Not all hamsters need their nails trimmed regularly. Many will keep them worn down by digging and foraging in their environment. They need a bit of length on their nails for climbing and gripping. However, it’s completely possible for hamsters, especially older and less active ones, to have overgrown nails and in this case, trimming them is necessary. Otherwise, they may curl inwards and make it painful for the hamster to walk around.
You can take your hamster to the vet to have their nails trimmed. However, if your hamster is tame and used to being handled this may be something you can accomplish at home.
This process works best if your hamster is comfortable with you. Hamsters that don’t like to be handled may not stay still long enough for their nails to be trimmed.
Below, you’ll find a list of steps to trim your hamster’s nails.
The 6 Steps for Trimming Your Hamsters Nails
1. Practice Holding Your Hamster
There are several ways you can hold your hamster to trim their nails. You can hold them upright with their paws sticking between your fingers. You can also hold them flat and secure their paws between your fingers, one by one.
Either way, you need to practice this hold several times before the actual trimming. This process helps you get better at holding the hamster in this position and gets your hamster more comfortable, too. At first, don’t hold onto your hamster’s paws. Just get him used to the position in general. Next, add holding his paws. Use plenty of treats and rewards to make the position positive.
After your hamster seems okay with the position, you can move on to the next step.
2. Gather Your Supplies
To trim your hamster’s nails, you will need several pieces of equipment. You’ll need a bright light—a lamp works best, as you don’t have to hold it. Both of your hands will be busy, so don’t choose a flashlight unless you have an extra pair of hands to help out.
You’ll also need a pair of nail clippers. Small pet nail clippers work best, but you can also use nail clippers made for human babies.
Don’t forget about treats for your hamster. This helps make the experience at least somewhat positive.
3. Hold Your Hamster
When you’re ready to begin, hold your hamster the way you’ve been practicing. You’ll want to hold the hamster rather firmly to prevent him from wiggling free. You can also use a towel to wrap the hamster’s lower half. However, this isn’t always necessary.
Hold your hamster’s paw, too. If you have a friend helping, the person holding the hamster should put one of their paws through their fingers, and the person trimming the nails should also maintain a grip on the paw.
4. Look for the Quick
The quick is the center of the nail where the blood vessels are. You don’t want to trim this portion of the nail, as it will cause the nail to bleed and will be painful.
Luckily, hamster nails are translucent. When you hold a light up to the nail, you should be able to see the quick with ease—do not cut this. Ensure there is still plenty of nail left to cover and protect the quick.
5. Clip the Nail
The only thing left to do is cut the nail. Make sure not to cut the quick if you can help it. In many cases, the hamster may become frightened after one or two nails and start wiggling more. In that case, let the hamster return to its cage and try again another day. It is often not possible to clip all their nails at once and it may take several sessions before you’ve trimmed all their nails..
However, if your hamster isn’t squirmy, continue trimming their nails until you’ve done them all. Be sure to offer treats, which may help keep your hamster distracted.
6. Reward Your Hamster
When you’re done, be sure to reward your hamster. Treats help the nail-trimming process to be somewhat positive and may encourage your hamster to stay calm in the future.
Nail trimming is hardly a pleasant experience for hamsters. If you don’t offer a reward, your hamster may quickly see it as a bad thing and squirm more in the future. A treat helps prevent this. Be sure to choose something your hamster likes and doesn’t get often.
Do Hamsters’ Nails Need to be Trimmed?
You only have to trim a hamster’s nails when they are overgrown. Hamsters are often able to wear down their nails naturally and they don’t typically need them to be trimmed. However, some hamsters may need them to be trimmed for one reason or another. If you’ve never trimmed your hamster’s nails, don’t feel like you’ve been doing them a disservice.
If your hamster does need their nails to be trimmed, you may need to look at their cage and activities overall. They may not have enough chew toys or enrichment activities, or they may not be getting enough exercise. Either way, overgrown nails are sometimes an indication that something is wrong.
Other times, some hamsters are just lazier or older than others, prefer activities that don’t wear down their nails, or have faster-growing nails than average. Overgrown nails aren’t always a sign that something is wrong with your hamster or their cage setup.
Can You Clip a Hamster’s Nails at Home?
If your hamster is tame, you can clip their nails at home. But even a tame hamster, that is used to being handled, is not always keen on having their movement restricted for long enough to clip their nails and you may need to only do a few at a time.
However, if your hamster isn’t tame for one reason or another, it often isn’t best to trim their nails at home. A squirmy hamster can cause you to trim the quick, leading to pain and bleeding. Improper nail trimmings can make your hamster less likely to sit still in the future, making the process more difficult.
If you’re uncomfortable trimming your hamster’s nails for any reason, we recommend taking them to the vet’s office. Choose a vet that is experienced with hamsters. They can demonstrate and teach you the best way to clip them at home if you want to learn.
In some cases, you may have to trim your hamster’s nails. Not all hamsters need their nails to be trimmed—most of the time, they’re able to wear them down as they go about their normal activities. If you do need to trim your hamster’s nails, it helps if your hamster is tame and allows you to hold them with one hand. You can hold them in several different ways, depending on your preferences.
It also helps if you have a friend who’s willing to help you to trim your hamster’s nails. Having one person hold the hamster, and the other trim their nails makes everything go much smoother.
Featured Image Credit: Attila Bódis, Pixabay