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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Aug 162010
 

If you’re like most hamster owners, you clean your hamster cage about once a week. But before you start you need to gather all the cage cleaning supplies. Here’s what you’ll need and why:

Bucket or sink filled with mild soap and hot water. This is where you’ll drop the parts of your hamster cage you need to clean. For the parts that don’t fit, you’ll have to use the soapy water to clean them by hand.

Other cleaning solution options include unscented dish washing detergent or a drop of bleach for every cup of hot water. Another way to measure is one tablespoon (14.8 ml) of bleach for each gallon (liter) of water in the bucket. DO NOT use dishwasher detergent, laundry soap, or other harsh detergents.

The idea is to kill germs and bacteria. Just remember to thoroughly rinse whatever you wash so none of the disinfectant remains behind.

Plastic garbage bag or paper bag. You will use these to dump the bedding you’re going to remove from the bottom of the hamster cage.

You can use a 10 or 8 gallon size plastic garbage bag. A grocery store paper bag should also be large enough. Although the used bedding may fit in a grocery store plastic bag, the opening is usually too small to fit in a hamster cage bottom.

NEVER dump the bedding down your toilet.

Sponge, paper towel, cloth, or old towel. You will be using these to actually clean off all the parts of the cage and the accessories from inside the cage. The sponge should be used only for cleaning the hamster cage, not your dishes. Use paper towels, cloths, or old towels for drying all the parts after you’ve washed and rinsed them.

Some people have found success using disinfectant wipes on some parts of their cages. Just be sure you rinse and dry any areas you use these on.

Small travel cage or hamster ball. Before cleaning the cage you have to remove your hamster.

Put him or her in a small travel cage with some bedding and food or in a hamster ball that you keep in an enclosed space.

New bedding and food

Once your cage is clean, you’re going to need to add new bedding to the bottom of the cage. And to make your hamster feel comfortable when he or she returns to the cage, you should add some new food to his or her food bowl.

For more information about how to clean your hamster cage, read Easy Steps to Clean Your Hamster Cage.


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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.

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.

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.

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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Aug 042010
 

Hamsters like to eat – and they are fun to watch eating. Here are a few facts about hamster feeding habits.

How Hamsters Eat

Hamsters like to explore. And that’s true with their food, also. When you first put out their food, they will usually run right out and check out what’s in the food bowl. They will look for their favorites, which is often a treat or a piece of a fresh fruit or vegetable. Sometimes they will eat their favorite right in front of you.

Or your hammy might stuff as much food as it can in its cheek pouches, then run off to store the food in a hiding place. Hiding places can include its hamster cage bedding or inside a toy house.

Your hamster will store more than it can eat at one time. This is called hoarding and is typical hamster behavior. When no one is looking, your hamster will then return to its food hiding place and eat in private. He or she may do this whenever it’s hungry throughout the day.

hamster food

When to Feed Your Hamster

Even if there is no food in your hamster’s bowl, you can be pretty sure it has stored food somewhere in the hamster cage. So only feed your hamster once a day.

Try to feed your hamster at about the same time each day. The best time for feeding is usually toward the evening. As you know, they are nocturnal creatures so this is when hamsters are often the most active.

How Much to Feed Your Hamster

The amount of food a hamster eats can depend on a number of different factors.

Health. If your hamster is not feeling well or is sick it will tend to eat less. That’s why it’s important for you to know what your hamster “normally” eats. Then if he or she starts eating less, you should check for health problems.

Age. Older hamsters tend to eat less than young, growing hamsters.

Activity level. Hamsters that are more active running in their wheel or through hamster cage tubes will eat more food than less active hamsters.

Heat and cold. If it’s warm, your hamster will think it doesn’t need to have extra fat on its body so will tend to eat less. If it feels cold inside the hamster cage, your hamster may think it needs to fatten up – so it may start to eat more.

Food mix. If you put more of what your hamster likes in the food mix, it may eat more of it. But you must be careful to provide a nutritious diet with all kinds of food your hamster needs. Too much fatty foods and treats can make your hamster too fat. If you want to know what food to feed your hamster read What You Should Feed Your Hamster.

Diet Changes

Once your hamster becomes accustomed to a certain mix of food, it will be wary of trying something new. Changing the hamster diet every time there’s a sale on a new type of hamster food can be disturbing for your hamster and can result in him or her eating less or not getting the nutrition it needs.

If you try out a new food, do it slowly, with a little at a time. Watch what your hamster does with the new food and give it time to get used to it.

Caprophagy

You may not want to know this, but hamsters will eat their own feces. They don’t do it because they’re sick. They actually need to do this so they can digest their food a second time. This is called caprophagy and actually helps your hamster get all the nutrition it needs from what you feed it.


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Aug 042010
 

Hamsters like variety in their diet. It keeps them both healthy and happy. Feeding your hamster the range of food it needs means providing dry food, fruits and vegetables, the occasional treat, and, of course, water.

Dry Food

Dry food is where your hammy will get most of its nutrition. Here’s what should be in the dry food:

Proteins: Helps normal growth and maintenance of muscle and tissue. Should be 15 to 20% of diet. Very important for hamsters that are pregnant or nursing.
Fats and Carbohydrates: Provides energy; helps vitamin absorption; prevents skin problems. Should only be about 5% of diet.
Minerals: Maintenance of bones and teeth.
Vitamins: Enable chemical reactions within body cells. Helps cell growth; maintenance of general health.

Although some people make their own dry hamster food, the easiest way to get it is to buy it in your pet store. Typical hamster food bags have a mix of seeds, grains, beans, and nuts. Some bags may also have alfalfa pellets and dried fruits and vegetables. Avoid bags of food that are mainly sunflower seeds and/or dried corn.

These bags are usually a loose mix. Your hamster will probably pick out the items that it likes the most, rather than the nutritional mix it needs. That’s why you might also want to buy block-type food. In this type pet food, all the seeds and grains stick together so your hamster has to eat a little of everything.

Look on the side of the food bag to check what’s in the mix and the nutritional information such as what percentage of protein is available in the food.

Fruits and vegetables

A few pieces of fresh fruit and vegetables each day will round out your hamster’s diet and make him or her quite happy. Be sure you wash and dry the fruit and vegetables and cut them into small pieces suitable for the size of your hamster. For fruits, remove stems, seeds, and large pits.

Typical safe fruits include:

  • Peach
  • Tomato
  • Apple
  • Plum
  • Pear
  • Melon
  • Blueberry
  • Strawberry
  • Pineapple

Typical safe vegetables include:

  • Carrots
  • Broccoli
  • Peas
  • Spinach
  • Squash
  • Corn
  • Green beans

Avoid iceberg lettuce as its water content is high. This can cause problems for your hamster’s digestive tract.

Hamsters are hoarders. So if you have a typical hamster, it will take more fruits and veggies than it needs and stockpile the extra in its bedding or inside a toy. You’re going to have to check these places in the hamster cage every day for rotting food so your hamster will not eat it.

Treats

What pet doesn’t like an occasional treat? Just remember that it’s a treat, not a meal. Only give it once in a while and only give a small portion.

Some typical treats include:

  • A small piece of fully cooked meat (Good for protein)
  • Live mealworms or crickets (Good for protein. You can get them at pet stores.)
  • A small piece of scrambled egg
  • A small piece of cheese
  • A teaspoon of plain yogurt
  • A few unsalted nuts
  • A teaspoon of sugar fee dry cereal

Pet stores also sell bags of treats such as yogurt or cheese drops. One a day is plenty!

Water

It goes without saying, that an important part of your hamster’s diet is water. Your hamster needs clean, fresh water every day to prevent dehydration.

You can use a water bottle or a ceramic bowl for the water.

Foods to Avoid

Certain foods should never be fed to a hamster because they can make him or her ill.

Snacks that humans eat fall into this category. Do not feed your hamster:

  • Cookies
  • Candy
  • Chocolate
  • Potato chips
  • Any other type of snack food you might eat.

Anything sticky can get stuck in your hamster’s cheek pouches and cause a lot of problems.

Other foods hamsters should not eat include:

  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Raw potatoes
  • Canned vegetables
  • Fried foods
  • Pickles
  • Peanut butter

Finally

You should feed your hamster once every day, usually around the same time. Make sure food is available all the time by leaving some dry food in a food bowl. If you feed your hamster the right mix of nutritious food, you’ll have a contented and healthy hamster.

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