A lot of owners would often overlook the importance of choosing the right cages for their pets. Little did they know that a good habitat can help avoid psychological problems such as the notorious cage rage which usually occurs when there is not enough space, especially for a hamster.
This can cause a lot of stress that will affect both their physical and mental health. Cage rage is often mistaken as a form of aggression, but signs such as food hoarding, ruffled hair, and red eyes will be observed in a hamster full of fear.
There are a number of factors to consider prior to purchasing a home for your pet.
These include the breed type, breed personality, number of hamsters, safety, budget, maintenance, and size according to the guidelines from The Humane Society of the United States on hamster housing.
What to Look For?
In determining the species of your hamster, you’ll easily cross out some of the mass-popular cages in the market. For example, if you’re planning on dwarf hamster cages, it is recommended that they should be escape-proof due to the size of this species.
A 0.3mm gap in between wires should be used for a wire type cage. Extra precautions should be taken for the cages for Robo dwarf hamsters – the smallest among the pet hamsters, for you to make sure that their head would not fit in between the gaps.
If you are getting a pair of Syrian hamster, it should have separate cages as they cannot live with other hamsters. They tend to be aggressive with others and may cause hostility if kept in one cage.
All hamsters are naturally lone survivors, but some pet species can live in pairs or groups if they are introduced at a young age. An example would be the Campbell’s hamster – also known as the dwarf hamster.
It would also be good if you have already determined the proper location of cages inside your homes in order to approximate the space that will be occupied. A good location would be somewhere where there is a constant warm temperature since hamsters are quite sensitive to abrupt temperature changes.
Places which are conveniently quiet and away from ultrasound devices such as computers and television would be less stressful for your pets. If you also have other pets at home, it is better that you keep the cage away from a dog or cat’s reach to avoid scaring the hamsters.
There are advantages and disadvantages for every type of hamster cages out there. Reminding yourself of the natural behavior of hamsters in the wild will guide you in choosing the suitable comfort zone for them.
These cages are probably what you would usually see in pet stores besides the popular colorful habitats. A wire cage has a solid base and coated wire bars as walls and roofings. The base is typically made of plastic and is detachable.
You may see options that have a second level for hamsters to explore and some already have accessories included as a set such as a drinking bottle or an exercise wheel.
Advantages for choosing this type include proper ventilation and you’ll have an easy access to your hamsters. It is also easier to clean if you compare it to other types.
This type also provides more selections in terms of available spaces for hamsters. This is vital since you also have to consider the things that you are to put inside the cage such as a food dish and other stimulating toys.
The thing with this cage is that it has a shallow base that makes a mess from the bedding that gets kicked out by the hammies. Also, hamsters are natural diggers so they wouldn’t be able to dig deep into them.
You should also be aware that hamsters tend to chew onto plastics so make sure that when you purchase one, the base is securely attached to the wires.
There are also wire cages that have wire floorings. However, these should be avoided. These are not good for your hamster’s paws because of their sensitivity and the gaps may only cause bruises and possible injuries.
Aquarium or Tanks
This container has a solid base and is either made from glass, plexiglass or plastic. It can be the same tank used for fishes or the glass aquariums so it usually has a solid base and sides plus an open top. It is usually purchased together with a flat, wire top to provide ventilation and to make it escape-proof.
An aquarium would be a good choice if you like to have an unobstructed view of your hamster since it has four glass sides. It would also be difficult for them to climb up and escape the cage.
The minimum recommended tank size for a hamster is at least a 20-liter gallon aquarium to provide ample space for exploring. Tanks provide the most in terms of size because a horizontal space is safer than vertical spaces as hamsters have a poor spatial perception and a fall may cause serious injuries.
The advantage also is that you can offer a deeper bedding that’s best for your hamster that it will surely enjoy. Since it also has solid sides, it is chew-proof, unlike the other types.
However, some would be hesitant for this type as it is heavy to lift so it would be harder to clean. You would need to clean it frequently to avoid respiratory problems with your hamster because of urine gas build-up.
This is in connection with the poor ventilation that it causes since the opening is only from the top. It is also quite expensive than other kinds because of its material.
Plastic Modular Habitat
Probably the most popular among the cage types especially in children, these plastic cages come in assorted colors and various tube attachments with them.
Most models are usually expandable since they are segmented so you can add more tunnels for the hamsters to wander and play around. Most of them also include a water bottle or an exercise wheel when you purchase one.
One of the major drawbacks of this design is that it is very wearisome to clean because of the small, curving tubes and tunnels that have hard-to-reach areas. This could be problematic as this can be a source of infection for your hamsters if their habitat is not cleaned well.
Another issue is that these cages generally have small sizes that even their biggest type would be comparable to an average wire or tank cage.
Another thing to watch out for is that hamsters may tend to make their beddings inside the tubes and this would be very unsafe for them. You should also have an idea how big your hamster grows as they can get stuck inside the tubes. Dwarf hamsters are more suited for this type of cage because of its size.
Hybrid cage is a combination of an aquarium bottom and a wire cage top that combines the pros of having a wire cage and a tank. There are available wire cage toppers so some people choose to buy only those and then use a secondhand aquarium as a base.
This could also be a do-it-yourself project where you can create your own design that could possibly cost cheaper than buying from pet shops.
You can have a deep bedding in the tank that would be good for burrowing and nesting. The wire cage on top will serve as an additional space for climbing and exercise. You may be able to add more accessories as well for your hamster’s enjoyment. It will also be the source of good air circulation for your pet.
Since it has a solid base this will also be harder to clean; the same with that of the aquarium type. But if you decide to make your own, you can install an opening on the underside of the aquarium for easy removal of the soiled beddings.
Many enthusiasts find that this type has the most advantages amongst the cages.
Additional Information and Tips
Syrian hamsters should not be housed in plastic modular habitats due to their very small size as these hamsters can grow up to 6 inches in length.
The dwarf and Roborovski hamsters, even if they are small, are not automatically suited for plastic modular cages since some starter habitats in pet shops are still small and can only pass as a travel carrier. They still need a lot of space because of their high energy level.
Choosing the right cage for your pet will always be a good investment as it will be their home for the next 3 to 4 years. This should be decided upon prior to getting your hamster as there are a lot of cage options for you to weigh the pros and cons. The ultimate guide would always be “the bigger cage it is, the better”.