Can Hamsters Swim? And What to Do if Your Hamster Gets Wet

Last updated:
Jun 11, 2023

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If you’re a hamster or animal lover, you might have seen an image or video of a hamster swimming and wondered, “Is that safe?” And you’re not alone: many people wonder if hamsters can swim, and if they can, if they enjoy it.

The short answer is no: you shouldn’t try to make your hamster swim. Below, we’ll give you some more detail about why this is our answer to the question, “Can hamsters swim?”

We’ll also let you know why you should never wash your hamster in water, how to keep your hamster clean, and what to do if your hamster gets wet.

Read more: How to Care for Hamsters as Pets: Top 8 Hamster Owner Tips

Hamsters Can Swim (Technically)

Like most mammals, hamsters can swim if they absolutely have to. For example, if a hamster was living on a plain that flooded, it could swim a very short distance to find safety on a rock or dry surface.

However, this doesn’t mean that hamsters are naturally designed to be good swimmers or that they enjoy swimming.

Why Shouldn’t Hamsters Swim?

Now let’s look at the specific reasons why you should not encourage or force your hamster to swim.

Hamsters don’t enjoy swimming

First of all, hamsters don’t have any desire to swim, so there’s no benefit in the activity for them.

Some rodents, like rats, are great swimmers and often enjoy doing so. Hamsters are not in that category.

Hamsters aren’t native to wet areas

The five kinds of hamsters we keep as pets are all native to Europe and Asia, but they tend to live in warm, dry areas. This includes sand dunes, deserts, and grassy plains. They’re not native to areas with heavy rainfall or flooding, and they don’t live on the shores of large bodies of water.

That means that hamsters are naturally acclimated to dry conditions and don’t have the physique or the instinct to swim except in emergency situations.

Hamsters are affected badly by stress

Next, it’s important to understand that hamsters are very prone to stress. Not only are they likely to get stressed out by unfamiliar situations, but stress can negatively affect their health. Hamsters can even die suddenly if they experience sudden, high levels of stress.

Because hamsters in the wild only really swim when their lives are in peril, your pet hamster can associate swimming with danger, too. They can go into fight-or-flight mode, which is dangerous and cruel to put a hamster through.

Hamsters can freeze after getting wet

Hamsters have thick, fluffy coats that naturally contain oils to protect them from the elements. This protective layer helps hamsters maintain their temperature, whether it’s hot or cold.

If a hamster’s coat gets soaking wet, it removes some of the protective oils and renders the coat ineffective. This means the hamster can’t regulate its temperature, and as the water cools, its body temperature can quickly drop. Hamsters can get too cold and go into a state of torpor (a type of hibernation), which often leads to death.

How to Bathe Your Hamster

You might be wondering if you can give a hamster a bath to keep them clean, like you would with a dog or another pet. Here’s what you need to know about giving a hamster a bath and how to keep your hamster clean and fresh.

Can you give a hamster a bath?

Hamsters do not need to be bathed in water and should not be bathed in water. It’s potentially very harmful to them as well as stress-inducing. But bathing a hamster in water is also completely unnecessary.

The only type of bathing a hamster needs is a sand bath. This is an area of their cage or tank that’s full of sand, where they can roll around and clean their fur. Sand keeps a hamster’s coat clean, shiny, and healthy.

Creating a hamster sand bath

We recommend using reptile sand like Repti Sand, but you can also use play sand that you sanitize by baking in the oven. Repti Sand doesn’t require any preparation or sanitization.

For the bath itself, you can use a specialty hamster sand bath like a Niteangel sand bath, a cookie or candy jar, or any container you have available that’s safe for a hamster. You can also partition off part of the tank and use sand as the substrate in that part.

Do not use chinchilla dust, bathing dust, or anything containing the word “dust.” The sand should be fine but not dusty, and it needs to be calcium-free.

Spot-cleaning a hamster with water

If your hamster has something stuck to them, carefully use a clean towel soaked in warm water to dab at only that spot. Make sure your hamster is in a warm environment and able to curl up in its burrow after this.

You should also try not to penetrate the lower layers of their fur coat and keep the water off their skin.

Read more: Hamster, Gerbil, or Guinea Pig: Which Pet Should You Adopt?

What to Do if Your Hamster Gets Wet

You should be able to prevent your hamster from getting wet, but sometimes accidents happen. If you notice that your hamster has wet fur, it’s essential to take action right away.

First, make sure that your hamster’s coat is wet from water, rather than just damp-looking from natural oils. If it’s a buildup of oils, all you need to do is make sure your hamster has access to a sand bath.

If your hamster is truly wet with water, follow these steps right away:

  1. Dry your hamster with an absorbent towel. Completely wrap them in the towel and make sure to absorb as much of the water as you can.
  2. Use a blow-dryer on the lowest heat setting (not cold air) and lowest speed, held a foot or two away. Gently hold the hamster in front of this warm air until they appear dry.
  3. Place the hamster against your skin, preferably on your stomach. Calmly hold it against your skin until your hamster feels completely dry and warm to the touch.
  4. If you have a reptile heating pad, you can place your hamster in that part of its tank and encourage them to burrow or cuddle up in that area. You can also place a hot water bottle (make sure it’s not too hot) next to that portion of their cage.
  5. If you don’t have a reptile heating pad or hot water bottle, just make sure your hamster is in the warmest, snuggliest portion of its cage or tank and has plenty of bedding and insulation.
  6. Remove any water from the cage, including water bowls and water bottles. Fill their water bottle with slightly warm water.
  7. Without blocking their ventilation, place a blanket (if you can warm it up in the dryer first, do so) around their cage or tank.
  8. Let your hamster rest until it’s ready to come out on its own.
can hamsters swim what to do if your hamster gets wet

Hamsters and Water Don’t Mix

While it might be fun to think about a hamster swimming laps around the kitchen sink, in reality, it’s a very bad idea to combine hamsters and water.

Hamsters aren’t naturally talented swimmers, and being forced to swim causes them extreme stress.

Hopefully, this article has helped fill in the gaps about why hamsters cannot and should not swim, as well as how to bathe your hamster and what to do if they end up getting wet.

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LittleGrabbies is an independent blog run by one human and her pets. We want to help you sift through all of the information that's out there for small pets to provide the best possible care.


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