There are a lot of different options out there when it comes to hamster cages, but only a few that are actually suitable for hamsters to live in. In this post we'll take a look what your hamster needs from their cage, and some things to think about when you're shopping for a new hamster cage.
Hamsters Need Space
The biggest problem with most of the hamster cages out there is that they're just not big enough. Hamsters need enough space to be able to scurry around, forage for food and dig a large burrow. Without a really big cage, you're also not going to be able to fit in enough enrichment.
The recommended minimum size for a hamster cage is 80x50cm for males and 100x50cm for females, but these really are the minimum. Research has shown that stress-related behaviours in hamsters decrease with larger cage sizes. A study carried out in 2007 showed that hamsters showed less wire chewing behaviour (which is caused by stress) when they were in 1m^2 (e.g. 100cm x 100cm) cages, compared to smaller sizes of cage. As far as I'm aware there isn't a hamster cage of this size currently available- so this is why a lot of hamster parents prefer DIY cage options. Although giving your hamster a cage this size is going to take up more space and cost a fair bit more money, if it's at all possible for you to do, it will make such a difference to your hamster.
A hamster's cage also needs to allow them to burrow. This is another natural behaviour for hamsters, and one that we always need to encourage. The best way to do this is by making sure they have a deep enough layer of bedding (at least 30cm deep) to be able to burrow in. For you to do this though, the solid base of your hamster's cage needs to be deep enough that the bedding doesn't just fall out between the bars.
As well as having the floor space, and being deep enough for your hamster to burrow in, your hamster's cage needs to be secure enough to keep your hamster inside it. This means that for a cage with bars, the bars need to be less than 13mm apart and the plastic base needs to be sturdy enough that your hamster can't gnaw their way through it. (Even with the sturdiest of cages you should regularly check the base for any signs that your hamster has started to gnaw their way through it). Security-wise, one of the best options is a glass terrarium with a mesh roof, or a DIY cage with glass sides and a mesh roof. These are really the only way you can guarantee your hamster isn't going to be able to gnaw their way out. If your cage has wooden ends these can be covered with perspex to make it a lot more difficult for your hamster to gnaw their way out.
All that being said, the larger and more enriching their cage is, the less likely they are to want to gnaw their way out in the first place.
Buying A Hamster Cage
So if you've already had a look around, you might have noticed that a lot of hamster cages out there don't meet these needs. Most of them don't come anywhere close. So when you're looking to buy a cage for your first hamster, or you're looking to upgrade your hamster's existing cage, you need to have a good look around and get the best cage you can possibly afford to get. Our hamsters are going to spend their whole lives living in their cage, so it needs to allow them to do everything that a hamster would naturally want to do.
The truth is that it's very difficult to buy a hamster cage that your hamster will be able to be happy living in. As a lot of hamsters still feel restless and stressed in even the largest of cages out there, so hamster parents are having to get a bit more creative and many are turning to DIY options. A post on this is coming soon! For now, check out Syrian Hamsters UK & Beyond Facebook group, or Victoria Raechel's DIY Hamster Cage Video to get you started.
Thanks for reading, and I hope this post was helpful to you and your hammies 🙂