Caring for a pet hamster includes providing a cage with bedding, food, and water. You want to provide a big enough cage so your hamster can get enough exercise every day and has access to plenty of mentally stimulating toys.
Hamster Cage Sizes
For Syrian hamsters, the minimum amount of floor space needed per hamster is 900 square inches, or 40 x 22.5 inches. The height should be 24 inches to allow for several inches of bedding.
Chinese and dwarf hamsters need a minimum of 700 square inches of floor space. This equates to about 40 x 17.5 inches per hamster. A cage height of at least 24 inches with 6-8 inches of bedding is optimal.
The ideal cage for multiple hamsters is one that allows a large enough floor space for each hamster’s needs. Syrian hamsters prefer to be housed alone and should not live together. Dwarf hamsters will need an adequate amount of space to accommodate more than one and should only be housed alone or limited to pairs. Be sure to check the gender and separate males and females to avoid unwanted breeding, and observe interactions as aggression may occur between cage mates.
Best Hamster Cages
The best cages for hamsters are escape-proof and allow adequate ventilation. Cage materials may include wire mesh, aquariums, and plastic.
The best hamster cages have a tank base and a wire top. The tank base can be made of plastic or glass to provide space for burrowing. A clip-on wire mesh top will allow easy cleaning and prevent escape. Cages made entirely of wire lack adequate depth for burrowing. Also, substrate and bedding can be pushed out of the wire cage, causing a mess. Wood cages are more difficult to clean and are easily chewed on. Cages made entirely of glass provide inadequate ventilation. The glass is also very heavy to lift, making them difficult to move and clean.
Recommendations for the best first hamster cage include the Savic Hamster Heaven Metro Cage, which is complete with an assortment of accessories. The Ferplast Duna Space Two-Story Gerbil Cage is another good option that includes multiple accessories.
Are Crittertrail Cages Bad for Hamsters?
The popular Crittertrail cages are not recommended for hamsters because they are too small. They also lack adequate floor space for running around, and the running wheel is too small for bigger hamster species such as the Syrian hamster, which could contribute to back injuries. The connecting tubes have multiple connection joints that can trap bacteria from the typical soiling that happens while the hamster is roaming the trails. This can act as a breeding ground for fecal bacteria as well as ammonia gas from urine.
DIY Hamster Cage
A DIY hamster cage can be made using a large plastic bin. Be certain to measure the inside dimensions to ensure that the floor space is at least 450 square inches.
Cut out and remove the center flat portion of the lid using a Dremel cutting tool, utility scissors, or a box cutter.
Place marks for holes about an inch away from the cut edge at intervals. Use a small drill bit to make the holes for the zip ties.
Overlay a wire mesh and cut using wire cutters to fit over the window in the lid.
Zip tie the wire mesh panel in place on the lid. Remove the excess tie by cutting the tabs short.
Place substrate, bedding, food/water dispensers, and accessories of your choice in the bin.
Your hamster can then be placed in the enclosure and the lid secured to complete your DIY hamster cage.
Hamster Cage Enrichment
Provide enrichment throughout your hamster’s cage by mimicking materials found in the wild, including:
Forage and enrichment foods
Sprinkle a hamster’s diet over the enclosure bottom instead of limiting to a food bowl. Place fruits and vegetables on a treat stick to make them more challenging to eat. Provide a variety of safe herbs, leaves, and flowers to eat on a weekly basis. Offer dried plants and seeds in sprays, including millet, flax, wheat, oat, quinoa, and sorghum (occasional), to mimic the food gathering encountered in the wild.
Deep bedding for burrowing
At least 10 inches of bedding is ideal for large hamsters. This will allow the hamster to imitate the burrowing behavior in the wild. Certain bedding materials such as aspen flakes, hemp shavings, and Care Fresh may not allow proper tunnels to hold up. Adding soft hay layers in between bedding layers may help the tunnel stability. It is also important to compact the bedding to help with stability.
Make sure to provide bedding in a large enough area of the enclosure or entire floor. Adding a cork log or other tunnel halfway into the bedding can be a starting point for a burrow system. It may take some hamsters time to figure out that they enjoy this behavior.
Different materials to touch and dig in
Provide a dig box with either corn cob bedding (watch for signs of ingestion and remove if seen), coconut fiber, cork granules, beech chips, or pillow moss/sphagnum moss
Sand is used for grooming, digging, rolling, or some hamsters will use it as a litter box. Avoid using dust and powder substrates. Chinchilla sand is too dusty. It is best to use play sand or reptile sand with no added dyes or calcium. Be sure to avoid dollar store or craft store sand. Make the enclosure big enough to dig and roll in such as a glass baking dish. Something with a lip or cover may be good for hiding under.
Tubes and branches
Tubes and branches are used to hide in or under. Examples of these are cork log and grape vine wood. Each piece is unique and natural, textured to help keep hamster nails trim. These can be found in the reptile section of pet stores. Other common items include bamboo root, birch tubes, and terracotta tubes.
Provide a shelf for heavy items so hamsters can hide underneath. These must be at least 3 inches high for a dwarf hamster or up to 6 inches for Syrian hamsters to comfortably fit underneath.
Offer a basket, ceramic, or wood cubby for hiding. Fill your hamster’s cage so that it is semi-crowded to help them feel safe and protected. This can be accomplished with multiples of items made of wood, terracotta clay, ceramic, and cardboard. Avoid items that contain nails or are made of soft wood or hide that may leak resin. Make sure that the entrance is big enough—2 inches (dwarf) or 3 inches (Syrian). A multi-chamber hideout can also be purchased or made from scratch.
Hamster Cages FAQs
What is better for a hamster—cage or tank?
A tank is better as this allows more substrate and bedding to be provided for burrowing and digging.
What is the best cage for a Syrian hamster?
A Syrian hamster requires a cage with a mesh or wire top (1/2 in or less spacing) and deep plastic or glass tank style bottom that is 40 x 22.5 inches to allow at least 10 inches of bedding.
What is the best cage for a Dwarf hamster?
A dwarf hamster needs a similar cage that measures 40 x 17.5 inches with 6-8 inches of bedding.
Featured Image: iStock.com/JD Bang