If you’ve gotten a new hamster and one of those amazing hamster cages you’ve seen at the pet shop, you should know that it’s not all fun and games and that having a pet means that you should clean its enclosure regularly (we wrote an article about some types of toys – if you’d like to check it out here).
Hamsters are a lot tidier than other types of rodents, and by comparison, rabbits can be considered messy. They like to tend to their bathroom business in one corner of the cage and eat and sleep in another. There is a place for everything, so they like to have everything well organized.
However, since they are naturally small (and even tiny, if you’re getting a Dwarf hamster), people tend to think that their cages should be just as small. The truth is that the vast majority of the cages available for sale these days are far too small for the amount of space that a hamster would actually need. Think of it this way. In the wild, a hamster runs for a couple of miles every night. How would the animal ever do that in a tiny cage?
Two types of cleaning
In most cases, and it of course depends on the size of the cage that you own, you’ll have to tend to two types of cleaning. One of them is going to happen either daily or every two days and the other, the more thorough process, will occur weekly. It’s actually a good idea to own two cages so that you have a safe place to transfer the hamster to as you clean and disinfect the one where he spends most of his time.
Since most hamster cages are made of wire, you will have to make a little effort in the way of scrubbing all of the debris. The pan at the bottom can usually be cleaned quite easily, but the wiring needs to be scrubbed. If both the bedding and the cage surfaces smell too much of urine and you can’t handle it, wear gloves and even a face mask.
You will need a pet-safe disinfectant, a washcloth or a sponge, as well as some bedding that you will have to replace. This is not a situation similar to that of a rabbit where you should keep some of the pet’s old bedding and mix it through the new one. Hamsters have nothing against tending to their business in perfectly clean bedding.
Take the hamster out and remove all the cage parts
We’re assuming that this is not a new hamster you’re handling. Otherwise, you might be a little cautious since even these non-aggressive critters can bite if they are afraid or if they are taken by surprise. Pick up your hamster carefully and move him or her to a temporary shelter. You could get an aquarium or a high-walled plastic pan if you wouldn’t want to invest in a new cage.
Disassemble your cage as best as possible. While you might not have to do this every day, you will have to tend to it every week. Your hamster’s toys, extras, running wheel, little house, feeding tray and anything else have to be taken out of the enclosure, as well. Get rid of the bedding whether it’s more or less soiled. It doesn’t really matter, after all, because you need to put in fresh and clean bedding.
Cleaning the hamster’s cage
While some might think of this task as being a tedious one, someone has to do it and it is the only way to make sure that your little friend lives in a safe and healthy environment. Hamsters can get sick if they live in dirty conditions, especially for a long time. The amount of ammonia that can be found in the rodent’s urine can affect his or her eyes, mouth, and nose.
You’ll be able to tell when you haven’t cleaned the cage for a while by the stench it releases.
Once you have taken the cage apart, you will find that cleaning it isn’t all that difficult. That is if you are doing it regularly. If you haven’t given it a good scrub in a while, you may have to leave it to soak in a cleaning solution. You should brush every inch of the cage to make sure that you get it nice and clean, and that includes all of the wires if that’s the design you have chosen.
While we do recommend using a disinfectant, you could opt for a non-toxic alternative such as a mix of vinegar and water or water and baking soda. Naturally, your hamster will not appreciate the smell of vinegar afterward, so you need to leave the structures of the cage to soak in water afterward, too.
It is a good idea to leave the enclosure out in the garden or balcony to air dry and sit under the sun. Some say that the UV rays help with the disinfection, too, but the truth is that they aren’t as powerful as those of a UV sanitizer, for example.
What to do next
Once you have cleaned your hamster’s home, you should assemble everything back. Since some hammies can be escape artists, you need to make sure that you put the cage together and close all of the doors that it is equipped with. I personally have gone through the experience of leaving the door open by mistake and then looking for the hamster for a whole day, so I advise you to double check that you’ve closed everything.
Your hamster will get used to the clean environment in no time, but it would help if you gave him some treats to make the experience smoother.