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Hamster Cages

All hamster cages are definitely not created equally. Compare the most common types of cages used to corral hamsters, and you'll see why.

What to Look for in a Hamster Habitat

Hamster Cages

Here are the most important factors to keep in mind when searching for a hamster cage for your pet.

  • Ventilation - Air flow is necessary to keep your hamster in good health. A damp environment will almost certainly lead to respiratory problems and bacterial infections.
  • Security - Hamsters are master escape artists. If they can get their head through a space, they can usually squeeze the rest of their body through. Choose a cage you can close securely, and you want to make sure any bars are spaced closely together. This will keep your hamster tucked safely inside his enclosure, but it also does double duty keeping other household pets from reaching inside his enclosure to harm him.
  • Exercise - Hamsters spend a good deal of time sleeping, and they can grow quite fat without enough exercise. The cage you choose should have adequate room for a wheel or come equipped with areas that encourage your pet to climb and exercise.
  • Easy to clean - Cleaning the cage is the least attractive aspect of hamster care. Choosing a cage that is easy to clean means you'll likely clean it more often.
  • Deep bottom tray for adequate litter - Hamsters love to burrow beneath their litter, and the material also absorbs spills and soiling. A deep tray ensures room for an adequate litter supply, and it also helps keep that litter from being scattered.

Compare Hamster Cages

There are three basic types of hamster enclosures that most owners use to house their pets, and each has its good and bad points. Compare each style to learn which one best fits the criteria listed above.

Aquariums

At first glance, aquariums seem like they would be a good habitat for a hamster. The four glass sides allow you to easily view the entire enclosure. The glass sides prevent the hamster from climbing up the bars or even through them to escape. The glass also keeps the shavings and other debris from being pushed push out to litter the surrounding area.

While all of these features do combine to make a potentially great habitat, there are drawbacks to housing your hamster in an aquarium

  • The glass sides prevent optimum airflow. This means that ammonia fumes from soiled litter build up quickly, and the topmost layer of the litter remains damp longer.
  • Clean up is no easy task. Even small aquariums are heavier than the average wire cage, so it takes a bit of time and maneuvering to dump the soiled litter and wipe down all the glass walls and floor until they are free from smears.
  • The smooth sides offer no place to hang a water bottle, so you must purchase an additional hanger or opt to use a less sanitary water bowl instead.
  • Lids must be purchased separately. Without a secure lid, hamsters are still in danger of escaping and susceptible to dangers from other pets.

The price of a basic five gallon glass aquarium runs about $10.00 to $15.00.

Plastic Cages

All-plastic hamster enclosures typically have full plastic sides similar to aquariums. Most have a vented plastic lid, and some have additional openings to add on exercise tubes. Many come equipped with their own exercise wheel. They do a good job of keeping your pet secure, and the litter is contained inside the enclosure. However, the drawbacks to this style of cage are nearly the same as encountered with an aquarium.

  • Lack of ventilation
  • Great difficulty disassembling the cage and tubes for cleaning
  • Limited access to your pet

The price of a basic plastic cage begins around $20.00 and goes up depending on the size of the unit and accessories included.

Combination Wire and Plastic Cages

Hamster cages made from a combination of wire walls and top with a deep plastic bottom tray are usually the ideal setup. They provide adequate airflow, and they do a decent job of preventing excess litter from being kicked or pushed outside the cage. The trays easily snap away from the wire to make cleaning fairly easy, although models equipped with travel tubes still require more effort. You can hang a water bottle from the side of the cage, and this eliminates the soggy mess usually encountered when a hamster soils his water bowl, kicks shavings into it or completely dumps it over.

The only drawback to this type of cage is certainly a preventable one; be sure to place the cage away from windows and drafts. Ventilation is good, but drafts can make your hamster sick.

The average price for these cages is $30.00 - $35.00.

Cage Accessories

No hamster cage is complete without the following accessories.

  • A heavy food bowel or an automatic feeder - Hamster love to tip over their bowls and hide their food. A heavy ceramic bowl makes this more difficult. An automatic feeder that hangs on the cage bars also reduces the amount of food wasted.
  • A water bottle - As previously mentioned, hamsters can foul their water very quickly. A hanging water bottle with a steel, ball-drip drinking tube ensures your pet always has clean drinking water. It's best to purchase a metal guard hanger for the outside of the cage, and poke just the drinking tube through the bars to prevent your pet from chewing a hole in his bottle.
  • An exercise wheel - A wheel allows your pet to get the most exercise in his limited space.
  • A chew toy - Hamster teeth grow continually. While they are worn down while eating, having an extra chew toy in the crate will help keep your hamster from nibbling the edges of his tray.
  • Safe litter bedding - Recycled newspaper bedding, pelleted straw and hemlock, spruce or fir wood shavings are all acceptable bedding for your pet.

Once you know all the facts, selecting hamster cages really isn't that difficult.

By Kelly Roper