If you are inexperienced, then it may be a daunting task for you to find a hamster cage that is both safe and reliable. Investing in a hamster cage is one of the most important decisions you will make for your hamster, however there are so many important factors you need to consider to make the optimal choice.
That is why this article will inform you on the best practices in regards to cage safety, minimum habitat requirements, as well as what are the best hamster cages on the market for your hamster.
Finding the best hamster cage for your pet is an important step in ensuring its well-being and happiness. These furry little creatures are a joy to have around, but only if you provide it with the necessary environment to flourish. Below you’ll see our recommended cages as well as the considerations we took into account when selecting a cage.
Buying a Temporary Cage vs. Permanent Cage
You may have some baby hamsters that don’t yet require as much room as an adult. However, they tend to grow so quickly. Once 4 weeks has passed, baby hamsters are already capable of leaving their mothers, and by two months they will have doubled in size.
Thus, it is prudent to simply purchase cages that are for adult sized hamsters. If you already own a smaller cage, you can still make use of it. First, it can be used as a travel cage. Second, it can be a temporary cage as you clean their main cage.
What to Consider When Purchasing a Hamster Cage
Minimum Size Requirements
You want to make sure that the cage is spacious enough for each hamster. If you have multiple hamsters, it is a good idea to purchase individual cages for each hamster because they can be quite solitary and territorial and fight each other if caged together.
For Syrian hamsters, the minimum cage size should be at least 2 cubic feet of space. Keep in mind that Syrian hamsters are lone creatures and therefore should not be housed with other hamsters once they are a few months old. Thus, if you own multiple hamsters, you will need to prepare a different cage for each hamster before they are 2-3 months old. If this seems too costly for you, one cheap solution is to buy large plastic containers in bulk and use these as hamster cages.
There are plenty of reasons why you should get a spacious hamster cage. One reason is that a large cage will not become dirty as quickly, meaning there will be less ammonia build up which can be a hazard to your hamster. Second, an appropriately sized cage will reduce the likelihood of your hamster getting agitated or bored which can lead to bar chewing and compulsive behavior.
Types of Cages
There are many types of hamster cages and depending on the species of hamster as well as your own preferences, one style may be better than the others. For instance, a wire hamster cage with a plastic base is the most common and basic cage you can buy.
Another style is a compartmentalized, modular cage that is better suited for dwarf hamsters or younger Syrian hamsters before they reach 2-3 months of age. This style allows for plenty of customization and makes the cage look maze-like.
Lastly, a third type is the aquarium with a mesh wire lid. We will discuss all three types of cages with more detail further below this article.
It is imperative that your hamsters get as much clean air as possible so that they are comfortable and healthy. Unfortunately, though plastic modular cages look very fun, they tend to be less capable of providing adequate airflow.
Similarly, aquariums can pose the same problem, and that is why wire cages are the most popular cages for owners that want to provide the best ventilation for their pets. However, they provide limited protection against cool air drafts.
Ease of Cleaning
Consistent upkeep of your hamster cages is another important step in ensuring your pets’ well-being. No matter how many cool features your cages have, if it is difficult for you to clean, it will be detrimental to your pets’ health.
Larger cages take longer to get dirty and are easier to clean due to how spacious they are. Compartmentalized cages can have sections taken out one by one to be cleaned, however the pieces tend to be small and might be a nuisance to clean without patience or the proper tools.
There’s no point in getting a cage if your hamster can escape from it! Make sure that the maximum space between each bar is no more than 0.5 inches apart for Syrian hamsters, and 0.25 inches for dwarf hamsters. We go into the specifics of how each type of cage can provide different levels of protection in further detail below.
Seasoned hamster owners and industry vets alike agree that hamster cages should be fitted with a hamster wheel because they are an easy way for your pet to get the exercise it needs. Furthermore, if plan on having Syrian hamsters, you need to make sure that the wheel is adequately sized.
Basic Safety Concerns
On the market, there are so many types of hamster cages available for purchase but not all of them are necessarily optimal. For instance, many hamster cages are actually meant for the smaller dwarf hamster, and thus space becomes an issue if you plan on housing a Syrian hamster.
Furthermore, many hamster cages look very beautiful but actually aren’t very practical when put in use. Thus, you must be cognizant of some basic safety requirements and guidelines so that you can select the best hamster cage.
Bar Spacing and Escape Points
Most hamsters, especially dwarf hamsters, are capable of squeezing their tiny bodies through even the smallest of spaces. When kept in a hamster cage, they have all the time in the world to find a gap to escape from or a bar they can chew through.
Think of each hamster as a miniature Houdini, and then try finding a cage with that mindset. If the cage that you are eyeing has bars, make sure the spacing is at most ½ inch or smaller for fully grown Syrian hamsters, and babies should be kept in a glass or plastic cage so that there are no spaces that they can escape from.
When selecting a bar cage, look for areas where there may be gaps that are larger than ½ inch in length, such as in corners or other connecting areas where measurements may be slightly off. Make sure each bar is evenly spaced or else your hamster might simply disappear.
If you are not confident of the cage’s security, first place the cage in a large plastic bin or a bathtub for a week and see if your hamster can escape from it.
The Dangers of Bar Chewing and How to Prevent It
When selecting a cage, be aware of any ridges or surfaces that are not completely smooth because these are points where a hamster can nibble on. You should also keep in mind how much a component will be to replace if the hamster decides to chew on it. If there is a very thin section on the cage, you can bet the hamster will wear it down and possibly escape through that area.
Even if you provide adequate space for your hamster, these restless creatures may still end up chewing on the cage bars. This can create quite a ruckus, as well as cause serious damage to their teeth or your cage. This can easily result in medical emergencies.
Fortunately, Syrian hamsters’ teeth continuously grow throughout their life. However, a damaged tooth can make it difficult to eat. If your hamster has a broken tooth, take him to the vet immediately. Place many soft chew toys in their cage to encourage them to nibble on that instead of the bars. If they refuse to do so, you may have to migrate them to a cage without any bars such as an aquarium or bin cage.
Have a Solid Base
You might think it is a good idea for the cage to have wire floors so that pet droppings can fall through; however, hamsters are uncomfortable walking on wire surfaces. Hamsters usually don’t look where they put their feet and having spaces will cause them to continually drop their leg through the spaces, putting them at risk of injury. Thus, if your cage has wires on the bottom, try to cover it up with a solid surface such as coroplast, cardboard/cardstock, or laminate flooring.
Materials and Ease of Maintenance
High quality hamster cages should last your hamster’s entire life and perhaps many more hamsters afterwards depending on how well you maintain it. Plastic cages are convenient because you can scrub and bleach the plastic without worrying about it cracking, unlike glass. However, it is optimal to find a metal cages that are PVC or powder coated which will keep any metal components from rusting.
With that said, PVC coated cages are more likely to crack but have a longer life span than galvanized metal cages that are not treated at all. Many owners prefer to keep their hamsters in aquariums, which are resistant to wear if they are cleaned frequently and haven’t been dropped. For those on a budget, cheap plastic bins can serve as makeshift plastic aquariums for their hamsters.
Ease of Access
When selecting a hamster cage, look at for cages that have easy access points like lid and doors placed in easy to reach locations. The cage doors should be large enough that an adult can easily reach their hand in and touch any part of the cage (important for clean-up).
At the same time, the door or lid needs to be secure enough so that tugging on it won’t easily open the cage. If it is easy for you to open, it may be possible your hamster can open it too. Optimally, the cage should be easy to take apart so that each section can be thoroughly cleaned.
Horizontal vs. Vertical Space
Find cages that are more horizontal than vertical. Hamsters love to climb up but have trouble getting down; they usually just hit the top and fall down. Thus, you ought to minimize any fall damage they might sustain, and so your cages should not be too tall unless there are different levels. Furthermore, hamsters love to run on flat surfaces so they will have space to roam around.
Finding the Most Suitable Cage
Since the most popular type of hamsters are Syrian hamsters, it’s no surprise that most cages are designed for their use. Thus, it is quite simple to find cages for them.
On the other hand, finding a cage for dwarf hamsters are a bit trickier since they are less popular and there are less cages for them. If you make the mistake of buying a cage for a Syrian hamster, the smaller dwarf hamster can easily escape from the cage. Thus, you need to buy the right cage or else you may lose your pet!
Since dwarf hamsters are so small, large tanks and aquariums can serve as their home with minimal issues. They can also be used to temporarily house young Syrian hamsters, but they should be moved out once they grow older. In either case, make sure there is at least 2 cubic feet of space available for them to roam around.
Many people use aquariums as a temporary home to rear their young hamsters before transferring them to a better cage. However, if you plan on using it as their permanent home, you need to clean it frequently to prevent a buildup of excreta and urine. These can build up ammonia fumes over time.
Make sure to cover your tank/aquarium with mesh to allow for aeration, and that deep layers of bedding are supplied in addition to hamster to keep your pets active and occupied. Since there are no gaps in which a hamster can squeeze through, this is a great dwarf hamster cage.
Another benefit of having no gaps is that cool breezes cannot pass through, and it will retain heat much better than many other cages. Thus, people who live in colder areas that want to own a pet hamster should get an aquarium cage.
This type of cage is the most popular for all types of hamsters. If you own a dwarf hamster, make sure the space between bars is no more than 0.25 inches or else they may find a way to escape. Make sure there are no loose ends on the cage since hamsters like to climb all over to find an escape route.
Syrian hamsters truly flourish in a spacious enough wire mesh cage because they will have the freedom to move around as much as they want. Make sure to fill your cages with bedding and toys and ramps to keep your hamsters busy.
Unfortunately, due to the many gaps between the wires, this cage does not offer any protection against breezes. Therefore, you must not place the cage near open windows or vents where drafts can come from. Additionally, if you live in a colder area and want to keep your hamster warm, this is not a good solution.
Hamster cages that are modular, such as tube cages, can be a fun and expandable habitat for dwarf hamsters and young Syrian hamsters, however it can be difficult to predict how large your hamster will grow and it may be unsafe or uncomfortable for them to squeeze through the tubes.
Some owners have horror stories of their hamsters getting stuck in tubes because the hamsters either grew too big or they were trying to carry nesting material and got stuck. Getting stuck is a death sentence because they are the least well-ventilated area of the cage, and who knows how long it will take before you notice your hamster got stuck.
Thus, it is generally not a good idea to get a tube cage for Syrian hamsters. However, if you are dead- set on getting one, make sure your hamster is a short-haired breed since they are less likely to get stuck, and place the hamster cage in a visible area in your home so that you can supervise it frequently. Lastly, Syrian hamsters are the most powerful chewers among its hamster brethren, and cages with plenty of connection points and ridges may be susceptible to getting chewed on.
It’s easy to generalize advice, but let’s face it – not all advice works in every situation, and sometimes you will need to deviate a bit. Therefore, you might need to specialize if you plan on giving your pet hamster the best care possible. Here are some potential situations you could encounter.
Own a timid hamster? Find a cage with a wide open floor design
Some Syrian hamsters startle easily, and will get very anxious when being handled by humans. They may become aggressive if they feel like they are being cornered or if someone is too close to their nesting area.
Thus, a wide open floor plan allows for plenty of room so they will not feel like they are being trapped, and there will still be room for their privacy. Wide open cages allow you to place your hand easily into the cage and let the hamster come to you instead, establishing trust and helping nervous hamsters get accustomed to being handled.
Putting the cage near carpeted floors? Opt for a deep cage pan
Cage pans have no standard depth; however, they range from 1-3” deep on most cages. If you filled the cage with loose bedding substrate instead of a fabric bedding, then chances are your hamster will make a mess and spill some of that bedding on the floor around the cage. A deep cage pan reduces the chances of this happening, however aquariums or bin type cages can prevent this issue from occurring completely.
Taking care of an older hamster? Select a cage with only one floor
Older hamsters may struggle to climb or even walk up ramps to higher levels. Thus, to make it easier on them, you should find a cage that has flat floor plans right from the beginning, or you may have to remove any existing ramps to make it elderly-friendly.
20 Gallon Glass Aquarium
The most popular starter cage for Syrian hamsters is the twenty-gallon aquarium, and they are typically widely available at a low cost. Glass aquariums allow you to have a clear view of your hamster, and it is easy to make it look more interesting by adding some accessories and cage décor.
Unlike a wire cage, aquariums are practically escape-proof so long as you ensure that there are no products placed in the habitat in such a way that your hamster can climb up and escape. Regardless, even if they do manage to find a way to reach the lid, clips can be installed to further secure the lid.
With that said, Syrian hamsters are more likely than their dwarf hamster counterparts to climb on water bottles and other fixtures and strong enough to lift up unsecured lids, so it is recommended that you purchase an aquarium with a slide on lid instead. Keep in mind that aquariums are made from glass which makes them extremely heavy and prone to cracking.
These cages are also not as ventilated as wire cages, so they will need to be cleaned more frequently to avoid ammonia build-up. Aquariums should also be kept from being exposed to direct sunlight since glass panes can cause a greenhouse effect and increase the temperature inside.
Lastly, you’ll want an aquarium that is twenty gallons long as opposed to one that is taller but has the same volume. It is much better in the long run if you purchased a tank that is 30 inches long, since a larger habitat will take longer for any ammonia build-up or temperature increases to become life-threatening to your hamster. Plus, your hamster will have more space to roam around which will surely be appreciated.
Super Pet My First Home Cage for Rats
In the same way that a plastic bin can be modified to be a great living area for a hamster, we can use this rat cage and use it as a hamster habitat (ironically, it isn’t a very good rat cage at all). The cage can be configured in just a few short minutes, and it contains a deep pan that will prevent bedding from getting out.
It also sports an upper level as well as a ramp that is hamster-friendly to access it. Furthermore, it features a bowl that may be too large to use as a feeding area, so instead you can pour potty sand and train them to leave droppings in the bowl.
However, if that suggestion does not pan out, then you may simply remove the bowl and leave the open hole as an area that the hamster can climb in and out of at its leisure. One outstanding feature of this cage is the large floor space and compatibility with lots of accessories.
You may, for instance, attach a hamster wheel to one of the side walls to provide a sturdy running experience. The cage comes with an amusing plastic mouse toy that may or may not get any use, so you can keep it or remove it as necessary.
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This cage with a good layout that features plenty of accessories to help improve your hamster’s quality of life. A strut can be found at the back of the food bowl, making it simple to secure to a cage wall. The small plastic house that it comes with can also be connected directly to the cage, securing it to the upper floor.
The second level consists of a rounded platform roughly half as long as the cage, giving your hamster a nifty upper level but also a place to hide if they choose to remain under the platform, out of your supervision.
In addition to the water bottle that can be refilled without opening the cage as well as the hamster wheel, you almost have a complete package already. The next step is to provide some bedding and food which is simple enough. The cage opening can lift up to allow easy access to the entire area of the cage. Furthermore, the habitat comes with four plastic clips, as well as a clip located on the front door which acts as a latch that can lock the wire top of the cage to the pan on the bottom.
You will come to see the benefits of having a deep pan so that your hamster can burrow into the bedding without making a mess that escapes out of the cage. The spaces between the bars are very tiny to prevent escape, but still large enough so that additional accessories can be clipped on; however, there is limited space beyond what is already included.
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Next up, we have a cage that provides ample supply of flat floor space in addition to a sturdy upper level. The included components are somewhat lacking, however what is included can be great for Syrian hamsters. A large tube allows access to an area for your hamster to relax and hang out.
The deep bowl that connects to the side of the cage wall as well as a water bottle that can be refilled from the top gives you plenty of space to add further components such as nesting boxes, wheels, tubes, and additional floors just to list a few examples.
Just like the previous cage, this one also has four plastic clips for additional accessories, including a clip that can secure the front door like a door latch. This cage also has a deep pan because you simply do not want to have to deal with the hassle of cleaning a mess around your cage everyday, and this will reduce the likelihood of this issue occurring. Furthermore, if you intend to install a wheel, you may need to include an elevated surface that the hamster can climb on because the deep pan forces the wire part of the cage to start higher.
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What differentiates this cage from its peers is its unique layout. Like most of them, it comes with plenty of accessories that can be easily secured to the side walls. There are two foods bowls, both of which can be securely put in place. The cute hamster house it comes with can be connected to the side wall on the upper section.
One of the upper levels has a hole which you can connect a tube to, providing an easy way for your hamster to get down. The other platform is rounded, and ought to be put onto one of the corners. Once again, this cage also comes with secure plastic clips should you need to clip additional accessories.
Homemade Plastic Bin
For those who are on a budget, you’re in luck. Homemade plastic hamster habitats are the budget alternative to glass aquariums since they provide the same gapless, see-through exterior walls that aquariums do.
You can usually buy these in bulk, as well, so they are perfect if you need multiple cages for cheap. You’d still need to spend an additional $20-40 to purchase some materials to make the cage much more comfortable for your hamster. Plus, they are nowhere near as heavy as a glass aquarium, so moving it around should not be an issue.
Just like the aquarium, you should find one that is wider than it is tall, but make sure it is at least 11” tall. You may need to make some modifications to the lid to improve the ventilation. First, the roof and side walls should be protected with hardware cloth so that your hamster won’t scratch through the bin.
Keep any sharp edges on the hardware cloth covered so your hamster doesn’t accidentally get scratched. Next, if the lid doesn’t have any openings, you’ll have to cut them yourself and then cover it with hardware cloth so your hamster cannot climb out.
The versatility of a plastic bin makes it a great starter cage. If you buy one that is big enough, you may never need another cage again since there will always be room for new toys and components.
For additional information on hamster care, check out this site: http://anchoranimalhospital.com/proper-care-guide-for-hamsters/