The hamster’s cage is the most important purchase you’ll ever make for your furry friend. I know I made some mistakes when I got my Teddy his first cage. And I’m here to help you get your hammy the best cage ever.
My Teddy is a fully grown Syrian hamster, but I will also cover the cage requirements for dwarf hamsters as well.
So how do you choose the best cage for a syrian or dwarf hamster ?
This depends on several factors, and I’ll list them here. Then, we’ll get into detail for each and every one of them, so you have the most information. So, you have to be mindful of:
- The cage size – different needs for different hamster species
- The cage type – plastic vs wire vs glass tank
- Escape-proof rating of the cage
- Multiple levels or a simple ground level
- Air flow – some cage types aren’t the most breatheable
Whichever kind of cage you get, be careful to check every nook and cranny before you buy it. Or, when it ships to you. Your hamster will check it anyway, so if there’s anything wrong with the cage, best to know before you put your friend in it.
Teddy: Us hamsters are very curious creatures, and we’ll get our little faces into EVERY part of the cage. So make sure it’s safe for us before you let us in !
The best cage size for your hamster
It will vary from species to species, but I’ll cover both types. In general hamsters need more space than you’d think, since they’re very active creatures and love to run around.
Even if you see your friend as the smallest ball of fur, he will still need plenty of room to roam and explore.
Cage size for Syrian hamsters
The best size cage for your Syrian hamster would be a minimum of 24 x 12 inches, and about 12 inches tall. That’s 61 x 30.5 cm, and about 30.5 cm tall.
The height of the cage is not very important, because hamsters need more actual floor space than levels. Of course, you can get your hammy a cage with a few levels, aside from the ground floor.
This is actually what my Teddy has. He has a combination of plastic and wire cage, with 2 attachable levels. I left the highest level out of the cage, so I can fit his 8.5 inch/23 cm wheel.
Syrian hamsters are always housed alone. They are very territorial and will not share anything with another hamster, even a litter mate.
Cage size for Dwarf hamsters
The best size for a dwarf hamster is 18 x 10 inches, and a 12 inch height. That’s 46 cm x 25.4 cm, with a 30.5 cm height. That is for one dwarf hamster.
You can house dwarf hamsters together, but not too many. 2 or 3 are enough, but for each hamster your add, you will need a bigger cage. So for example if you’ve got 2 dwarf hamsters, then they will need more space than I said above.
They will need at least a Syrian cage, so that’s 24 inches by 12 inches (61 x 30.5 cm) for 2 dwarf hamsters.
If you’ve got 3 dwarf hamsters, then you’ll need a much bigger cage. You’d be better off looking for a glass tank. We’ll cover that soon.
The best cage type for your hamster
There’s 3 main types of cages you can pick, and I’ll go through all of them. You can find combination cages (like plastic and wire cages), but not very often.
Wire cages for hamsters
The most common kind of hamster cage, and the one you will find in a pet shop most of the time. They have their own advantages and disadvantages, and I’ll go through them here.
This kind of cage is made up of a plastic bottom, usually about the height of your palm. The attachable wire walls, which are actually most of the cage itself.
Although, the most important part is the bottom bit. That is where your hamster will live, walk, eat, sleep, and poo.
The wire of the cage is just how far he can go. But the floor space is the most relevant part of your cage, to be honest.
Good points for a wire cage:
- breathable, lots of air flow for your hamster
- easy to clean, just a wipe down with a warm, moist cloth
- easy to take apart and reassemble
- generally sturdy, will last a long time
Bad points for a wire cage:
- can sometimes have metal wiring on the floor, and your hamster can get stuck there
- is the hamster’s favorite chew toy
- bedding can easily fly out of it
- wire spacing is often too large for hamsters, they can squeeze their heads through
When it comes to the space between the wire of your cage, the smaller then better. The thing is, hamsters are very curious, and will stick their faces everywhere and will try chewing everything.
If your hamster’s head can fit between the wires, then his body can fit as well and he can escape. So, for Syrian hamsters a maximum wire space should be 0.6 inches/1.5 cm. And for dwarf hamsters, a maximum of 0.4 inches/ 1 cm.
The problems is that most of the cages your will find in a pet shop have the wiring too far apart. If they’re large enough for a Syrian, then the wiring is too far apart. If the wiring is good, they’re almost always just large enough for a parakeet, not a hamster of any kind.
A good wire cage for your hamster
It’s easy enough to work with and you an fit any kind of hideout or toy inside, and a tall wheel will fit as well.
It has the added benefit of an extra level, which hamsters will love. My Teddy loves to hide under the home level, and yours is probably no different. This one’s level is adjustable, so you can place it whichever way you want.
Plastic cages for hamsters
These can be plastic bins that you can drill some holes in, and put a wire mesh in place of a lid. Or you can even find plastic cages at a pet shop, designed for your hamster.
These are see-through, and are the second most common type of hamster cages. They’re usually a bit more pricey than wire cages, but they have the added benefit that they can be customized.
Good points for plastic hamster cages:
- less bedding thrown outside the cage, contains poo and wood shavings better
- easier to customize, you can often find them with holes made for attaching tunnels and tubes
- less of a chew hazard, the hamster rarely chews on them since he can’t get his teeth on anything
- usually has a very large topside latch, so you can fit both hands inside the cage
- you can provide deeper bedding, since there is a higher plastic guard
Bad points for plastic hamster cages:
- less airflow than wire cages or glass tanks, since the air holes are smaller
- more condensation or trapped air
- need more cleaning, since there is more surface to clean
- less sturdier than wire cages, careful when moving the plastic cages
The plastic cages sound like a good option, and they can totally be a good option for your hamster. If you’ve got a hamster who loves to dig around and burrow, this might be for him. You can give your friend a lot of digging space and a whole bunch of bedding to roam around in.
Just make sure that you get a version that’s well ventilated, so your hamster can breathe easily.
As for the actual bins some people use in place of a hamster cage, I wouldn’t recommend that. The plastic is usually too soft and blurry, even if it can be drilled to get some air holes for your hamster.
When it comes to basic, important hamster accessories like the cage or the wheel or exercise ball, or even the water bottle, I suggest you get a professional one. Those are made with the hamster’s comfort in mind.
A good plastic hamster cage recommendation
This is actually the cage I have for my Teddy. It has 2 levels, and they provide a lot of room for your hamster. My Teddy is a solitary adult Syrian hamster, But this would be alright for 2 dwarf hamsters as well.
This is an easy to clean and assemble cage, with a great combo between plastic and metal cage advantages. There’s air, and there’s safety and containment as well.
I removed the highest level so I can fit 9 inch wheel inside. The wheel that come with it, as well as the hideout I wouldn’t recommend, since they are plastic and small.
Glass tanks for hamsters
A third and final option would be to keep your hammy in a glass tank. This is a great option if you have a lot of space in your home, and can place la large glass tank somewhere.
There are some special precautions, though. Glass keeps cold for longer, so make sure you keep the tank in a definitely warm room. Hamsters need an temperature of 20-23 Celsius/68-75 Fahrenheit to feel comfortable. A glass tank might keep them colder if not properly maintained.
Good points for a glass tank:
- you can get them in a very large size, and will definitely fit any kind of hamster you have
- can be split down the middle with a large bendy bridge if the hamsters become rowdy
- you can see your hammy, but he can’t kick out any bedding
- can be found quite easily, it can even be a glass shelf with the shelves removed
Bad points for a glass tank:
- cleaning and changing the bedding will need serious planning and will take more time
- more sensitive to temperature shifts
- you can’t move it around like a normal cage; the room you keep it in is its final room
The glass tank is a seriously good option if you’ve got a room to keep the hamster in, and it won’t bother you during the night, and you can keep it an even temperature.
Glass tanks don’t have to be aquariums. They can be that, but you can also use a glass shelf/display rack. When cleaning day comes, you’ll probably need a bit of help from a friend with this. But if you’re a dedicated hamster owner, you probably won’t mind the extra trouble to give your hammy the best home ever.
The best thing to do is to find a wire mesh that you can use as a lid, on the top of your hamster’s glass tank. This is just a precaution. Most glass tanks are too tall for hamsters to climb, but you never know until they’re out.
A recommendation on glass tanks for hamsters
You can find a good glass tank here. It’s a 20 gallon tank, and that’s about the minimum for a hamster’s glass tank.
The cleaning and washing and drying will be a longer process than the other cage types, but you can see your hamster clearly.
When it comes to glass anything, it’s best to go there personally and buy it. Glass breaks very easily so don’t be surprised if that happens during transport.
Safety and escape-proof rating of the hamster cage
Another important aspect when you choose the hamster’s cage is how safe it is for your hamster, and how well it can keep him contained.
Hamster’s safety in his cage
Your hamster’s cage is his home. This is where he will eat, sleep, poop, run around, and just live out his entire life. It needs to be a safe place for your hamster. So let’s look at a few precautions to take:
- check for any sharp edges your hammy could hurt himself on, like some stray wires or sides
- no chipped edges if you’re using a glass tank
- the seams/corners are safe and can’t be chewed on, and have no visible glue that the hamster can gnaw on
- if you’ve got a multi level cage, make sure the levels aren’t too high so he can’t fall too far
- give your hammy lots and lots of bedding to shield him from any odd edges
- make sure the cage fastenings don’t come open easily, and keep the cage top well secured
If you’ve checked all of the above, and you’re sure your hammy can’t hurt himself on anything, then great ! Remember to keep the room temperature between 20-23 Celsius/68-75 Fahrenheit and he will be fine.
Is the hamster’s cage escape proof ?
Hamsters are escape artists. Not because they reaaaaally want to escape, but because they’re curious and want to know everything, If there’s something that smells like food, they’ll be all over the cage to try to get to it.
If they see you they’ll be clawing at the cage to come and smell you. Hamsters are busy things, people to see, things to do. So they will try their teeth on everything, including the cage.
If you’re not careful, he might chew through a cage fastening (depending on the material) and hurt himself and/or manage to escape. So let’s talk about what you can do to make sure your hamster can’t escape.
- if you’ve got a glass tank, use a wire mesh with metal clamps to fit it on top of the cage
- make sure the cage wiring and the wire mesh holes don’t have more than 1.5 cm/0.6 inch opening for Syrian hamsters
- for dwarf hamsters, make sure the opening between wires is no more than 1 cm/0.4 inches; Syrian hamster babies need smaller openings, like this one
- make sure that the cage fastenings keep the cage well closed and can’t be opened easily
- check the cage for any weakness that the hamster night chew on, like ripped plastic bottom or a small hole somewhere
How to clean a hamster’s cage
This depends a bit on what type of cage you own, but I’ll go through each type. Whichever kind you have, you must first place the hamster(s) somewhere else. So use an exercise ball, or transport cage, to keep the hamster while you clean he cage.
How to place a hamster in a temporary holding
If you can hold your hamster, then scoop him up and place him in his exercise ball or transport cage. If the hamster can’t be handled, then coax him into the exercise ball or transport cage with a bit of food he loves.
He only has to stay there until you clean his cage. If you’ve put him in an exercise ball, make sure you keep an eye on him as well.
Remove any and all toys and home and food bowls from the cage, until you only have the bedding.
The cages are very simple, open the latches on the cage (usually on the side) and remove the top. Then, after you’ve removed everything but the bedding, look for soiled parts.
If the bedding looks relatively clean and doesn’t smell, remove only the dirty parts. Use a rubber glove, and throw away the parts that need to be thrown away. Keep a bit of the old bedding and nesting material, for your hamster to feel more familiar.
If you’re using a sand bath for your hamster, make sure you change and clean that as well.
How to clean wire or plastic cages for hamsters
As for the cage itself, it will need only hot water and a bit of soap. Small quantities of soap, since hamsters are very sensitive to smell. You can scrub the sides of the cage, or wipe them down, your choice.
You can also bring the cage parts into the shower and give them a good cleaning there, just make sure your pat them dry with paper towels and especially the lower part. The bedding can get wet if you don’t, and will become moldy.
Once you’ve washed and dried the cage, place the parts of the old bedding back onto the lower part of the cage. Put new bedding if you need to, until you reach a depth of about 1-2 inches/2.5-5 cm.
Then, place back every toy and food bowl or accessory in the hamster’s cage. In his hideout, place the bits of the old nesting material, and some new nesting material in the cage.
Do not place new nesting material directly in the hamster’s hideout. He will take it out anyway, and bring it back in as he thinks fit. My Teddy got quite annoyed when he found his hideout full of ripped up paper towel not the way he left it.
Cleaning a glass tank for hamsters
The bedding and toys need to be removed the same way as the wire or plastic cages. But the last bits of bedding will require something like a vacuum cleaner, to make sure you get absolutely everything out.
The cleaning and washing part is done with hot water and a small amount of soap, but will need more rinsing with a moist clean cloth. You can’t bring the glass tank to the shower, but you can rinse it thoroughly with lots and lots or moist cloth.
When you’re done washing it, dry very well with paper towels. If you want to be extra sure there are no hidden water droplets in the corner, use a blow dryer. Keep it a safe distance from the glass, at least 40 cm/16 inches and use a warm setting.
After you’re done washing and drying the glass tank, place back the bedding and nesting material, with bits of old bedding and nesting material as well.
Place the toys and hideout and everything back, and use this as an excuse to maybe redecorate the hammy’s place.
Even if the glass tank is a glass one, do now use window washing liquid on it. The alcohol and strong smell will be harmful for the hamster, just stick to hot water.
Multiple levels or one ground level ?
This is entirely up to you, and the hamster will enjoy both. The thing is that hamsters need a lot of leg room, because they run and climb and explore new places.
If you’re looking for a hamster cage that will give your hamster a lot of space, look for a low cage, with lots of space in width and length. This will take up a lot of actual floor space in your home. So, it depends on your home as well.
If you choose a multi-level cage, you do give your hamster more room, and he will use the higher levels as well. He will hangout mostly around his hideout, so make sure you put that somewhere he will not fall far from.
For example my Teddy has a multiple level cage. I took out the last level so I can fit his wheel inside, but Teddy uses all the space he has. When I gave him the extra level, he used that one too.
A word of caution though. Hamsters can’t judge heights very well, so they will jump or fall from a high ground if they think it’s a shortcut. My Teddy is also plain silly and just forgets he has a nice ramp set up from his upper level to the ground level.
He sometimes just jumps from the upper level (like 15 cm/6 inches) to the ground floor. He often just climbs up instead of using that ramp. That’s okay, he’s working out quite well.
So if you get your hamster a multi-level cage, make sure your give the levels lots of bedding. And also, make sure the levels overlap a little, so he can’t jump too far down.
This is because hamsters will use the actual floor of the levels as much as they can, so there is no point if giving them a ‘high ceiling’ type of cage. Hamsters spend most of their time on all 4 feet, and don’t need a lot of vertical space to stand.
Just make sure that a large exercise wheel (9 inches/23 cm and upwards) will fit into the type of cage you have.
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The airflow of the cage is important for your hamster
As with every living being, air is important. Stale air will give your hamster a lot of health issues, including lung problems, possible colds, and suffocation in extreme cases.
To make sure your hamster gets lots of air, a wire cage is best. But to mare sure the hamster won’t chew the bars, you need a plastic cage or glass tank. But with the plastic cage the air quality is often a problem.
However a glass tank is often expensive. So what should you do ?
Take a look at your budget, see which kind of cage you can provide your hamster and still be okay. Then, do the following:
- If you get a wire cage – keep it in a corner, away from drafts and in an even temp of 20-23 Celsius/68-75 Fahrenheit
- If you get a plastic cage – place the hamster in his exercise ball more often, and use that time to air out the plastic cage
- If you’ve got a glass tank, the air will be sufficient but again keep it from drafts, and when the hamster is outside the cage remove the wire mesh to allow for more air
If you hamster’s cage isn’t properly aired, the condensation and air quality will give him health problems, and we want to avoid that. This is especially important with the ammonia fumes from the hamster’s pee.
Protect your hamster’s cage from drafts and any especially cold air.
Placing toys and hideouts in the hamster’s cage
The hideout is where your hamster will spend most of his time. Place that in a corner, hidden from sight or at least under a bendy bridge or something similar.
Hamsters will choose a very hidden and safe spot to build their nest, so put their hideout there. For example my Teddy often uses the most hidden corner of his cage to eat, under the upper level and blocked by paper tubes and bedding.
To find out more about what kind of hideout is best for your hamster, as well as which kind of bedding is safe for him, check out my article. You’ll also find out what nesting material is okay, and how to take care if your hamster’s hideout.
As for the toys and wheel, make sure you keep any tall toys away from the glass tank’s edge otherwise the hamster might climb out.
The wheel can be anywhere in the cage, but make sure it fits into your cage. If it’s a mounted wheel, it will have to be attached to the side of the cage. A standing wheel can be placed anywhere.
You can find my article on what kind of exercise wheel your hamster needs, according to his size as well. You’ll also find out how to clean and acre for the exercise wheel, and how to acclimate him to one.
The toys, whether they’re food bowls or chew toys or bendy bridges can be put anywhere. Anywhere in the cage is fine, as long as they’re not in the pee corner. Hamsters usually choose a corner to pee in, usually the farthest away from their hideout.
So, in that particular corner I put Teddy a sand bath. It acts as a litter box, and it keeps smell down to a minimum. You can use an old hideout, with a removable lid, or even special sand containers. Your choice, as long as you put something there to contain the sand.
Other toys, like the chew toys and climb toys you can find out more about here. You’ll learn about the kind of toys your hamster needs, and what to look for to figure out which he likes the most. And you’ll get some DYI ideas for some of them as well !
Where to keep the hamster’s cage in your home
This is something you’ll have to think about for a few minutes, see where the best option is. Best not to move the hamster’s cage often.
Hamsters are sensitive, and do notice and wake up when you move their cage. It won’t shock or scar them for life, but they do notice.
That being said, I do move my Teddy’s cage every day, because of my apartment’s layout. During the day when he sleeps he is in our bedroom, and I never move him.
But at night, before I go to bed, I move him to the kitchen where my girlfriend can’t hear him rummaging through his cage.
Hamsters rarely make noise, and they’re very quiet by nature, but she’s a light sleeper. In the morning, we take him back to the bedroom and don’t disturb him for the rest of the day.
Now, if you’ve got an apartment with a better setup than I do, figure out a place to keep him at all times. It’s best if it’s a room where he can’t be bothered by other pets or curious children when he sleeps.
If you have a room for the hamster alone, then you can probably get him a glass tank (not taking the budget into account) since it will stay in one place.
The room you keep your hamster in needs to be free of drafts, with an even temperature. Do not place the cage in direct sunlight, or near a heat source.
How to safely move and handle a hamster’s cage
The cage should not be moved often, but there will be times when you must do this. When this does happen, make sure you do not grab the cage by the top part, at all.
Even if it has a nice handle to hold, do not trust it. Most of those are poorly build and will not hold that weight.
Do not hold the wiring, since your fingers can become stuck, and the hamster will possibly chew them as well. If you’ve got a long sleeve shirt, keep the sleeves or any shirt part away from the wire cage wall.
If possible, try not to bump the cage into the wall or drop it. Avoid taking it up and down the stairs, since you won’t see very well. Even more important, if the hamster is still inside the cage. In these situations use a transport cage for the hamster, and empty the large cage to hold it in an way you can see in front of you.
When picking up the cage, pick it up by the lowest part of the bottom. Make sure your thumbs don’t stick into the cage or the hamster might nibble and you might drop him.
When placing the hamster’s cage down on the floor, do not bend over, but kneel. This is easier on your back, and safe for the hamster as well.
A word from Teddy
I hope you have a clear idea of what kind of home us hamsters need now. There are difference between hammies like me (Syrian hamsters) and dwarf hamsters, but we’re more alike than different.
Us Syrian hamsters need larger cages, and dwarf hamsters can do with smaller ones, but always add more space for each new hamster.
For example my dwarf brothers and sisters can be housed together, in same sex pairs. But I need to be alone, I don’t like sharing my space or toys or… well, anything.
If you want to know more about hamsters in general, you can check out the articles below. You’ll find out more about why we eat our poop, and how much water we need as well !