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.
hamster cage
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.

hamster cageWire: 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. 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.
hamster cage

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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Mar 162011
 

Combination hamster cages made of plastic and wire have some negatives associated with them. You have to think about these before buying this type of hamster cage.

Size: Many of the basic one-story plastic and wire combination hamster habitats will not have enough space for a normal sized Syrian or Teddy Bear hamster. The plastic and wire cage complete kits usually come with an exercise wheel, a water bottle, and a food bowl. These will all take up space inside the cage. Then your Syrian will need a few toys to chew on as well as both a bedding and a bathroom area. Pretty soon your Teddy Bear or Golden hamster can be restricted to a small area inside the cage. hamster cage kit

One way to get around this is to add a second or third story or add some climbing tubes that will let the hamster get to a second cage. But that will cost more money.

Air circulation: Moving air around is a big deal in hamster cages. Hamsters need air circulation because they exercise a lot and because there are fumes from where they go to the bathroom. Both this type cage and aquariums have a problem getting enough air circulating inside the cage. If your plastic cage has a few stories with more wire bars, that would help circulate the air. But if there’s more plastic than wires, there will be less air circulation and this is bad for your hamster. Also, unless your climbing tubes have some holes in them, air won’t circulate much inside the tubes.

Cleaning: All hamster habitats have to be cleaned out every once in a while but this plastic and wire cage can be particularly tough when it comes to cleaning. You have to take the cage apart to clean it. With a wire cage you just take off the top, clean the wire bars, and then clean out the bedding in the base.

hasmter cageWith a combination hamster cage you have to do all that as well as take all the plastic tubes out of their holes. That means you have to be extra careful so none of the plastic breaks. Then, even when you get them out, you have to clean all the pieces individually. So there’s a lot more cleaning involved than with a wire cage.

Security: A wire door with a strong latch usually provides good security for keeping your hamster in its cage. A good latch is one that snaps tightly to the wire bars. Some people even use an additional wire to make sure the door stays shut. If the door doesn’t have a latch, your hamster can easily push it open.

On some combination plastic and wire cages the doors on top are just plastic. If these doors don’t have a strong latch, this is an area where even a dwarf hamster can push the door open and escape.

Also, you want to be sure there are no cracked plastic pieces when you finish putting together this type of cage. Your hamster will try to nibble on the crack to make a hole so he or she can get out of the cage.

For the positives about this cage, read Plastic and Wire Hamster Cage Positives.

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Mar 162011
 

If you pick a hamster cage made of plastic and wire it will usually have a colorful plastic top, wire bars in the middle, and a plastic base on the bottom. When you are choosing this type of cage you should think about size, set up, color, parts, and cost.

Size

Generally the plastic and wire combination cage is a little smaller than a plain wire cage. Many of these type hamster habitats are usually under 2 feet in length. Some of these cages allow you to make them bigger because they have holes on the top or the side. These holes let you connect hamster tubes that can expand the cage. You can add a lot of tubes or you can bring the tubes to second cage so your hamster can run between the cages. hamster cage

Some of these cages also let you add a second story so your hamster has an extra floor in the cage to play on.

If you’re keeping a couple of dwarf hamsters, this type cage might be good for you. But if you have one large Teddy Bear or Syrian hamster, look it over carefully to be sure he or she is going to have enough room to move around.

As with all hamster cages, you need to be sure the wire bars are close enough to keep a dwarf hamster, such as such as a Roborovski, from escaping through the bars.

Set up

These cages usually come in a box with a lot of pieces that have to be put together. So setting up this type of cage means snapping the wire parts into the plastic base, putting the plastic parts in the cage, then attaching the top and any other plastic pieces that attach to the sides or the top. This can be a big job and smaller kids may need help. hamster cage

People disagree on how easy or hard it is to put these cages together. Some people find it easy to get together while others think they are very difficult.

One problem is the plastic used for the tubing on the tops of this cage. If the plastic is thin or flimsy and you push things too hard when putting the cage together, the plastic can break. You have to be especially careful when you’re squeezing plastic climbing tubes into their holes.

One of the additional problems is that the instructions that come with these cages are often not too good. So you have to try and put the cage together by looking at the picture on the box.

One good piece of advice is to put the cage together before you buy your new hamster. That way you have plenty of time and don’t have to worry about your hamster being stuck inside an exercise ball.

Color

Although these cages are colorful to look at, keep in mind that hamsters are colorblind so they can’t see the colors. They can, however, see light and dark. So the lighter color plastic will be easier for them to see through while it will be harder for them to see through the darker colors. It will also be easier for you to see your hamster inside the cage if you get a lighter color plastic. But, to tell the truth, you don’t get to choose the colors you want for most of these cages.

Pieces and parts

Combination plastic and metal cages usually come in kits that have a lot of pieces. Because hamsters are all different, not all the pieces will be the right sizes for all hamsters. Sometimes the exercise wheels are too small for Syrian hamsters. Sometimes the water bottles leak or don’t fit well inside the cage. Sometimes the food bowls can be too tiny for all the different kinds of food you want to give your hamster.

So even if you think you’re saving money by buying a kit with all the parts, you may find you still have to buy a separate exercise wheel or a separate water bottle to fit inside these cages. These will cost extra. hamster cage

You also want to be sure that hamster tubes that are part of this cage are big enough for your regular size hamster, like a Teddy Bear, to get through. You don’t want your hamster getting stuck in the tubes. If you have dwarf hamsters, you also want to be sure the hamsters have something to grab on to so they can climb through the tubes. If the tubes are smooth you may want to put a thin branch inside the tube so your hamster can more easily climb through it.

Cost

These cages vary in cost depending on size. The taller combination cages – like three stories – usually cost around $50 and up. Medium-size cages that are one and two-stories often cost from about $25-$40. Smaller, starter cages can be found for about $25-$35. There are a few very small combination cages available for under $20. To see different cages and their costs go to the hamster cages and accessories page.

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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.
wire hamster 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
wire hamster cage

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.wire hamster cage starter kit

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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Jan 212010
 

Where’s my hamster? What hamster owner hasn’t said that at least once? Usually, your hammy will be hiding in its cage – in some tube, under some toy, or deep in its bedding.

Breakout by Stinging Eyes, on Flickr

But hamsters are explorers and if given the chance, they will get out of their cage and investigate their surroundings. We call it “the breakout” or “the great escape.” When it happens, it’s usually panic time! Because of their small size and ability to hide, an escaped hamster can be lost forever.

Preventing your hamster from breaking out is your best defense against a lost hamster. There are two primary reasons hamsters escape: Hamster cage problems and owner/handler problems.

Hamster Cage problems

Wire bars spaced too far apart. While Syrian or golden hamsters are about 5 to 7 inches (13 to 18 cm) long, some dwarf hamsters are only 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 cm) long. So a wire cage built for a golden hamster can have bars that are too far apart for a dwarf hamster. Also, over time, when the cage is used, moved, and cleaned, some of the bars can become spread apart. And it doesn’t take much space between bars for a hamster to squeeze its body through.
hamster cage

Wire and plastic cages not put together well. A good hamster cage should have pieces that fit together tightly. But sometimes plastic parts don’t fit together well. Or maybe the cage pieces just weren’t put together tightly enough. This can happen after a cage has been cleaned. Either way, this leaves gaps between pieces that your hamster can get out through.

Aquarium cage top poorly secured. People who use aquariums for hamster cages often use wire mesh to cover the top of the cage This cover must be secured tightly or sure enough, you hamster will figure out a way to climb up to the top and push its way out.

Gnawing through. Hamsters continually gnaw to keep their growing incisors the right length. This means if you’re using a wooden cage, your hamster will likely keep on gnawing until they make a space big enough to fit through. Hamsters will also gnaw on plastic tubing which can eventually get too thin, allowing your hamster to break out. Even gnawing on metal bars can eventually spread them apart, giving your hamster an opening to escape through.

Latches. Metal and plastic cages will have a door to get your hamster in and out. Because they are used often, door latches are weak points. They can become loose over time. Your hamster can push against the loose door and away it goes!

For more information about the different types of hamster cages click here.

Owner/handler problems

Not paying attention. When your hamster is outside its cage, someone needs to keep a close eye on him or her. If the hamster is playing in its exercise ball or toy car, keep in mind that these toys can break or be gnawed through. If that happens, your hamster will be off and running. The same attention is needed when you’re playing with your hamster. Holding and petting your hamster is great fun. But if you decide to put hammy down on the floor or on your bed, don’t think it will just sit there – it may decide to make a run for it.

Handler is too young. Of course you want to share the fun of holding your hamster with other people. But some people, such as very young children, may get surprised by a furry little animal crawling on them and make a sudden movement like jumping. Your hamster will get scared, jump off the person, and likely run away.

Prevention

To prevent your hamster from escaping, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Check the spaces between wire cage bars to be sure they’re close enough to keep your hamster in.
  • Inspect plastic cages to be sure pieces fit together tightly and there are no gaps
  • Look over wooden enclosures for spots where the hamster is gnawing through.
  • Tightly secure the top on an aquarium cage.
  • Be sure cage door latches are always tightly closed.
  • Supervise your hamster when he or she is outside the cage.

Taking these safety measures means you won’t have to say “Hey! Where’s my hamster.”

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