Hamster and water: everything you need to know
You probably don’t immediately associate hamsters and water, because the animals are not known for being able to swim.
But are hamsters even afraid of water?
As a hamster owner, you should know exactly how your pet reacts to wetness, why a wet coat can be life-threatening, and how to clean up messes without a water bath.
All these questions (and much more) will be answered in this article!
Water Shy: Are Hamsters Afraid of Water?
Hamsters are not directly afraid of water, but instinctively they avoid contact with too much water. Wet paws and damp fur, however, they use to cool off in the summer. So whether it is fear or just a pronounced aversion is unclear.
In addition, some hamsters are found to perform a wet “cat wash” when a water bowl is available. They wet their front paws and rub them through the fur in all accessible places. This behavior can be observed mainly in summer or at very high room temperatures and low humidity.
It serves thus rather the cooling and easy moistening than the cleaning.
However, the animals do not get completely wet. The result is more reminiscent of a hamster that has run through grass wet with dew.
Attention: Even if this looks cute, it is a warning signal.If your hamster feels the need to cool down, the temperatures are dangerously high. In these cases, you should adjust ventilation, draw the curtains during the day, and use fans or air conditioning if necessary.
Are hamsters allowed to get wet at all?
Wet paws or slightly damp fur tips are not a problem. However, your hamster should not get completely wet. Because on the one hand there are some dangers and on the other hand the soaking can have unpleasant consequences for your hamster.
Since animals in the wild do not bathe either and only seek out water to drink, their swimming skills are extremely limited.
Hamsters can hold on to the surface of the water, but are panicky and stressed when doing so. Accordingly, you should avoid allowing your hamster to require a full bath or get near large amounts of water.
Why water is dangerous for your hamster
If hamsters get completely wet, there are several dangers. Some are even life-threatening, so quick drying (more on this in the next chapter) and a trip to the vet, if necessary, are essential
1: Colds and pneumonia.
Getting wet causes animals to cool down quickly.
While this alone does not cause a cold, it can significantly increase the risk of it when combined with existing pathogens.
Unlike in humans, a cold in hamsters is anything but harmless. They can also develop into pneumonia, which is potentially fatal.
Stress, panic and anxiety release corresponding hormones in the body. These have a negative effect on the organism. Thus, the cardiovascular system can suffer, the body’s immune defenses are weakened and the animal is more jumpy.
Nightmares and thereby disturbed sleep are also not uncommon. The susceptibility to diseases increases.
3: Negative effects on the immune system
The combination of stress and temperature fluctuations primarily affects the immune system.
So with pathogens present in the environment, infections become more likely. Parasites such as worms can also spread more easily in the organism and weaken the animal.
So even if the water doesn’t have a direct impact, the consequences of getting wet become very apparent.
4: Ingestion and water in the respiratory tract.
Due to the perceived panic, swimming in hamsters turns out to be very hectic. During this process, splashes of water can repeatedly get on or into the nose and mouth. Besides swallowing larger amounts of water, this can also be inhaled.
The possible consequences are irritation and irritation, repeated coughing and sneezing as well as infections caused by germs from the water.
So-called secondary drowning is also a danger. In this, the hamster initially appears healthy and unharmed, but has water in the lungs. This can lead to sudden death during sleep.
Due to the small size of the animals, even a very small amount of water is sufficient for this.
5: Temperature fluctuations
Since hamsters spend most of their time underground, they are used to almost constant temperatures. Sudden fluctuations they tolerate only badly and react very sensitively to it.
This can manifest itself in digestive disorders, weaken the organism and result in an increased need for rest.
Due to the small size of the animals, the body can also cool down quickly. Even if the water was warm, heat is removed from the hamster during drying. This is especially true, but not limited to, long fur.
At worst, this gives the animal the impetus to hibernate. Whether it ever wakes up from this, however, is uncertain. So this is also a danger.
6: Skin irritations
Hamster skin secretes fats and oils continuously. So in that respect, it is no different from that of humans.
These substances are responsible for keeping the skin elastic and supple, protecting it from external influences and keeping germs from penetrating.
During an extended bath or direct contact with water, these protective and important oils are removed. As a result, the skin and coat suffer.
With long-haired specimens, knots can also appear in the fur. The shine is lost and the coat appears dull.
Many good reasons to keep your hamster warm and dry!
Instruction: How to dry a wet hamster
Due to its small size and great mobility, a hamster can quickly get into danger even in the apartment.
Due to its skittish nature, an unobserved moment is enough for the animal to find itself in the dog’s water bowl or the cleaning bucket, or take an involuntary bath in the aquarium.
That sounds unrealistic?
Anyone who has ever desperately searched for an escaped hamster knows that they can get themselves into the most impossible situations.
In addition, heavy soiling of the fur can make at least a partial bath necessary. So even with great care, it may be necessary to dry the hamster quickly yet gently.
What is needed for this is a very warm room, cellulose towels or absorbent towels and washcloths, and a small box or transport cage.
To remove the greatest amount of water from the coat, you can first wipe the animal with a towel or washcloth using light pressure. This will push the liquid out of the fur and absorb it into the fabric.
After this measure, the hamster must be placed in a room with a temperature of 25 to 30° Celsius. When dry, this heat would be a risk for heat stroke. However, as long as the hamster is wet, it needs it to maintain normal body temperature and prevent hypothermia.
While drying, you should place the animal in a small box or transport cage.
Use an absorbent towel as a floor covering.
For this purpose, you can provide kitchen roll or cellulose towels and, optimally, “wrap” your hamster directly in them. Be careful with towels and washcloths, as your pet may try to stuff them into cheek pockets as nesting material or gnaw them.
When your hamster is nearly dry, you can slowly lower the room temperature again and also use a soft brush to loosen up the fur. This will promote drying and prevent sudden temperature changes.
In any case, do not use a hair dryer and do not bring the hamster too close to the heater. The noise of the hair dryer will cause even more stress and anxiety, while the direct proximity to the heater can cause overheating.
All these rules apply even if you need to wet clean the hamster’s fur. This is necessary, for example, if the animal can no longer clean itself. However, it is usually sufficient to clean with a damp cloth or brush out the dirt.
If only the tips of the fur are stuck or encrusted, you can carefully cut them off with scissors. It is best to do this with a helper.
If cutting, brushing or wiping is not possible, bathe your hamster’s bottom in a shallow bowl of clean, warm water. Wet only as much as necessary, and it’s best to do the washing directly in the cage or in close proximity. This will reduce the stress factor.
Alternative hamster cleaning: Sand bath
The counterpart to a relaxing full bath for humans is the sand bath for hamsters.
Sand can absorb moisture and acts as an exfoliant, so to speak. Excess oils and grease are thus removed as well as light dirt. Since hamsters are very clean animals, they use the possibility of a sand bath gladly and often as an addition to the normal cleaning.
All that is needed is a suitable container and bathing sand. A bath house should have high sides so that the sand is not thrown into the cage or even beyond during the bath. In addition, the container must withstand the teeth of the hamster and be stable.
So vessels made of ceramic or glass with a heavy bottom are well suited. Ideally, they have a lower entrance so your hamster can climb in and out more easily.
Make sure that the sand is really bathing sand. This has an ideal grain size and contains very little dust.
The sand bath can be offered continuously, but sooner or later it will be used as a toilet. However, by sifting the sand when changing the bedding, the excrement lumps can be removed without any problems.
Our tip: The sand bath should be located on the first floor of the hamster home. The side walls can also be covered with Plexiglas. This prevents your hamster from spreading the sand outside the cage.
My name is Mark and the senior editor
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