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Old 11-05-2021, 07:36 AM   #1
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Default How often should you do a full cage clean?

I've had many hamsters over the years and always thought it was best to fully disinfect & clean their cage once a week, but I've read lots of different posts today which recommend cleaning much less often than this, with lots of people saying they only do it once a month or even less often, otherwise the hamster can get stressed.

I currently have a 2-month old male Syrian hamster in a Criceti 100 cage and I use Fitch as the substrate in the base of the cage. I've only had him for a couple of weeks but he seems to have started using his hamster toilet to pee in, so I'm wondering if really I only need to be cleaning that once a week and then do a full clean of the cage every two weeks or even once a month maybe? Most of his poos seem to be around his wheel or on the platforms, so I spot clean and pick those out every day.

I know you're supposed to reserve some of the bedding when you clean and not replace all of it so it smells familiar, but knowing how often I should really be doing it would be very helpful.

Thank you
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Old 11-05-2021, 08:52 AM   #2
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Default Re: How often should you do a full cage clean?

You really shouldn't ever have to do a full cage clean unless something happens that would require a very thorough clean - think mites and certain illnesses, that sort of thing, not just for a typical healthy hamster.

Spot cleaning and occasional partial cleaning are perfectly adequate without stressing a hamster out as far as a normal healthy hamster goes!

I'd also like to point out that normal healthy hamster poo isn't something you should even worry about cleaning out all the time. Healthy hamster poo is fairly dry and odorless, plus hamsters really should be eating it as is completely natural and healthy since it contains beneficial nutrients. It's also completely normal for hamsters to hoard that as well.
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Old 11-05-2021, 10:07 AM   #3
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Default Re: How often should you do a full cage clean?

Never - lol! No seriously it's true you shouldn't ever have to do a "full" cage clean unless there is illness or disease (or after a hamster has passed away).

Partial cleans are better. That means basically - don't clean everything at the same time - so something all smells familiar. And yes spot clean substrate as when needed (replace or add a handful or two) and use a litter tray. Using a litter tray the substrate basically stays clean and dry for a very long time. It's only their pee that's smelly. And with enough substrate in the bottom half always stays dry so no need to even disinfect the cage base.

I change the substrate about every 3 to 4 months. And then I keep about a third to half of the old substrate (the clean half and replace that on top of the new substrate and mix it in a bit.

In between that do the odd thing as and when. So you can just clean the wheel if it needs it (but not the same week as a substrate clean) - they do tend to pee in their wheels sometimes although mine don't seem to! And clean any toys as and when needed - toys often don't need cleaning very often at all. Although I found my hanging rat sputnik actually got dusty on top after a while so took that out to wipe it.

I leave the nest and hoard alone and never remove the nest. Unless it's pee'd in then you have to - same with the hoard if it's pee'd on. They usually grow out of peeing in the nest quite quickly and once using a litter tray their nest stays clean and dry and they are very precious about it. I find it never smells.

Obviously hoards can get quite large - they tend to bury them under the nest if there's enough substrate - so I "prune" those from the bottom when doing the substrate change - because that's the oldest food. And technically that stays dry as it's just dried food but the oldest food at the bottom can go a bit with condensation.

So I'll "prune" about half of it from underneath when changing the substrate. They tend to only hoard dry hamster mix rather than fresh food which they tend to eat straight away. But one reason to only give a very small amount of fresh food like fresh veg etc. So they don't eat some and hoard some. I've never yet had a hamster hoard any fresh food or found anything mouldy (although I do find the odd walnut hoarded in the litter tray that's gone black after been pee'd on - so that has to go. I don't know why they put "special" things in the litter tray - maybe to keep it safe! No one else will want it if pee'd on.

So if you have about 4 to 6" deep substrate you'll be fine. After a while the substrate can get a bit flattened down to so I "spot add" then - ie add a couple more handfuls to bulk it up again.

They are really quite clean little things - do lots of washing and grooming. Their poops aren't really dirty or smelly and they do eat them sometimes (which is normal - they have two stomachs and can redigest vitamins and nutrients from their poops). So I don't worry about those unless they start taking over the cage, then spot clean a bit. There can end up being quite a few in the house at substrate clean time but those can be spot cleaned without needing to remove the nest.

When you do a substrate change there isn't any need to use pet disinfectant either, unless there's been illness or disease. If the cage base is clean and dry I sometimes just use a damp cloth on it . Or sometimes water with a bit of fairy liquid in - but then it needs rinsing to reduce the residue.

Strong smelling products can also affect their respiratory tract, so if you do use pet disinfectant, then rinse well afterwards.
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Old 11-06-2021, 02:52 AM   #4
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Default Re: How often should you do a full cage clean?

You are going to save yourself so much time and money now. By doing weekly full cleans you must have been cleaning clean cages and your hamsters must have been very tolerant. Many hamsters get very stressed and upset when all their scents and hoards get removed.

I only do a full cage clean when there is a good reason for it as already mentioned above.

I think that the advice of weekly cleans goes back to the 70's and times when people housed hamsters in tiny cages. Things have progressed since then but many books, internet sites and pet shops haven't moved forward and still dish out outdated information.
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Old 11-06-2021, 04:02 AM   #5
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Default Re: How often should you do a full cage clean?

I do most of mine every month but then again we've only just got over an infestation of mites and I want to be sure that we're over it properly before that I used to clean the cages when I thought that they needed cleaning.

I find that it's harder to spot clean a Chinese's cage than a Syrian's because none of mine have ever been very good at having just one corner to pee.
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Old 11-06-2021, 05:10 AM   #6
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Default Re: How often should you do a full cage clean?

That’s a good point. Syrians are easier to just spot clean mainly as they almost always use a litter tray. What I used to do with our Robo (never knew where he peed either) was a “half” clean . So I’d do one half of the cage (eg the right hand side) and he would move to his second nest on the left side. Then maybe a month later I’d do the left side - and he’d move back to his other nest! That way half the cage was left smelling familiar and untampered with. That wouldn’t work with Syrians who only have one very precious nest!
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Old 11-07-2021, 03:13 AM   #7
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Default Re: How often should you do a full cage clean?

What I do is if my hamsters' bedding or cage starts to look soiled, I simply take out a third of the bedding and replace it with the amount I took out. I mainly focus on the corners and pee spots, though, since thats where all the mess tends to be. Of course you can also pick out poops daily that are scattered everywhere too, and maybe wiping sticky wheels or accessories. But never a full clean unless they have some sort of illness. It stresses them out, and in their little hamster brains they think they are in a whole new place!
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