If you’re looking for an odor-free pet, you are probably out of luck. All animals will, at one time or another, be odorous. Some more than others. So, do hamsters smell? And if so, how bad? Let’s dig in!
Do Hamsters Smell Bad?
A hamster doesn’t typically smell bad. If they do, it is typically because of a dirty cage, illness, infection, or something completely natural. Natural you say? Let’s dig in and see what causes a hamster to be smelly.
Why Does My Hamster Smell?
We have a lot of hamster parents who bring up this question. There are numerous causes behind a smelly hamster. Some are completely normal while others are not. Hamsters, by nature, are fastidious groomers who perpetually clean themselves. Something you have to remember is that what may smell foul to humans may not be offensive to a hamster.
Because we are human and have sensitivities to unpleasant odors, we strive to keep those odors to a minimum. This is one of the reasons perfumes and deodorants were invented. Unfortunately, our hamsters don’t have hygienic products to mask their smells.
So, let’s look at what’s causing your hammie to stink and how you can safely minimize the odor.
Things That Cause Hamster-Related Odors
Smells emitted by your hamster can be caused by several things. It can be because your hamster is doing what comes naturally by marking its territory. Smelly hamsters may be sick or simply be dirty because of their environment.
Scent Gland Excretion
This may come as a surprise, but humans and animals (excluding most marine life) come outfitted with scent glands. Scent glands serve a purpose in the animal world.
The scent glands in animals release secretions to mark their territory. The secretion is like a calling card left behind that conveys an animal’s social status, sex, health status, reproductive status, and even what mood they are in. In the wild, other animals sniff the markings and know immediately whether to stay or flee.
The odor of the secretion produced by scent glands in any animal is extremely foul to humans. Hamsters may release secretions when excited (being picked up, someone passing their cage, startled, etc.)
If you notice a horrific fish odor when you pass by your hamster’s cage, you’ll know why. Again, this odor is offensive to us, but not to them.
Scent Gland Characteristics In Hamsters
Dwarf Hamster Species
Scent gland location: one (ventral midline) scent gland situated on the rear abdominal area.
- A hairless, protruding spot (more prominent in males than females.)
- A wax, grease-like yellow secretion may be present.
Syrian Hamster Species
Scent gland location: two (bilateral) situated on each hip.
- Difficult to see because they are covered with fur.
- It may appear to be wet.
Scent Gland Conditions
Should your hamster’s scent gland(s) become infected or develop tumors, the odor can become twice as foul and extremely noticeable. It’s important that hamster parents monitor their hamster’s physical condition for any changes. Infections, growths, etc., warrant a visit to the vet.
Your hamster can easily become soiled with excrement embedded in their fur if their cage (including accessories such as a wheel, tubes, etc.) develops a buildup of waste, rotting food, and soiled bedding.
When feeding your hamster, it may appear that it’s eating all of the food. However, in reality, most hamsters eat a small portion of what they are fed and hoard the rest (burying it where it can rot). We cover hamster feeding in one of our latest blog articles “What Can Hamsters Eat?: A Data-Backed Guide To Hamster Feeding.”
OK, But Do Dwarf Hamsters Smell Too?
Yes, size doesn’t matter in this case. Any hamster species can emit or develop unpleasant odors. Whether you have a Syrian or a dwarf hamster, there’s always the potential that they can become smelly.
How Do I Stop My Hamster From Smelling?
Our first instinct when we have a dirty, smelly hamster is to give it a bath. HOLD ON, don’t do that because your hamster can easily become sick from exposure to cold water. What we perceive as a nice, warm bath may be a death sentence for a hamster.
Instead, use a warm washcloth or baby wipes (fragrance-free) to gently spot clean your hamster. This method is only recommended for a lightly soiled, smelly hamster. If your hamster has an infected area, don’t attempt to clean it and get it to the vet to be examined and treated.
Keep your hamster’s cage clean at all times. A thorough cleaning should be done 1-2 times a week, backed up by a daily spot cleaning to prevent a dirty, smelly hamster. Be sure to clean your hamster’s wheel, tubes/tunnel system, and nesting box.
To properly clean a hamster’s cage, using soap and warm water is best. Avoid harsh, fragrant/deodorized cleaners. Thoroughly rinse and dry components of your hamster’s cage. Any residual water left behind can lead to wet bedding.
When it comes to bedding, add fresh/new bedding with each cleaning and, if needed, between cage cleanings. Excrement easily gets embedded in your hamster’s bedding for them to track through.
Is It Safe To Have A Hamster In Your Bedroom?
Mostly yes. But your hamster is nocturnal and will be up all night running on its wheel and stirring about in its cage. Not only do you need a good night’s sleep without the noise of a hamster, but who can sleep with foul odors nearby?
For those of us who suffer from allergies, keeping the hamster cage out of the bedroom is highly beneficial. Keeping your hamster’s cage in another room is recommended, and if it can’t be avoided being placed in a bedroom, aggressive cage cleaning is a must.
Accepting Of Nature-By-Design
Remember, a clean cage cuts down on unpleasant odors and keeps your hammie clean and healthy. Lastly, be willing to accept that your hamster’s scent glands will emit a certain degree of odor. They are by nature, designed to be in the wild.