Cleaning and grooming
It is best to clean out a hamster every week, though you will find some that need this more. Take the hamster (or hamsters if dwarfs) out of the cage and either place them into a play tub or into a floor ball. Remove the items from the cage, like the food bowl, and sand bath, wheel (if removable), and some of the old nesting (a hamster lives mainly by smell, by putting some of the old nesting back in you help the hamster adapt to the change of a clean cage.). Now empty out all of the bedding and nesting and bin this. Now clean out the empty hamster home. You can use one of the sprays you can find for hamster homes (make sure you use unscented though) or even a little washing up liquid in warm water (remember to rinse out the home thoroughly afterwards) dry off the cage carefully, a hamster should never get damp. Then simply put in fresh bedding and nesting, along with the nesting you put aside. It is usually a good idea to put some food back where the hamster had made a food store. Now clean out the wheel, food bowl and sand bowl in the same way, dry and fill if necessary. Place everything back in the hamsters’ cage in roughly the same place as last time. Now you can put your hamster (or hamsters if dwarfs) back in.
Sand baths are an important part of your hamster’s life. They perform two main jobs, firstly the hamsters like to roll in the sand, and use it for bathing, this helps keep them clean and not become greasy. Secondly they like to use them as potties. Remember to use chinchilla sand for this and not chinchilla dust as the dusts fine particles will irritate the hamster’s eyes and respiratory system, or alternately use play sand which you have washed and baked once it has cooled.
If you find your hamster uses a certain corner as a potty place the sand bowl there, that way you can clean out the sand regularly knowing the rest of the cage is staying cleaner. By just simply placing the bowl of sand (we use rabbit food bowls here) in the spot they are using you have a potty trained hamster! Some shops sell hamster potties; it works in the same way, so the choice is yours.
Dwarfs are more likely to use the sand bath as baths as well, so don’t be disappointed if your Syrian thinks of it only as a toilet. If you have a Syrian and it starts to look greasy and it does not use the sand then sprinkle some on it, then help brush it out with a tooth brush, or for long haired hamsters you can sprinkle on baby powder or corn flour and work it into the fur before carefully combing it out.
Long haired hamsters should be brushed or combed once a week, to keep them free of tangles and knots, the degreasing is only needed if they look greasy or a few days before a show so they are in tip top condition. Its best not to bath your hamster, doing so will remove its protective oils, and it also risks giving the hamster a chill. Hamsters like people catch colds and pneumonia; in fact you can give your hamster a cold! It’s best to keep them warm and dry at all times. If your hamster smells then the cage needs cleaning more regularly.