You’ve decided to bring a hamster home, congratulations! You’ve made a decision that is going to fill the next two to three years of your life with love and joy. But, before you can do that you need to set up a cage for them. This is going to be the place your pet calls home for the next few years, so it is important to get it right the first time. Regardless of what type of cage you pick, the two most important things are space and safety.
You may be thinking, “hamsters are small pets, they don’t need that much space.” Despite their small stature, these guys cover a lot of ground. A hamster needs, at the bare minimum, two square feet of space. Keep in mind though, this is the bare minimum. There is no such thing as a too big when it comes to a hamster’s cage.
As for safety, a lot of hamster products are made for people, not pets. What I mean here is that the product looks nice and pretty, but it is not suitable for your pet. A perfect example is the “All Living Things Tiny Tales XL Dinosaur with Activity Center,” shown above. Though it may look cool it is a borderline torture chamber for any hamster unfortunate enough to find themselves stuck in one.
There are three main types of cages you will want to consider. A wire cage, an aquarium tank, and a bin cage. First let’s talk about the wire cage. Their main pro is their superior ventilation. However, be careful when picking one. Hamsters are master escape artists. Make sure the bars are less than half an inch apart otherwise your pet can escape. They will also climb all over the cage looking for a way out. These rodents are great at climbing up, but not at going down. Before deciding on a wire cage, you must consider that your pet can fall and hurt themselves.
The next tank, an aquarium tank, is my personal favorite. The glass walls provide a clear view of your pet, and they are quite easy to clean. Your hamster cannot climb up these walls like a wire cage, providing extra safety. However, you may have to make some modifications to make it suitable for your small pet. For example, I duct-taped a water bottle to the side. There is always the alternative of using a water bowl, however if you do that you need to change the water daily as your pet can easily contaminate it. I also used some pliers to get a hammock attached to the terrarium top, giving my little guy a safe way to climb around. You will also need some form of lock for the terrarium top so your pet cannot escape. I’ve seen my hamster Buster scale his water bottle to get out and explore. To remedy this, I leave a book on top of the lid.
Last is the bin cage. This is a plastic laundry bin that is retrofit into a cage for your small pet. This cage comes with many of the same pros as the aquarium tank. An added bonus is its reduced price, bin cages are by far the most economic. However, these types of cages are not transparent like an aquarium tank. In other words, you will not be able to see your pet through the sides. This will make no difference to the animal itself, but you lose the ability to watch them go about their day uninterrupted.
Whatever cage you decide to go with, make sure it is fit with all the necessary things your hamster will need to thrive. A hideout for them to sleep in, bedding for them to burrow with, a food bowl, a water bottle, and a wheel. These guys can run up to six miles a night on their wheels, so picking the right one is super important! In another article we will discuss which wheel is right for your hamster and why. Lastly, I have a picture of my pet’s cage below for reference. My pet’s cage is the bare minimum size as I live in a shoebox in NYC and do not have room for more. That being said a hamster deserves as much room as you can afford.