Happy, Healthy Hamsters FAQ

What type of CAGE Should I Get?

The RSPCA Guidelines are in my opinion more humane than the US on minimum sizing for hamster enclosures. That is what most hamster forums will recommend whether UK or US based. Even I have struggled at times to keep up those dimensions but getting as close as possible to them as well other factors such as time out of cage and enrichment in the cage and proper sized wheels help in this conquest.

75×40 cm (29×15 inches) for Dwarf hamsters.

80×50 cm (31 x 19 inches) for Syrian Hamsters.

This is in footprint. Not counting levels, shelves, platforms. You are looking at a long cage. Not a TALL cage as one would seek for rats and chinchillas.

Bar spacing should be no wider than 1/2 inch for Syrians and adult Campbells & Winter Whites. And for Roborovskis and Chinese, and baby Russian dwarf hamsters it should be even more narrow. 7mm is best. It’s really difficult to find this sizing of cages with these bar spacing measurements in this country (United States). But not impossible. And there are alternatives. I made this page to help you in your search.

TANKS

You can find a used tank or a tank on sale. A 40 gallon breeder is a perfect size for a Syrian. For a Dwarf or Roborovski hamster a 20 gallon breeder tank could work fine but bigger is always better. Petco is known for having their $1 a gallon sales for the tanks and one can contact their local store to find out when one might be upcoming. *Mesh lids can be made cheaply with hardware cloth from any local hardware store or online Amazon – Robo hamsters probably won’t be able to climb out and may not require a lid. However, Dwarf hamsters, Chinese, and Syrians are quite resourceful in escaping. A mesh lid will provide ventilation.

You can fix them up quite cute as well – a couple of mine from when I had my Roborovskis living in 20 gallon breeders before I upgraded them to larger Bin Cages (which I will get to next).

*this set up is for the tiniest of hamsters – hence the mouse wheel (which even my Robos outgrew). A Dwarf will require a 6.5 or 8 ” wheel which will also fit in a 20 gallon breeder pictured below.

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PLASTIC STORAGE CONTAINERS (BIN CAGES)

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Or make a bin cage from a 105 or 110 quart Sterilite clear plastic container. For a Syrian the Sterilite 110 quart (pictured) is a minimum.

I have a tutorial up for making a bin cage and have both the 105 qt and the 110 qt Sterilite bins pictured. I also did stacking examples. For a Syrian I’d recommend cutting a section out of the lid of the bottom bin and a section out of the bottom of the top bin and make a ladder to connect the two bins together or have them side by side with a PVC /drainage piping connecting them together (you can find for cheap at most hardware stores).

COMMERCIAL CAGES

I have 3 of the biggest cages that can be found in USA that are perfect for Syrians or Dwarfs. They are quite expensive but once you start collecting Habitrails and Critter Trails and tube expansion packs and etc you will have spent the same if not more than you would have for one decent sized and well made cage you can use for many a hamster’s lifetime.

The “Ferret Kit 100″ (or Ferret Kit : Large) or the “Ferret Kit 80.” (or Ferret Kit Medium) (Pictured is the 100/Large)

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** I used pink and checkered Duck tape on the base. Bases will usually come black or blue.

Often found on Amazon.com, thatpetplace.com, Wayfair, and I believe at times Walmart.com. The price will vary. For the Ferret Kit 100 I paid $103. I’ve seen it as low as $89. But of late it’s been as high as $120. Most of these places offer free shipping and quite expedited. It’s the largest cage you will find with the right bar spacing for a Syrian Hamster. It’s half-inch spacing so really only suitable and safe for Syrians and maybe a very fat, adult Russian hamsters but definitely not a Chinese hamster or Roborovski hamster. Also with this cage it is very tall and such you will need to put in hammocks to catch the climbers from falls from the top. You can purchase screw on ledges to make multiple levels. My hamster Penny makes use of all her space. Google for Chinchilla ledges. I have in here various ledges – mostly found on Petdiscounters.com, Petstore.com, and Petco.com.

For the Large dimensions: 25” H x 21” W x 39” D. For Medium: 20” H x 17” W x 31” D.

Comes with large corner shelf, rat sized plastic tubes, ferret sized litter pan, water bottle, and food dish.

****However, with the floor space this cage affords your hamster they will be quite happy with some hammocks to catch falls. This cage comes with the large corner white shelf and really – with the proper toys and wheel that will suit your hamster – they will be happy in there. I go a bit overboard in spoiling my hamsters because seeing them run and climb all over the place gives me joy.

The FOP Gabbia Tamburino Natura is an Italian manufactured cage.

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It can only be purchased in this country through Abbaseed.com. Click here and then add the second cage pictured to your cart. It shows the incorrect information to the right of the picture (something about a bird stand/etc) however it will come up in your Paypal account as the correct item number and name – #202000067. I purchased mine this way and there was no issue. It shipped right away. I adore this cage. It’s the closest we can come to a Zoozone in the USA (as they have in the UK). A plastic tank style cage with a nice deep base. The door at the top gives ventilation. It’s super light and quite sturdy and the olive-green color is pretty. This cage is below the minimum size for a Syrian based on RSPCA guidelines but perfect size for dwarf hamsters, Chinese hamsters, or Robovorskis at 75cm x 47cm x 33cm (29.5″ x 18.5″ x 13″ tall). It’s bar spacing at the top is 7mm so not even a mouse could fit through those bars. But for the stubborn owner that wants a plastic cage for their Syrian – this is far better option than subjecting it to a lone Critter Trail for the remainder of his or her days.

With shipping it will run you around $70-75.

***It comes with a large wooden platform/house which I don’t use in this cage but do use for my hammy play pen area. It also comes with a wooden hay loft holder type thing that looks like a large bird ladder. I also use that in a play pen but not in the cage. This cage is marketed for rabbits and guinea pigs but is incredibly tiny for creatures as big as those two are!!!

The Marchioro USA Kevin 82 Mouse Cage

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This is a lovely cage that is right between the Tamburino and the Ferret Kit in size and is right at the recommended size for Syrian Hamsters. It’s dimensions are : 32.25 in. x 20 in. x 14.25 in.

And it can be found cheapest (as of January 2013) at thatpetplace.com here for $119 (free shipping). It has a wide door that opens up which I love. And my Syrian Bob has ample space and it isn’t so tall so a fall from the top wouldn’t be as dangerous though it’s good to still put up hammocks. Hamsters enjoy them actually and it’s better to be safer than sorry (especially for the climbers).

This cage comes with plastic tubes and shelves. All of which I wasn’t pleased with but that is just me. It is a mouse cage so the bar spacing is 7mm and suitable to put any species of hamster – from the biggest to tiniest – inside. As well Mice of course.

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What type of WHEEL Should I Get?

The Minimal Size Wheel for a Syrian Hamster is 8 ” and many will be large enough to require an 11”. If your hamsters back is arching when he runs in the wheel damage is being done to his spine.

A Dwarf will require a 6.5 ” or an 8”.

A Roborovski will do fine with a 4”, 6.5 ”, and many have stated that theirs do fine with even an 8” Wodent Wheel.

All Wheels should have no rungs. It should be a Comfort Wheel, Wodent Wheel, or Silent Spinner. Hamsters running on the metal wheels will develop a condition called BumbleFoot. Also they can get toes and limbs caught and broken.

Transoniq Wodent Wheels come in 3 sizes. Junior (8 inch) Senior (11 inch) and Wobust (these are very wide and are suited for hedgehogs, large rats, and Chinchillas).

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They aren’t the easiest to get your hands on. I don’t believe any chain Petstore carries them currently. Amazon has some sellers as well Ebay but with shipping it’s pricer than it should be. I personally go through the seller toandfrogliders.com. This is because she lets me choose the colors I want and costs less than Amazon and Ebay. She ships very fast and has been in business for 12 years.

This is my favorite, preferred wheel and is the only wheel recommended by the ASPCA.

Another great option and is easily found in Pet Stores or online is the Silent Spinner.

SilentSpinnersAt this time I only use the 4” for my Roborovskis. I’ve upgraded my Dwarf to an 8” Wodent Wheel but he did alright with the 6.5” for awhile. Petsmart carries these. As well Amazon. And some other online pet stores.

The cheapest and safe wheel is the Comfort Wheel.

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I do not like this wheel. It’s cheap. But for economical choices? It will suit your needs. It comes in 8” and 12” and most certainly can be found easily in stock at Petsmart stores and most online stores. I have one as a spare and it has come in handy a few times.

All 3 of these wheels aren’t loud but they aren’t truly silent. Oiling them with a little dab of Olive Oil will do the trick when any of them get screechy.

ALTERNATIVES TO WHEEL OR IN ADDITION TO …

A very safe and wonderful alternative (and great in larger cages as a 2nd toy to give your hammy) is the Ware Flying Saucer.chinchilla_flying_saucer_1

I have only ever found them online. And I purchase mine at Petstore.com for a great price. But many Pet stores sell them online. Shop around for the best price while keeping in mind shipping.

For my Syrians I have the 12” (Large). For my Robo’s I have the 6.5 (Medium). The smallest of them all is too small for any hamster unless it’s a BABY Roborovski. I have heard that there is a size now between the medium and the large being manufactured now but I cannot confirm this. That would be nice as I feel the 6.5 is too small for a dwarf, certainly too small for a Syrian …while some Dwarfs might find the 12” too big.

It’s entertaining to watch them “fly” on this. And most certainly a very safe and simple toy.

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What is a good HAMSTER DIET?

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The best Hamster Diet available commercially is Hazel Hamster” which is a UK based/cousin to Harry Hamster. It’s protein count is 18% and as with most decent Hamster diets corn will not be it’s first or main ingredient. But mainly looking at the protein, fiber, and fat percentages are what is most important. I try to give a variety of foods to my hams. Not just Hazel. I also give them Carefresh Complete Menu (purple bag), and Kaytee Forti-Diet Pro-Health Mouse, Rat, Hamster Food just to cover all my bases. All of these foods have a good percentage of nutrients.

Protein – aim for 17 to 23 percent

Fiber – aim for 8 to 10 percent

Fat – aim for 4 to 6 percent

A really great Master Food List of both great foods for both Americans and UK hamsters is HERE. Obviously, if you are from the U.S you will sift through the list for the brands that you can procure. There is also a listing of foods absolutely unacceptable. I do however, have a bag of FM Brown Tropical Carnival. I thought it looked nice and smelled nice. It’s actually just a huge bag of hamster junk food from all I’ve read. But I give a handful now and then as just a treat.

As for Hazel Hamster – you can find it usually Petsmart stores or online. Also if you want to buy in “bulk” (several bags) you can go through Petmountain.com for much much cheaper even with the shipping. The more bags you buy the less you are spending over all per bag and if you go over 75 dollars you get free shipping anyway. So, for those of you who like to bulk up – check into that.

A few other stores online carry Hazel. But prices revolve on most all of them so just in general know that a decent price for it will be just under $10 for a 2lb bag.

Features:

  • A nutritionally complete and balanced diet
  • For digestive health
  • Promotes dental wear
  • Highly palatable
  • Encourages natural foraging behavior
  • No added sugar

Ingredients:
Flaked whole wheat, ground whole wheat, pelleted soybean meal, dehydrated alfalfa pellets, whole corn, flaked peas, flaked whole corn, sunflower seeds, flaked soybeans, peanut kernels, kibbled locust beans, soybean oil (preserved with BHT), peanuts in shell, pumpkin seeds, wheat middlings, salt, calcium carbonate, sodium sulfate, vitamins (vitamin E supplement, choline chloride, niacin, d-calcium pantothenate, pyridoxine hydrochloride [vitamin b6], vitamin a supplement, riboflavin [vitamin b2], thiamine hydrochloride [vitamin b1], folic acid, biotin, vitamin B12 supplement, vitamin d3 supplement), minerals (zinc oxide, manganese oxide, iron sulfate, copper sulfate, calcium iodate, cobalt carbonate, sodium selenite), added fd&c colors (yellow 6, yellow 5, blue 1).

Guaranteed Analysis:

  • Crude Protein (min) 18.0%
  • Crude Fat (min) 5.0%
  • Crude Fiber (max) 9.0%
  • Moisture (max) 11.0%
  • Ash (max) 6.0%
  • Copper (min) 17 mg/kg
  • Vitamin A (min) 14,000 IU/kg
  • Vitamin D3 (min) 2000 IU/kg
  • Vitamin E (min) 60 mg/kg

Feeding Guidelines:
Hamsters are natural foragers and therefore it is recommended their daily allowance should be split up into two portions, one in the morning and one in the evening. To limit the likelihood of selective feeding, ensure that the first portion is finished before feeding the second. The average adult hamster will require 0.2-0.35 oz (5-10g) per day.

Made in UK.

As well consider fresh vegetables and fruits. I get behind on doing this for my own family sometimes so my rodents get short changed sometimes as well. But I do try to supplement their dry foods diet with vegetables. Each species varies on what is safe or not safe. Syrians can have certain foods while Dwarfs cannot. Too much of vegetables and fruit can get your hamster sick as well. So only in moderation and consider they are tiny creatures so tiny portions are in order!

Examples of safe foods for all species of hamsters:

Baby Spinach

Broccoli

Carrot

Apple (not the seeds!)

Banana

I’m not going to do a huge list of safe and not safe foods at this time but here is a GREAT REFERENCE from Hamster Central. Keep in mind each hamster is different and many have preferences. Only my dwarf likes banana. Only my Syrian Bob likes Strawberries (though he loves dried Plantains even though he doesn’t like Banana). Only my Syrian Penny likes baby carrots.

Other treats in moderation – cooked pasta, wheat bread, or wheat bread soaked in a tiny bit of milk, cooked egg, cooked chicken (one of my Robo’s loves chicken while the other doesn’t – just another example about individual hamsters preferences – it’s fun to learn these details about each one you keep!).

Other great commercial treats I have found are Milk Bone dog biscuits. Keeps their teeth down! Be sure to read the ingredients that no Onions or Garlic are in them as that is toxic to hamsters and often is found in dog treats/food. Cat treats like Wiskas (once again be sure there is no Garlic or Onions). These are great sources of protein.

Yogies is marketed for hamsters and my Gerbils love them as well. I have both cheese and berry flavored of them and they are a REAL hit with my critters.

What BEDDING/SUBSTRATE Should I Use?

There has been a lot of debate about Cedar and Pine substrate for rodents (or as a lot of us Americans refer to as “bedding” while those in the UK separate “bedding” as what is literally put inside the hideouts while substrate is flooring materials.). Short version : the chemicals used to treat the cedar and pine in this country may cause cancers and respiratory issues. It’s not worth making your rodent uncomfortable just to save a buck. There are other affordable, safer options.

#1. Aspen Shavings in this country aren’t treated with harmful chemicals. Two great, great brands:

Kaytee (Shavings)

Native Earth (Shredded which is really nice)

I mark this as number one as it’s the most affordable for the most volume of what you can get. You can get 8 cubic feet (compressed) to 12 cubic feet of this stuff for under 30 dollars and in many cases under 20. For one hamster – this is probably half a lifetime amount and maybe more though I can’t say for sure as I’ve used various other bedding types out of curiosity and so it’s taking me longer even with multiple hamsters/gerbils to get through it all. For multiples rodents you really are going to save getting it in bulk like this. I get my Kaytee brand shavings from Amazon when it’s less than 30 and it’s free shipping.

Pros- best price per volume, great for burrowing, smells nice in my opinion.

Cons – you need a place to store it! I separate it into 2 or 3 64 quart storage bins and stack them in the utility closet. Long Haired Syrians might get it caught up in their skirts. I haven’t tried the Native Earth Shredded with my LH Syrian yet – I’ve heard shredded is better for long hair. AND allergy sufferers might find this to add to their list of evil nose irritants.

#2

Hemp. Namely “Lifemate” Brand.

If you have a PetValu store nearby you (Canadians you have full access as it’s a Canadian chain with some stores here in the USA) then you can get this for an okay price. But it’s still pricy for what you get. In some comparisons it’s cheaper than Carefresh. Which I’ll get to that in a minute. But Carefresh has epic sales often on various sites while Lifemate never goes on sale. So, you have to love this stuff to find it worth it. And with multiple hams and gerbils this will cost. I just like having it to mix a little in the Aspen.

Pros – texture is just neat. Very shredded and soft. Little hamsters like dwarfs love to dig in it.

Cons – price and potential allergens.

#3.

Carefresh (shop around for best deals)

This is paper based bedding, very soft, comes in lovely colors. Sales can be found often making bulking up a steal. But in general it’s an expensive substrate. It’s generally the most popular of the safe beddings out there. I like it alright but the novelty wore off me. I prefer the Aspen now that I’ve realized that my family isn’t allergic to it after all as I initially feared.

Pros – colors, safe, soft, non-allergenic unless the dust from the paper bothers you.

Cons- price, not that great for burrowing from what I’ve seen unless it’s mixed with shavings.

#4.

Paper pellet bedding (Various brands)

I have used Planet Petco brand from none other than Petco. It can be pricy. Planet Petco is a softer paper pellet that I’ve tried and is great for a Long Hair Syrian because it won’t catch in the skirt. It’s very absorbent and the greyish color looks cool as a floor. Other brands I’ve heard are good : Yesterday’s News

Pros – great for long haired Syrians, absorbent (especially if your hammy isn’t litter box trained)

Cons – price, cannot burrow in it – hard to even dig in it.

Nesting/Bedding

Now, for inside their houses to make a nest – Carefresh Pro Earth, Carefresh Crinkles, and Eco Bedding (Shop around for best prices though if you buy in BULK Petmountain.com has the BEST prices for EcoBedding Natural color (brown) usually 50 lbs for 60 dollars or so and if you add enough to push your shipping over 75 I think it is you qualify for free shipping) make great, great and fun fun nesting bedding. Sprinkle it all around so your ham can go to work gathering and building their nest (great for boredom busting/enrichment) and keeping them warm. Especially, if they are a LH Syrian with pelleted bedding. I have found that the crinkles do not get stuck in Syrian hair. Sometimes I use the crinkles for my LH male syrian’s entire Substrate instead of pellets.

Good ole TP! That’s right – Toilet paper or non-scented/non-lotion tissues right out of your bathroom closet will do wonderfully!

Some people use fleece squares because of all the fabric it’s the least dangerous to be ingested and you can just toss it into the washing machine or throw out if you get a lot of it for cheap at Walmart. This is debated. Many feel that there is no real good purpose to risk any loose fabric in a hammy cage. Loose meaning not a hammock. I’ll get to hammocks next!

Coming soon….

What Toys Will Amuse my Hamster?

Can I keep two hamsters (or 3 or 4?) in the same cage? What does Solitary or Sociable mean? Why do I need to have extra back up cages for multiples?

Play Pen/Free Ranging/ Is a Ball really Necessary?

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