How to make your hamster feel at home

Although they are small creatures, hamsters have bags of energy – particularly Syrian and Roborovski hamsters. They’re very busy and will spend hours foraging for food and creating new territories and hides. They need a much more interesting home than a small cage with a house and wheel.

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Although they are small creatures, hamsters have bags of energy – particularly Syrian and Roborovski hamsters. They’re very busy and will spend hours foraging for food and creating new territories and hides. They need a much more interesting home than a small cage with a house and wheel.

Creating the right environment for your hamster

The cage you choose will need to enable you to add lots of activities for them to climb and explore, a floor space that they can do lots of running around on and bedding that they can dig and forage in.

The ideal cage design for a Syrian hamster:

Syrian hamsters should be housed in a large, mesh cage. They like to climb and roam around large areas, so the cage should have several levels and a large enough floor space to keep them active. Bear in mind these minimum sizes:

  • Depth: 50cm
  • Width: 80cm
  • Height: 35cm
  • Bar spacing: 1cm is the safest size

How to house dwarf hamsters

The dwarf breeds (Winter White, Campbell, Roborovski and Chinese) can all be housed in a similar style of cage. These hamsters need plenty of floor space to explore to keep them mentally and physically stimulated.

Roborovski and Russian hamsters are poor climbers due to being very lightweight and having little muscle tone, so they are best housed without high levels or tunnels placed at challenging angles. Large glass or plastic aquariums with well-ventilated lids are most suitable for these breeds. Chinese hamsters are a little more agile but still prefer longer rather than taller cages.

For all these breeds, make sure your chosen cage has minimum bar spacing as they can easily escape through seemingly smalls gaps.

The minimum cage size for a single or pair of dwarf hamsters:

  • Depth: 50cm
  • Width: 80cm
  • Height: 35cm
  • Bar spacing: 6mm is the safest size

Keep your hamsters happy and occupied

Hamsters are known for sleeping lots – but when they’re awake, they want to be busy exploring, foraging and digging. Many owners find their hamster will chew the bars or even try to escape – this is often a clear indication they’re bored and their environment is either not big or interesting enough.

Make sure you provide your hamster with toys and activities to keep them fit, healthy and happy. It doesn’t need to be expensive. Homemade items, children’s toys and even a kitchen roll tube will be much appreciated by your little pet.

Your hamster will enjoy:

  • Plastic or card tunnels and tubes. Some tunnels allow you to build big mazes with them. If you have a tiny Roborovski, take care not to make them too challenging
  • Card boxes such as shoe and cereal boxes
  • Children’s toys, such as mini dollhouses and early learning toys, can offer great hiding places and nesting opportunities
  • Wheels. Your hamster’s cage doesn’t need one constantly so don’t feel guilty mixing it up. Have it in some weeks, and remove it for a while during others
  • Ropes and ladders. These are most suited to Syrian hamsters
  • Plastic houses and hides
  • Hammocks – more suited to Syrian hamsters
  • Shallow litter trays or plastic take away tubs filled with hamster sand for them to dig.

Choosing the right hamster bedding

The wrong bedding for your hamster can have a very negative effect on their health. Wood shavings or sawdust can be extremely harmful to your hamster’s skin and airway, and can give you an allergic reaction too!

Below are bedding materials that are safe for your hamster to snuggle in:

  • Small-cut, shredded paper. Easy to use, and best of all, it’s free! Use shredded paper to line the floor
  • Finacard. A shredded card material, good for the base of the cage
  • Cardboard squares around 1 cm square, ideal for the base of the cage
  • White, soft tissue paper bedding is suitable for hamster bedding. Please avoid the cotton wool type, as this can be dangerous to your hamster

How to clean out your hamster

Keeping your hamster cage clean is key to preventing serious health conditions such as wet tail and respiratory problems.

If your hamster has chosen a toilet area, clean this corner daily and top up with fresh bedding to reduce the smell.

Carry out a full clean of the entire enclosure once a week, ensuring you also clean all toys and activities with pet-friendly disinfectant. Take the opportunity to add a few new toys in the cage for interest, like a new box for your hamster to explore.