Can Hamsters Get Wet? Read Before Trying

Can hamsters get wet

Can Hamsters Get Wet?

If you have a hamster, you’ve likely noticed that they seem to be fastidious about keeping themselves clean. You may wonder if they would enjoy taking a bath, considering their obvious desire to stay tidy. 

Can hamsters get wet? Not only do hamsters dislike getting wet, but being wet can also cause them harm. Because of the stress it causes and the risk of hypothermia, a hamster should never be intentionally immersed in water. If your hamster accidentally gets wet, it is important to keep him warm and calm until he is completely dry. 

It is important to understand why a hamster should not get wet if you are considering giving your pet a bath. Read on for more information on why hamsters don’t appreciate getting wet and how water can adversely affect them. 

What Can Happen If A Hamster Gets Wet? 

There are two main reasons that a hamster should not be subjected to water immersion – the physiological ramifications and the psychological ramifications. Both of these can have detrimental negative effects on the hamster’s body and are equally significant. 

Negative Effects Of Water On A Hamster’s Body Temperature

Hamsters are very small, without a lot of body fat to help retain their body heat. Because they are not native to wet regions, their fur is not designed in a way to repel water. The main purpose of a hamster’s fur is to insulate him against the cold air – the fur is wool-like, typically short, and very close to the body.

If these strands of fur become saturated, not only will the fur lose its ability to insulate the body against the cold, but it can actually trap the cold and damp between the hair and the body, increasingly lowering the body temperature.

The hamster’s natural body composition, coupled with the loss of insulation when wet, can equal a dangerous combination for a wet hamster. A hamster’s body frame does not allow much wiggle room when cold and wet – even a short amount of time in a water bath can have detrimental health effects on the hamster.

Negative Effects Of Water On Hamster’s Mental State

Hamsters are naturally very skittish and easily stressed. This is really a survival mechanism for them – so long as they are always on the lookout for danger, they will be able to flee at the first sign of a threat. Once they are no longer alert to potential threats and becoming complacent to danger, they will be easy pickings for their many predators. 

As most of us know, however, prolonged or significant stress can be very harmful to our health. Being immersed in water will not just cause a small amount of stress to a hamster – it will be extremely distressing for him, which can affect his heart, his immune system, and other body and organ functions.

Extreme distress can cause negative health effects, up to and including death. Hamsters do not adapt easily and are very susceptible to stressful situations.

What To Do If Your Hamster Accidentally Gets Wet

It should go without saying that we should endeavor to be cautious when holding our hamsters near any body of water – being responsible for our pets, we should do our best to protect them from potential dangers. However, accidents happen.

Maybe you’ve set your hamster down for a moment, and he walked right into a sink full of dishwater. Or maybe he was on your lap when you accidentally spilled a glass of water right over him. If your hamster has accidentally become saturated in water, don’t panic. It is important that you keep him as calm and warm as possible while he dries.

The first thing you will want to do is grab a clean, dry towel. Gently but snugly wrap your hamster in the towel in a way that allows him to lightly move around and allows you access to him. Once he is wrapped and secure, you will want to plug in your hairdryer.

Pointing it in a different direction, turn it on to the lowest setting and hold it against your palm. If it is too warm, turn it on to the cool setting. Once you have the speed and temperature right, hold it at least a couple of feet away from him while you use it to gently dry his body.

If the hair dryer causes too much additional stress, you should turn it off. If the day is sunny and warm, you can take him outside with a towel and allow the warmth of the sun to aid in drying him. Fortunately, because his hair is thin and woolly, it should not take too long for him to dry off.

Make sure you don’t put him back into his enclosure until he is completely dried. Once dry, gently place him back into his home and give him space to calm down and return to a peaceful state. He may sit and lick his fur for a while, or he may burrow and hide. Give him time and space to return to his baseline.

Do Hamsters Like Getting Wet?

Hamsters do not like getting wet. Most species of wild hamsters are native to dry, arid climates. In their typical habitat, there is usually very little rain and low humidity. Of course, hamsters must stay hydrated and need to drink water, just like any other animal.

In the wild they will usually live near some sort of stream or body of water and will drink water from the shallowest areas, putting as little of their bodies into the water as possible.

Most hamsters will avoid getting wet at any cost. They take care to avoid putting their feet or other parts of their bodies into an area of water, including a puddle, and will become distressed if they fall into a body of water or otherwise find their bodies immersed in water. 

How Do Hamsters Clean Themselves If They Don’t Like Getting Wet?

If hamsters are unable to safely get wet, how do they stay clean? Hamsters are very hygienic animals, and like many mammals, they lick and groom themselves to stay clean. Hamsters burrow both in the wild and in captivity (when possible), so their coats can quickly become covered in dirt, leaves, and twigs.

They lick themselves frequently throughout each day to remove this debris from their coats. They also have another goal in this near-constant grooming. Hamsters have scent glands near their hips, and they use their paws and their mouths to spread the oil from these scent glands through the rest of the fur. This oil, in return, helps their fur to stay clean. 

Another way that hamsters like to stay clean is by taking sand baths. When a hamster rolls in the sand, it soaks up some of the excess oil that is on a hamster’s fur. It also, apparently, feels great, as evidenced by the way most hamsters take to jumping in and rolling around without hesitation!

If your hamster does not have a sand bath, it is an important tool for both their hygiene and their mental health. Buy a simple ceramic container in which your hamster can fit into and roll, and fill it with sand. Hamster and chinchilla sand is very powdery and is not ideal as it can be inhaled into a hamster’s delicate respiratory system.

The best sand to purchase is unscented reptile sand (just make sure it does not have any added calcium).

Can Hamsters Swim?

Though it is clear that hamsters should not be immersed in water, you may be wondering if they naturally know how to swim. Hamsters, like most mammals, instinctively know how to paddle in the water in order to stay afloat and alive.

They are not proficient swimmers, but they have enough innate knowledge to keep their heads above water for a short time – this last part is important because a hamster will not have much endurance, especially when in distress.

For this reason, a hamster can easily drown in very little time. So, all things considered, hamsters can swim in so far as they can paddle to keep their heads above water, but they can very quickly and easily succumb to the water.

Spot-Cleaning Your Hamster

Lastly, let’s talk about “spot-cleaning” your hamster. If there is something stuck on your hamster’s fur that he has been unable to remove – for example, an unfortunate episode of diarrhea after a bit too much watermelon – you can gently clean him.

Do not dunk him into water, and do not pour or spray water onto him. Dampen a corner of a rag in the water and use it to gently wipe the hamster’s body. Use as little water as possible, and do not rub in a rough manner.

If you are unable to remove the offending mess without causing stress to your pet, an easier solution may be to carefully clip away that portion of hair with a pair of scissors. After all, fur will grow back, but a hamster in distress may not recover as easily.

You can learn more about hamsters and other furry friends in my latest articles here!

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