Availability of good minimum-sized cages can be limited at times, so we would recommend checking third-party selling sites. We have great cages, but if your looking for brand new ones, then shopping online would be your best option. A lot of local pet stores sell very small cages to have more shelf space. Researching online can take a little more time, but it always pays off in the end.
Larger enclosure sizes reduce the occurrence of stereotypical behaviors, such as bar chewing, in hamsters, so you should always seek to exceed the minimum requirements where possible. There is no such thing as too much space for running, burrowing, foraging, and exploring!
There’s nothing cuter than seeing the hamsters on their wheel. Most hamsters will enjoy a wheel to run in, and we advise that you include one in their set-up. You should ensure it is large enough so that the animal does not have to arch their back when running in it:
Here are the sizes listed below
Syrian hamsters – minimum wheel diameter 28cm
Dwarf hamsters – minimum wheel diameter 20cm
FYI: I recommend not using wire-style wheels because a hamster’s legs could get caught in the wire, or it could fit through the openings.
Standard pet shop sawdust and wood shavings are not recommended as these can cause respiratory issues. Paper, hemp, or aspen-based bedding are suitable alternatives. Kaytee Clean & Cozy is our favorite substrate for hamsters as it is super soft and great for burrowing! A mixture of substrates can work well too for holding burrows/tunnels.
You should provide at least 6 inches of substrate in your hamster’s set up to allow for sufficient burrowing space. If you have a barred cage, adding Perspex to the sides can increase the amount of substrate depth you can fit in.
As nesting material, we use either shredded teabag paper (bought in huge bales) or torn up loo roll, which is probably the cheapest/easiest option for most hamster owners!
Fluffy bedding is incredibly dangerous as hamsters can become tangled in it so this should never be used.
Hamsters should be fed a good quality mix, ideally tailored to their species, which replicates their wild diets. Food can be purchased at local pet stores, and most should have the nutritional food that they need. Small amounts of safe veggie must also be provided, and occasional additional protein such as mealworms, etc. A list of safe/unsafe foods for hamsters can be found here.
Warning: Never give hamsters citric food, it makes them very sick and can be fatal.
Hamsters love to burrow, dig, tunnel, run, climb and chew! None of this is a requirement, nor is it necessary. Keep them happy by providing opportunities to carry out these natural behaviors. Here are some of our favorite enrichment ideas. These can be used in the cage or playpen:
– Burrow box or section of the cage, filled with your normal substrate or coco soil (use a cardboard box for a cheap option!) – Sand bath (glass cookie jars or trays make great sand baths and we would advise having a sand bath/area in the cage at all times) – Seed sprays such as flax, millet, etc – Hammocks (also great as fall breakers in taller cages) – Tunnels/tubes large enough for your hamster to fit through with full cheek pouches! – Scatter feeding (sprinkle hammy’s food around the cage, hide it in tubes, hammocks, and in a burrow box – make them forage!) – A wheel should also always be provided (minimum diameter 28cm for Syrians and 20cm for Dwarves)
Exercise All hamsters should be given the opportunity to exercise outside of their main set-up, but we do not recommend placing your hamster in a ball for exercise.
For many hamsters, the experience of being confined to a plastic ball is very stressful. A ball prevents them from using their whiskers and sense of smell to get around, so they will often crash into furniture, walls, doors, etc at high speeds which can shock and even injure them. Plastic balls are also poorly ventilated, and most marketed for hamsters are far too small causing the hamster to run with a curved back leading to spinal issues over time.
Instead, we recommend using a playpen to give your hamster a secure area to exercise in. In the pen, you can add toys and scatter food/treats, which the hamster is then free to explore using all of their senses! A playpen is also an excellent way to bond with your hamster as you can easily reach in, offer them treats, and allow them to run over your hands. We recommend using a kids’ ball pit (pictured) or storage cube panels.
Use this checklist to help you make sure you have all the essentials ready when adopting a hammy!
Suitably sized housing (at least 100x50cm on one level for a Syrian, and 80x50cm for a dwarf)
Species appropriate food mix
Safe substrate (at least 6 inches, ideally more for burrowing in)
Safe nesting material
Hide/house (ideally multichambered)
Suitably sized upright wheel (Minimum 28cm for Syrians, 20cm for dwarfs)
Sand bath & sand
Water bottle and/or bowl
Secure area or playpen for out-of-cage playtime
Enrichment for set-up – e.g. tunnels, bridges, hammocks
If you have any questions, please contact us and we’ll be in touch.