Hamster cage

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A hamster cage is a cage designed to house a hamster or hamsters. Hamster cages need to be at least 450 square inches of floor space or bigger like the one shown, although many experts such as Gernot Kuhnen recommend that hamsters thrive with larger cage sizes.[1]

For pet hamsters, commercially available pens are made of wire or plastic.[2] Some pet owners house their hamsters in aquarium tanks or make their own wooden pens.[2] In laboratories hamsters are housed in pens designed for scientific use.[2] There are also special pens for exhibition, as in a hamster show.

Home built enclosure for a Syrian hamster, measures 200x60x60cm (1860 sq in)

Cage specifications[edit]

There are different recommendations for the appropriate cage size for hamsters. HSS (Hamster Society Singapore) recommends a minimum of 4000 cm2 (620 in2) for Syrian hamsters and a minimum of 2903.22 cm2 (450 in2) for dwarf hamsters.[3] TVT (Tierärztliche Vereinigung für Tierschutz) recommends the owner give the Syrian hamster as much space as possible—at minimum 100 cm x 50 cm x 50 cm (L x W x H) which is 5000 cm2 (775 in2).[4] Like TVT, BMEL (Bundesministerium für Ernährung und Landwirtschaft, the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture) also recommends a minimum of 5000 cm2 (775.0016 2) for Syrian hamsters.[5]

Hamsters prefer larger cages and want much more than the suggested minimum required space.[6][7] "Starter packs" or hamster pens advertised for new owners are almost never large enough to be the only housing for a Syrian hamster, even when these pens are advertised for this purpose.[8]

The ideal floor for a hamster is solid and covered with bedding.(around 6 in (150 mm) [9] Hamsters that have thick bedding for their floor are happier and enjoy better health.[9] Wire flooring can harm hamster paws and cause bumblefoot. For the hamster's benefit, cover the cage floor with a solid material such as cardboard, ceramic plates which the hamster can not chew, or mats marketed specially for hamsters.[7][8] Wire cages can expose a hamster to drafts. Additionally, some wire cages permit the hamster to throw bedding material through the wires as it burrows, digs, and plays.[8] Pens with solid walls contain all the bedding and prevent drafts of air from disturbing the hamster.[8] Syrian hamsters are larger than Chinese and dwarf hamsters, so they need a larger pen and hamster accessories than those smaller hamsters.[8][6]

Wire-top cages[edit]

A wire-top cage is a plastic base with a wire structure arching over it.[10] Wire-top cages may take many shapes, and for hamsters, may have one level or be multi-story with tubes, stairs, or ladders connecting the levels. A wire-top cage with wired stairs causes bumblefoot. Most colorful cages that are sold in pet shops are marketed towards children and cause stress for the hamster.[10] Wire-top cages for hamsters are often marketed in two varieties.[10] One version is for the larger Syrian hamsters, with the space between bars being about 12 mm (0.47 in).[10] The other version is for Chinese or dwarf hamsters, with the bar space being 8 mm (0.31 in).[10] Pens with smaller gaps, perhaps around 3 mm (0.12 in), are often intended for mice, and are likely to be too small to provide appropriate space for any species of hamster.[10] It is crucial when choosing a wire cage that is it above the minimum cage requirement of 450 in2 (2,900 cm2) of unbroken floor space, and make sure the height of the plastic base is at least 15 cm (5.9 in). Most commercial wire cages sold in a pet stores are below the minimum, so it is important to check. Wire cages with more height than width or length is bad because, as burrowing animals, most hamsters need floor space, not height.

Well-designed wire-top cages have doors placed so that a human can open them as needed and reach into any part of the pen to access the hamster or clean the space.[8] A cantilever design for upper levels in wire-top cages may wobble if the cage is not well designed. This fault could upset hamsters because they prefer stable ground.[8] Wire-top cages will ideally have a securely fastened plastic base attached to the wire frame so that the entire pen can be transported without risk of the parts separating or the cage structure failing.[8]

Plastic tank cages[edit]

Plastic tank cages may be simply designed like a plain box, or they may be elaborately designed to encourage hamster exploration of the tubes, levels, and rooms.[8] Plastic tank cages are marketed to be expanded with additional modules that connect to the main pen with clamps or tunnels.[8]

Hamsters can gnaw on parts of plastic cages in ways that are less likely in other cages because of their different design.[8] Pens are not designed to be chewed.[8] If a cage is large enough and if a hamster has other things to gnaw, then most hamsters will not chew cage elements.[8] Syrian hamsters are especially likely to chew small tubes and cages designed for smaller hamsters.[11]

Most plastic cages are too small for a hamster and cause the hamster to become bored and display unwanted behaviors such as obsessive bar-chewing, repetitive climbing, aggression, or escape attempts. Smaller modules may have poor ventilation, posing the risk of respiratory disease for the hamster.


Aquariums can be modified to be glass hamster cages.[11] Hamsters cannot chew glass aquariums because the walls are smooth and there are no projections.[11] The disadvantages of glass are that the tanks are heavy and difficult to move, and it may be challenging to find an appropriate cage top, especially if houses or toys are put in the pen that permit the hamster to attempt an escape over the sides.[11] An aquarium must provide at least 450 in2 (2,900 cm2) of floorspace.

A 40-gallon aquarium is the minimum recommended size for a hamster, but larger sizes are always recommended.

Wooden cages[edit]

Wooden cages are not mass-marketed, so they are an option for hamster owners who are handy and wish to make their own, or for breeders or rescuers who need to custom-make a large number of pens for multiple hamsters.[12] Wooden cages must be made of untreated hardwood that a hamster can gnaw and eat, because over time they will chew the pen.[12] Since the hamster may chew and ingest the cage material, wood glue to hold the cage together is poisonous and therefore inappropriate. In addition, wood tends to collect urine stains and can be difficult to clean.


Hamsters enjoy getting toys for behavioral enrichment.[13] Hamster toys should be non toxic and sanitized.[13] To that end, hamsters enjoy going inside objects and climbing things.[13] Plastic toys and accessories can absorb heat, which is unsafe for dwarf hamsters in hot weather.

Hamster wheel[edit]

Wooden Hamster Wheel, size 33cm

Hamster wheels are exercise devices. These allow them to run even when their space is confined.

Many commercially marketed hamster wheels do not acknowledge that Syrian hamsters are larger than dwarf and Chinese hamsters, and that they require a larger wheel size than Syrians. TVT recommends that wheels be at least 20 cm (7.9 in) for Dwarf Hamsters and at least 30 cm (12 in) for Syrian hamsters, since smaller diameters can lead to permanent spinal curvature, especially in young animals. TVT also recommends a solid running surface because rungs or mesh can catch limbs and cause injury.[14] It is important to get a solid-bottom wheel, as wire or mesh wheels can cause foot lesions.

Hamster house[edit]

Since hamsters are nocturnal in captivity, dark sleeping quarters in daylight hours are vital. A hamster house is a hide box or hideout for hamsters that provides this. The house can be as simple as an opaque PVC tube closed at one end, 15 cm (5.9 in) in diameter, but boxes are preferred.[15] Wooden houses or hideouts made of natural materials can cool hamsters in the summer.

Hamster houses should be well-ventilated, and not collect condensation and become damp.[16] A hide box improves the hamster's mental well-being, and the absence of a hide box can make a hamster feel vulnerable and unsafe.[17] Most hamsters will choose to nest and hoard food in their hideout, although some will use corners or even their wheel.

Hamster toilet[edit]

Hamsters are naturally clean animals and prefer to urinate in a designated corner in their cage.[16] If their cage includes a suitable enclosed room, then the hamster is likely to recognize that room as a toilet area and begin to use it.[16] Hamster keepers may suggest a toilet area to a hamster by putting soiled hamster bedding into the area that they want the hamster to consider using.[16] A large jar may be used as a toilet, then removed and cleaned regularly as the hamster uses it.[16]

Sand bath[edit]

All hamsters need a sand bath to groom themselves.[16] The sand keeps their fur clean and digging in it helps maintain their claws.[3] When choosing sand for the sand bath, make sure it is fine but not dusty. Reptile sand can be used as long as it does not contain calcium or any other additive. Other examples are play sand or chinchilla bath sand (not dust). If you choose chinchilla bath sand, heat it at 350F for 10 minutes before using. Some hamsters will also use their sand bath as a litter box.

Other toys[edit]

Like all other rodents, a hamster's teeth grows throughout its lifetime. As such, they need chew toys for proper dental care. Salt licks and mineral chews contain dangerous chemicals that are toxic for hamsters. The owner must provide hardwood chews or their teeth will grow too long, causing pain, disfigurement,and potentially death.[citation needed]

Unsafe Hamster Supplies[edit]

Hamster Balls[edit]

TVT (Tierärztliche Vereinigung für Tierschutz) warn that hamster balls pose a risk of injury. The hamster can not free itself from the ball and can not control the speed or direction of the ball. While in a hamster ball, especially in a transparent one, they cannot meet their natural instinct to take cover. There is a high risk for injury when the ball hits a wall or rolls down from raised surfaces. The small ventilation slots do not give a sufficient air supply for the hamster. TVT considers hamster balls to be anti animal welfare and do not recommend their use for any small mammal.[14][3]

Plastic Tubes[edit]

Plastic tubes sold for hamsters, especially when arranged into longer tunnel systems, can pose a large risk to your hamsters safety. The plastic tubes do not have sufficient ventilation and when set at a steep angle a hamster can easily fall and hurt themselves. These tubes are also too small for Syrian Hamsters since even though they can walk through them they also have to be able to turn around while their cheek pouches are filled, otherwise the hamster can get stuck. Well ventilated short tubes that are large enough for the hamster to comfortably turn around can be used.[14]

Scented Bedding[edit]

Beddings with added scents are not safe for hamsters because it disrupts their own scent markings (which causes a lot of stress) and can harm their sensitive respiratory system.[14][3]

Harnesses and Leashes[edit]

Since hamsters are very small and fragile harnesses and leashes can easily cause injury to hamsters. They also prevent hamsters from following their natural flight behavior which can cause considerable stress.[14]

Cotton Fluff[edit]

This product is sold under many names such as hamster fluff, cotton fluff, soft and safe bedding, fluff bedding etc. Since this synthetic material has long fibers that are tear resistant it can easily get stuck in hamsters cheek pouches or wrap around their limbs cutting off circulation.[14] As a safe alternative to this you can provide your hamster with toilet paper to build their nest with.[18]

Cedar and Pine Bedding[edit]

Cedar and Pine wood contains harmful oils that has been known to cause respiratory infections in small animals, so cedar shavings is not safe to use as a bedding for hamsters.[19][20][18][3]


Hamsters will exploit any opportunity to escape from their cage.[21] Most commonly they escape when someone has not closed a door properly.[21] They have the ability to flatten their bodies to squeeze through holes that humans do not expect them to be able to use.[22] Hamsters may sometimes open latches or unscrew connections, in which case they open the cage themselves.[21] If any part of the cage can be gnawed to create a hole then the hamster may chew its way out.[21] If the hamster passes time with free access to both the inside of its cage and the outside world, it may collect some of its bedding and hoarded food to establish a new den.[21] A bucket mousetrap is the most common way to catch a hamster. In this scheme, food such as leafy greens is placed in a bucket, and a staircase is built leading to the top of the bucket.[21] The hungry hamster will climb the stairs, fall into the bucket, and be captured.[21]

Society and culture[edit]

The National Hamster Council in the United Kingdom maintains recommendations for hamster cages for pet owners and breeders.[6] United States regulations which apply to hamsters are in the Animal Welfare Act of 1966 and described further in the Institute for Laboratory Animal Research's Guide for the care and Use of Laboratory Animals including legal regulations for hamster cages in the United States.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kuhnen, Gernot (July 1999). "The effect of cage size and enrichment on core temperature and febrile response of the golden hamster". Laboratory Animals. 33 (3): 221–227. doi:10.1258/002367799780578246. ISSN 0023-6772. PMID 10780840.
  2. ^ a b c Logsdail 2002, p. 24-28.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Hamster Society Singapore". Hamster Society Singapore. HSS. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
  4. ^ "Merkblatt Nr. 156 - Heimtiere: Goldhamster (Stand: 2014)". Tierärztliche Vereinigung für Tierschutz. TVT. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
  5. ^ Bundesministerium für Ernährung und Landwirtschaft, the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Haltung von Säugetieren Archived 2018-02-07 at the Wayback Machine, 15.4.1 Enclosure requirements
  6. ^ a b c National Hamster Council (n.d.). "Hamster Housing". hamsters-uk.org. Retrieved 30 November 2019.
  7. ^ a b Siperstein, Linda J. (21 October 2009). "Hamster Housing - Choose your hammie's cage wisely". humanesociety.org. The Humane Society of the United States. Retrieved 26 December 2015.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Logsdail 2002, p. 25.
  9. ^ a b Field 1999, p. 20.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Logsdail 2002, p. 24.
  11. ^ a b c d Logsdail 2002, p. 26.
  12. ^ a b Logsdail 2002, p. 27.
  13. ^ a b c Field 1999, p. 23.
  14. ^ a b c d e f "Merkblatt Nr. 62 - Heimtierhaltung, Tierschutzwidriges Zubehör". www.tierschutz-tvt.de. TVT. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
  15. ^ Veillette, M.; Reebs, S.G. (2011). "Shelter choice by Syrian hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus) in the laboratory". Animal Welfare. 20: 603–611.
  16. ^ a b c d e f Logsdail 2002, p. 31.
  17. ^ Potegal, M.; Huhman, K.; Moore, T.; Meyerhoff, J. (1993). "Conditioned defeat in the Syrian golden hamster (Mesocricetus auratus)". Behavioral and Neural Biology. 60 (2): 93–102. doi:10.1016/0163-1047(93)90159-F. ISSN 0163-1047. PMID 8117243.
  18. ^ a b "Hamster Care" (PDF). ASPCA. ASPCA. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 June 2021. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
  19. ^ Ayars, GH; Altman, LC; Frazier, CE; Chi, EY (March 1989). "The toxicity of constituents of cedar and pine woods to pulmonary epithelium". The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 83 (3): 610–8. doi:10.1016/0091-6749(89)90073-0. PMID 2926083. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
  20. ^ Shamssain, MH (February 1992). "Pulmonary function and symptoms in workers exposed to wood dust". Thorax. 47 (2): 84–7. doi:10.1136/thx.47.2.84. PMC 463576. PMID 1549828.
  21. ^ a b c d e f g Logsdail 2002, p. 48.
  22. ^ Field 1999, p. 19.
  23. ^ Field 1999, p. 16, referencing
    • 9  CFR 9 /part- 1 1
    • 54 FR 168
    • Committee for the Update of the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, Institute for Laboratory Animal Research, Division on Earth and Life Studies, National Research Council of the National Academies (2011). Guide for the care and use of laboratory animals (8th ed.). Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press. ISBN 978-0309154000.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)


  • Logsdail, Chris; Logsdail, Peter; Hovers, Kate (2002). Hamsterlopaedia : a complete guide to hamster care. Lydney: Ringpress. ISBN 1860542468.
  • Field, Karl J.; Sibold, Amber L. (1999). The laboratory hamster & gerbil. Boca Raton [u.a.]: CRC Press. ISBN 0849325668.

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