Hamster’s do a very good job of keeping themselves clean, but you can give your hamsters a sand bath, so they’re even cleaner. But what type of sand can you use? Will any old sand do? Is children’s play sand safe for hamsters?
Yes, childrens play sand is safe for hamsters to use provided that it has been heat treated to remove any bacteria or fungus that may be growing in it. If it hasn’t been heat treated, then you should put the sand on a baking tray and put it in the oven at 350 degrees fahrenheit for 20 minutes.
Children’s play sand (Amazon, #CommissionsEarned) is perfectly safe for hamsters, relatively cheap and you don’t have to take a special trip to the pet store to get some. But are there better options for bathing your hamster? Do hamsters need sand baths? Read on to find out.
Hamster sand baths
If you’ve never come across or heard of a hamster sand bath before then the concept is very simple and it is exactly as it sounds.
A sand bath is simply a container which you fill up with sand and allow your hamster to bathe in it.
When providing your hamster with a sand bath you should provide a sufficiently large container because hamsters like large spaces so that they can roll around or dig into it, especially in the corners.
You should also put a hideout inside the sand bath to make your hamster feel safer when bathing. You can also leave the sand bath in the cage 24/7.
Sometimes your hamster may use it as a toilet but don’t worry if this happens because this is perfectly normal. If this happens, simply scoop out any poop or use a sieve.
You could also have two sand baths in your cage, that way your hamster will only tend to use one of them as a toilet.
It’s important that when bathing your hamster that you do not bathe your hamster in water.
Hamsters should avoid water at all costs as it can strip the oils from their fur which protects them from the rain and the cold in the wild.
Water can also stress them out and make them cold which can cause health problems for your hamster further down the line.
Although hamsters do have the ability to swim they would only do this in extreme circumstances like in the wild like when they’re about to be attacked by a predator and swimming is their only option for survival.
Types of sand to use in a hamster bath
When it comes to choosing sand for your hamster sand bath, the most important thing to bear in mind is to stay away from sand that is too dusty.
You should also avoid any product that is labelled as ‘dust’. For example, you should avoid chinchilla dust in particular as this can irritate your hamster eyes and cause a respiratory infection.
Let’s have a look at a couple of options.
Children’s play sand
As I’ve mentioned above, children’s play sand is perfectly safe to use.
Because it is safe for children you can pretty much guarantee that it doesn’t have anything in it that’s too dangerous. But you may wish to put the sand into an oven for 20-minutes at 350 degrees to kill off any bacteria.
Children’s play sand can also be quite rough so it’s advisable to sieve it first.
Reptile sand (Amazon, #CommissionsEarned) is probably a better option than children’s play sand because you don’t have to wash it or bake it as it is specifically intended for pet use.
When buying reptile sand make sure that it is not dyed and that it is 100% natural.
You also need to make sure that it doesn’t contain any minerals or calcium as that can cause a condition known as impaction which is basically another word for constipation.
Reptile owners always avoid this type of sand for their pets for this reason.
Another reason why reptile sand is a better option is that it is a lot softer and you don’t have to sieve it so it’s a lot less work.
Chinchilla bath sand
One final option is chinchilla bath sand (Amazon, #CommissionsEarned). This is completely different from chinchilla dust and the two should not be confused.
Chinchilla bath sand tends to be a bit more expensive and some brands of chinchilla bath sand can be quite dusty so be sure to check it out before you give it to your hamster.
Is beach sand safe for hamsters?
Beach sand is very dirty and coarse so it is not safe for your hamster to use. You could sanitize the beach sand by baking it in the oven and sieving it but there are more hygienic options such as reptile sand which you should use instead.
How much sand to use in a sand bath
You should provide enough sand for your hamster to be able to roll about in it or do a bit of digging, so you can’t really provide too much.
Filling a medium to large shallow container half full should be enough to enable your hamster to do this.
Do hamsters need sand baths?
Hamster sand baths are not absolutely necessary as they do a wonderful job of keeping themselves clean without the need for sand baths and are constantly grooming themselves.
But I do think that giving your hamster the option of a sand bath is something that you should offer to see if they would like to use it.
Dwarf hamsters in particular like to keep themselves a little bit cleaner and like to roll around in sand baths and do flips.
Syrians and Chinese hamsters prefer just to dig and slide their tummies across the sand. Some hamsters might just use them as a toilet.
Not all hamsters use a sand bath and in general, Syrians don’t use them as much as the dwarf species. Our Syrian hamster Richmond shows no interest in them whatsoever.
We’ve discussed that children’s play sand is a great option for a hamster sand bath but reptile sound is a better option in my opinion as it is designed for pets and doesn’t need sanitising or or sieving.
Although sand baths are not essential you should give your hamster the option of using one. You never know, your hamster may just go crazy for it!