Written By : M Samy

Why Do Hamsters Smell Bad? [11 Causes and Solutions]

Hamsters may smell due to excessive territorial marking, illness like wet tail, poor hygiene, poor diet or unsuitable bedding. Regular cleaning and proper care can help prevent odor.

This article explains the main reasons why hamsters may have a bad smell and provides practical ways to tackle this issue and keep your furry friend’s cage smelling fresh.

Why does your hamster smell bad?

My hamster stinks , Why and what to do ? Hamsters themselves only stink in rare situations because they are usually clean animals and never neglect their hygiene.

So here’s the reasons that could justify the bad smell coming from your hamster or its enclosure :

My Hamster Stinks. Why And What To Do ?

1 – Female Hamsters in heat may become stinky

If your hamster is a female and in heat, she may emit stronger odors due to the release of sexual pheromones by marking her bedding with some vaginal secretions , every 4 days (estrous cycle) or so, to attract the likely male hamsters that would be around.

The female hamster will have her period every fifth day until she mates and gets pregnant. 

If your hamster is a female, this may be the reason for her strong odor and she may even stink up your room , the reason is vaginal marking ( some kind of sexual advertisement) in the presence of male , especially in day 4 .

If you have two females in the same enclosure , they’re probably using flank-marking to mark their territory , that’s why they both become stinky.

The Solution to reduce the smell of a heaty female hamster

First of all, avoid putting two female hamsters in the same enclosure to avoid marking-related secretions .

Secondly, since it is very dangerous to put a hamster under anesthesia, you cannot spay your female hamster , it’s risky !.

Avoid all types of air fresheners and chemical products and scented beddings that are supposed to cover the smell of your hamster, you will just stress it since they have a very sensitive sense of smell.

To reduce the odor of your “heaty” female hamster, get into the habit (up to 7 times a month, during cycles of ovulation) ? of cleaning the backside of your pet with a clean tissue to remove the secretions before she spreads them throughout the bedding.

I’ve also read that petting your female hamster will calm her down a bit and encourage her to decrease the secretions, but after all, you just have to get used to the smell, which you only really notice when you bring your hamster close to your nose!

2- A male hamster that marks its territory could smell really bad

Male hamsters do not give off bad odors except for about twice a year, they have two larger bilateral scent glands than females to mark their territory by throwing themselves on their sides and rubbing their flank area on the substrate and the other elements by wiggling their hips .

Male hamsters may mark their territory by rubbing their scent glands on various surfaces in the enclosure. Scientists have noticed that twice a year, they make a kind of advanced marking of territory, they secrete more hormones ( pituitary – LH and FSH and by their testis ) , which leads to more androgenic steroids and the marking of territory is accentuated during these two periods.

If your hamster stinks, it may be because it is his period of intense marking of territory.

How to deal with a stinky heaty male hamster ?

Neither Calcium Chloride Neutering nor Surgical Neutering are safe for your male hamster. In addition, your hamster will not spend its whole life scratching itself against the cage elements and marking its territory.

You can remove the urine-wet bedding daily (peeing spots) and clean the litterbox if he has learned to use it.

This period of excitement will pass and your male hamster will soon return to his former life and stop this territory marking behavior and the smell will disappear by itself after a little cleaning or a bedding replacement.

3 – Sick hamsters may become stinky

If your hamster stinks it’s because he may be sick, his fur is probably soaked with his stinking urine if he has kidney infection or bladder problem (infection that makes the urine smell bad) or his watery stools if he has diarrhea or even more serious wet tail.

See also  13 reasons why your hamster is not eating [Understanding Hamster Appetite]

If your hamster has a wet bottom ( diarrhea ) , or you notice almost liquid stools in his pen or bits of fecal matter attached to his fur in his anal area, know that it is normal that he stinks, he is sick and he must see a vet quickly.

Skin infections can lead to unpleasant odors in sick hamsters .

You should also always check to see if your hamster has a wound that may have become infected and caused the bad smell, including oral problems.

Finally, Dental problems: you should also check his teeth and the inside of his cheeks to see if there is any fruit or a piece of worm stuck in there and starting to rot and produce that bad smell.

4-Hamsters may smell bad because of a poor diet

Fresh food and water are crucial for a hamster's health and can help prevent odors in its environment

Hamsters can fart, yes, release farts in the air and believe me, it will not smell like roses LOL.

To prevent your hamster from smelling bad because of farts, provide him with a well balanced diet , avoid dairy products, like cheese and yogurt.

Certain fruits that have a high lactose content like apples, and also certain cruciferous vegetables like Broccoli, Brussel sprouts, Cauliflower and Cabbage.

High-Protein Diet can also be the reason why your hamster is passing gas, consider varying his food and giving more high fiber veggies.

To prevent your hamster from producing too much stinky urine that will quickly fill the room with bad smells, avoid salty and sweet foods.

Excessive consumption of sweet fruits or salty things will force your hamster to drink more water and produce more urine, but especially urine that will smell quite stronger.

Remember that the essential food for hamsters is fresh seeds and herbs, so avoid carbohydrates and acidic foods.

5- Testosterone and Androsterone could be the cause of bad male hamsters smell

Having two hamsters in the same pen can lead to a testosterone war and territory marking war. Each hamster will try to deposit more scent than the other to claim ownership of the enclosure.

Only put one hamster per enclosure to avoid excessive scent marking. Bad smells come also from stale urine and strong sweat.

6- Hamster that neglects its self-grooming gets a bad smell

It can happen that your hamster neglects its hygiene and does not do his grooming sessions or does not take his sand baths anymore.

This can make him dirty and he will surely be a little bit smelly because his fur will become saturated with the body oils that the hamster secretes and it will remain stained with urine…

A hamster grooming itself to maintain hygiene and reduce odors in its habitat

There are two reasons why your hamster may neglect its cleanliness, one is old age , stress or illness and the other, the most common one is injury ( broken leg ).

If your hamster is not sick, but its fur is dirty, badly maintained and it stinks, know that it is probably injured most likely because of a fall and it can probably not clean itself and take its sand baths, which are very important for its hygiene .

So check if your hamster has a fracture or partial paralysis, in this case you should help him clean his fur.

Older hamsters are also known to urinate and sleep all over the cage, and if they have Alzheimer’s, it is very likely that they will sleep on their urine and they will probably smell bad.

7- Long-haired hamsters need help to stay clean

If you have a long-haired Syrian hamster, you should know that they usually need more cleaning than short-haired hamsters, he may require extra grooming and need some help to keep its fur clean . He has long hair, he can lick his fur but sometimes he gets bored or just tired before he is completely clean.

It can also happen that bits of fruit or litter get stuck in his fur and he can’t pull them out or get them to fall out. They can quickly start to smell, especially in hot days.

During his sandbathe, he just tries to throw sand on his back but that won’t be sufficient, so you have to help him by putting sand on his back and brushing him.

8- Poor cage maintenance

You don’t clean the cage often enough, you need to spot clean every day to change the bedding in the areas used as toilets by your hamster (the pee spots).

See also  How to properly care for a hamster in hot weather?

You must also every 20 or 30 days ( less than 2 weeks in summer time ) , make a deep cleaning of your hamster’s enclosure and change between 50% and 70% of its the bedding (The top and bottom layer and keep only the middle).

A tidy hamster cage with fresh bedding and clean accessories, essential for preventing odors

Choose the right bedding , Carefresh , Kaytee or Aspen (at least 4 inches of bedding ).

Sprinkling some baking soda on the bottom of your hamster’s enclosure may help absorb urine odors and will help to to get rid of the bad odor.

Dirty Water Bottles or Bowls

Not cleaning your hamster’s water bottle or bowl on a regular basis can foster the growth of bacteria, resulting in unpleasant odors. It is crucial to maintain a supply of clean, fresh water at all times and to regularly sanitize water containers to mitigate this problem.

9- Your hamster urinates everywhere in the cage

There are some hamsters that do not choose one or two places as toilets, but they urinate everywhere, even in their wheel and especially in the sand bath and the problem is that they take a sand bath afterwards!

In this case, you should try to potty-train your hamster, by buying one or two small plastic sandboxes, install one in his sandbox and the other in a corner of the cage that he has already used several times to urinate.

Put in these plastic hamster potty’s some sand (kids playsand) mixed with some of his bedding already soaked with his urine to encourage him to use these “urinals”.

A hamster taking a sand bath, an important part of its grooming routine to reduce smelly secretions and control odors.

Once your hamster is used to using these “litter boxes”, it will be cleaner, the cage will be cleaner and the bad smells will disappear.

You can stay awake, and each time he uses the litter box, you reward him with a tiny piece of candy. Hamsters are creatures of habit and your hamster will quickly learn to urinate only in the litter box.

Old hamsters are also known to pee everywhere in the cage, they do not take the time to go to their toilet corners, it is therefore necessary to adapt the cleaning of the enclosure to this bad habit by removing at least every week the top layer of its bedding and renew it by a clean bedding.

Also remember to change the sand in the sandbox.

10- Your hamster is hiding fresh food

The cage can smell bad when the hamster hides the rest of its fresh food, it will quickly go moldy especially if you don’t discover it during the spot cleaning and if it is also hot in the room.

This food, a piece of vegetable or fruit or even worse, a piece of meat or cheese, it will therefore mold and bacteria will grow and release an odor that will stink in the whole room.

The cage can also smell bad if your hamster has a tendency to hide food everywhere inside his bedding but sometimes he forgets some hiding spots and ends up urinating on them, which will speed up the deterioration of the food and make the enclosure smell bad again.

11- The cage smells bad because of the bedding

If you use wood shavings or any other bedding that is not paper-based, be aware that your hamster’s enclosure will smell of urine because these cheap beddings generally do not absorb your hamster’s urine and do not retain bad odors.

Do not make the mistake of using a scented bedding, because it will stress your hamster which has a very sensitive nose.

To prevent the cage from smelling like urine, you need a good thick layer of bedding.

Hamsters need at least 12 inches of bedding, they love to tunnel, but this layer will prevent your hamster’s urine from reaching the floor of the cage and drying out and stinking permanently.

The cage can stink if it is made of a wood that absorbs fluids

food to avoid and that make hamsters stinky

If it is not a bin cage, or an aquarium, and if the cage of your hamster is made of a wood other than the Melamine, this wood is perhaps absorbing the urine of your hamster and even if you clean the cage well, the smell of urine remains persistent.

I recommend a large cage or a large enclosure of at least 1000 square inches, the Ikea Detolf are an excellent solution to house your hamster, you just have to remove the shelves and lay it on a piece of furniture.

To eliminate odors from your hamster’s cage, do daily spot cleanings and a complete cleaning every month, clean and disinfect all the elements and the walls of the cage with a mixture of water and vinegar.

See also  What to look for when buying a hamster ?

Let it dry well or use a hair dryer in winter but do not put your hamster back in if the enclosure is heated during drying, let it come back to room temperature before putting your hamster back in.

This way, you will always keep your hamster and its cage clean and it will always smell like fresh, clean bedding.

What to do first when my hamster suddenly smells bad ?

hamster toys and enrichment will help reduce stress and smelly secretions

If you are sure that it is the hamster which smells bad and it is not the cage or the enclosure :

  • Check if he has a wet tail or diarrhea
  • Check if he has a fracture or anything else that prevents him from taking his sand baths.

If your hamster only has urine on its coat, do a spot cleaning and wet a cloth with warm water, wring out the cloth so that only the moisture remains and gently clean your hamster’s coat.

Try to put more bedding than usual especially in their favorite pee spots .

Improve your hamsters enclosure ventilation , maybe consider moving it to a better-ventilated room .

Finally, Enrichment toys keep hamsters active and engaged, promoting mental stimulation and reducing stress-related odors.

What never do when your hamster stinks ?

You should never blame your hamster and yell at it!

The answer for those asking , can you give a hamster a bath ? is Never wet your hamster or give it a shower , I mean with water !!.

All you can do is wet a small piece of tissue with warm water, wring it out well before cleaning any urine or food stains from your hamster’s fur.

If you wet your hamster, you will remove the oils that cover and protect his fur and he will produce an excess of these oils and then smell even worse than before.

Sand baths and brushing are the two best ways to help your hamster stay clean and prevent him from smelling bad.

You should never put deodorant in the room and especially in the enclosure or worse still put perfume to your hamster, you should never do this, they have a sensitive sense of smell and you will stress and cause may be the wet tail that can kill him in less than 3 days!

You should never suddenly air the room where your hamster is to get out the smell, this will make your hamster sick, probably a cold.

If you have to air the room, do it in the middle of the day and especially after you cover the hamster’s cage to avoid exposing it to drafts.

Never use Cleaners and Odor Neutralizers for Cages, when cleaning the enclosure, use warm water, just a little soap and disinfect with a mixture of equal parts water and white vinegar.

So let’s see how poor maintenance of the cage or enclosure can affect the hamster.

It is not the hamster that stinks but its enclosure:

Generally, it is not the hamster itself that smells bad, it is its cage because of a bad or insufficient maintenance or even a bad bedding.

Final thoughts:

First of all, know that if your hamster stinks, it’s probably not his fault! And if you can’t stand the smell of pets, don’t accept it!

After that, it could be that your hamster smells a bit strong for one of the reasons mentioned in this article, but know that it is a temporary situation, you just have to detect the cause of the bad smell.

First check the condition of the cage and then is it the hamster itself that stinks and fix this problem.

An other thing to know is that female hamsters only smell bad when they are in heat and male hamsters only when they are sick.

So it is rare that it is your hamster that stinks, look rather at the side of the maintenance of the cage, if your hamster walks on its own urine, it will be soaked and will smell the urine!

Have you experienced challenges with your hamster’s odor? Please share your tips and experiences in the comments below!

M Samy pet blogger and author at famillypet

About Author

Hey! Samy here , Welcome to my Blog I'm an animal lover, especially pets and Really concerned about their well being ; I've been around and caring for all my life and Now ; a full-time Pet blogger at your service . My motto here at Famillypet is: "Pets First" ... Read More