What's the secret for a Happy Hamster?
Cage Size: Make sure your hamster has enough space
The minimum size of your cage naturally depends on the type of hamster you bring home.
Generally speaking, there are two types of hamster: The larger, Syrian Hamster and the smaller dwarf hamster. The latter comes in various types and you may already have heard of breeds such as Campbell Hamster and Robo Hamster.
When getting a hamster cage your need to make sure there is ample space to run and play and also room for other accessories such as a wheel, tubes, sleeping area and a toilet area.
MINIMUM CAGE SIZE
The minimum recommended sizes are the following (but remember, bigger is always better!):
· For a Syrian Hamster you need a large hamster cage with a floor space of at least 360 square inches (30x12 inches) (2,300 square centimetres) and a total area of 2 cubic feet (55 liters). The space between the bars should not be more than half an inch apart (1cm).
· Dwarf Hamsters are more active and have the same requirements. For each dwarf hamster you add, you should double in size. For dwarf hamsters, it is best to get an acquarium so they do not squeeze through the bars.
Choosing between a wire or a plastic cage
When getting a cage, you are faced with two options: A wire cage or a hamster aquarium.
Either will work fine with both having its pros and cons.
The main things to consider when choosing a hamster cage are:
· Natural place for you hamster to climb – but make sure it cannot fall too far!
· Very easy to clean – just lift it open and remove the bedding
· Very good ventilation and thus, good air quality – just make sure it is not in a draft
· Your hamster can become obsessive chewing the bars
The main reasons for choosing a hamster aquarium are:
· Escape proof – there are no bars it can chew open or squeeze in between. Also, other house pets cannot bother your hamster
· Still relatively easy to clean but can be somewhat clumsy and heavy to clean
· Worse air quality than the cage
As you can see, there are pros and cons for both types.
Rule of Thumb regarding Hamster Cages
If you have other “free roaming” pets such as a cat or dog, we recommend a hamster aquarium. Also, the smaller your hamster the safer it is with an aquarium. If you get an aquarium make sure to get a climbing wall, a wood ladder or climbing blocks for your hamster.
If your hammy is the only pet in the family and it will be placed far away from any air condition equipment or other things creating a draft we recommend getting a hamster cage. It is easier to clean, has better air quality and will create a natural place for your hamster to become a little mountain climber.
Hamster Bedding: Getting the right type and depth
Unfortunately, not all hamster bedding materials sold in pet stores are suited for hamsters.
This is most pronounced with pine and cedar wood shavings. This is often sold as hamster bedding but we recommend staying away from that as it can be abrasive and splinter into sharp pieces that can harm your hamster.
Another unfortunate feature of wood is a risk of your hamster getting a skin reaction from the dust. As such, although there are suitable wood types for hamster (most notably Aspen wood) it is easier to just stay away from it and run no risks.
Instead you should choose paper based bedding.
If you are in urgent need of bedding, you can use non-inked and non-chemical paper (such as toilet paper). However, this does not do a good job of disguising odors and your cage will quickly get smelly.
In stores, you can get a much better paper based option for containing the smell, which we recommend getting. Some stores also sell scented paper (to hide any odor) but we do not recommend this due to the risk of hamster allergy.
Getting the right amount of bedding in the cage:
Once you have decided on the type of hamster bedding you need to give it the right depth. By instinct, hamster love to burrow and thus, you need to make sure there is something to burrow in.
You should at least have 2 inches (6cm) of suitable bedding and beneath it, the bottom of the cage should be solid (if you have a wired cage at the bottom, put in some cardboard.
The importance of Hamster Tubes, Toys and Accessories
By now we know what type and size of cage to get and what to use as bedding.
And that is all very practical so now we finally get to the fun stuff: Hamster tubes and toys.
This is where your hammie will shine and seeing it crawl through tubes, run on its wheel and chewing on toys is where your hamster’s personality will really shine.
So, let’s get right into what you should place in your cage.
Hamster tubes are mimics of the real-life environment for a hamster. Here, they dig their own tunnels underground and by placing tubes in your cage, you can give them the same feeling.
You can buy plastic tubes at the store. Otherwise, it works well putting in toilet paper rolls in the cage.
Hamsters run. They run a lot. Therefore, it is very important to have a hamster wheel in your cage.
You can get both metal and plastic wheels. However, metal wheels are becoming a thing of the past and you should absolutely get a plastic wheel. The reasons are:
REASONS FOR GETTING A PLASTIC WHEEL
· Metal wheels are made with rungs (like a ladder). Your hamster can fall through the haps and hurt itself
· Metal wheels are made of several pieces and often with sharp edges. This increases the risk of your hamster getting injured as well
· Contrary to metal wheels, plastic wheels are made of one piece which is moulded together. There are a variety of both open and more enclosed options.
What you decide to get is up to your personal preference as the single most important thing in a hamster wheel is the size.
For a Syrian hamster, the diameter of the wheel should be at least 12 inches (30cm) and for a dwarf hamster it should be at least 20 inches (As with cages, hamsters generally prefer larger wheels to smaller wheels.
Below you can see a good hamster wheel. It cannot fall through and there is no arching in the back, i.e. it is sufficiently large.
Your hamster is very active during the night and besides a wheel and tubes, it should also have some toys.
These toys will give the hamster something to chew on while relaxing after a good run.
The teeth of your hamsters are constantly growing (yes that’s not a typo) and like a dog, hamsters low to chew.
At the pet store, you can get wooden pet toys that your hamster can chew on. In addition to wooden chew toys, cardboard is also great. Again, you should buy these at the store and make sure they are chemical free.
We do not recommend getting plastic toys for hamster. This is due to the risk of your hamster gnawing plastic loose and digesting it.
Hamster House: Create a snuggly nesting area
Within your hamster cage, you should design an area for your hamster to sleep so it can snuggle up and feel safe. At the pet store, you can find a variety of huts. Alternatively, you can use half a coconut as a house. Most importantly, it should be dark inside.
Hamster Food, Water and treats
Like us humans, our little hamster friends eat plants, seeds and meat (insects).
Besides the insects, this is mimicked in the hamster food you can get.
However, there are many types of hamster food out there and it can be a challenge to figure out what is best. Generally, there are two types of food you can buy:
· Seed Hamster Food
· Pelleted Hamster Food
Historically, seed hamster food has been the main choice of food when getting a hamster. While it can be okay, it does risk your hamster being picky only eating its favorite seeds. This will lead to a diet that is not balanced and worse, your hamster will not get all the vitamins it needs.
Thus, if you go with seed hamster food, make sure the food bowl is empty before giving it more food.
Pelleted hamster food is now seen as a better option. In it, everything is mixed together so every bite your hamster takes is by definition balanced. Pelleted food usually looks like small biscuits, cookies or cereal.
Due to the ensured balanced diet, we also recommend getting pelleted hamster food.
What is pelleted hamster food?
Pelleted foods, a rather recent innovation in animal nutrition, gives your hamster the optimal nutrition in an easy-to-eat, easy-to-serve format. Each pellet (or nugget), contains a baked, healthy blend of grains, seeds, vegetables, fruits, proteins, vitamins, and minerals.
As pelleted foods are also specifically made for other animals such as birds and rabbits, it is important to buy pelleted foods specifically for hamsters. An example of pelleted food is below.
Putting it all together: Our current hamster ground floor plan
By now you may have information overload trying to make sense of hamster cages, hamster accessories and where to put the hamster house.
Luckily, it’s not rocket science. In the video below, a hamster habitat is shown that works really well.
If you have any questions…
We hope you have enjoyed our introduction to the hamster cage.
If you have any questions or comments please leave them below – we will be around to answer any questions that might come up!