Pet hamsters require a safe environment with room to move, eat, sleep and exercise. Cage materials should be sturdy enough to withstand chewing and secure enough to prevent escape. Avoid wood or soft plastic as these will encourage a hamster to gnaw. Hamster habitat location should be safely away from other pets, out of direct sunlight and away from high activity areas to keep the hamster from getting stressed. A regular feeding and cleaning schedule is recommended. Place cages away from windows and doors to protect the hamster from quick temperature fluctuations.
Food Dish & Water Bottle: Hamsters are gatherers and instinctively bring food to their sleeping area. Placing a food dish near your hamster's preferred sleeping area will keep it happy. It is normal for pet hamsters to empty a food dish without actually eating the food, they like to hide is to later consumption. Placing the food dish near the sleep area may help reduce this behavior. Hamsters require a constant source of fresh water. An approved stoppered water bottle attached to the side of your cage works best. Make sure the hamster can comfortably reach the water bottle and has no difficulty getting water from it. A small bowl can be placed under the water bottle to catch leakage however the hamster will quickly fill this up with bedding materials.
Bedding & Substrate: Hamsters will be happier if their bedding allows them to burrow and nest with. Commercial bedding consisting of wood shavings is popular however you can also use wood pellets and recycled black and white newspaper. Avoid clumping cat litter, edible bedding made with nuts, sawdust or scented material of any kind. Hamsters digest some of their own feces and any bedding that can obstruct or irritate their intestinal or respiratory systems should be avoided.
Sleeping Area: Hamsters require a darkened enclosed area to sleep in because they are active at night and often sleep during the day. A small container big enough to allow the hamster to turn around in will work. Make sure it is made of non-edible materials. Avoid thin plastic containers so that the hamster doesn't chew off and swallow small pieces. A colored glass jar placed on its side can serve as a sleeping area if the opening is large enough to provide adequate ventilation.
Cleaning: Hamster cages require cleaning once per week. Replace the bedding, change the water and wash the food bowl weekly. A complete substrate change and washing of the bottom of the cage is recommended. Allow everything to dry before adding new bedding. A simple solution of soapy water is enough to clean the hamster cage and remove any odors. Important: Place the hamster in a safe location while you clean the cage to prevent escape or injury. Recommended locations include another cage or a hamster ball.
Cage Supplies: Keep your hamster happy with regular bedding changes as well as a clean source of food and water. Keep your hamster healthy by giving it room to run such as in a hamster wheel. Hamster teeth require maintenance as they grow continually. You can buy specially designed chewing tablets that will wear down teeth and keep them healthy. A larger cage with additional areas to explore will help keep your pet hamster entertained. A hamster cage should be at least 12 inches by 12 inches in diameter per hamster.
Wire vs Tube Cage: A wired cage provides optimal ventilation and ease of cleaning. The bars of the cage must be close together so that your hamster can't get his body stuck between them. Cage openings must be securely closed to prevent escape. Interlocking tubes can be placed within a wired cage for added enjoyment. Expandable hamster habitats that are made exclusively of plastic tubes and tunnels, such as those made by Ovo or Habitrail, can be used as well. Tube cages are harder to clean that wired cages.
Aquariums as Cages: A glass aquarium can be used as a hamster cage if it has a screened top however special considerations exist. Things to consider include ease of cleaning, it may not be easy to empty and completely clean every section of a heavy glass aquarium. Ventilation is another consideration, gases from decomposing materials need to be ventilated. Poor ventilation and difficulty cleaning may result in a smelly cage that doesn't make hamster or owner happy. The only place for gases to escape in a glass aquarium are through the top which makes cleaning even more important. Some gases are heavier than air and may adversly affect your hamsters respiratory system if not properly ventilated. Opt for a light weight cage if possible.