable of cleaning themselves, however there might be times when your hamster gets particularly dirty. As hamsters live in cages with bedding and often paper strips, it’s more likely your hamster gets dirty and possibly have feces or urine on their body.  

But rather than putting your hamster in the tub for a cleaning swim, it’s better to wipe your hamster down with a cloth. You can use dry pet shampoo for easy cleaning, though you don’t want to use this too often to avoid the oil in the fur to disappear. If you are planning on using any water at all, again it’s better to use a wet but squeezed out cloth and wipe your hamster rather than submerging your hamster in water with a swim. 

How do I stop my hamster from getting dirty? 

A hamster is normally dirty because its living space is dirty or because it’s ill. It is therefore very important to remove wet and dirty bedding from your hamsters cage every day as well as any soiled paper strips you might have in the cage. Once a week you will need to clean your hamsters cage thoroughly. Find out how to clean your hamsters’ cage easily and quickly here. 

If your hamster is ill and has wet tail for example, it’s even more important to keep their cage clean and to clean your hamster. Again, use a cloth rather than water and never submerge your hamster in water. 

Why should you never get your hamster wet 

Hamsters have oil in their coat which keeps them warm and protects their skin. Water can remove this oil, exposing your hamsters’ skin. The water can also make your hamsters’ temperature drop and the removal of oil on the fur means the hamster can’t insulate itself. 

When the body temperature of a hamster drops significantly, the hamster could get hyperthermia or develop pneumonia.  

What type of hamster can swim? 

Some breeds of hamster can paddle quite well for short periods of time. These would be the hamsters with longer legs, like the Syrian Hamsters. The Dwarf Hamster breeds would have much more difficulty swimming as they have much shorter legs compared to the size of their body.

This means it would cost them lots more energy to keep their heads above water and to quickly move to the water’s edge. And while hamsters can swim, or paddle more like, it’s really not good for them and they would only do it in emergencies. So don’t put your hamster in a bowl for a leisurely swim, because you will stress your hamster and risk your hamster from drowning. 

What happens if a hamster gets wet? 

It will take a long time for your hamster to fully dry should they get wet. This in turn can bring their body temperature down quickly. Hamsters can get sick easily when they are exposed to large body temperature changes. If their body temperature drops significantly, they can develop respiratory illnesses like colds and even pneumonia, which will need attention from your veterinarian at once. 

When exposed to stress (and swimming is stressful for your hamster), hamsters could get sick easier. They are more likely to develop diseases which seem completely unrelated, like wet tail and pneumonia.  

What should I do if my hamster gets wet? 

It’s important to dry your hamster quickly and thoroughly before he gets too cold. Hamsters are sensitive to temperature changes, so you want to act quickly. 

Use a soft towel and carefully wrap your hamster in it with his face sticking out. Softly stroke your hamster dry with the towel. If you have a cotton muslin square, use this before you put your hamster in a towel. Muslin squares work well as they absorb a lot of water while being soft. (Muslin cotton squares are used for newborn babies, and you can find these cheaply on Amazon or many department stores). 

Putting a sand bath into your hamsters cage will be a good idea as the sand can dry out your hamsters skin and deeper fur.  

Giving your hamster a treat after being exposed to water is also a good idea to give extra calories.  

What do I need to look out for after my hamster has gotten wet? 

Check your hamster regularly for sneezing or any discharge from his nose or eyes. These will be signs that your hamster has gotten to cold or too stressed out and his immune system is compromised. Make sure you take him to the vet if your hamster shows signs of illness after getting wet, as he could have pneumonia and intervention by the vet is needed at once. 

What happens if I put my hamster in the bath to swim 

Your hamster will be distressed and try to get out as quickly as possible. And where it can’t get out of the bath due to high edges, your hamster will bump into the sides and become distressed. If you leave your hamster long enough it will exhaust itself and drown. 

Video below shows why you shouldn’t put your hamster in water 

This video clearly shows why you shouldn’t put your hamster in a bath, not even when your hamster is dirty, and you want your hamster to have a bath or to get clean.  

As you can see in the video, an early indication that this hamster is not treated very well is the fact that the man is scared to pick up the hamster to put it in the bath for a ‘swimming session’. Instead, he opens the hamster ball above the water and with one finger pushes the hamster out of the ball into the water.  

The hamster then quickly starts peddling around trying to find a way out of the water. After bumping into the sides of the bath many times, the man puts his hand in the water for the hamster to climb out.  

Unfortunately for the hamster, it was so hilarious to see it swim, that a second session is needed. A thoroughly exhausted hamster is eventually lifted out of the water.  

While the makers of the video clearly find it hilarious to watch a swimming hamster, in reality it’s animal cruelty. You can clearly see a distressed animal trying to find a way out of the water.  

Can you bath hamsters? 

Yes, you can bathe hamsters but should only do so in certain circumstances and with very little water, if any at all. Find out how to bathe your hamster safely here. 

How do hamster’s clean their teeth? 

Your hamster’s teeth will continually grow all their lives and will therefore be always relatively clean. It is still important to stay close to a natural diet for your hamster to avoid teeth problems and infections. Find out more about hamster teeth here. 

How much water do hamsters need? 

Hamsters always need access to fresh, clean water. While many pets are fine with a water bowl, a water bottle attached to the cage is a better idea as no dirt can get into the water.  

Conclusion: Should I let my hamster swim? 

As you have read this post, I think it has become clear that swimming is not that good for hamsters and while they can swim, they really shouldn’t. 

Containers, bowls and baths are too dangerous for hamsters due to their high edges, as they are not able to get out on their own. This means there is a bigger chance of drowning especially if you get distracted for a moment.  

A hamster’s coat has oil in it to keep it warm and its skin protected, and water can remove this oil, leaving your hamster exposed. 

Swimming is also exhausting and stressful for a hamster as they are not natural swimmers.  

A drop in body temperature can lead to a cold, hypothermia or even pneumonia. 

A hamster will also be more prone to disease due to a weaker immune system when exposed to a highly stressful situation. 

While most hamsters will be fine should they fall in water and are scooped out instantly. Swimming puts your hamster at risk, increased stress and might reduce its live.  

So, while hamsters can swim, you really shouldn’t let your hamster swim! 

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