What are the most important things that should be inside hamster cages? When your hamster is living in his or her cage you want to be sure they have everything they need to run, eat, sleep and give you hours of viewing pleasure. To do this, you need:
- Water bottle or dish
- Exercise wheel
- Food bowl
This article focuses on bedding and water bottles. Inside Hamster Cages: Exercise Wheel, Toys, Food discusses the other items.
You will need to cover the base of your hamster cage with a bedding material. Hamsters need bedding material to:
- Burrow and dig, because that’s their nature.
- Make a nest in which to sleep
- Absorb their urine
For these reasons, you need to provide them with deep bedding of at least 2 inches (5 cm). Make sure the hamster bedding is non-toxic and digestible.
Bedding materials include:
- Wood shavings
- Aspen wood shavings: Recommended
- Pine or cedar wood shavings: Not recommended. Contains phenols which can cause your hamster to have liver or respiratory problems.
- Paper-based materials: Recommended as they are absorbent and non-toxic. A typical brand is Carefresh.
- Meadow hay: Recommended as long as it was not sprayed with chemicals.
- Shredded paper, such as paper towels or plain paper: OK. It is soft, but does not absorb your hamster’s urine very well and will become very soggy. If you use shredded paper be prepared to change it quite a bit.
- Shredded cardboard: OK, but may be rough and uncomfortable for your hamster.
- Shredded newspaper or any other paper with ink on it: Not recommended. The inks can be harmful to your hamster.
- Corn cobs: Not recommended. They can get moldy or get eaten, both of which are dangerous for your hamster.
- Ordinary cat litter: Not recommended. It has too much dust and is too rough for your hamster’s feet.
- Cotton-based materials, such as fabrics: Not recommended. Not safe because a hamster might eat it and it tends to get caught in hamster toes.
Water Bottle or Bowl
You have two options for making sure your hamster has enough water to drink.
A water bowl is less expensive than a water bottle. If you use a water bowl or dish in your hamster cage, be sure it is:
- Small, so it doesn’t take up a lot of room in the cage.
- Made of a heavy material that your hammy can’t tip over.
- Made of material your hamster can’t chew on, such as ceramic or stainless steel.
The big disadvantage of a water bowl is that your hamster is likely to kick bedding material into it, meaning you will spend a lot of time taking it out of the cage, cleaning it, and refilling it.
You’ll find many different water bottles designed especially for hamsters. They are typically made of break-resistant plastic, a screw top, and a metal drinking tube, with a ball bearing in the tip.
Since bottles hang upside down, the ball bearing lets your hamster drink without letting the water leak out.
You should hang your water bottle outside the cage with only the drinking tube sticking into the cage. Then use a metal guard hanger to prevent your hamster from chewing on the plastic parts of the water bottle.
Glass water bottles are not recommended as they can break.