Did you know that hamsters originated from hot, desert climates? That is why it is important to have a dust bath or sand bath (people call them different names). In the wild, a hamster would roll around in the sand, to clean their coat (their fur). Excess oils in their coat will stick to grains of sand, leaving them silky smooth, and fresh (sounds like a commercial for shampoo!). It is important for hamsters to do this so that their coat is not too oily, which would result in skin problems.
So what do you use? Can I just get some sand from the beach? No, pet owners use a thing called Chinchilla dust. It is a very fine sand that is used primarily by chinchillas, but also works on hamsters, gerbils, and other rodents. Don’t be put off by the packaging, as it may only say “for chinchillas”, but all chinchilla dust is okay for hammies too! You can buy chinchilla dust in every good pet shop, or online. It may be a little pricey, (usually around €10 a box) but last quite a while.
So…what do I do with it? When you’ve bought some, get a plastic tub, like a take-away container or an ice-cream tub, and fill it about a quarter of the way up with chinchilla dust. This gives your hamster plenty of room to roll around in. Always keep it in the cage, and replace with fresh sand every week.
I don’t think my hamster’s using it, I’ve never seen him in it. Don’t worry, he is! Most hamster owners never see their pet use the bath, but nearly all hamsters do. I can sometimes hear my hamster rolling in it during the night.