Providing Fresh Water for Hamsters
Your hamster needs 24/7 access to clean drinkable water for their survival and well-being. Although hamsters don’t really drink a lot of water, it is still important that they always have access to clean drinkable water. Having constant access to water helps prevent dehydration and maintains their health.
Water Bottle vs Water Bowls
You need to provide your hamster water, but what is the best way to present it? Both water bottles and bowls have their pros and cons, and even your hamster may have their own preference. Remember, there is an option to provide both a water bottle and a water bowl in your hamster’s cage.
Can I use tap water?
The honest answer is it depends. Certain countries do have tap water that is safe for both humans and their pets to drink. However, some places have tap water with traces of chlorine, salts, bacteria, and other chemicals that aren’t safe for your hamster.
It’s possible for you to have your water tested so that you can tell if your water is safe to drink. If you notice a weird smell or if your water tastes different, you should get your water quality tested. Investing in a water filter is another good way to make sure that your tap water is safe. You can get water filters as faucet types or under-the-sink types.
Remember, if you can’t or won’t drink it, then don’t let your hamster drink it.
- Water bottles prevent contamination since your hamster cannot fill it with bedding, food items, or other debris
- Your hamster will have a harder time tipping over your water bottle and spilling water
- Water bottles can be attached to the side of the cage or can come in a water bottle holder
- Your hamster has to tilt their head at an unusual angle to get water
- Sometimes the spout of the water bottle may get stuck, and your hamster won’t be able to drink water
- Water bottles may leak water which can leave wet spots in your hamster’s enclosure
- Your hamster can chip or break their teeth on the spout
- Your hamster has to learn to drink from a bottle
- Water bottles are harder to clean than water bowls
- Water bowls allow your hamster to freely drink in a natural and more comfortable drinking position
- Water bowls are usually easier to clean than water bottles
- Water bowls are less likely to malfunction, and you can usually rest easy knowing your hamster can easily access it
- If the bowl is too big, your hamster might jump into it
- Your hamster may be able to contaminate it with bedding or food items
- If your bowl is too light, your hamster may knock it over and spill it
There is really no drowning risk in water bowls if your water bowl is appropriately sized. Don’t give your hamsters a bowl big enough for them to swim in.
Does it matter what material I use for my water bowl?
The material of your hamster’s water bowl matters especially when it comes to price, design, and how resistant it is to bacteria.
Plastic bowls are popular because they come in different shapes and colors and are usually very inexpensive. However, they’re harder to thoroughly clean and plastic can leak microplastics and other chemicals into your pet’s water. Oils and bacteria can also get trapped in the plastic. Your hamster can also chew plastic bowls. Make sure the plastic is BPA-free and do not use it if it’s scratched or cracked. Most plastic bowls and bottles cannot be used in the dishwasher.
Stainless steel bowls are considered affordable durable options that are also easy to clean. Because of its material, it’s resistant to bacterial growth. However, stainless steel bowls are usually limited in style and the quality of the bowl depends on the grade of the stainless steel. Stainless steel bowls are usually not popular in the hamster community. If choosing a stainless steel bowl, make sure it is food-grade 304 stainless steel.
Ceramic bowls are very popular options with hamsters. They come in so many shapes and sizes but can be more expensive than plastic. They are considered easy to clean, but unglazed ceramic can absorb bacteria so we recommend only getting the glazed bowls. When dropped they can chip, crack, or even break so be careful handling them. Make sure the ceramic bowl you’re using is lead-free. Avoid using older ceramics as they might have lead in the glaze.
Glass bowls are another option, and its transparency makes it easy to see the water levels in your hamster’s enclosure. They can be inexpensive, and glass bowls are usually dishwasher safe. They’re also easy to clean and sanitize. If your glass bowl is chipped or cracked, we recommend disposing of it.
Biofilm is a sticky and slimy film composed of bacteria, algae, and fungi that can develop on your pet’s food or water bowls. Some examples of bacteria found in biofilm are salmonella and E. coli, both of which can cause serious illnesses for your hamster, other animals, and humans. Having biofilm in your water or food bowls can result in weakened immunity and the development of chronic diseases. It can be prevented by regularly washing and sanitizing your hamster’s pet bowls.
Hard-Water (Calcium and Lime Scales) Buildup in Water Bowls
When we talk about water hardness, we’re referring to the mineral content within the water. These minerals are particularly the calcium and magnesium carbonates that are in the water. When water comes into contact with rocks and other substrates, it starts to accumulate dissolved solids. Excessive calcium and magnesium intake in your hamster can lead to urinary health issues, though few studies show that hard water directly causes this.
Hard water is water that has a high amount of these minerals, compared to soft water which has a very low amount of these minerals. When you heat up hard water, calcium deposits can form. Calcium deposits build up in your water and can impact certain household appliances.
Soft water - Below 60mg/l
Moderately hard water - between 60 - 120 mg/l
Hard water - between 120 - 200 mg/l
Very Hard water - above 200 mg/l
Hard-water buildup can easily clog the water spout of your hamster’s water bottles, making it very difficult or impossible for them to access water. Because of this, we recommend that you scrub your hamster’s water bottles regularly.
To remove it follow these steps:
- Mix 50% warm water and 50% vinegar together in a bowl
- Pour the vinegar and water solution into the water dish and make sure it covers the water build up
- Allow it to soak for about an hour
- Use a cloth, scouring pad, bottle brush, or sponge to clean the dish. The buildup should come off, although some parts may require extra effort to scrub off.
- Wash regularly with dish soap and warm water
How often should I change my water and clean my water bowl?
Your hamster should have access to clean water 24 hours a day. Whether your water is in a water bowl or a water bottle, we recommend that you change the water daily and clean your water bowl or bottle daily as well. If you are using a bottle, a bottle brush should be used to clean the sipper of the bottle. We recommend having multiple bowls and bottles so that you can easily change them out and clean them.
Moist places are great areas for bacteria to grow so if you don’t clean your hamster’s bowl or bottle they can develop harmful bacteria that could be dangerous for your hamster’s health.
Why is my hamster constantly thirsty?
If your hamster is constantly thirsty, it might be a sign of diabetes or kidney problems. We recommend bringing your hamster to an exotic vet so that they can check to see if your hamster has any conditions.
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