The minimum cage size required for hamsters is 80x50cm of unbroken floor space (100x50cm for female 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!
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, 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.
We feed our hamsters a mixture of Tiny Friends Farm Harry Hamster Mix and Science Selective Complete Hamster Food (Pellets) alongside small amounts of safe veg, fruit and occasional mealworms etc. 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:
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 make great sand baths)
– Safe wood sticks for chewing (apple & willow sticks are easy to buy from pet stores)
– Hammocks (also great as fall breakers in taller cages)
– Tunnels/tubes (loo roll tubes are great!)
– 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)