Sticky fur in hamsters: 10 common reasons and treatment tips
You probably associate a sticky coat on your hamster with uncleanliness in your first thought.
However, there are many reasons for this and it is not uncommon for them to be caused by illness.
In this article we will tell you 10 common causes for a sticky hamster fur and also show you what you can do about it and in which cases a visit to the vet is absolutely necessary.
10 Causes of a sticky hamster coat
A sticky hamster coat can have numerous causes and can be caused by things like lack of care, but also by various diseases. In any case, however, it is a warning signal, as they are basically very clean animals.
Which reasons are responsible in detail and what you can do against it, you will learn now.
Reason 1: Infestation with parasites
An infestation with mites or more rarely with fleas can cause the skin to flake and your hamster to suffer from considerable itching. In extreme cases, the animal may scratch itself bloody.
In addition to the dander and blood, the excretions of the parasites stick to the fur.
In some places, hair loss may also occur.
The bites and stings of the parasites are in themselves usually only annoying, but not dangerous. However, they can become inflamed, which is sometimes accompanied by wound fluid, purulent discharge and scabs. These substances also contribute to sticking of the coat.
Take the signs seriously and consult a veterinarian early. Special spot-on preparations are used to combat the parasites. Any pre-existing inflammation can also be treated to help it heal faster and allow your pet to recover.
Due to the persistent itching as well as the bites and stings, the hamster can be weakened, its sleep is disturbed and even the transmission of infectious diseases is possible.
Reason 2: Lack of cleaning due to limitations in mobility
Hamsters are extremely clean animals that spend a lot of time preening themselves.
However, due to injuries or age-related limitations, your pet may be less mobile. As a result, it may no longer reach all areas with its tongue and paws. So dirt and dust accumulate in the coat and can cause clumping or make the coat look dull and shaggy.
Another possible reason for such movement restrictions are injuries. A fall or awkward movement may have caused the rodent to strain, sprain or bruise. Internal injuries are also possible.
This will make grooming painful and also not done properly.
Watch out for other signs, such as a resting posture, loss of appetite or lethargy (Learn how to tell if your hamster is in pain right away). Your hamster may not be putting weight on one leg or may be sensitive to touch. Biting and aggressive behavior may also occur.
In all cases mentioned above, an immediate visit to the vet is recommended. Only this way the exact cause can be found out and the necessary therapy can be carried out.
Reason 3: Infections or diseases of the urinary tract
Sticky fur in connection with a wet belly or genital area indicate problems of the kidneys or the bladder.
This may be due to an infection. Likewise, the function of the kidneys may also be impaired due to feeding that is too high in protein.
Another possibility is incontinence, which occurs, for example, in old age.
Due to the constant wetting with urine, the coat sticks and smells unpleasantly of ammonia. Clarification by a veterinarian and, if necessary, a change in feeding is essential.
Particularly absorbent bedding and assistance with coat care may also be necessary.
Reason 4: Lack of care
Especially for hamsters with very soft and long fur, grooming can be time-consuming and too much for the animal itself. Food residues, (wet) litter, feces and urine then pose problems, as do dust and other dirt, which in the long run lead to tangles, knots and felt.
If these are not removed, inflammation and abscesses can form under the tangled hairs, which in turn contribute to the sticky coat.
Reason 5: No suitable utensils
For grooming, hamsters use their paws, claws and saliva. They can also use their teeth to remove coarser dirt.
A frequently used cleaning option is sand baths. Here, the sand absorbs moisture and acts like an exfoliant. Loose hairs, on the other hand, are removed by scratching or rubbing against rough surfaces.
However, if neither sand nor suitable materials are available, coat care can suffer and sticking can occur.
Reason 6: Dental problems
Since hamsters use their saliva and teeth, among other things, for grooming, injuries and other problems in this area can negatively affect the animal’s coat care.
Possible causes include:
adhesions of the cheek pouches
Teeth that are too long
If the continuously growing nail teeth cannot grind properly, not only brushing becomes difficult or even impossible. Eating and drinking are also only possible to a limited extent.
Fast action is therefore vital for your hamster!
Reason 7: Lack of cage hygiene
A clean cage provides a good basis for hamsters with well-groomed fur. Urine and leaking water wet litter, sticky food scraps, and feces can not only attract insects, the dirt inevitably accumulates in the fur.
Because of the high buildup, your hamster will then be unable to groom itself adequately.
Reason 8: Wrong bedding
Absorbent bedding is critical to the condition of the cage and the level of hygiene possible.
For part of the cage, regular wood chips are fine. Various substrates such as sand, soil, shredded paper, cotton flowers and hemp bedding are also suitable, along with stones and wood.
Reason 9: Water
Some hamsters don’t accept water bottles at all or prefer to take water from a bowl.
However, if you set up a bowl, your pet may get into it while playing or running and get wet. This disturbs the fats and oils that naturally occur on the skin and in the coat.
The same goes for a leaking water bottle and thus wet bedding in the hamster’s home.
Reason 10: Diarrhea
Spoiled or incorrect food can lead to diarrhea in hamsters (or constipation).
The otherwise comparatively solid and dry feces is then soft to liquid and possibly very sticky. Cleaning is more difficult for the hamster and, especially in the case of long-haired animals, extremely time-consuming.
In addition, the rodent is weakened by the diarrhea and the associated increased loss of fluids and nutrients. So there is little or no strength left for grooming.
Treatment and countermeasures
In case of diseases and injuries, only treatment by a veterinarian will help.
Therefore, observe your hamster closely and take changes in behavior or signs of a health problem seriously. Because without an early diagnosis and therapy, the chances of survival are in many cases extremely low. This is partly due to the light weight and partly due to the sensitive constitution of the animals.
Do not waste time if you suspect an illness or injury in your hamster!
The causes for a sticky fur can be, as you have already seen, very diverse and a self-diagnosis (especially if you are an inexperienced owner), is not always advisable.
Better once too often to the vet than once too little!
How to prevent sticky hamster fur
To prevent sticky hamster fur, you can follow these 5 tips
Tip 1: Large hamster home
Hamsters are unfortunately not housebroken and will use the nest, sand bath, bedding and even the food bowl as a toilet if necessary.
The larger the hamster home, the easier it is to keep clean. This is because feces and urine are distributed over a larger area and soiling of this type makes up a small percentage. This reduces the risk of sticky fur.
In addition, a large cage can offer much more variety in terms of bedding and substrate, there is room for a sand bath and your pet can set up “toilet corners”.
All of this will benefit their well-being and therefore their health.
Tip 2: Support grooming
Get your hamster used to brushing!
A soft brush can be used to remove dirt and adhesions. Especially in old age or in case of illness and injury this is a considerable relief for your pet.
With a lot of patience and empathy, your help with grooming is not a stress factor, but is experienced and enjoyed by many hamsters as pleasant attention.
Tip 3: Regular checks
Check both the cage and the hamster regularly.
From the teeth to the anus area, changes and possible problems will be noticed early and you can act accordingly. This will increase the chances of preventing sticky fur or other problems from occurring in the first place.
Tip 4: Remove food
Fruits and vegetables enrich your hamster’s diet, but they can spoil quickly and cause diarrhea, attract insects or become soft and sticky and stain the fur.
Therefore, remove leftovers quickly and make sure that you do not overdo it with fresh or moist food. If you are feeding berries, for example, one berry is sufficient.
Tip 5: Eliminate hazards
Since injuries can also be responsible for sticky fur and can quickly become very dangerous if unnoticed, you should prevent them.
When choosing a cage or hamster home, make sure that the bars – if present – do not give any possibility of escape or trapping.
When it comes to toys, rodent supplies and other furnishings, it is important that everything is stable and secure, does not pose a fall hazard, and has no spikes or sharp edges.
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