Can Hamsters Swim and Do They Like It?

A lot of pets like water and are able to swim. They also need a bath from time to time to get rid of dirt in their fur. When you buy a hamster you’re probably not thinking about its swimming capabilities or if they need to get a bath. Nevertheless, it’s important to know a bit more about the relationship between your hamster and the water.

Can hamsters swim? Hamsters can swim but in the wild, they will only swim if they got no other choice. If you force a hamster in water it will experience a lot of stress which is not good for its mental well-being. Hamsters may also get sick when they stay wet for a long time.

So can’t you let your hamster take a bath when it has dirt in its fur? And can’t you let them take a swim when it’s extremely hot? I’ll answer these questions and a lot more in this article.

You’ll learn everything there is to know about the swimming capabilities of hamsters, why they don’t like and don’t need a bath and what the risks are when you do put them in water. Last but not least you’ll learn how hamsters keep themselves clean without water.

Swimming Capabilities of Hamsters

Hamsters live in a dry environment

Hamster and dwarf hamsters live in dry environments in the wild. They live in the steppes and deserts of the Middle East and Asia. In these regions, they don’t have access to a lot of water. Their bodies have also adapted to be able to go without a lot of water.

Hamsters are capable of swimming

Research has shown that hamsters are capable of swimming. This doesn’t mean that they’re natural-born swimmers and like being in the water. In the wild, they will rarely encounter large bodies of water. If they do get into the water for some reason, they will try to get out of it as soon as possible. They will peddle towards the shores and the high temperatures will naturally dry their fur.

Risks When You Get Your Hamster Wet

If your hamster does get wet there are some risks that could prove to be fatal. Here are some risks that are possible when you let your hamster swim or bath him with water:

  • water removes the natural skin oils of your hamster, this makes it more difficult for him to groom himself
  • if your hamster is exposed to (cold) water he may develop acute pneumonia, a disease that can be lethal
  • exposure to water can give stress to your hamster, this may lead to your hamster biting you
  • your hamster can get a disease called “wet tail” that can become lethal
  • exposure to water can lead to hypothermia, this is when a hamster loses the ability to regulate their body temperature

What to Do When Your Hamster Gets Wet?

As you can see, it’s best not to let your hamster go swim and to prevent contact with water. The only exception is, of course, to let your hamster drink.

If your hamster does get wet, there are some steps you need to take to immediately:

  • use a soft dry towel to remove the excess water
  • ensure the hamster cage is warm
  • use a hairdryer (cool setting) to dry the fur
  • keep an eye on your hamster for the next week and look for signs of a disease
  • if you notice that your hamster sneezes, has diarrhea,…, seek the help of a vet

Keeping Your Hamster Clean


Hamsters are, just as most rodents, experts in grooming themselves and keeping themselves clean. They use their saliva to clean their entire body and remove dirt and parasites from the body. If you notice that your hamster needs some extra help in getting clean, you don’t need to wash the hamster with water.

Sand bath

A better way to “wash” your hamster is by using a sand bath. Chinchillas need such a sand bath regularly to keep their fur clean and hamsters can also benefit from such a bath. Chinchilla sand is placed in a tiny bowl where your hamster can get in without a problem. Place the bowl in the hamster cage and remove it when the sand bath is done.

Last resort: a washcloth

There are some extreme and very unusual cases where your hamster can’t get itself clean by grooming and a sandbath. If you see that there is no other way, you can use a washcloth. Gently use the washcloth on your hamster just like if you were petting him. After you’ve removed the dirt or substance, use a soft dry towel. Then place your hamster back in a warm cage.

Related Questions

Is it safe to give a hamster a bath?

As I already mentioned it’s not safe to give a hamster a bath. It should be avoided at all times as it may cause sickness, stress and even death. A good alternative is a sand bath with a cup of chinchilla sand. In extreme cases, when nothing other works, you can remove substances with a slightly wet washcloth. A bath is not necessary.

Why do hamsters stink?

Hamsters don’t have a specific odor of their own. In most cases, the smell will be caused by rotten food or droppings in the cage. If your hamster does have a terrible smell it can be caused by a disease. If you’re sure that the smell originates from your hamster, seek the advice of a vet.

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