Jan 092012
 

So you want to buy a new hamster cage for your lovable little hammy. When you’re in your local pet store standing in front of the shelves with hamster cages you’re faced with a lot of choices. You have even more choices when you’re online. Here are two typical mistakes you want to avoid when you’re choosing hamster cages.

Mistake 1: Buying the Wrong Type Of Cage

In my opinion, the only really wrong type of cage is an all plastic cage because it doesn’t give your hamster enough ventilation. Aside from that, when picking a hamster cage you’ll be faced with three main choices: the plastic cage with wire bars, the all wire cage, and an aquarium. Each can be “right” or “wrong” for you and your hamster.

Plastic and Wire: If you like a lot of color, the plastic cage with wire bars could be the right one for you. They come in many different color choices. You might even find colors that coordinate with the room your hamster will be living in.

But this can be the wrong type of cage for you if don’t have the patience to put it together. You’ll find YouTube videos that show people putting them together quickly and easily, but in real life the plastic pieces need to be snugly fit together and can crack if twisted too tightly. Also, when taking these cages apart to clean them, it will take a lot more work than the other types of cages.

Wire: If you want a cage that easy to assemble, is lightweight, and lets your hamster do a lot of climbing, the wire cage will probably be the right choice. The wires sides also make it easy to attach a water bottle and exercise wheel so your hamster gets more space to run around in inside the cage.

But this cage choice can be a mistake if you are going to be getting dwarf hamsters. The wires in these cages may be too far apart, meaning your dwarf hamster can easily squeeze through and get out. Also, if the cage is too tall, your dwarf can get hurt if he or she falls from the top part of the cage.

Aquarium: If you like watching your hamster a lot, the aquarium will be a good choice because of its four glass sides. And if your hamster is a real escape artist it will be much more difficult for him or her to climb up the sides of a glass aquarium.

But an aquarium can be the wrong choice if you can’t handle heavy lifting because aquariums are heavier that the other types of cages. So moving or lifting one up can be difficult for some. And when you add water to wash their insides, they get even heavier. You also have to be careful about putting a screen on top of the aquarium and making sure it stays in place or your hamster can climb up a toy or hamster tube and escape through the top.

Mistake 2: Buying The Wrong Size Cage

I cannot stress enough that a hamster in the wrong size cage will be a very unhappy hamster. You need to make sure your hamster has room to exercise and play. That means you need a cage that’s the right size for the type of hamster you own.

Obviously Syrians, Goldens, and Teddy Bears are larger than dwarf hamsters, such as Roborovskis and Russians, so they need more room.

The larger hamsters should have a cage that’s at least 10”L by 16”W by 16”H (25 x 40 x 40 cm). For wire cages, I would advise getting the 3-story cage with 14”L by 11″W by 25”H (35 x 28 x 63 cm) a good option. An aquarium should be at least 10 gallons.

If you have two dwarves, you may be able to fit them into a smaller cage. But, remember, they will usually be active at the same time so they still need lots of exercise room.

In both these cases, how much you’re going to put inside your cage can also make your cage the wrong size. Once you put an exercise wheel, a water bottle, a food bowl, bedding, and toys in a small cage, it can cut the actual running and playing room way down. So don’t make the mistake of just looking at the size on the box in the store. Think about the type of hamster you own and how much you’re going to put in the cage, then decide on the right size.

For more information read What’s the Right Size for a Hamster Cage?

Consider the type and size of your cage before buying it and you won’t be making these mistakes.

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Mar 212011
 

A critical question to ask when you’re getting a new hamster is “What size cage should I buy for my hamster?”

Size is important because hamsters are active pets – especially at night. They like to run, climb, play with their toys, and burrow. All this activity means they have to have space in their cages.

The two key questions to ask about space are “What’s inside the cage?” and “What type hamster do you have?

What’s inside the cage?

Everything you put inside your hamster cage takes up space. So what goes inside the typical cage?

Exercise wheel: Because a typical hamster can run about 6 miles (9 km) in one night you need to have an exercise wheel for your cage. This can be a freestanding exercise wheel or one of the kind that attaches to the metal bars on the cage. The freestanding wheel takes up space on the floor of the cage. But even the kind that attaches to the wire walls takes up space inside the cage.

Tubes: Another way for your hamster to get exercise is to run through hamster tubes. People even connect a lot of tubes so the hamster has a big maze to climb through. Some tubes go outside the cage so they don’t take up any space inside the cage, but some climbing tubes may go inside the cage and take up space.

Water: Hamsters need water. You can attach a water bottle to the outside of the hamster cage, but its tip still takes up room in the cage. If you don’t use a water bottle you have to have space for a water bowl on the bottom of the cage.

Food bowl: What you feed your hamster goes inside a hamster food bowl. These can be large or small depending on how much food your hamster eats.

Toys: There are all kinds of chew toys and play toys for hamsters. You can also get a hamster house or some people even use the cardboard toilet paper holder. Depending on their sizes, these toys use space in the hamster habitat.

So before you buy your hamster cage, think about all of these items and how much room they will take up in the bottom and along the side of the cage you want. Remember you still need plenty of space for bedding so your hamster has spots to burrow, play, and use as a bathroom.

What type hamster do you have?

The other thing you have to consider when you’re thinking about the size of your cage is the type of hamster you have. The typical Syrian hamster, also called a teddy bear or Golden hamster, is about 5 to 7 inches (13 to 17 cm) long.

Having this type hamster may mean some of the items in your cage will have to be larger. For example, your hammy should not have to bend its back when it’s in its exercise wheel. So you may need a larger exercise wheel in your cage if you have a Syrian hamster. You also have to make sure the climbing tubes you get are large enough for this type hamster to fit through. That means more space for your hamster tubes. Also, because of the Syrians size you have to make sure there’s lots of bedding in the cage so it can burrow.

The typical dwarf hamster such as a Roborovski is smaller, being about 2 to 4 inches (5 to 20 cm) long. But many people keep two dwarf hamsters together in one cage because they get along with each other. That means providing enough space in your cage for two hamsters to run around in.

If you want to breed hamsters you’re also going to need a much bigger hamster cage.

The right size hamster cagehamster habitat

Most people recommend getting a wire hamster cage that is at least 24 inches wide by 12 inches deep by about 10 inches tall (61 X 31 X 25 cm).

If you’re planning on using an aquarium, you will need at least a 10 gallon fish tank, but 20 gallons would be even better.

Smaller cages, that are usually 8 inches long by 12 ½ inches wide by 7-1/2-inches high (20 X 32 x 19 cm) may be adequate for a smaller dwarf hamster. It is too small for the Syrian hamster.

Available larger cages are about 16 inches long by 24 inches wide by 12 inches high (40 X 61 x 31 cm). This size will give your hamster plenty of room to exercise and burrow around inside its cage.

 


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Mar 162011
 

Combination hamster cages made of plastic and wire have some negatives associated with them. You have to think about these before buying this type of hamster cage.

Size: Many of the basic one-story plastic and wire combination hamster habitats will not have enough space for a normal sized Syrian or Teddy Bear hamster. The plastic and wire cage complete kits usually come with an exercise wheel, a water bottle, and a food bowl. These will all take up space inside the cage. Then your Syrian will need a few toys to chew on as well as both a bedding and a bathroom area. Pretty soon your Teddy Bear or Golden hamster can be restricted to a small area inside the cage.

One way to get around this is to add a second or third story or add some climbing tubes that will let the hamster get to a second cage. But that will cost more money. hamster habitat

Air circulation: Moving air around is a big deal in hamster cages. Hamsters need air circulation because they exercise a lot and because there are fumes from where they go to the bathroom. Both this type cage and aquariums have a problem getting enough air circulating inside the cage. If your plastic cage has a few stories with more wire bars, that would help circulate the air. But if there’s more plastic than wires, there will be less air circulation and this is bad for your hamster. Also, unless your climbing tubes have some holes in them, air won’t circulate much inside the tubes.

Cleaning: All hamster habitats have to be cleaned out every once in a while but this plastic and wire cage can be particularly tough when it comes to cleaning. You have to take the cage apart to clean it. With a wire cage you just take off the top, clean the wire bars, and then clean out the bedding in the base. hamster habitat

With a combination hamster cage you have to do all that as well as take all the plastic tubes out of their holes. That means you have to be extra careful so none of the plastic breaks. Then, even when you get them out, you have to clean all the pieces individually. So there’s a lot more cleaning involved than with a wire cage.

Security: A wire door with a strong latch usually provides good security for keeping your hamster in its cage. A good latch is one that snaps tightly to the wire bars. Some people even use an additional wire to make sure the door stays shut. If the door doesn’t have a latch, your hamster can easily push it open.

On some combination plastic and wire cages the doors on top are just plastic. If these doors don’t have a strong latch, this is an area where even a dwarf hamster can push the door open and escape.

Also, you want to be sure there are no cracked plastic pieces when you finish putting together this type of cage. Your hamster will try to nibble on the crack to make a hole so he or she can get out of the cage.

For the positives about this cage, read Plastic and Wire Hamster Cage Positives.

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Feb 252011
 

You can add this wire tank topper to the top of a 10 gallon aquarium to add space to your hamster’s home. Here are the pluses and minuses.

Pluses

  • The topper includes a wire cage top, a hideout house, water bottle, food dish, shelves and ramps.
  • It comes with two clips to attach the wire top to your fish tank.
  • Easy to assemble as it fits right on top of the aquarium.
  • It gives your hamster about double the space to move around in and explore. Instead of just running around on the floor of the fish tank, your hammy can run up and down the ramps and on the shelves.
  • Easy to clean. Just take the clips off to remove the top for cleaning. (You still have to clean out the glass cage itself.) Reassembly is also easy. This saves you a lot of time.
  • Good size for one Syrian hamster.
  • Good value. If you use this topper and a fish tank you get a complete hamster cage at a good price.

Minuses

  • Fits some aquariums better than others. There can be small differences in the dimensions of fish tanks, even if its size is 10 gallons. If your topper doesn’t fit smoothly on your tank, don’t fight it – just take it back.
  • Because of the spacing between the wire bars, small dwarf hamsters may be able to squeeze through. Use toppers only if you have large dwarfs or a Syrian hamster.
  • Ramps are steep, especially for smaller or dwarf hamsters. Check to see if your hamster is able to climb the ramps easily. You don’t want your hamster falling from the top ramp to the bottom of the aquarium.
  • The food bowl is supposed to go on the top shelf. Because it can be light when empty, your hamster can easily throw it to the bottom.
  • The water bottle is part of the little house that goes on the bottom of the tank. It’s a small water bottle that’s too close to the ground. Use a regular water bottle instead.
  • The only way to get at your hamster is from above (unless you take the top off). So you have to bend over or have long arms to reach your hamster if he or she is on the bottom of the tank.

Summary

The Good

☺☺☺

Easy to assemble
Easy to clean
Good value

The Bad

☹☹☹

Steep ramps
Wire bar spacing too wide for dwarf hamsters
Parts are light and small

PetSmart Alternative

Here is the PetSmart version of an aquarium tank topper. Notice that there is no water bottle or small house.

 

 

 

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Feb 252011
 

It’s not advertised as a cage, but a fish aquarium can be a good choice for a hamster cage. However, there are some serious considerations when you’re thinking about using a fish tank for your hamster to live in. (You can read Using an Aquarium for a Hamster Cage to learn about its benefits.)

Size

Hamsters need space to run, hide, and play. So make sure your glass cage is at least 10 gallons. A 20 or even a 30 gallon tank would be even better.

 

Why so big? Because you’ll need space for:

  • A freestanding exercise wheel
  • The usual feeding, burrowing, and bathroom areas
  • Exercise area that might include toys or tubes
  • Air circulation

You may also need space for a water dish. As you realize, you can’t hang a water bottle from the side of smooth glass. However, you can use Velcro to attach a water bottle to the glass. Or you can hang a water bottle from the top of the aquarium.

 

Weight

A 10 or 20-gallon glass aquarium will weigh a lot more than a wire or a plastic cage. If you can’t handle the weight and it drops, a glass aquarium could break. This is not true for wire or plastic hamster habitats.

Once you’ve put your hamster cage in one location, weight isn’t a problem. But it can be an issue when it’s time to clean your aquarium. After you empty the aquarium out, you’ll have to pick it up and carry it to where there’s water. You than have to handle it and move it around to get all the corners clean. Figure an empty 10 or 20 gallon aquarium weighs about 10 to 20 pounds (4.5 to 9 KG). And as you rinse it with water, it will get heavier and harder to move around.

This is why some people say aquariums are hard to clean and some people have no problem cleaning them. It all depends on your ability to handle the weight. So, can you lift 10 pound weights? If you can, you’re ready to handle a hamster aquarium.

Ventilation

A typical hamster can run from 3 to 6 miles a day (usually at night). That means your hamster needs moving air to breathe. With glass sides, there is less airflow than in a typical wire cage. Another problem with lack of ventilation is that the fumes and smells from urine and dirty bedding can be trapped inside the cage. These fumes can hurt your hamster.

Finally, if you put your aquarium in direct sunlight, the glass will increase the heat inside the cage. It can get hot enough to kill your hamster!

So to get air in your aquarium you must have a top that lets air in, but keeps your hamster from escaping. The solution is a mesh top that fits securely on the top. That means no spaces or loose edges on the sides that your hamster can wiggle through. The spacing on the mesh should be less than ½ inch.

Some people recommend putting a rock on top of the mesh to prevent your hamster from pushing the top off. But a heavy rock can eventually break the mesh and fall on your hamster. So try using more, lighter rocks.

Cage clips can also be used to help keep the lid on. Just be sure to keep the clips outside the cage so your hammy doesn’t decide to chew them up.

Tank toppers can also be used to add both height and air circulation to an aquarium hamster home.

So before you buy an aquarium for your hamster, think about its size and weight and plan for adequate ventilation.

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