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ENCLOSURES

and

BEDDING

Enclosures

For all species, a hamster enclosure must have a 5000 cm squared floor space or larger, regardless of size or age. Hospital cages are an exception to this minimum (further information in the section on medical care).
Hamsters are crepuscular animals, which means they are most active at dawn/dusk (all hamsters are different, so their waking times will vary; however, a significant change is cause for concern). In the wild, they can run many miles a night despite their small size, so it's important to give them a large floor space in captivity, too.
 
A height of over 50 cm is also essential, as hamsters are burrowers. They need sections of bedding at least 20 cm, preferably 25 + cm deep, to burrow, and you must compress their bedding (pushed down) to ensure it will hold burrows. The Detolf, Zoo Zone 2, and Maxi Duna can be suitable for dwarf hamsters despite being less than 50 cm tall, as they require smaller accessories so deeper bedding can fit.

Buying online is the best option, as finding suitable enclosures in a pet shop or similar is very difficult. Be aware of 'Extra Large.' These are often far too small. A total floor space of 5000 cm squared or larger is the ethical minimum (levels do not increase floor space and can be dangerous if misused, so we highly advise against them). Remember that Syrians/Chinese hamsters do not thrive in narrow enclosures, so a minimum of 50 cm wide is also advisable when buying your enclosure. 

Height is not essential to hamsters, as they are ground dwellers, so it is best to remove any shelves from your enclosure. Not only are these unnecessary, but they can also be dangerous, as hamsters have poor eyesight and can easily fall off the edge. The free vertical space then allows for more bedding, which is much more enriching and will help with lots of happy burrowing!

Barred Enclosures

Barred enclosures are often easier to find, but they have many disadvantages. Small doors and hatches mean limited accessibility, and the bars allow for behaviours like bar climbing, which is usually a sign of boredom or stress and can be very dangerous. These behaviours may not stop even with added enrichment, so you might have to change to barless. Due to the shallow trays in most barred cages, a sufficient depth of bedding can't be provided, so you need to purchase plastic screens/seagrass mats/plain cardboard. These cover portions of the bars, stopping bedding from spilling out of the enclosure bars.

Savic Plaza

savic plaza barred cage

120 cm option is preferred to the 100 cm option. There is only a single door but is large and offers good access.

Barney/Alexander

barney/alexander barred cage

Can only be found second hand.  There is a large top door and side doors, however the top tends to bow.

Langham XL

langham xl barred cage

Good accessibility. We advise to cover the bars to prevent bar climbing, as a fall from height is dangerous.

Barless Enclosures

We always recommend barless enclosures due to visibility and accessibility. Some of these pre-built enclosures may need a mesh lid made from suitable rodent mesh to provide enough ventilation.

DIY ENCLOSURE

example diy enclosure made from wood panels and plastic

DIY has huge amount of freedom over size and aesthetics, but it takes more time and tools than other options.

Linmon DIY

diy linmon enclosure

A specific type of DIY made from IKEA table tops. Requires a little skill to make, but there are lots of tutorials online.

Eco Living World Med/Large

eco living world enclosure

Fairly expensive. Large option is huge! Mesh the top for robos/dwarfs to prevent them escaping.

Aquarium

glass aquarium

Very good value second hand and lots of sizes available. May need to make a mesh lid.

Pawhut

wooden rectangular pawhut enclosure

Pre-built enclosure for a reasonable price. Platforms need to be removed to allow space for deep bedding.

Maxi Duna

maxi duna plastic and barred lid enclosure

The height is restrictive and will only fit deep bedding in one section. It is also only suitable for Dwarf/Robos.

Our recommendations can commonly be found secondhand on Facebook marketplace or other platforms. This can save you a lot of money compared to new. Items inside the enclosures could be more suitable, as many have tiny wheels or platforms. If you are unsure of an item, it is best to avoid it and stick to what you know is safe.

Bedding

Hamsters are burrowing animals, creating tunnels as deep as 2 metres in the wild. Therefore, deep sections of bedding of at least 20 cm are required, while we recommend 25 cm or more.

You may want to bury tunnels into the bedding to encourage your hamster to burrow. These are called burrow starters. Some hamsters will prefer one bedding over another, and you should try a few out to see which your hamster likes the best.

Hamsters' respiratory systems are highly sensitive, so scented bedding should never be used. Respiratory infections are serious health complications that can result in death. Scented bedding is not a solution to a hamster's smell, which should be insignificant anyway with a correct cleaning schedule and enough bedding. If this is still a sticking point, it might be worth considering whether a hamster would be a suitable pet for you.

Wood Shavings and Sawdust

Wood shavings sold in pet shops are commonly made from softwoods like pine or cedar. Both can cause respiratory infections due to chemicals called phenols, which irritate a hamster's lungs.

Sawdust is never safe. It's often made from unsafe wood and is far too dusty, so it's likely to cause respiratory infections.

Aspen shavings are safe wood shavings; however, we don't often recommend them as they can set off allergies and are tougher to walk on.

Paper Based Bedding

Paper bedding is highly recommended because most brands hold burrows well and are entirely safe. We suggest this as the main bedding in your enclosure, and we specifically recommend Megazorb. Check our list below and infographics for suggestions on safe and good-value brands in order of our preference (from experience).

Fitch First (pet bedding)

bag of Fitch First paper bedding

Comes in large packs

A staple bedding which holds burrows when compressed.

Megazorb

hamster cheerio in her large burrows

Burrow Stability

Compressed, it holds huge burrows.

(we highly recommend and use it for our own hamsters as seen above)

Small Pet Select

bag of Small Pet Select paper bedding

Popular

Compacted it can hold burrows and comes in a natural colour. More expensive compared to the others.

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