Our minimum cage size required for dwarf hamsters is 80x50cm of unbroken floor space and 100x50cm for Syrians. Below is a selection of cages which meet or exceed these requirements.
Research has shown that larger enclosure sizes reduce the occurrence of stereotypical behaviours, such as bar chewing, in hamsters (Fischer et al., 2005), so you should always seek to exceed the minimum requirements where possible. There is no such thing as too much space for running, burrowing, foraging and exploring!
We also strongly advise providing a multi-chambered house in the cage for your hamster. These replicate the multi-chambered burrow your hamster would inhabit in the wild, with different sections for nesting and stashing food. These can be purchased from Amazon, Rodipet, and Getzoo.
Most hamsters will enjoy a wheel to run in, and we advise that you include one in their set-up. You should ensure it is large enough so that the animal does not have to arch their back when running in it:
Syrian hamsters – minimum wheel diameter 28cm
Dwarf hamsters – minimum wheel diameter 20cm
Sawdust and woodshavings (unless the shavings are aspen-based) are not recommended as these can cause respiratory issues. Paper, cardboard, or hemp based bedding are suitable alternatives. Kaytee Clean & Cozy is our favourite substrate for hamsters as it is super soft and great for burrowing!
You should provide a deep layer of substrate across the base of your hamster’s set-up, at least 4inches and ideally deeper than this at one end, to allow for sufficient burrowing space.
As nesting material, we use either shredded teabag paper (bought in huge bales) or torn up loo roll, which is probably the cheapest/easiest option for most hamster carers!
Fluffy bedding is incredibly dangerous as hamsters can become tangled in it so this should never be used.
Hamsters should be fed a good quality mix, ideally tailored to their species, which replicates their wild diets. Good species specific mixes are hard to come by in the UK currently, so we recently developed our own Syrian and dwarf mixes which can be ordered via our online store. Other species appropriate mixes can be purchased via RatRations, Erin’s Ark, Rodipet (DE), and Getzoo (DE). Small amounts of safe veg must also be provided, and occasional additional protein such as mealworms etc (essential if your mix doesn’t include any insect protein). A list of safe/unsafe foods for hamsters can be found here.
Treats and chews can help with bonding and keeping your hamster occupied, but shouldn’t be given too often. Here are some of our faves:
All hamsters should be given the opportunity to exercise outside of their main set-up, but we do not recommend placing your hamster in a ball for exercise.
For many hamsters, the experience of being confined to a plastic ball is very stressful. A ball prevents them from using their whiskers and sense of smell to get around, so they will often crash into furniture, walls, doors, etc at high speeds which can shock and even injure them. Plastic balls are also poorly ventilated, and most marketed for hamsters are far too small causing the hamster to run with a curved back leading to spinal issues over time.
Instead we recommend using a playpen to give your hamster a secure area to exercise in. In the pen, you can add toys and scatter food/treats, which the hamster is then free to explore using all of their senses!
A playpen is also an excellent way to bond with your hamster as you can easily reach in, offer them treats and allow them to run over your hands. We recommend using a kids’ ballpit (pictured) or storage cube panels.
Hamsters love to burrow, dig, tunnel, run, climb and chew! Keep them happy by providing opportunities to carry out these natural behaviours. Here are some of our favourite enrichment ideas. These can be used in the cage or playpen:
– Burrow box or section of the cage, filled with your normal substrate or coco soil (use a cardboard box for a cheap option!)
– Sand bath (glass cookie jars or trays make great sand baths and we would advise having a sand bath/area in the cage at all times)
– Safe wood sticks for chewing (apple & willow sticks are easy to buy from pet stores)
– Hammocks (also great as fall breakers in taller cages)
– Scatter feeding (sprinkle hammy’s food around the cage, hide it in tubes, hammocks, and in a burrow box – make them forage!)
– A wheel should also always be provided (minimum diameter 28cm for Syrians and 20cm for Dwarves)
Hamsters need lots of space, but it is also important to set up this space well with substrate, hides and enrichment to meet their needs. Check out the video on Setting up a Hamster Cage by Victoria Raechel and some photos of example set-ups below!
Use this checklist to help you make sure you have all the essentials ready when adopting a hammy!