Feb 182014

Hamster history tells us that some hamsters, such as the Syrian hamster, had a native habitat that was warm and dry. Other hamsters, such as the Djungarian, originated in a cold weather habitat such as Siberia. But domesticated, pet hamsters don’t really favor climates that are too hot or too cold.

Instead, hamsters prefer to live in a temperate environment. The fact is that your pet will suffer and be susceptible to sickness if placed in conditions that are too cold or too hot. The most appropriate climate for hamsters is 68 to 78° F (20 to 25 C).


Effects of Frigid Temperature

If your hamster starts to get too cold, your hamster tries to protect itself by going into hibernation.  You can tell your hammy is in hibernation if you notice it’s staying in the same position for a long time, isn’t breathing very much, and looks like it’s dead. The danger is that your hamster won’t recover from hibernation. hibernating hamster

Immediately attempt to bring it out of hibernation by taking it to a warm environment and rubbing it gently.  It could take more than half an hour to get its normal bodily functions back. If you are concerned, take your pet to the vet

Avoiding Too Cold Temperatures

There are a number of ways to make sure your hamster doesn’t get too cold.

Always be careful about where you place your hamster’s cage.  You never want to put a cage outside. Hamsters are indoor pets.

Also, you don’t want to put the cage on the floor of your basement because in the winter, the floor gets very cold.  If you must keep a hamster in the basement, make sure it is raised up off the floor and has some way to get heat in the winter.
hamster cage

Even inside your house, remember that cold air is closest to the floor. So keep your cage on a flat surface that is well off the floor and has good ventilation.

In your room, don’t put your hamster cage in front of an air conditioner as the cold air can then blow directly on your hammy. And, yes, if it’s too cold your hamster can go into hibernation even in the summer.

If the hamster cage is near a window, as with air conditioning, make sure breezes don’t blow in the window and into your hamster cage.

Finally, make sure your hamster has plenty of bedding material in its cage. That way, your hamster can burrow down deep to help keep warm.

Effects of Too Much Heat

Just as it is important to keep your pet away from extreme cold, so is keeping it away from too much heat.  When too hot, your hamster can get dehydrated or heatstroke, either of which is quite dangerous for your hamster’s health.

Avoiding Too Hot Temperatures

Again, putting your cage near a window can mean direct sunlight on your hamster. Direct sunlight provides too much heat, even for the normal wire cage.  And if you’re using an aquarium or bin cage, there is usually even less air circulation. That means more heat can build up inside the cage

Even if you put your hamster cage on a piece of furniture that is away from the window and think it’s safe remember that the sun moves during the day moves (actually, it’s the Earth that’s moving, but that’s a different story).  So check to be sure your cage doesn’t also get too much sunlight during the day when you may not be in the room with your hamster. air conditioning duct

If you have central air conditioning, also check for the location of the vents that the hot and cool air come out of. Put your hand over the hamster cage to make sure, the hot and cold air from the vent is not blowing directly on your hamster.

Additionally, in the winter, you may want to move your hamster cage to where the rest of the family is, such as the living room. But here too, make sure your hamster cage doesn’t get put too close to a fireplace or space heater. You’d be surprised at how fast these can overheat a small creature such as a hamster. And that’s particularly true for dwarf hamsters that are even smaller than Syrians.


As a hamster owner, you want to make your pet’s environment as comfortable as possible. Temperatures that are too cold or too hot are both unhealthy for your hamster.

The bottom line is that your hamster needs to stay in a warm room and isn’t exposed to too much sunlight or air that’s too cold or too hot. In addition, you need to make sure your hamster has deep and comfortable bedding.

To avoid guessing what the temperature is, you could install a wall thermometer in the room so you will know if the temperature is in the right range to keep your hamster healthy and happy.


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Apr 142012

Whether we’re 10 or 70, we find hamsters fascinating. What is it about this charming little creature that makes us love it so?

In my opinion it can be put into one word – cuteness.

Hamster by narumi-lock, on Flickr

If you want the main reason for this cuteness, just look at a hammy’s face. The eyes are large and seem to have a naturally curious expression. Then there’s that little button nose and pointy ears that stick up and move around to hear what’s going on around it. This is a totally perfect face with an expression that seems to say “Let’s have some fun.”

Another thing that contributes to hamster cuteness is its overall size. Even a “big” hamster like the Teddy Bear or Golden, still only 3 to 5 inches long, is a great size for fitting in the palm of your hand. And the smaller dwarf hamsters are a perfect fit for smaller hands. What’s more, you can get two dwarfs in one nice sized palm.

Helping the hamster stay small is the fact that, except for the Chinese hamster, they have a little nub for tails. That makes the hamster round and compact, making him or her easier to hold in your hand.
That small size makes hamsters a great pet for keeping in a small space. Even if you use a large hamster cage, this type hamster habitat fits nicely on the top of the table in even a small room. The hamster, then, is a great pet for people who live in the city.

Another reason we love hamsters is because of the fact that these little creatures like to take care of themselves. You will see them standing there constantly grooming themselves. It happens before they run, after they run, before they eat, after they eat, before they drink… Well, you get the idea.

That means you don’t have to worry about washing them or taking them to a groomer. They are quite happy to keep themselves clean.

And they are easier to take care of than some other animals. A little food and water, a few toys, and a place to run usually keep them pretty happy. This means you can come home and either play with or watch your hamster without having to plan on taking them out for a walk or chasing them around the house. Unless, of course, your little hammy escapes from its cage.

Another reason we love hamsters is that they are a fun pet to watch. Sure, they sleep a lot. But when they’re active, they really go at it. They run around their exercise wheels like little madmen. And they love to explore. They crawl around any hamster tubes you put in their hamster cage or they push around an exercise ball. Even when they’re not running they can be active. They may be chomping on a food treat or stuffing it in their cheek pouches.

If properly trained, you can also enjoy the hamster interacting with you. It will let you pet it and hold it in your hand. You can hand it a treat and let it sit in your hand while it holds its food in its paws and munches on it. And who hasn’t enjoyed little hamster’s feet tickling you as it runs up your arm.

They’re cute, they’re small, they’re easy to keep, and they’re fun. So it’s easy to see why everybody loves hamsters.


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Mar 192012

When your pet hamster is left alone or every time you look in on it, do you notice that your hammy is gnawing on the wires of its hamster cage? This cage bar chewing could be a problem you need to fix.

Hamster Gnawing

Hamster Gnawing the Bars by LuLu Witch, on Flickr

Hamsters need to gnaw because their incisors are continually growing, like human fingernails. If the incisors begin to grow too long, they can cut through your hamster’s cheek and lead to other health issues. So your hamster needs to keep gnawing to prevent overgrown teeth.

But too much gnawing can:

  • Cause hamster teeth to break
  • Get the teeth out of alignment with each other

These issues can result in your hamster having eating problems.

Another potential problem with too much gnawing is hamster brain damage. This can occur if the wire bars have paint with lead in them.

So if you see your hamster spending a lot of time biting on his or her cage bars, you should try to figure out what’s causing the extreme gnawing.


Two reasons for a hamster chewing too much on his or her cage are:

  1. Not enough to chew on
  2. Boredom

Here are some actions you can take to address these causes and help stop your hamster from cage bar chewing.

More to Chew On

It’s easy to provide your hamster with things to chew on. All different kinds of wooden chew toys are available including small houses, blocks and colorful sticks. You may also use cardboard tubes, like the kind you find under all that toilet paper or paper towels. chew toy

Some hamsters can be picky about what they chew. So if one type of chew toy doesn’t work, try a different one.

Food is also good for a hamster to chew on. Some people have found success with unflavored hard dog biscuits. Then there are treat sticks and drops that hamsters can chew on, as well as the seeds you normally feed your hamster. Be careful not to overfeed your hammy, though.

Stop Hamster Boredom

Boredom is another cause of bar chewing. Hamsters need to run and keep active, especially at night.

Every hamster cage needs an exercise wheel so your pet can get its running in. But your hamster may get bored running only in its exercise wheel. Try putting some hamster tubes inside the cage so your hamster can do some extra running. Or you can build a hamster maze out of tubes to give your hamster a fun new activity. hamster exercise ball

Another good idea is to let your hamster explore some new areas outside its cage by putting it in an exercise ball.

Your hamster may also be bored because its cage is too small. You may want to try a larger cage that has additional levels for your hamster to climb. Or you can connect two cages to give your hammy some extra room.

Another option is to change the type of cage you use. I don’t recommend all hard plastic cages because of ventilation issues, but you can try a bin cage in which you have drilled plenty of ventilation holes. These cages mean your hammy will have no wires to chew on. plastic bin cage

Or you can switch to an aquarium that doesn’t use any wire bars. aquarium

Finally, if you have a dwarf hamster, you may want to add another hamster to the habitat so your hammy can have a friend to play with.


Experiment with new activities or new chew toys to get your hamster to stop gnawing too much on its wire cage bars.


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Mar 162012

Do you need a new living environment for your hamster? Are you tired of having to buy new hamster cages? Then a hamster bin cage may be your solution. It’s an affordable yet easy way to create a habitat for your hamster.

To prepare this type of cage for your hamster, all you need is a plastic storage bin, a few basic tools, and enough patience to complete the project. Rather than spending a small fortune on a prefabricated hamster cage, you can create a wonderful hamster bin cage yourself.


What Is a Hamster Bin Cage?

In case you aren’t familiar with it, a hamster bin cage is simply an enclosure for your pet made from a plastic storage container. If the container doesn’t come with a lid, you should purchase a lid that fits snugly over its top.

With its convenient size and shape, a ready-made storage bin makes an outstanding hamster cage. It can allow enough floor space for your pet, whether Syrian or dwarf, while keeping costs to a minimum.

Benefits of a Hamster Bin Cage

There are numerous benefits of this type of hamster cage.

  • It can be done as a do-it-yourself project.
  • It is easy on the wallet.
  • By using a plastic storage bin that is clear or translucent, you can see in and your hamster can see out.
  • It’s unlikely that your hamster will chew through the plastic and escape.
  • Because it is a single unit, it becomes easy to lift, carry, and move around. It doesn’t require elaborate accessories or come with tubing that may dislodge or become loose.
  • Because of its height, it’s unlikely that your hammy will be able to kick bedding out the side.
  • You won’t need to be concerned about your hamster outgrowing the cage as you might with a pet store cage. If you need more room, you can add a connecting bin.
  • You have options for bin cage ventilation. You can use a mesh top, cut a space for mesh in the top of the storage unit, or drill holes in the top cover. You don’t have to worry about making mesh windows that your hamster might be able to crawl out of.

Bin Cage Dimensions

The size of the bin you build will depend on the type of hamster you have.

For one dwarf hamster you can use a smaller bin such as 18 inches long X 12 inches wide X 12 inches tall. (45.7 X 30.5 X 30.5 cm).

If you have two dwarfs, think about using a little larger bin, such as 24L X 20W X 24H inches. (61 X 50.8 X 61 cm)

For Syrians, or very active dwarfs, think about going to 36L X 24W X 24H inches. (91.4 X 61 X 61 cm)

In the U.S., these sizes may be stated in terms of quarts, with approximately the following measurements:

  • 30 quart = 18 inches long X 12 1/8 inches wide X 12 inches tall.
  • 66 quart = 24 ¾ inches long by 16 3/8 inches wide by 12 3/8 inches high
  • 71 quart = 23.3 inches length by 18.7 inches wide by 12 3/8 inches high

As with any hamster cage, you want to opt for plenty of floor space. Remember, you will still need to put in an exercise wheel, food bowl, toys, and water bottle.

Materials to Use for Building a Bin Cage

Typical materials for building a hamster bin cage include the following: Drill bits

  • Drill and drill bits
  • Utility knife, box cutter, or hacksaw
  • Picture wire, flexible wire, or twist ties
  • Wire cutters (for cutting wire mesh)
  • Wire mesh, also called hardware cloth. Get the kind with very small spaces (1/4 inch) so your hamster can’t squeeze through.
  • Glue gun
  • Nuts, bolts, and washers
  • A permanent marker

Building Your Bin Cage

Ventilation is critical! Just as when you use an aquarium for a hamster cage, you need air to circulate throughout the cage or ammonia will build up.

You need to prepare the top of the cage for ventilation. There are a few ways to go.

For wire mesh: You can tape it to the top and use it instead of a lid. The tape must be on very tightly and should not be able to be eaten by your hamster.

For wire mesh: You can cut out a space in the top lid that’s a little smaller than the amount of wire mesh you’re going to use. Then drill holes in the lid and attach the wire mesh with nuts, bolts, and washers. Some people also use a glue gun and glue to keep the mesh in place.

Wire mesh

For holes: Mark where the holes should go in the top cover, then drill using an appropriate size bit. Do not drill the holes too close together or the top lid plastic may crack. You can also drill some holes near the top of the bin sides for added ventilation.

  1. Drill holes in the bin side to attach the water bottle using ties or wire.
  2. If you want to attach a hamster tube from the side of a bin cage that can lead to another bin cage, use a marker to mark the size of the tube on the side of the bin. Then cut out the hole with a box cutter or drill with special attachment. Use the tube connector to cover any sharp edges on the hole.

Rather than drill a hole for it, use a freestanding exercise wheel.

Build a Bin Cage Videos

Here are links to You Tube videos that show how to put a hamster bin cage together.

How to: Make A Hamster Bin Cage    2:22

  • Text and slides
  • With music

Hamster Bins 101: Part 3 (Making a Basic Bin)    7:54

  • Step by step
  • With narration
  • Shows drilling

How to make a BIN CAGE for hamsters (Sarah’s Way)    9:48

  • The first minute Sarah is looking around the garage for the right tools. After she gives up on that, she goes to the hardware store and the story begins.
  • Step by step video with text titles
  • Good music!

How to make a hamster bin cage and where to get the parts in the UK        6:38

  • Specific the the UK
  • Video with narration

Safety Considerations

When using power tools to modify the cage, make sure that your hands are dry so that any tool you are using doesn’t slip. Also, working with hot glue can be dangerous and cause painful burns. Be careful. Remember, always think “safety first” and use common sense when creating your hamster bin cage.


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Feb 062012

It’s useful to understand the hamster anatomy. When you are choosing a hamster cage and when planning what’s inside the hamster habitat it’s helpful to know how a hamster is put together. Knowing about the hamster body also tells you something about hamster behavior and lets you know where to start looking for hamster illness.

Below is information about each part of a hamster’s body.


The hamster is a type of rodent and all rodents share one important characteristic – their front, or incisor teeth. These chisel-shaped teeth continue to grow throughout the hamster’s entire lifetime. That means hamsters must keep gnawing on things to properly file and sharpen those incisors.

When it comes to hamster cages, that means:

  • Watching your hamster to be sure it’s doesn’t gnaw its way out.
  • Providing chew toys so it can gnaw its teeth every day.

One condition to look out for is overgrown hamster teeth that can grow and cut through your hamster’s mouth. Read Look for Hamster Overgrown Teeth for more detailed information.

Cheek Pouches

The word hamster comes from hamstern, a German word meaning ‘to hoard’. This is where the cheek pouches come in. Hamsters maximize the use of their cheek pouches to gather and carry food and nesting necessities from one place to another. Almost half of a hamster’s body weight can be stored in those pouches.

Food storage was essential in the wild because hamsters put their food in hidden storage until it was needed when the supply of food was at its lowest level. Even your pet hamster, which gets fed every day, will exhibit this hoarding behavior. The hamster’s check pouch lining is tough and dry to ensure that food which is stored will always be fresh and dry.

Hamster body



Despite having large and protruding eyes, which you would expect from an animal that typically only comes out at night in the wild, hamster eyesight isn’t that great.

During the daytime, they are practically blind because of the brightness. They are also color blind, meaning they see only shades of black and white. And they are nearsighted, meaning they can see things very near to them, but not far away.

This can be a problem if you have a hamster cage with many different levels. Your hammy will be able to see the edge of a high platform, but can’t see the bottom of the cage below. If your hamster falls off a high platform, he or she can break its bones.


Hamsters have a very developed hearing system as a compensation for its poor eyesight. Hamster ears can hear various sounds including ultrasonic frequencies which we humans cannot hear.

You’ll notice that the ears are high up on the hamster’s head. That helps them hear any approaching danger – as well as your voice. When they hear what they think is danger, a hamster will freeze. When talking to your pet, please speak softly. And choose a quieter area of your house when locating your hamster cage.

Hamster ears are very thin and delicate so remember to handle your hamster’s head gently when holding it.


Hamsters have an acute sense of smell. They actually use discreet pheromones or scents that are from their own bodies to tell each other apart. Their keen sense of smell also helps them find food, in case you were wondering how a hamster knows and remembers where it has hidden or hoarded its food.

The hamster can also smell you. If your hands have the scent of food, this may be the reason your hamster is nibbling at your fingers. Or, if you have played with a different pet, your hamster may smell the other pet and be afraid to be held in your hands.

A good idea is to wash your hands before playing with your hamster. hamster being held

Hamster fur

Different hamsters actually have different types of fur.

There is the typical short hair which is associated with most hamsters. But some hamsters have the satin type fur that is smooth, shiny, and short.

Then you will find long-haired hamsters, such as the Teddy Bear hamster.

Hamsters are usually very good about keeping their fur clean and smooth. The bedding materials you use, however, can get caught in the long-haired fur. An occasional gentle brushing can help pull out any tangles. If your hamster’s fur looks matted, it may be an indication of illness.

A hamster can lose some fur because of seasonal changes in temperature. This is typical. Older hamsters also tend to lose some fur. And hamsters that are nursing may lose fur around the areas used for nursing.

If you notice any other hair loss on your hamster, check the hamster skin for some underlying skin problem. Also check that your hamster diet has enough vitamins and proteins to prevent premature fur loss.

Hamster skin

It’s not easy to see the hamster skin because it’s covered in fur. But when you get to peek under the hamster fur you should see pink skin color.

Watch out for red or swollen skin which can indicate skin disease. This may be a reaction to the type of bedding you are using or the type of food your hamster eats.

Mites are another common skin disease among hamsters. Pet stores sell anti-mite spray which may help your hamster with this disease.
hamster care book

Hamster Feet / Paws

Your pet’s feet, also called hamster paws, are like hands to them. They are small and short, although usually in proportion to their body size. The paws have small claws that make it easier for them to use. Your hamster will use their paws for holding food, burrowing into its bedding, climbing, and running.

Hamsters can get a condition in their feet known as bumble foot. This foot infection can make the hamster paws swell up. If untreated, this disease can even spread to the hamster’s legs.

The problem could be caused by a wire floor in the cage or a cage that has not been kept clean. Keep the bedding you use in your hamster cage dry, and clean out your hamster cage weekly to help avoid this foot condition.

Hamster Tail

Last, and sometimes least, is the hamster tail. For most Syrian and dwarf hamsters, the tail is very, very short. It’s really more of a little stub than a tale. You can’t even see it unless you look very closely.

The Chinese hamster is the only type of hamster that has a tail you can actually see. It doesn’t have hair and grows to be about an inch long.


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