Question:   I saw in the pet store that they had hamster litter boxes...  with litter and a scooper.  Can anyone tell me if they have tried these little things out…and if so, if the hamster actually uses it...

Answer:  Most of mine do -- all of the dwarf hamsters and most of the Syrians.  The only exceptions are one very young, underdeveloped Syrian and one very old one, who both pee their beds.

Question:   How do you potty train them?

Answer:   For each, what worked was cleaning the entire cage with vinegar to remove all traces of urine and its scent, and then washing everything in antibacterial dishwashing liquid and rinsing well. I put a little peed-on litter in one of the side corners of the potty (where they end up going) and put 1/2-3/4" of litter in. They tend to go where the scent is, so it's important to spot clean any accidents and keep a urine scent in the potty. I empty and rinse it in hot water daily, wash it thoroughly when I clean the cage or when it needs it, but I put a bit of urine-soaked litter back every time until the ham's no longer having accidents.

One caveat: The clay-based clumping litter that comes with it isn't the best choice, in my opinion. Ham's tend to dig and roll in it -- especially dwarfs and Syrians who've had a potty since they were young, in my experience. Clay based litter throws up silica dust, which causes respiratory cancers in humans and small mammals. I don't want them in that small enclosed space with it.

I use chinchilla sand for the dwarfs, since it has a nice, fine texture and they tend to go quite mad in it. Syrians do less of this, and for mine who don't dig and roll in it, I use fine-grained children's play sand. I sanitize it in the oven, storing it in a closed bucket.

Question:  How do you go about preparing your own sand?

Answer: I use children's play sand from Home Depot (or Toys-R-Us, etc.).  Pick the cleanest and least dusty brand you can find.  A 50-lb. bag is around $5-6.

It's usually a bit damp, and since my hams sometimes nap and eat in their potties, I like it a little cleaner too, so I throw pans of it in the oven while/after I've got it hot for something else anyway.  I give it a stir after about 10 minutes and leave it about 10 minutes more after that.  After it cools (and I just let it cool in the oven since the pans are so heavy and hot), I dump it in a plastic bucket with a tight lid.  Any airtight container would work -- Tupperware, Ziploc bags.

They don't appreciate the effort nearly enough, but they sure do love all the extra tofu it pays for!  :)
Can a Hamster Be Potty Trained?
by Jane Landis
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