Hepper is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Can Hamsters Swim? Vet-Approved Facts & Safety Guide

Chantelle Fowler

By Chantelle Fowler

Hamster swimming in a plastic tub

Vet approved

Dr. Karyn Kanowski Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Karyn Kanowski

BVSc MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Wild hamsters prefer to live in warm, dry climates, like on the edge of the desert or in sand dunes. Because their natural habitat is dry, many first-time hamster owners are unsure whether their new pets will enjoy leisure activities such as swimming. While hamsters will mostly be able to swim if they encounter water, it’s not a “leisure” activity for them.

Read on to learn more about the safety considerations and risks of allowing your hamster to swim.


Can Hamsters Swim?

Yes, hamsters are capable of swimming if they need to. However, they instinctively steer clear of water as best as they can. If they are forced into a body of water, they’ll paddle their feet to stay afloat, but they’re not the best swimmers. Their small bodies tire quickly, and when exhaustion sets in, they can easily drown; just because a hamster can swim to save itself doesn’t mean they enjoy doing so.

Second, because hamsters evolved in dry, hot habitats, they never typically encountered water outside of fulfilling their need to drink. As such, they generally don’t consider swimming a leisure activity.

hamster in a cage drinking from a water bottle
Image Credit: Monika_1, Shutterstock


Do Hamsters Need Baths?

Unless your vet recommends it, bathing hamsters with water and soap is unnecessary. However, there may be a time when your pet needs help cleaning caked-on fecal matter or urine staining from his rear end. We recommend using pet-friendly wipes or a warm, damp washcloth to help your little buddy with his dirty rear.

Hamsters have natural oils in their coats to keep their skin and fur in good condition. This oil is essential to your pet’s coat health, which is vital to your pet’s overall health. The oils are water-soluble, breaking down when they come into contact with water, so regular bathing can be detrimental to their health.  Hamsters rely on their coat for insulation and protection; without proper coat health, they could become sick or even die.

What About Sand Baths?

Some hamsters, especially dwarf breeds, enjoy sand baths versus traditional baths. Wild hamsters roll, dig, and play in clean sand to bathe themselves. Sand baths are a great way to provide environmental enrichment and keep your hamster clean.

Fill a small dish with hamster-friendly sand and put it in their enclosure. The container should be sized so your pet can climb it without issue but still large enough to have room to roll around and “bathe”.

a hamster cleaning its fur in a sand bath
Image Credit: IRINA ORLOVA, Shutterstock

What Enrichment Activities Do Hamsters Like?

Hamsters, like any other pet, need opportunities for enrichment in their habitats. Since they’re not big swimmers, you might be at a loss with what to do to give your hamster the enrichment he needs to stay happy and healthy.

Hamsters love to burrow, so you’ll want to invest in an enclosure that allows for deep burrows. In addition, the bedding you choose should hold these burrows in place. Paper-based bedding is generally recommended; select unscented varieties, as hamsters have very sensitive respiratory systems.

Foraging is another fun activity that your hamster can spend an entire day doing. It’s as easy as sprinkling his food around his enclosure for them to find.

  • If your pet needs more of a challenge, buy, or make your own foraging puzzle toys where they need to open doors to get to their treat.
  • Hamster wheels are great for exercise, but be sure to select one with a solid floor, as wire wheels can lead to damaged toes, feet, and limbs.
  • Get creative with tubes and extensions to their habitat – hamsters love to explore!


Final Thoughts

While hamsters could potentially swim to save their lives, it’s not an activity that most get enjoyment out of. Hamsters tend to prefer more traditional enrichment activities such as burrowing or foraging. Most veterinarians do not recommend getting your hamster wet as it can harm his coat and overall health.

Featured Image Credit: tanya_morozz, Shutterstock

Chantelle Fowler

Authored by

Chantelle is passionate about two things in her life – writing and animals. She grew up on the prairies in Canada surrounded by animals. As an adult, she chooses to share her home with five cats, two guinea pigs, and a bearded dragon. Chantelle, her husband, and their child take great pride in being THOSE kind of animal parents - the ones who spend a thousand dollars on wall-mounted cat shelves so that their cats can ha...Read more

Related Articles

Further Reading

Vet Articles

Latest Vet Answers

The latest veterinarians' answers to questions from our database