Hamsters are busy creatures. They spend most of their lives running endlessly in wheels that take them nowhere, or digging about in their bedding, and they do most of this while you're sleeping. If you awaken one morning to find your single hamster has turned into several, keep your new mama hamster safe and clean while she raises her pups.
Hands Off the Nest
Adorable hamster pups grow quickly. By the third day, their ears will open and a black fur will begin to form on their tiny bodies. Although the inclination to hold these tiny babies might be strong, avoid touching them during their first two weeks of life. The mother hamster may take drastic measures to defend her young from any perceived predator, even you. Under severe stress, a mother hamster may kill and eat her little pups.
Ready for Handling
By their third week of life, hamster pups are ready to be handled. It is safe to do so to clean your hamster's cage. Carefully remove the mother and babies and place them in a secure area. A bucket works well, as hamsters are normally unable to escape the high sides of such a temporary enclosure. Separating them from other household pets by placing them in the bathroom or a closed room is a good safety measure, just in case one decides she has a future as an escape artist.
Proper care of a hamster's cage consists of a weekly cleaning. Once you relocate your little mother and her pups to a temporary location, you may have quite a job on your hands. Remove the soiled bedding, which will probably be littered with old food, and discard it in a waste container. Clean the cage thoroughly with an antibacterial soap and rinse well. If urine buildup is present, remove the crystals using vinegar, a paint scraper and a little elbow grease. If that doesn't work, soaking the cage in vinegar may help loosen the residue. Check in with your little family to be certain they are where you left them.
Protecting Your New Family
In some cases, it may be necessary to clean a cage before the pups have reached 2 weeks of age. Normally a leaking water bottle is the culprit -- and a wet cage doesn't bode well for new pups. If this happens, it may be possible to remove the wet bedding without disturbing the nest; but if the nest is wet, you will need to clean the entire cage. Remove the mother hamster and place her in a safe enclosure. Do the same with the pups, and put them into a soup bowl. Use gloves when handling pups to avoid transferring human scent to the pups. Clean the cage thoroughly, and make sure you locate the nest in the same place. Replace the pups and the mother, and use a water bottle that you're sure doesn't leak.