To have a healthy and happy hamster, it is essential to correctly set up your Hamster’s enclosure and keep it clean. The enclosure is their entire world, and providing them with a safe, clean, and engaging living environment is an essential investment for your Hamster. So you may be wondering, how should I set up their enclosure?
Correctly setting up a hamster cage involves: having a suitably sized enclosure, adding a safe substrate for burrowing in, adding a range of accessories and toys such as an exercise wheel, hideout, sand bath, and chew toys, and adding food and water dishes.
1. Have a suitably sized enclosure
Your Hamster’s housing should be made of plastic, glass, or metal. It should be escape-proof with a solid bottom. In addition, a solid base is required so that you can provide enough bedding material for digging and burrowing in. Finally, a solid base and minimal wire/bar spacing make it comfortable on your Hamster’s feet.
Allow sufficient room in the housing for your Hamster to play and exercise. A cage that measures at least 450 square inches (2903 square cm) is ideal, but you can opt for something bigger. Keep in mind that many pet stores sell hamster cages that are far too small, so you may have to shop around or DIY to get one big enough. Also, you cannot connect multiple smaller cages to make the minimum required size, as hamsters need the space to run around as they would in the wild.
While hamsters acclimate to average household temperatures, they do not do well with extreme temperature changes. Therefore keep your Hamster’s enclosure out of direct sunlight or drafty areas.
To help ensure a healthy and happy hamster, you will need a regular cleaning schedule for your Hamster’s enclosure. Your Hamster can get distressed if the enclosure is cleaned too often or not enough. See this article on How to Clean Your Hamster’s Cage for information on cleaning.
2. Add substrate for burrowing in
Add at least 6 inches (16cm) of a safe substrate to your enclosure. But aim for at least 10 inches (25cm) if you can. Safe bedding options for hamsters include:
- Paper-based bedding
- Aspen wood shavings
- Hemp shavings
Generally, the best and healthiest bedding is aspen wood shavings or shredded unscented paper. However, this varies across individuals’ and hamsters’ preferences. Avoid corn cobs, fleece, cat litter, pine, cedar, or scented bedding containing chemicals that pose respiratory risks to your Hamster. The bedding should be at least 10 inches deep so that they have enough room to burrow but provide more if you can (source). This is because hamsters are naturally burrowing animals and will create multi-chamber burrows. Most hamsters won’t try to burrow unless given at least 10 inches of bedding.
As well as substrate, getting some separate bedding or nesting material is essential.
3. Add a hideout
Hideouts are important for hamsters as they provide an area to feel safe, protected, and sleep. You can have multiple hideouts in the enclosure so the Hamster can choose which one it wants to use.
Multi-chamber hideouts are an excellent option for hamsters as they mimic how a hamster would live in the wild.
4. Add a wheel for exercise
An exercise wheel is a must to prevent boredom. Hamsters are very active and need many things to exercise in their enclosures.
Avoid a wheel with wire or mesh, as your Hamster can trap a limb or get painful sores on its feet. Also, avoid flying saucer-type wheels as it encourages an unnatural way of running, and they can fall from the device.
The wheel is too small for your Hamster if they run with an arched back. If they are, purchase a larger exercise wheel.
5. Add a sand bath
Sand baths help keep your Hamster clean as hamsters can’t be bathed in water.
Hamster’s a more likely to use the sand bath if they feel safe, so put a hideout in the sand bath.
See this article on Hamster Sand Baths: Everything You Wanted to Know for more information on sand baths.
6. Add accessories and toys
Hamsters require many accessories and toys to keep them entertained and mentally stimulated. Hamsters love toys that they can climb and hide-and-seek style toys.
Hamsters are prey animals, so they will be more comfortable if there is not a lot of open space in the enclosure. Have lots of areas they can hide in to feel safe. Make the enclosure semi-crowded.
Hamsters like to have a hiding place. This can be a cardboard tunnel or a little plastic hideaway bungalow. Be sure to use something designed for a hamster, though, versus repurposing a toy meant for a child or another pet.
7. Add chew toys
Ensure your Hamster has plenty of wood chew sticks or mineral chews to chew on and maintain their teeth. Hamster’s teeth are constantly growing, and therefore, they need something to chew on to wear them down and avoid medical issues.
There are a variety of chew toys available, so buy a few different options and see which one your Hamster likes best.
8. Add food and water sources
You will need a food dish and either a water dish or a water bottle. You can also scatter-feed your Hamster throughout the enclosure to encourage their natural foraging skills. If you get a bowl, get a small one that doesn’t take up too much space.
You must provide fresh, clean, and chlorine-free water in a water bottle or dish. Hang the water bottle at a height a hamster can drink from at a natural angle. Water has to be checked and changed daily.
See this article on Water bottle or Water dish: Which is Best for your Hamster? for more information.
A hamster’s cage is their whole world. Therefore, it is essential to set up your Hamster with a suitably sized enclosure containing a safe substrate for burrowing in, a range of accessories and toys such as an exercise wheel, hideout, sand bath, and chew toys, as well as food and water dishes.