Hamster Owner's Guide

Housing hamsters

Types of housing:

Aquariums
Although the aquariums are heavy, they are easy to clean. However, there is a limited area for the placement of the toys and other accessories your hamster will need. In addition, aquariums require a top to prevent hamsters from climbing out or to prevent other animals from coming in. Screen tops are available at many pet stores, but a wire top is much better. This is because a hamster can easily chew through a thin screen. With a good cover, aquariums are nearly escape-proof.

Wire cages
This is one of the most common types of housing for hamsters. Like the aquarium, there may be a lack of space for your hamsters to run around. However, there are two and three (and more) story cages available in pet shops these days that ensure there is plenty of room for your hamster to run about.

When purchasing a multi-story wire cage, ensure that there is not too much space between the stories in case your hamster falls. These cages also come with a detachable plastic tray at the bottom that is easy to remove and clean. Owners must be able to decide which type of housing will be the best for their hamster. Wire cages generally work well for Syrians, but not as well for smaller hamsters like Dwarfs. This is because the wire bars may be too far apart and your hamster may be able to squeeze out. Make sure you purchase a cage with closely placed bars if your hamster is small.

Plastic modulars
These cages have tubes and compartments can be connected together to increase the amount of space for your hamsters. They are great for smaller hamsters like dwarfs, which will have no trouble running through the tunnels. Bigger hamsters like Syrians run the risk of getting stuck in the tubes if they are too big. However, there is not much air ventilation in these cages as it is closed off completely.

All cages should be lined with newspaper and wood shaving (avoid using ceder shavings). You should also place a ceramic food bowl in the cage and attach a water bottle with fresh water to the cage. Make sure the bottle nozzle is at a comfortable height for your hamster. Place an exercise wheel and a tiny wooden hut or plastic igloo (for sleeping) in the cage as well. To make the sleeping area more comfortable, you can place clean, unscented toilet paper on the floor of the hut or igloo. Hamsters love to chew, so some owners get blocks of wood for their hamster to chew on. As time goes by you can observe your hamster's behaviour and decide what else you need to add to the cage. Some interesting and fun toys that owners like to place in their hamster's cages include ladders and seesaws.

Placement

Before you start preparing your cage, you should consider why you want to place it. It should never be placed in an area that receives direct sunlight or rain. The cage must be placed in an area that has constant room temperature. If you have other pets in the house, ensure that they are not able to access the area where the cage is. Dogs have been known to knock over hamster cages or bark loudly at hamsters, causing them to be extremely traumatised. Cats are likely to attack the hamster or find ways to paw at it, which will frighten the hamster. Even if you place the hamster cage on a high surface, cats are known to be excellent climbers and have strong determination to reach something they have their eyes on. Ideally, hamsters should be kept in a home with no other pets, or in a room where other pets are not allowed. Many hamsters have died from injuries sustained from other pets.

Size

The size of the hamster cage should be in relation to how many hamsters you are keeping in it. Simply put, the bigger the better. Just because these animals are small, does not mean they should be stored in tiny cages. Hamsters need lots of stimulation too, so they should be kept in a big cage with sufficient wheels for exercise and wooden huts to snuggle in. You may also choose to get a hamster cage that has tunnels leading to different parts of the cage to keep them from getting bored.

Cleaning up

Hamsters are relatively clean animals so they will appreciate a cage cleaning every week. Once a week, dismantle the cage and thoroughly clean it out. Throw over all the old bedding and newspaper and wash the cage with warm water and antibacterial soap. This will be a great time to wash the wheels and all your hamster's other accessories at the same time. The food dish and water bottle will have to be cleaned on a daily basis to prevent bacteria and dirt from building up.

Transporting your hamster

If your hamster cage is too big to use as a carrier or has no handle, you will need to purchase a separate carrier for your hamster. For short trips to the vet or elsewhere, hamsters should be kept in a medium sized plastic carrying box designed for the transportation of small animals. Remember to place wood shaving in the container to make it more comfortable for your hamster. Place a handful of hamster food in the container. Do not attach any kind of water bottle or water dish in the container, instead leave a piece of cucumber for your hamster if it's thirsty. Do not place any other objects in the container like wheels or ceramic food dishes as these objects may fall on your hamster and injure in while you are travelling. You may choose to put a thin blanket over the cage so that your hamster does not get too stressed out by the surroundings. Do not handle your hamster too much while travelling, as this will stress him out as well. In general, most hamster do not enjoy travelling and some even fall ill, so long trips are not advisable