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Hamsters regularly lick and groom their own fur to keep themselves clean. A healthy hamster should not need any help keeping clean as long as you keep its cage and living environment appropriately maintained. It is possible to clean your hamster's fur, but veterinarians and breeders generally advise that hamsters should be left to their own grooming unless a medical or hygiene issue arises and the animal is incapable of cleaning itself.
Wipe Away Dirt
It is inadvisable to wash your hamster in water, but you can use a lightly moistened tissue or paper towel to wipe away dirt or grime that your hamster's own grooming will not remove from its coat. Do not submerge any part of your hamster in water or use soap on your hamster. The hamster will ingest soap residue when he attempts to groom himself, making him potentially very sick.
Chinchilla sand is a substance that chinchillas roll in as part of their natural hygiene ritual. The stuff also works for hamsters. Place a bowl of chinchilla sand bath granules in your hamster cage and see if the hamster rolls around in the sand. While it's a safe way for your hamster to clean himself, some will not use chinchilla sand. Do not use chinchilla dust, because the particles are fine enought that they may cause respiratory problems for your hamster.
In the event that your hamster has something stuck in his fur, that the fur is severely matted or that the substance that you need to clean off your hamster is toxic, you may want to consider trimming away the affected area of the coat. If you have to remove a significant amount of fur, you will need to keep your hamster in a warmer-than-usual spot until his coat grows back.
Problems with Washing Hamsters
Novice hamster owners may not be aware of dangers associated with washing their hamster. Hamsters that get wet are prone to catching colds, which can quickly turn fatal. This is why hamster owners are advised to never simply put a hamster in water and scrub it clean. Hamsters have oils in their coats, too, that keep them healthy. Washing a hamster in water will remove these oils and may cause the coat to appear unhealthy.
- hamster image by Fotocie from Fotolia.com