Several pets absolutely love to go swimming. Some benefits of swimming for animals include promoting good hygiene, cardiovascular benefits and it helps them to cool down. In the summer months especially, you might think about keeping your hamster cool through having them go for a dip. You might also consider swimming as an alternative means of physical activity.
Finally, you may want to kill three birds with one stone by giving them a bath to stay clean. Before you do any of these though, you have to settle with the question – can hamsters swim? Read a bit further, and we’ll discuss whether hamsters can swim or not, its safety and alternative options.
Their Natural Habitat
In the wild, hamsters live in dry environments and don’t usually come across large bodies of water. But does that mean that they can’t swim? Laboratory tests have shown that hamsters are in fact able to swim, though their technique may be a bit elementary.
However, just because a hamster can swim, does it mean that they like to? Studies have shown that hamsters will actually avoid in the water at all costs unless it is to drink water. When you place them in the water directly, they will swim to the edges, supposedly in an attempt to escape the water. One can presume that they don’t like it that much.
Is It Healthy for Hamsters to Swim
It is known that hamsters aren’t fond of swimming and there are health concerns associated with it. Experts suggest that placing hamsters in situations where they need to swim can raise their stress levels. This increased stress can lead to a compromised immune system and make them prone to illnesses.
As hamsters are susceptible to temperature changes, placing them in water can lead to pneumonia. This is a life-threatening infection of their respiratory system. Some researchers have connected swimming with lesions on their heart, as well as difficulties breathing.
It is also for these reasons why experts encourage hamster owners to use a special water bottle to keep them hydrated. It is said that having their water in a bowl may cause it to be easily overturned and get your hamster wet.
If you do take your hamster swimming and it begins to panic, first of all, try soaking it in a warm cloth. This helps to prevent pneumonia by regulating its body temperature. Having your hamster sitting wet for long periods after swimming is a significant cause of cardiopulmonary complications. This means that air drying is a bad idea.
Precautions for Bathing a Hamster
For many pets, taking them for a swim can also serve the purpose of cleaning them. This is not recommended for hamsters. For starters, hamsters are self-cleaning pets who will use their salve to lick their coats daily. They also use sand to clean themselves by rolling around in a sand bath. Therefore, you do not have to wash hamsters in a swimming pool-like bath, as this is known to strip away protective oils found on their coats.
If you must clean a hamster yourself, you can follow the following procedures;
- Use a small amount of water. 1 or 2 cups should be fine. Add 1 drop of pet shampoo to it.
- Soak a clean cloth into the mixture and use it to swab your hamster slowly and carefully. Ensure you move the cloth in the same direction of the fur.
- When finished, use a dry towel and wipe gently over its body to remove the dampness.
Note that in this procedure, the hamster is never immersed in the water. It is a very gentle process. Given hamsters’ feelings towards the water, ensuring that they never feel threatened during this process is essential.
How to take Care of Hamster in the Hot Summer Months
Hamsters need help in regulating their body temperature. In the summer months, they are prone to heat stroke. Jumping in a pool may seem like the best option to cool down, but remember that this is not so for a hamster.
They instead prefer a cool, well-ventilated room. Monitoring their temperature in the summer is all about making their surroundings ideal. Keeping them hydrated is also essential. You can do this by ensuring that they always have fresh, clean water available in their habitat.
Alternatives to Swimming
While we do acknowledge the benefits of swimming, they cannot be justifications for taking your hamster swimming. Instead, consider alternative options. Bathing your hamsters with a small amount of water as outlined previously can safely cool them down and keep them clean.
Hamsters can get adequate exercise through their hamster wheel. Having sufficient space in their habitat to roam and explore also helps. Removing them from their cage and having them run in a hamster ball also helps them to keep fit. Hamsters are much more content to engage in these activities versus swimming.
If You Do Decide to Take Hamster Swimming
Some owners have had good results from embarking on a regular swimming programme with their hamster. They note that though frightened at first, they eventually warmed up to it.
If you decide to try this, you will need to start with a small amount of warm water. Cold water is harmful, and always remember the effects of water on hamsters as previously mentioned. You will need to try and mitigate against these.
Starting with a small amount of water placed in a basin can help your hamster to become more comfortable. Experts advise that you place the hamster in the basin first, and then slowly add the water.
As you do that, try not to cause any gushes or splashes. You can then allow them time to explore at their own pace. Do remember that they will need help in getting dry when done.
Placing hamsters in deep water such as bathtubs or even swimming pools are not recommended. These bodies of water are often too broad and deep and may induce panic as they try to escape. Do recall also that hamsters aren’t the most active swimmers. This is especially true for the smaller types who have shorter limbs.
While hamsters can in fact swim, you will need to consider how the water may affect them regarding their physical and emotional well being. Most hamsters are not fond of it, and there are alternatives to the benefits of swimming.
Information has been provided, however, in case you do want to push your pet a bit outside of their comfort zone.
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Photo by Jannes Pockele, https://www.flickr.com/photos/jpockele/139669912
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