Generally speaking, it's never necessary to wash a healthy hamster unless your veterinarian tells you to do so. Hamsters clean themselves by licking their paws and physically grooming their own coats, much as cats do. Washing your hamster with water puts him at risk of catching a cold and removes healthy natural oils from his coat. If you want to improve your hamster's smell without putting the hamster's health at risk, you will probably need to modify your hamsters living environment.
Take a Trip to the Veterinarian
It is unusual for a hamster to develop a significant odor. If your hamster has a noticeable odor or develops a strong odor without any other changes to its environment -- and you're confident the odor is not his waste from the enclosure, take him to the veterinarian to rule out a medical cause for the smell. Sometimes a bad odor can be a sign that your hamster has an undiagnosed health problem.
Living Enclosure Maintenance
Hamsters are generally not the cause of bad odors in and of themselves. If you are noticing an unpleasant odor coming from your hamster or its living enclosure, the likelihood is high that you are not cleaning the pet's cage often enough or you are not getting it clean enough when you do. This is responsible pet-owning: Remove fecal matter, soiled bedding and old or uneaten food from the cage every day. Scrub the cage with soap and water once a week, completely replacing all the bedding. If cleaning the cage once a week is not eliminating the smell or you have multiple animals in a cage, you may need to clean it more often.
Small, stuffy spaces are more prone to smelling bad than larger, better ventilated areas. If your hamster seems to smell bad and you have its aquarium in a small enclosed area with minimal airflow, you may be able to improve the smell by moving the cage to a better-ventilated area. Just make sure to keep your hamster away from any draft so it does not catch a cold.
Change Your Hamster's Diet
Certain types of food, when processed by an animal's innards can cause odors, so you may be able to improve your hamster's odor by eliminating certain types of food from its diet or by switching the type of commercial feed you're providing. Pay attention to days when your hamster smells especially bad and make a note of what you fed it beforehand.
hamster image by claudiameyer from Fotolia.com
Jen Davis has been writing since 2004. She has served as a newspaper reporter and her freelance articles have appeared in magazines such as "Horses Incorporated," "The Paisley Pony" and "Alabama Living." Davis earned her Bachelor of Arts in communication with a concentration in journalism from Berry College in Rome, Ga.