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 102011
 

If you’re thinking about buying a wire cage for your hamster consider some of the following: wire cage size, height, cleaning, and security. For a discussion of the wire bars themselves and their pluses and minuses read The Good And The Bad About Wire Hamster Cages.

Size

Hamsters need a lot of room to run around and exercise in. If you’re cage is too small your hamster won’t get the exercise it needs and will get bored. Your wire hamster cage should be at least 24 inches long by about 12 inches deep (61 by 30.5 cm). Different heights are available. Read the next section for discussion of wire cage heights.

Remember, along with your hamster, your wire cage will also need space for an exercise wheel, a water bottle, some hamster toys, and a food bowl. Then your hamster needs plenty of bedding space for digging around, sleeping, and using the bathroom. So keep your hamster happy by giving him or her enough space to move around in.

Some people use two small wire cages and use an adapter kit to connect them with tubes. This gives your hamster the chance to get more exercise by running between the cages. Cutting holes in wire cages to connect them is not recommended.

Height

Hamsters like to climb around their wire cages. They can get their little feet around the wires and climb all around the bars. Some will try to climb to the top of the cage, even if it two or even three stories. But hamsters can slip and fall. If they fall from a great enough height, your hamster can get hurt.

Because of the danger of falling, if you use a tall hamster cage, be sure you have ladders and ramps so your hamster can climb up more easily. You can also use hamster climbing tubes so your hamster can get around its tall wire cage.

Cleaning

Cleaning this type of hamster cage is usually pretty easy. The bars are lightweight and usually just snap out of the sides of the plastic bottom. You can then just rinse the bars off to get them clean. You will still have to do some more serious cleaning for the bedding in the plastic base. See the article called Easy Steps to Clean Your Hamster Cage for more detailed information about how to do that.

After you have replaced the bedding, you reattach the wheel and the water bottle, put the wire cage back on and attach it back to the plastic base. You are then ready to put your hamster back in its clean cage.

When you’re putting the cage back together is a good time to decide if you want to move things around. You may want to change the way things are hooked up or where the hamster toys are located. Sometimes your hamster can get bored if he or she has the same layout all the time in its cage. So move some tubes around or put new tubes in or change the location of different toys in the cage. This will give your hamster something new to explore and keep him or her from getting bored.

Plastic base depth

The plastic at the bottom of the cage is for holding the bedding and any hamster toys you want to put in. Make sure the plastic bottom is deep enough to hold about 2 inches of bedding. This will let your hamster have room to burrow and sleep and make a place to go to a bathroom.

However, because the cage has spaces between the wires, when your hamster starts kicking up his or her bedding or throwing around their food, some of it is likely to get through the bars and onto the space around the cage. Plan on leaving some room around the cage for this bedding. You’ll have to keep that area clean if you have this type of cage.

Security

The metal door on the wire cage should also be looked at carefully when you’re buying this type cage. You want to be sure it’s snaps tightly to the wires of the cage because if it’s loose your hamster will figure a way to pry it open and escape. Some people even use an extra piece of wire to tie the door to the wire bars so the door stays well sealed.

Consider all these things before you buy your hammy a new wire cage. As an alternative, you may want to think about using an aquarium for a hamster cage.


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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.

 

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

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.

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.

 

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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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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