Mar 102011
 

One of the most typical hamster cages is the wire cage. It’s made of metal bars with spaces between them and usually has a plastic base. Below you can read about the pluses and minuses of the wire bars on these cages. For a discussion of wire hamster cage size, height, cleaning, and security, read Guidelines For Buying A Wire Hamster Cage.

Air circulation

As you know, hamsters do a lot of running, so they need plenty of good air flow. The spaces between the bars on a wire cage is a real plus for air circulation. It helps get air in and allows the bathroom fumes to get out. On the other hand, if you put your cage too close to a window or an air-conditioning duct, the cage will be too drafty. Too much cool air can make your hammy ill. So be careful where you locate your wire cage.
wire hamster cage

Size of the spaces between bars

The size of the spaces, or how much distance there is between two wire bars, can make a big difference in whether this type cage is the right one for your hamster. Hamsters are escape artists and if the spaces between the bars are too large, your hamster will try to get out
wire hamster cage

Larger type hamsters, like a Syrian or Teddy Bear, will usually not fit between wire bars that are 1/2 inch apart, so this type of cage is good for them. Dwarf hamsters, like a Roborovski, may be small enough to squeeze through 1/2 inch bars and escape. This is why many people use an aquarium for a dwarf hamster.

When you’re thinking about buying a wire cage, check the space between the wire bars. Think about whether or not your hamster can squeeze through the space.

Gnawing

Remember, hamsters need to gnaw on things because their teeth are always growing. Some hamsters are going to gnaw on the wires of the cage. Make sure the wires are chew proof. That means they are not made with paint that can chip off and hurt your hamster. To make sure your hamster has something to gnaw, be sure to keep quite a few chew toys in the cage.

Some hamsters gnaw on the wire bars just because they’re bored. So make sure your hamster has enough toys to play with and gets plenty of exercise. Give your hamster some play time outside his or her cage in an exercise ball.

Also, even if your wire cage is chew proof, some hamster owners find the gnawing noise annoying – especially at night.

For more information, read What to Do About Hamster Cage Bar Gnawing.

Security

There are also a few safety considerations when you’re thinking about using a wire cage. Small children can stick their fingers between the bars. This lets them touch and play with the hamster. But sometimes little fingers can get caught between the small spaces between the wires.

The spaces between the wires also may mean that your other pets can try to attack your hamster. For example, cats can stick their claws between the bars and try and grab your hamster. If you have a wire cage place it up high enough so that other pets don’t try to get to reach your hamster in the cage.wire hamster cage starter kit

Attaching items

Wire bars can also be convenient when you want to attach hamster accessories. For example an exercise wheel can be attached to the cage. A water bottle can also be attached to the side of the cage. By attaching things to the side of the cage you can get more space at the bottom of the cage so your hamster can have more room to run around.

To buy hamster cages, go to the hamster cages and accessories page.

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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.

hamster wheel 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!
aquarium mesh top

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

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Aug 162010
 

If you can smell the bedding in your hamster cage, it’s definitely time to clean it. But really, you should do the cleaning before it starts to smell. The typical hamster cage should be cleaned about once a week. If it’s a larger cage, you may be able to wait about 10 days. If you are breeding hamsters, however, you may have to clean more often.

Cleaning your hamster cage can be a fairly easy event. Here are the steps. hamster cage

Move your hamster out of its cage

You need to keep your hamster in something safe and secure while cleaning its cage. A clean carrying cage with bedding, water, some food, and maybe a small toy will do. As with any hamster cage, make sure there are no small spaces where the hamster can escape. hamster exercise ball

Another option is a hamster ball. But since you’ll be busy cleaning, make sure you keep the exercise ball is in an enclosed area. Otherwise, let someone else keep an eye on your hamster. A hamster should only be kept in its exercise ball about 20 minutes, which should be plenty of time for you to finish cleaning its cage.

Take apart the cage and its contents

Carefully separate all the pieces of the cage. Be careful separating any plastic tubes as you don’t want them to crack.

If the pieces fit, put them in a bucket or sink with soapy water or a large sink. If not, put them aside as you will have to wash them by hand. For more information about cleaning supplies, read What Supplies To Use for Cleaning Your Hamster Cage.

Next, remove all the other items in the cage. This includes the water bottle or water dish, food bowl, exercise wheel, and toys. Put these aside as you will want to wash them by hand.

Dump the bedding

Although you can clean the cage and its contents next, I prefer to take care of the bedding first, as it may have a strong odor.

Dump the bedding in a plastic garbage bag or a paper grocery bag. Sometimes, when it’s very wet, the bedding can stick to the bottom. In this case you can use paper towels or some type of scrapper (e.g. toothbrush, putty knife) to get that part of the bedding off.

Put the bag in the garbage. Some of the bedding will be wet, so do this immediately or your paper bag can leak.

DO NOT dump the bedding down the toilet or sink. This will likely cause a back up in your plumbing.

Clean the cage bottom

Using warm, soapy water, wash off the cage bottom. Since this usually is the part with the most urine, you should spend the most amount of time scrubbing this part of the cage. You can use a sponge or cloth to do this.

Then thoroughly rinse this part of the cage. If you live in a house with a back yard, you can take this part to the back of your home and wash it down with water from a hose. Make sure you rinse off all the soap and/or disinfectant. Then either let the part air dry or wipe it dry off with a paper towel, cloth, or old towel.

Clean the rest of the cage and its contents

Now it’s time to clean the cage parts that were in the bucket or sink with soapy water. This means all wire and plastic pieces. You can also use the soapy water to hand wash the exercise wheel, water bowl, food bowl, and plastic toys. Wood toys can start to rot if washed in water too often so just wipe them off.

You may want to use disinfectant wipes for some places you think are especially dirty or were used as a bathroom by your hamster. Some people also use a small brush (like a toothbrush) that they use only for cleaning their hamster cage.

Rinse each piece off using clean, hot water. Again, make sure you remove all soap or disinfectant. Then dry each piece using a paper towel, cloth, or old towel.

Your water bottle is the only piece that usually doesn’t need to be cleaned weekly. You may want to clean the water bottle every other week. You can use a bottle brush to clean inside it.

Put the cage back together

Reassemble all the parts of the cage. Be especially careful with plastic tubing. If you use too much pressure putting plastic pieces together they can crack.

Make sure all the pieces fit together snugly so there are no gaps that might allow your hamster to escape.

Put in new bedding

Drop in a new layer of bedding. To learn more about the different types of bedding, read Types of Hamster Bedding Material. hamster bedding

Some people put in a few bits of the bedding they saved from the cage before cleaning it. They say having something with the scent of the previous cage helps the hamster feel comfortable when he or she first gets back in its cage.

Put in all the cage accessories

Reattach the water bottle. Put the other accessories, including exercise wheel, food bowl, toys, and hiding places back in. Try to put them back in the same place as they were before. This will help your hamster quickly feel at home when you put it back in the cage.

Put some new food in the food bowl. This might be a good time to add a small treat.

Return your hamster to its cage

Gently place your hamster back in his now clean cage. Watch him or her scamper around making sure that everything is in its place.

You might also be interested in reading What Supplies to Use to Clean Your Hamster Cage.

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Jul 292010
 

Your new hamster will probably be nervous when he or she first gets to its hamster cage . The move to a new location can make your hamster frightened and confused. Here are some things you can do to help your hamster get used to his or her new home.

Set up the new cage

Before you bring your new hamster home, make sure you set up the cage. See the article How to Set Up Your New Cage for some tips. In general, you want to put the cage in a quiet place away from other pets. Then you want to put all the stuff the hamster will need inside it – bedding, water, and food. Once it’s all set up, you’re ready to introduce your hamster to its new home.

hamster cage

Bring the New Hamster Home

Let’s say you’re bringing a new hamster home in its carrying box. If the carrying box is not too big and you can open the top of the hamster’s new cage, put the box inside the cage. Then open up the carrying box and wait. Let the hamster come out by itself.

Once the hamster is out, take the bedding material that was in the carrying box – there’s probably not a lot – and put in your cage. Your hamster will recognize the scent. This will help to make it more relaxed in its new home.

Your hamster needs to investigate its new surroundings. So give it some time! This is most important. If your hamster gets spooked when it’s first looking around, it may become fearful of its new home. It will then hide in the bedding more than it should.

You may want to even cover the new cage with a light piece of fabric. This will give the hamster some quiet and some privacy so it can explore its new home. By the way, don’t use something heavy, like a towel, to cover the cage, because your hamster might think it’s for chewing.

Even if you don’t cover the new cage, make sure you, your family, or your friends don’t try to pet, touch, or hold the hamster when it first gets home. There will be plenty of time for playing with your hamster once it feels at home in the new cage.

How Your Hamster Will Get Used to the Cage

At first, your hamster will probably hide. It will burrow into its bedding or go inside a wooden toy. This is normal so don’t bother him or her. Let your hamster rest.
hamster hiding

After a little while – it may do this at night – your hamster will start to explore. It will check out all the corners of the cage, figure out where the food dish and water bottle are, where its exercise wheel is, and what toys are available. It may even take a quick spin in its wheel to burn off some of its nervousness.

Then your hammy will start doing some nest building. It will move around some of the bedding to make a sleeping area and then decide which part of the cage will be its bathroom. It may even move some of the hamster toys around.

Timing

It will typically take about a week for your hamster to get used to its new cage and feel comfortable in it. During this time, you should just watch and talk to your hamster. You can hold your hand up to the cage and let it sniff you. This way it will get used to the sound of your voice and your scent. By taking things slowly, you and your hamster will get off to the right start.

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Mar 222010
 

So you’ve bought your hamster cage and supplies and have brought them home. Here are some simple steps to follow to prepare hammy’s home so he or she will feel welcome when they move in.

1. Clean the cage. It may be new, but your cage may have collected dust, dirt, and germs in its travels from the manufacturer to you. Simply rinse and dry each piece before putting it together. You can mix some mild disinfectant in the water for extra safety.

hamster cage

2. Decide on a hamster cage location . You want to put your cage somewhere on a level surface where the air can flow easily through the cage. Remember, you don’t want to put the cage in direct sunlight or too close to an air conditioner. And never put your hamster cage in a place where your other pets can get too close.

3. Lay down the bedding. Your hamster will need at least two inches of bedding material so he or she can burrow, play, and sleep. Hamsters will also use a part of the bedding for their bathroom. Aspen wood shavings or a paper-based material such as Carefresh is recommended. Avoid pine or cedar wood shavings as they contain chemicals harmful to hamsters.
hamster bedding

4. Provide water. Hamsters, like us, need food and water to survive. You can use a water bowl or dish, but make sure it’s heavy or your hamster will knock it over. Hamster water bottles made of plastic are more commonly used. Hang the break-resistant plastic bottle outside the cage, with only the drinking tub sticking inside the cage.

5. Provide food. Put some hamster food in a small ceramic bowl. Make sure it’s heavy so your hamster doesn’t tip it over. And be sure to throw in some fresh vegetables from time to time.

hamster saucer

6. Put in the exercise wheel. You need an exercise wheel because hamsters typically like to run 3 to 6 miles (4 to 9 km) every day. The best kind is a wheel with a solid running surface and treads. The kind with wire spokes can catch your hamster’s small toes, resulting in injury. And make sure the wheel is large enough for the size of your hamster.

7. Add the toys. Hamster love to explore and they need to chew. So combine the two with chew toys. Put some wood blocks, little wood houses or a chew tube in your hamster’s home. That way, your hamster can play while keeping his or her teeth in good shape. You can add other toys, such as plastic cars and exercise wheels later.

8. Add the tubes, or levels. If you have a wire and plastic cage, there are usually holes where you can add additional hamster tubes. You can combine tubes in all sorts of ways so your hamster can climb through the crazy creative maze you create. In wire and glass aquarium cages, you can add levels with ladders that let your hamster climb up and down the full height of the cage. hamster tubes

9. Check your security. Before putting your hamster in his or her cage, check the latch on the door to make sure it fits tightly. If you’re using an aquarium, check the top to make sure the screen is fastened tightly and there are no spaces through which your hamster can escape.

10. Introduce your hamster to its new home. Gently place your hamster in its cage and give it some time to wander around and explore its great new home.


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