Why Does My Hamster Smell Bad?

Dr. Joe Alcorn, M.S., D.V.M.

Dr. Joe Alcorn is founder of Care Animal Hospital in Temecula, California. He has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Colorado State University. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association and his advice has been featured in large publications like Bustle and Martha Stewart.

Home » Blog » Why Does My Hamster Smell Bad?

For something so adorable and tiny, some hamsters can emit quite an odor. So the question is, why does my hamster smell bad? For this guide, I’m going to cover the reasons why your pet may have a foul smell and what you can do to solve and prevent such problems.

Why Does My Hamster Smell Bad? 

If your hamster smells bad, it may be due to the odor of a dirty cage clinging to its fur. Hamster scent glands, heat cycle, hygiene, and diseases can sometimes also make hamsters smell stinky. In some cases, the diet and territory marking of hamsters can affect their smell.

Hand holding hamster near a flower branch

Hamsters may stink due to a number of reasons, whether because of an owner’s neglect or natural causes. It’s essential that you understand the source of the problem. In this way, you’ll see if it should be a cause of worry, then act accordingly.

Dirty Enclosure

Another reason why your hamster might smell terrible is because of a dirty cage or enclosure. Hamsters will urinate to remove waste, and if there’s no proper litter box, your pet will urinate everywhere.

Moreover, old hamsters tend to pee and sleep wherever they want. Urine typically smells weak, yet the odor can cling to your hamster’s fur.

Farts Caused by a High-Protein Diet

Hamsters can’t burp because they have a one-way digestive system, including a flap covering the stomach after eating. Instead, they would pass gas, which can have a stinky smell, depending on the food.

If you feed high-protein food like chicken or boiled egg to your hamster, the protein that breaks down in the gut will give the horrible smell in the fart.

Hamster Scent Glands

You may also observe a strong musky smell emanating from your hamster due to the scent glands. Keep in mind that this is normal.

Woman checking if her hamster is starting to smell bad
  • Heat: When a female hamster is in heat, she will release sexual pheromones every four days to attract male hamsters. She may also have her period every fifth day until she mates and gets pregnant. The pheromones may release a somewhat pungent odor.
  • Increased testosterone levels: When there are two adult male hamsters in the same enclosure, it can be risky once they become sexually mature. They would secrete more odors to mark their territories. As they try to push each other’s scent out, they end up stinking themselves.

Hygiene Neglect

Some hamsters can neglect to groom themselves, including not doing sand baths. This can make your pet’s body dirty and smelly since the fur becomes saturated with body oils or stained with urine.

However, hamsters naturally know that they need to groom themselves by licking their paws and coat. If they fail to do so, it may be due to an injury or illness.

Aside from that, hamsters reach maturity fast. When their rhythm slows down, they become less active and struggle to keep themselves clean.

Hamster Diseases

Bacteria-causing illnesses can also cause your hamster to smell bad. A runny nose or visible wound are typically signs of diseases or medical conditions that can make your pet’s body stink.

  • Wet tail: A wet tail is a fatal illness that causes foul-smelling diarrhea. The overgrowth bacteria in a hamster’s stomach may emit a foul odor. If your pet has a wet tail, I can conduct physical examinations and lab tests before prescribing medication, most often antibiotics.
  • Bladder and kidney infections: Urinary tract infections in hamsters can make your pet’s urine smell terrible. Older hamsters may even have a gooey and unpleasant discharge.

How Can I Prevent My Hamster From Smelling Bad?

Hamsters may smell bad due to diet changes, a dirty case, and hygiene neglect. Scent glands and illnesses can also make them stink at times. However, there are things you can do to prevent your hamster from having a foul odor.

Hamster inside his cage
  • Improve enclosure ventilation: Small, cramped spaces are prone to smelling bad. If your hamster has no signs of illness or is not in heat, the bad smell may come from the enclosure. In this case, ensure enough airflow by moving the enclosure in a better-ventilated area and reducing the things inside the cage.
  • Clean the cage daily: As a responsible pet owner, it’s also your job to remove soiled bedding, uneaten food, and fecal matter every day. Set a weekly scrubbing using warm soapy water. Additionally, replace the bedding with fresh shavings at least once a week to help absorb nasty smells.
  • Potty-train your hamster: Put a sandbox in the corner of the enclosure, preferably in the area where your pet usually urinates. In effect, there’s only a single place in the cage where your pet urinates, and your pet won’t get in contact with the urine all the time.
  • Schedule a vet visit: There are instances when a foul odor can be a sign of an undiagnosed health issue. Thus, take the time to schedule a wellness checkup so I can conduct lab tests and thorough examinations to determine the cause.
  • Monitor your hamster’s diet: Pay attention to what you feed, and how much water the hamster drinks, and observe if the urine or feces has a strong-smelling odor. A healthy hamster diet typically consists of dry pellets, vegetables, and fruits. I can also prescribe vitamin supplements to help get rid of bad smells.

What Toys Should I Get My Hamster?

You should get an exercise wheel, balls, a digging tower, and a suspension bridge for your hamster. Corrugated tunnels, nibblers, and running discs are also great toys for hamsters. When choosing a toy, make sure it suits your pet’s needs and health condition.

Should I Breed My Hamster?

No, it’s not ideal to breed hamsters on your own, especially since hamsters are prolific breeders. Some hamsters can be aggressive during mating, so it’s best to leave this to breeders. You would also have to consider genetic defects and potential complications.


If your hamster has a bad smell, it may be because of a dirty cage, poor hygiene, or diseases like shaking. Diet, sexual maturity, and territory marking can also cause hamsters to stink at times. A routine checkup with a veterinarian should help fix the problem to keep your pet healthy.