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Can a Hamster Die From a Dirty Cage?

Last Updated: 30.03.20


When it comes to hamster cages, the market has a lot to offer. You need to consider the pet’s size, as it should be appropriate to the species. The number of pets is also important, in case you want more than one in a habitat. Another thing to also keep in mind is your pet’s safety. Otherwise, you have many models to choose from.

Buying the cage and accessories is a walk in the park compared to maintaining the habitat clean. This is an ongoing task you should perform at least once a week. If you do not have too much time on your hands and think about getting a hamster as a pet because it does not require a lot of maintenance, we suggest you reconsider your choice.


Cage Maintenance

It is important to know what to do, especially if you never had a hamster before. As previously mentioned, the cleaning process should have a weekly frequency. If you are unlucky to have a pet that likes to make a mess in his or her home, you might need to do this more often.

Now, to the cleaning part! First, you need to remove the hamster or hamsters from the cage and place them somewhere safe. If you have a spare cage, specifically for this purpose, it will ease things up.

Then, remove all the feeding accessories and toys. Almost all cages have a bottom that can be disassembled from the rest of the cage, so take it out and throw away all the bedding. Before you put the cage back together, make sure you sanitize it. You can find safe cleaning products at most pet shops.

The water bottle, the food bowl, and all the toys and other accessories should also be cleaned. Then, reassemble the cage, add clean bedding, put the toys back in, together with clean water and food. As a side note, the water has to be replaced daily.

We strongly recommend you to be very careful with the cleaning routine. Hamsters suffer from stress if either their cage is not clean enough or cleaned too often. If you do not tidy his or her habitat enough, your pet will lose the natural cleanliness instinct.

As a direct consequence, your hamster will not be able to tell his or her nest from his or her toilet because everything will smell the same.

A Dirty Habitat

Now that we’ve seen what steps need to be taken in order to keep things clean, you might be wondering what happens if you do not clean your hamster’s cage. Well, for starters, he or she will die. Not immediately, of course, but this is the main consequence.

As mentioned, your hamster will not die at the first sign of dirt. Even if you did not know this, hamsters are actually very clean animals. They like their habitat to be neat and tidy. If you watch your pet carefully, you will notice how your little friend uses one particular corner of the cage to ‘go to the bathroom’.

For these animals, there is a clear limit between the nest and the toilet. Now, if you do not clean his or her home, your hamster will become stressed and develop Wet Tail. The direct consequence of this condition is death. So, you are left wondering why your hamster has died even if he or she was not that old.


Wet Tail

In order to better understand this condition, we decided to offer you more information. This is a very serious health issue that is particularly common in Syrian hamsters under 12 weeks of age. Any species of hamsters and of any age can get wet tail. This disease is characterized by foul-smelling watery diarrhea, discomfort, severe dehydration, and eventually death.

Luckily, there is treatment available for this disease, but it is important to know that it can only be treated with antibiotics prescribed by your veterinarian. In case you suspect wet tail, you should take your hamster to the vet immediately. To understand just how serious this situation is, wet tail is one of the deadliest illnesses a hamster can get.

A number of causes for this disease have been identified. In order to prevent future outbreaks, it is vital to know what can generate it. Please also keep in mind that this is a contagious condition to both other hamsters and, in some cases, humans.

In people, the illness manifests itself by stomach upsets. Therefore, you should always wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling a sick pet. Also, if you have other animals, you should quarantine the patient until all symptoms have gone.

The most frequent cause is stress in young hamsters which have been parted from their mothers or which have been moved to a new home. Other reasons for stress can include animal attacks, handling too soon, noisy living environments, or other traumas.

Another cause for wet tail is represented by bacterial issues in the stomach. Namely, we are referring to bacterial overgrowth in the stomach similar to stomach bugs in humans. Bacteria naturally living in a hamster’s stomach may overgrow generating unpleasant symptoms and a nasty odor.

A dirty living environment can be another cause of wet tail. In case the hamster has been living in filth for some time, this can cause bacteria to build up in his or her system and result in wet tail.

In rare cases, antibiotics can generate an upset stomach that might lead to wet tail. Obviously, this is the least common cause because most hamsters do not require any antibiotics treatment.


Symptoms of Wet Tail

In order to act fast, in case your hamster developed wet tail, it is also very important to follow the symptoms of this disease. The key action is to act fast! You should not wait to see if your pet is better tomorrow or if it is, indeed, wet tail. Immediate treatment is essential for recovery.

One of the first symptoms is watery diarrhea which can spread throughout the cage or in puddles around the toilet area. Hamsters with this illness have a dirty, foul smelling bottom that may be brown or black and very sticky. Furthermore, wet tail smells really bad. In case you notice your hamster is smelling strong, much worse than usual, you should seek help promptly.

Other symptoms of wet tail include loss of appetite and not drinking water. The worst part is that by not consuming water, your hamster will dehydrate fast. Your vet will recommend using a syringe or a dropper to administer water through your pet’s treatment.

Weakness in limbs, less activity, lethargy, and more sleep are also symptoms of wet tail. Also, a ruffled and dirty coat indicates sickness, in general. You might also notice your hamster hunched over, waddling, or unable to walk properly.

In the worse situation, your pet can present dirty or runny nose, sticky or watery eyes, and even discharge from genitals or ears.

Now, after we have explained the consequences of keeping a hamster in a dirty cage, we hope you will think very seriously about whether or not you have the time and means to take care of such a pet. And if you do, we hope you keep in mind the outcomes of keeping your small friend in a dirty environment.




Irina Ionescu

As a long-term learner and animal lover, Irina helps her readers find the best products and accessories for their pets, as well as the latest training techniques, tips & tricks on how to handle animals.

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