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.

Causes

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.

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.

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 plastic cages because of ventilation issues, but you can try a plastic cage that has only a small area with metal bars. These will give your hamster fewer wires to chew on. Or you can switch to an aquarium or a bin cage that doesn’t use any wire bars.

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 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.

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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Jan 162012
 

A hamster that is well taken care of is usually healthy and happy. But as a hamster owner you need to be on the lookout for certain signs that can tell you if you have a sick hamster. Here are five warning signs to check for as you handle and play with your hammy.

1. Wet Bottom

When you are handling your hamster, does its bottom feel wet? This could simply indicate that your hamster just peed. But if the bottom is very wet or wet very often or if you notice matted fur down there, it could indicate that your hamster has wet tail.

This is a dangerous bacterial infection. What’s more, this is a contagious disease that can affect other hamsters. Wet tail can be cured but I advise taking your hamster to the vet immediately.

2. Diarrhea

If you look around the cage and see that your hamster is leaving wet poo everywhere, you can be pretty sure he or she has diarrhea. Diarrhea is another warning sign for wet tail. But it could be that your hamster is just eating too many vegetables or other kinds of treats.

The danger here is that diarrhea means your hamster can get dehydrated. Because the hamster is a small animal, dehydration can lead to a quick death. Check to make sure your hamster is getting enough water. You may try cutting back on fresh vegetables. But if the diarrhea continues, this may mean wet tail and a trip to the vet.

3. Red skin or bald patches

Under all that hamster fur is hamster skin. By moving the fur around you may see a potential warning sign if the hamster skin looks red in spots, has bald patches, or some kind of lump.

These hamster skin problems indicate a skin disease that will require a vet to take a closer look. One of the factors could be that you are not cleaning the hamster’s cage often enough or you are using the wrong kind of bedding material. See the article Types of Hamster Bedding Material for more information about bedding material.

4. Teeth growing too long
Hamster illness
You know that hamsters have to keep gnawing with their teeth because their teeth are always growing. But a warning sign would be if you notice that your hamster’s teeth are beginning to grow longer than they should. Look inside your hamster’s mouth and make sure its teeth are not getting too close to its cheeks. Also look for sores inside your hamster’s mouth. If the teeth get too long they can pierce the mouth.

Gnawing on wooden toys, fresh vegetables, and treat blocks can help your hamster keep its teeth the right size. But if your hamster is getting overgrown teeth, you may have to go to a vet who can trim your hamster’s teeth.

See the article Overgrown Teeth or Nails to learn more about this hamster illness.

5. Hibernation

The final warning sign is if you look inside your hamster cage and your hamster is not moving. Most times, this just means your hamster is taking a nap. But if your hamster remains in that position for a long period of time and you have trouble waking it up, he or she may be in hibernation. When a hamster goes into hibernation it breathes very slowly and is in a deep, deep sleep. The hamster may look like it’s dead. But unless your hamster is old, this may just be hibernation.

Your hamster will do this if it gets too cold inside its cage. A hamster needs a temperature of about 68 to 78° F (20 to 25 C). If it gets colder than this your hamster may go into hibernation. You will need to immediately try to start warming up your hamster in your hands. Eventually, with enough heat, your hamster can wake up.

Remember to place your hamster cage someplace where it will not get too cold, such as near an air-conditioner.

Look for these warning signs as you go about playing with and watching your hamster. This will help you catch any problems early so your hamster can live a healthy and happy life.

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Jan 122012
 

A bored hamster is a boring hamster. If you want to keep your hamster active and healthy you need to make sure he or she has some fun things to play with. Three of the most common things you can add to your hamster habitat to keep your hamster busy are hamster tubes, hamster toys, and hamster balls.

Hamster Tubes

These colorful and round plastic tubes are an inexpensive way to get your hamster moving. Individual pieces or sets usually cost under $10. You can put together a few tube pieces that can fit inside a large hamster cage, or you can go crazy and build extensive mazes outside the cage for your hamster to crawl through. Once you get to the stage where you’re building mazes, the costs can add up.

These funnels as they are called, can also go straight up so your hamster can have some climbing fun. There also tubes with resting places on the top. If you put some bedding at the top, your hamster can get some exercise climbing up then take a little nap when he reaches the top. Some of the tops of hamster tubes open up so you can actually take your hamster out and hold him or her.

Two tips for using hamster tubes. One, make sure you get the right size for the size of your hamster. A dwarf hamster may have some trouble climbing straight up a large tube. Number two is to make sure there are some ventilation holes in the tubes. You want to be sure your hammy has enough air to breathe as he or she is running around its tubes.

For more information, read Hamster Tube Tips.

Hamster Toys

The first kind is the type that the hamster needs to chew on. As you know a healthy hamster needs to keep gnawing so it won’t get overgrown teeth. A good soft wood toy helps your hamster keep his or her teeth in shape.

Then there are hamster fun toys you place around your hamster cage. These are toys that hamsters like to crawl around in.

Hamster Balls and Cars

You will probably have an exercise wheel inside your cage. Your hamster needs this wheel to get in his or her daily running and stay healthy. But for fun you can put your hamster in an exercise ball and let it run around outside the cage.

The balls have vents so your hamster can get air as it runs around. Hamsters love to push the ball around and explore new spaces in your house.

There are even circular tracks, called a hamtrac, that you can put the ball in so you can control where your hamster runs.

Naturally, you should keep your other pets away from your hamster while it’s in its roll around ball. And remember to keep any staircases you have blocked so that your hammy can’t fall down them.

Also available are plastic hamster wheels that fit inside hamster-sized racing cars.

When your hamster starts rolling the wheel, it looks like he or she is driving a racing car around. You and your friends can even hold hamster drag races. However, it only goes forward and backward, unlike a hamster ball that can go in all directions.

Summary

Giving your hamster fun accessories such as tubes, toys, or cars lets your pet get the activity and exercise it needs and keeps it from getting bored. You can also get pleasure just by watching your hammy play in its toys.

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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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