Cleaning your hamster cage properly

One problem that hamsters don’t run into in the wild is where to use the facilities. To keep their nests clean, they usually take care of business while covering their extensive territories in their nightly scavenging or in the tunnel networks in their burrows. This may be why hamsters often use their wheels or tunnels in their cage, in line with their instincts for answering the call of nature on the run rather than closer to home.

Though hamsters like their nests clean, and the people they live with do too, it can be a challenge to achieve this in a small cage. They may be small but they can make a big mess and have a powerful smell if cleaning is left too long. But cleaning the cage frequently and keeping it cleaner between bedding changes, can greatly improve both the habitat of the hamster and that of the hamster owner.

Furnishing a hamster cage to keep it clean

Because hamsters like all pets can take a lot of cleaning up after, it helps to find ways to minimize the amount of mess and pet smell in the house. This writer uses several of her hamsters’ natural instincts for cleanliness as a strategy to keep their cage clean during the week, even well after the last full cage cleaning. One way to do this is encourage the hamster’s tendency to picking one area of their cage as their toilet. There are a few things you can do to help:

• Get them a sand box. You can use a small ceramic bowl or small box. Hamsters seem to instinctively know that loose sand makes a great latrine. And before they dirty it up they have a great time rolling and burrowing in it, which can be great fun to watch. If for some reason your hamster doesn’t get the message, put some of their dirty bedding in the sand and that will help cue their instincts.

• Cage train them to a certain area. If for some reason sand doesn’t work for you, you can still make use of the hamster’s natural tendency to use the same area in their cage over and over. Try putting some of the hamster’s dirty bedding in the designated area when it is first cleaned to help them be consistent.

• Clean the areas that they get dirty during the week between full cage cleanings. As mentioned, this writers hamsters like to use tunnels and often go while running in their wheels. Since these areas don’t involve changing bedding, they can be cleaned fairly frequently. And this is a good idea if your hamster uses the wheel, since their paws get kind of yucky if they have to run in it.

Changing hamster bedding

This writer has had hamsters that are so thoroughly cage-trained with the above methods that their cages stay relatively clean and odor free for quite a long time after bedding changes. It is up to the owner, in that case, how often they change the hamster’s litter (usually every two weeks will be plenty with a cage-trained hamster). But it should still be that often because solid waste is usually deposited just about anywhere they are, and that will eventually cause odor and attract bugs. Also, hamsters hoard food in their nests which should be resupplied so it stays fresh.

If you clean out the wet areas during the week, cage cleaning often comes down to very little work, and only takes about ten minutes. Here’s how you can do it.

• Remove the hamster to a safe location.

• Remove permanent toys, wheels and water bottles and get them soaking in mild, soapy water.

• Disassemble the cage and dump out bedding and wash the cage parts.

• If toilet areas are left during the week it can often take a bit of a scrubbing for those areas.

• Make sure everything is well rinsed.

• Reassemble cage and replace bedding and food, and perhaps if cage training is desired, place some of the soiled bedding in the designated area.

• Replace the hamster and reward him for his patience and understanding.


No pet is odor or mess free, but hamsters do have instincts that help prevent their cage from getting outrageously dirty. All it takes is to make use of them, which won’t involve more than occasional bedding exchange to help the hamster stay a cute, pleasant and healthy member of the household.