Hamsters are very active animals and in the wild they travel miles at night. They need as large a cage as you can possibly give them. Larger breeds, like Syrian hamsters, will need more space than smaller Dwarf hamsters.
You’ll need to provide them with lots of things to keep them active and to help them act naturally, like toys, things to gnaw on and a place to nest in.
The right cage for your hamster
Hamster love to dig and climb so cages with deep plastic bases and wire tops work well. You can give them areas to dig and they’ll also love to climb the bars of their cage.
Make sure you choose a cage that’s big enough for your breed of hamster – if in doubt, the bigger the better. The cage will need to have a large, usable floor area and enough space of tubes and different levels.
Your hamster’s home should include plenty of things to keep them active and entertained. An ideal cage will include:
• Plenty of nest boxes and sleeping areas. You can read more about how to provide these for your hamster below.
• An exercise wheel can help keep your hamster active. It should be as wide as possible and have a solid running surface. Plastic wheels are best for hamsters.
• Plenty of toys and interactive games so they don’t get bored. Hamsters enjoy climbing, ladders, tubes, shelves, cardboard boxes and other interactive toys. Keep their toys and cage the same week-on-week as hamsters find sudden changes stressful.
• Gnawing blocks and (untreated) soft wood branches to help them wear their teeth down.
• All hamsters love to dig and burrow. They’ll need a deep layer of sawdust or potting compost in the bottom of the cage. This is especially important for Dwarf hamsters as digging is a really important part of how they naturally behave.
The best spot in your home for hamsters
Our homes can be noisy, stressful places for small pets like hamsters. To keep them as happy as possible, make sure their cage is:
• Place their cage in a quiet, calm area of the house. It should be away from busy rooms and not near a TV or music system. Loud noises and vibrations make hamsters stressed.
• Kept at a steady temperature between 18-21C, out of draughts and direct sunlight. Hamsters get sleepy and start hibernating if the temperature stays below 10C.
• Make sure their cage is very secure – hamsters are fantastic escape artists!
Nest boxes: a place to hide and rest
Hamsters spend most of the day asleep so it’s really important they have a choice of comfortable nest boxes to rest in. In the wild, hamsters would be hunted by other animals and it’s natural for them to want to hide if they feel frightened. Nest boxes also give them a safe and secure hiding place.
• Make sure their nest box gives them a quiet and secluded place to rest during the day.
• Give them plenty of safe nesting material to fill their nest box with. Shredded white kitchen roll or clothe-based bedding material is ideal.
• Don’t use shredded newspaper as ink can be toxic to hamsters.
• Don’t give your hamsters cotton wool. It can cause dangerous blockages in their stomach if they eat it and can get wrapped around their legs.
Keeping your hamster clean
You’ll need to regularly clean out your hamster’s cage to make sure that it’s a healthy and hygienic place for them to live. It’s best to do this in the evening when they’re awake, instead of waking them up and moving them when they’re trying to sleep.
• Clean their cage thoroughly once a week with a pet-safe cleaner. You can buy these in pets shops or on our online pet store.
• Keep back a handful of bedding that’s been used by your hamster but is clean and dry. Add this back to into their nest box along with the fresh bedding. This means their nest box will still smell like home!
• Hamsters are creatures of habit and they find sudden changes stressful. When you clean out their cage, try not to alter too much. This will keep everything familiar and comforting for your pet.