How often to change hamster bedding?
To avoid stressing your hamster, the bedding should only be changed once a month for cages larger than 450 square inches like the Ikea detolf, and only once every two weeks for the smaller enclosures. Also, be sure to change only half or a third of the bedding and soiled areas to leave a familiar scent for your hamster in its enclosure.
Do hamsters really need bedding ?
What a question! Of course , a hamster needs bedding, it lives underground in its natural habitat, it does not feel safe on the surface.
It is a crepuscular/nocturnal animal which needs to dig burrows, underground galleries and rooms to sleep in during the day (nesting) and to eat.
The bedding will allow him to satisfy a little this natural need, besides he will spend almost all his days, until the twilight in his bedding , in his nest.
Why shouldn’t you change the hamster’s bedding every week?
The main cause of hamster diseases is stress and a hamster that you put back in a cage where you have just changed all the bedding is a hamster that will be totally disoriented and will think it is in a brand new cage, and that will surely stress it.
Hamsters are animals that leave their scent everywhere in their enclosure, and wherever they smell that scent, they feel reassured because it’s part of their territory and they don’t risk having bad encounters in it.
When you change all its bedding , the hamster will think he is in a new territory that may belong to another hamster and he may have to fight to acquire this territory and this will stress him and increase his heartbeat up to 150 beats per minute and for almost an hour, the time that your hamster finishes his patrol and begins to finally calm down, but the damage may already be done!
You should therefore change your hamster’s bedding gradually and only if necessary.
It is also recommended to change your entire hamster bedding if you consider leaving it alone for several days.
How to change my hamsters bedding ?
First of all, you should do this at night, at least one hour after your hamster has woken up and done its cleaning and daily grooming , eaten and drank a little and gone around its cage.
Then take your hamster out of its cage, put it in its ball and free roam it (shut the door and let your cat and dog out)
You can also transfer your hamster in his carrier, give him his food bowl and water and something to occupy himself while you finish cleaning.
As I said before, if your hamster’s cage is within the norms, that is to say at least 1000 square inches, you can only change your hamster’s bedding once a month, and maybe once every 20 days during the warm season or if you really notice an odor emanating from your hamster’s enclosure.
In fact, when you change your hamster’s bedding , you will only be replacing half of the bedding , or even just a third.
If your hamster has a habit of peeing all over the cage, just replace the top layer of bedding (4 to 5 inches).
Make sure to shake out his bedding and pick up any seeds he hasn’t eaten and droppings that will fall out when you shake out the litter.
Never remove all their food stashes at the same time, this will stress your hamster.
If your hamster has the habit of peeing in two or three places, do some spot cleaning and pick up his droppings too (every day or once every 2 days)
PS: If you want to be sure you are doing a good job when you change part of your hamster’s bedding , divide your hamster’s bedding into three equal layers:
Throw away the top layer and the bottom one of the pen after you shake the bedding of course.
When should I change my hamster’s entire bedding ?
There are times when it is necessary to change all of your hamster’s bedding, such as when your veterinarian recommends it if he detects parasites, mites, fleas, fungal infections and ringworms on your hamster.
In this case, you should change all of your hamster’s bedding as soon as you arrive home.
Disinfect the cage with water and vinegar.
Then wash with water and dry the cage well, to finally put a new bedding and the elements of the enclosure after disinfecting them too, do not forget to change the sand in the sandbox of your hamster.
Finally, wet tail is a deadly disease in hamsters and one of the best ways to prevent your hamster from getting it is to keep its enclosure and bedding clean.
When you shouldn’t change your hamster’s bedding
Here’s when it’s better to do just daily spot-cleaning instead of changing your hamster’s bedding:
When your hamster is pregnant or nursing.
If changing its bedding will overstress him.
If your hamster is sick or just recovering from stress-related diseases.
How often should I change my hamsters bedding in a small cage ?
I recommend that you increase the floor space of your hamster’s enclosure.
If for some reason, and I probably wouldn’t understand, you don’t have a choice and your hamster has to live in this cell of less than 800 square inches, stick to this:
Never change the entire your hamster’s bedding even if it is a small cage, leave at least a third of its old bedding in it, so that it finds its smell in its cage.
Change your hamster’s bedding only once every month in winter and once every 15 days during the other warmer seasons.
Your hamster should never see you when you make this change.
What’s the spot cleaning and why it’s so important for my hamster ?
Spot cleaning is the daily maintenance of your hamster’s enclosure so that you don’t have to replace its bedding more often and also keep its cage as clean as possible.
During the spot cleaning, you will first of all check if your hamster has chosen places that he uses as a toilet area.
You will therefore change the bedding in these toilet areas at least once every two days.
During this spot cleaning also, pick up and change the litter near the water and food bowls of your hamster.
Check if he is pooping in his nest and clean it and change his bedding in his nest as well and give him some nesting material like dry toilet paper.
Also check that he hasn’t hidden any fresh food in his bedding , pick up any bits of fresh vegetables and herbs.
Sift the sand in his sandbox and remove any dry food he may have hidden in the sand.
Check the wheel for droppings and clean the wheel.
Pick up any droppings you see in the pen at least once every two days.
By doing this daily spot cleaning , you will extend the life of your hamster’s bedding , saving time and money especially if you use paper-based bedding, which can be a bit expensive if your hamster’s enclosure is large enough or if you have several hamsters.
What is the best bedding for my hamster?
The best bedding for hamsters are those that are natural, no dyes, no odors, do not stick to his fur, your hamster can make tunnels in it, the bedding must also be soft, absorbent and retains the odors of urine …
Here are the safe bedding for hamsters
1- Paper Based Bedding ( natural or colored )
Natural paper based bedding like those from CareFresh or Kaytee clean & Cozy , Boxo , Critter care , Fitch ( UK brand ) …
All brands of paper-based bedding , even the colored ones are absolutely safe for your hamster, provided that the bag is well closed when you buy it and that you close it well and keep it in a dry place.
Note that I am not talking about paper pellets, they are not recommended for hamsters.
You can’t replace this litter with a shredded toilet paper or paper towel, you can just add a little bit, especially when it’s cold or if your hamster has become old, he will use them in his nesting to keep warm when he sleeps.
2- Kaytee Soft Granule hamster bedding
This bedding is made with wood fibers, it comes in the form of small balls, you can just use it for a part of the enclosure, its only problem is that the tunnels that your hamster will dig will quickly collapse.
3- Hard wood shavings like Aspen Shavings & the Hemp Shavings as Aubiose (UK)
These are safe bedding for your hamster, less expensive, but, choose the dust-extracted ones and I do not recommend them for older hamsters and Teddy bear hamsters (long haired hammies), they will stick to his coat and create problems during grooming sessions
If you can’t find them in the hamster section of your pet store, look for them in the reptile section (reptile Aspen is Ok too)
The Wood pellets should be your last choice if you are looking for comfort for your hamster, that’s why I don’t talk about it in this article, hamsters deserve better !!!.
Note also that I do not mention Aspen pellets, I do not recommend them for your hamster, it will be frustrated because they are not soft and your little Fella will not be able to dig tunnels in this kind of substrates.
4- Soft Hay (Orchard Grass Hay)
You can’t use hay by itself as bedding for your hamster, but you can put it in your hamster’s cage.
Just make sure the hay is soft and will not hurt your hamster.
Unsafe Substrates for hamsters
1- Cedar , Pine and any unspecified Wood shavings ( Softwood shavings )
Although these are the most available (Chipsi, Living world …) and the cheapest in pet stores, I do not recommend them, they are dangerous for all small pets and not only for hamsters.
They are generally a waste of the wood industry, they contain (chemical products sometimes natural produced by the cedar to keep away the insects) phenols and toxic acids (acid fumes), oils of conservation of wood and this risks to harm the respiratory system of your hamster, basically, respiratory infections.
These products will sooner or later get into the bloodstream of your hamster and it will surely reduce its life expectancy.
Just ask yourself why carpenters often put their masks on in the workshop when they work with wood!!! it’s dangerous these two substrates!! be careful.
On top of that, they are uncomfortable and your hamster will often have them in his fur.
It’s the same for the Sawdust, it’s the same thing as the wood shavings, you should avoid it for the same reasons.
2- CornCob bedding grows fungus
First of all you should know that this corncob bedding is not soft and cannot be sterilized, it can contain parasites, germs and even small insect eggs that will hatch in your hamster’s cage.
This kind of substrate is known to mold very quickly when hamsters urinate on it.
Bacteria also settle quickly in this kind of bedding , it is enough that your hamster hides a small piece of vegetables for a colony of bacteria and mold to develop and this is a great danger for your hamster.
On the other hand, Corncob can be eaten by your hamster and this is one of the reasons why hamsters that have it as bedding become obese.
3-Evoid Scented Beddings for hamsters
If this bedding smells good, it is to hide the smell of the cage if you do not clean it! Don’t you clean your hamster’s enclosure !!!!!
Hamsters have a very developed sense of smell and exposing them all day to this scented bedding is a real torture that will surely stress them and make them more prone to other stress-based diseases.
You may also use Coco fiber, with hardwood-based Aspen and Spruce bedding especially in hot weather to help keep cool your hamster’s enclosure.
To answer the question; How often do you do full bedding changes? I don’t have a direct answer, but I do have some advice to give you:
I advise you to choose a paper-based bedding for your hamster.
This bedding may be the most expensive but if you do the math and the risk you take by not using it, you will quickly change your mind!
With this paper-based bedding , you will only have to change the substrate once a month and then only a part of it and at the same time, your hamster will have a soft, comfortable bedding , which does not smell bad and which will never make it sick if you really neglect the hygiene of the cage.
I recommend a mix of care fresh + Kaytee + Aspen, put aspen and Kaytee clean and cozy on the top for nesting.
Do you want something easy to remember when and how to change your hamster’s bedding ?
Spotclean everyday + Nest Cleaning + pee corner + bath sand check and then change1/2 or 1/3 of bedding every 4-6 weeks.
Isn’t it easy !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!