This little rodent family used to live underground. Hamster will dig and make rooms underground to sleep, eat, store food, and other. Nowadays, domesticated hamster live above the ground, indoor, in their cage. Could a hamster be happy and healthy in this kind of environment? Compared to his natural habitat, it is quite different, isn’t it?
As a responsible owner, it is your duty to make sure the environment for your hamster is as good as the one Mother Nature has provided them with. Do your best to provide the best place for them to live for the rest of their life.
The Importance of Size
The first thing to prepare for a hamster is the cage. Buy and prepare the cage even before buying the hamster and thoroughly prepare it because it is the where he will spend the rest of his life. Make sure the cage is spacey, safe, and comfortable.
Size matters a lot. Depending on the type of hamster you plan to have, the minimum cage size will be different. For Syrian hamster, the most common pet hamster, 12×30 inches of floor space is required. For its smaller counterpart, dwarf hamster, 12×24 inches of floor space is required. The larger the size, the better it is.
If you plan to have multiple hamsters, make sure to buy one cage for each hamster. Syrian hamster is territorial and can’t be kept together in the same cage. Dwarf hamster can live together, but only when they are same sex.
There are several types of hamster cage – bar cage, aquarium cage, or modular cage. Each has their own benefits, but in the end no one is better than the other so focus on the size, the safety, and the comfort instead of the type when you are choosing the cage.
The Importance of Location
Where the cage will be kept inside the house will affect your hamster’s health and happiness, so pick the location carefully.
Hamster is sensitive to temperature change. You should maintain the temperature inside and around the cage (particularly if your cage is bar cage – which is openly exposed to the surrounding air) 65-75 F. Higher than that and your hamster may get dehydrated. Lower than that and your hamster may hibernate.
This is also why you should not put the cage in a place that gets direct sunlight such as behind the window. Keep it away from wind way as well, since the blow from the wind can make the temperature colder.
It is better if you don’t have any predator inside the house – such as cat. If you do, make sure the cat can’t enter the room at all cost. The presence of predator inside the house can stress the hamsters. Predator in this case may include your children as well. Always supervise when your children plays with your hamsters.
The Importance of Bedding
The bedding is where hamster will do most of his activities – from playing to eating to sleeping to pooping. Consider material that will accommodate all of these necessities and know material that may harm the hamster.
Some harmful materials are corn cob (since the hamster may try to eat it when it is not a good diet for hamster. It will also get moldy and may affect hamster’s health), newspaper (the ink from the newspaper can be toxic for the hamster), pine and cheddar shavings (they give off certain scent that disturb the hamster’s respiratory system), and bedding floss (hamster’s feet can get tangled in it).
The best bedding material are made from aspen shavings or any paper-based material. They can be store-bought like Carefresh or Kaytee, but you can also make them at home using unscented, plain, soft paper like tissues, toilet paper, or paper towel.
The depth of the bedding should be at least 2-3 inch so the hamster has plenty of depth to bury their food. Clean the bedding from leftover food, poop and urine every day and change the bedding once a week.
The Importance of Safety
Safety is always a priority. Your hamster’s cage should be not only comfortable, but also keep him safe from any trouble – including from accident.
Make sure there is no escape point in the cage. If your cage is made from bar, pay attention to the gap between the bars. Check if it is possible for your hamster to escape through the bar. This is another reason why you have to buy hamster cage appropriate to their breeds. Smaller dwarf hamsters need smaller gap between the bars. Even if the gap is narrow enough, pay attention to the gap in the corner point. The gap in the corner point can get a little wider than the gap in the side.
Pay attention if there is any chewable material in the cage that your hamster may make a hole and escape. If your cage has a tube connector, pay attention to the tube since the material is usually vulnerable to chewing. Hamster can even chew the cage lid if it is made from wood. A particularly stubborn hamster may even chew the bar. Replace chewable material with sturdier one to avoid this.
Don’t make the hamster cage too tall. Vertical space should not be too high from the floor so if the hamster fall there will be no danger of injury. If you have a senior hamster, it is better to remove any multifloors structure in the cage.
The Importance of Entertainment
Inside that tiny fluffy body, there is endless energy that needs to be channeled out. Hamster needs entertainment – preferably those that requires him to move. Unlike certain other animal (Kitty, I’m talking about you), hamster loves exercising and they don’t need persuading for that. Just prepare the toy and the hamsters will roll by themselves!
Running wheel is a must. It is hamster’s favorite toy inside their cage because it burns the most energy. Without it, your hamster may find another alternative to channel their energy inside the cage by running around – and there is not enough room for that in the cage. Don’t pick running wheel made from bar because the hamster’s tiny feet may slip between the gate. Also, you may want to get a good quality of running wheel that won’t make a sound when it rolls to keep the noise down.
Hamster ball burns just as much energy as running wheel, but this time your hamster can do it outside the cage! It will be fun for him to move inside a ball and explore different part of the house. Bonus point, you don’t even have to worry the little friend will go missing.
All of the things mentioned above are important for hamster’s well being and happiness in his new home. But one thing that is even more important than all of them combined is your love and attention to the little creature. Make sure you purchase the hamster because you truly want to care for him – not just for another kind of entertainment.
Have a happy time with your tiny friend!