Taking your hamster somewhere is never easy. The critter can get panicky and you want to keep the trip as short as possible. But what if you really need to move the hamster, like a vet visit, or moving house ?
This is what I’ll be helping you out with, and my Teddy will give you a few important things to remember along the way. He is an adult Syrian hamster, so if yours is like him, then we can be buddies !
So how do I safely transport my hamster ?
The very idea of moving your hamster is not safe for him, but in general it’s best to keep the cage and the toys inside the hamster cage lightweight.
During travel sudden stops or sharp turns might move the cage and the things inside the cage can hurt the hamster.
Also, try and keep the duration and distance as short as possible. Avoid public transport, with loud noises and people bumping into you. Go for an air conditioned car that can get you there fast.
There are more things to keep in mind than this, so Teddy and I will get into detail with all of them. But as a reminder:
Teddy: Us hamsters are very easy to scare, so try not to rattle, bump, jostle, throw or shake our transport cage, and keep us well ventilated !
Food and water for transporting your hamster
When you transport your little hamster, you’ll want to keep him well stocked on food and water. The problem is what kind of food and water.
What you can do instead is get a few slices of cucumber, and place them every once in a while in your hamster’s cage. Cucumbers have very high water content, and are safe for your hamster to eat. The cucumber will give your hamster enough water to last him the trip and back again, without spilling anything.
Best to get several thick slices, and store them in a cool bag. Place one at a time every few hours in your hamster’s cage and he will have enough liquid.
To know more about your hamster’s usual water needs, read my article here.
As for the kind of food the hamster needs, it’s best if it is something dry like grains or a food mix from your favorite pet shop. Place a couple of his favorite treats in the cage as well, to make the trip more comfortable for him.
Another type of food you should bring is a hard kind of treat for your hamster to nibble on. This is to give him something better than the cage to gnaw on, and also to relieve some of his anxiety.
The best kind of dog treat for hamsters is either the plain kind – with no added flavors – or a milk bone. Milk bones are basically dog treats, but with added vitamins and minerals. They don’t necessarily contain milk, that’s just the name.
Given the size of hamsters, and the size of dog treats, one treat will last your little one a long way. So basically a box of dog treats could possibly last the entire life of the hamster.
Best to sprinkle the food in your hamster’s bedding, so he will forage for it during the trip and be distracted.
For a clear list of what hamsters can and can not eat, read here. You’ll also find out what kind of treats you can give your hamster.
Teddy: Hamsters need some simple dry food for transport, and sliced cucumber instead of a water bottle. We love cucumber !
Teddy enjoying his dry food from my hand
Keeping your hamster comfortable during travel
This is a topic just as important as what food you give the hamster when you transport him.
Hamsters are easy to scare, they panic easily, and sometimes looking at your hamster wrong can scare him. I don’t know, all hamsters are different and some of them spook very easily.
Try to keep him from scaring too much
The weirdest example I have is when I was bent over my Teddy’s cage reaching for something. When I look down there’s Teddy, all shaking, on his hind paws, jaws open, trying to be big. I crouched down next to him, slowly, and spoke softly to him. It took him a minute but he was friendly after that.
So unless you want your hamster to do something similar when he sees his vet after the trip, please make sure he is comfortable.
That means that the cage should be shaken and moved around as little as possible. If possible, get a taxi or a friend to give you a ride to where you need to get. Do not keep your hamster on the road for more than he needs to be. It will freak him out and he will need some time to recover.
Keep the hamster in the dark
If possible, make sure that the cage you transport him with is not clear. Hamsters can’t see very well, but they can still see. And sudden movements will still scare them.
If you can, cover the cage with something like a blanket to keep it dark. But make sure you do not cover the air holes, so that your hamster can still get enough air.
However if your transport cage is an actual cage, not a plastic unit, then you need to make sure the hamster can’t reach the blanket and gnaw at it.
My Teddy shoved a couple of centimeters of furry blanket in his cheeks when he first laid his paws on one, so be warned.
Avoid transporting the hamster in extreme temperatures
Unless you absolutely must, avoid transporting the hamster in very cold or very hot times of the year. Hamsters are very sensitive to temperature, and need a range of 20-22 Celsius/68-72 Fahrenheit to feel comfy.
So make sure you can keep your hamster warm/cool, depending on the season. And also make sure that there is no draft where you keep your hamster during transport.
Hamsters are very sensitive to this, and a cold for them is not as easy to shrug off as it is for humans.
Keep the hamster’s cage secure
When you travel by car, make sure that you have a seat belt strapped across the cage. This is to keep both you and the hammy safe. The cage needs to sit in place when traveling, and as long as you keep an eye on it, it should be fine.
Try not to keep it on your lap, since it can hurt you in the case of sudden stops or turns. The same goes for keeping the cage in the trunk or at your feet in the car.
If you’re travelling by train or bus, keep the cage on the seat next to you, with a hand on it or another way to make sure it stays in place.
Familiar bedding for your hamster’s comfort
In the end, you will need to place your hamster in a cage that is familiar to him. For this, use new bedding, mixed with bedding from his own cage.
Make sure that the used bedding is not soiled or does not have too many droppings. A few droppings are okay, since it will be easier for your hamster to recognize the place as his own. But try to keep it mainly ‘clean’.
The bedding you use for his home should have pieces that are from his own home as well. So if your gave your hamster ripped up paper towel to used as nesting material, grab a few pieces from his own home and place them in the transport cage.
You can find out more about your hamster’s bedding here. What you can use, and what you should avoid.
Give the hamster time to adjust
Another thing that will help a lot is placing your hamster in the transport cage about an hour before you leave. This way you give him time to get used to his new cage, and he will not be as stressed.
The best way to do this is to put the hamster in his exercise ball, and then put the exercise ball open in the transport cage.
Or, place the transport cage directly into his usual cage, and let him explore it like that. For a discussion on what kind of cage is best for your hamster, check out my article here.
If your hamster is the kind that can be housed with several other hamsters, I’d recommend that you transport them in the same cage as well. Even if they don’t need a trip to the vet necessarily.
This is to make the trip easier for the hamster that needs to be taken to the vet or somewhere specific. And also so that there is less hostility when you bring him back.
The new smells on the transported hamster can make the ones left home get a bit aggressive. So try to avoid that by bringing them all if possible.
This will not happen every time, the hamsters at home will not attack the transported hamster each occasion. But I’ve heard such stories and I think it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Teddy: That was a long read, I know ! But us hamsters are easy to scare, so extra steps are needed to make us comfortable. Make sure you don’t rattle or shake the cage too much, and keep us safe and in place in our transport.
Best toys to keep your hamster occupied during travel
Obviously, the best toys are the ones he already loves and uses in his cage.
But if they are very large and chunky toys, like blocks of wood, or hide and seek wooden tubes, these are a problem. They are heavy, and in the case of a sudden stop they can injure your tiny hamster.
So make sure that the toys you bring into your hamster’s transport cage are light. Things like cardboard, for example toilet rolls, or paper towel rolls or paper egg cartons are fine.
Cut a few holes in the tubes and carton and you’ve got yourself some great toys for your hamster to enjoy and keep him distracted. This way they won’t hurt the hamster if the cage moves around too much.
Another helpful idea can be a walnut, with a tiny hole in it. This will keep the hamster entertained and busy, and he’ll try to chew on it.
Even better would be if your can get a few walnut halves, cleaned, and string them on a piece of string. Try securing it along the edge of the cage, if possible, to make sure it stays in place.
If you can’t, best to leave out the walnuts completely.
The hamster house or nest
The same goes for your hamster’s home or hideout. Make sure it is something lightweight that will not hurt him if it rolls over during transport. Paper or cardboard houses can be an option, but your hamster will probably chew on them so they won’t be a house anymore.
Best to opt for something made of plastic, very very light weight.
Teddy: It’s important to remember that the toys we need during transport are light weight, and very simple. Us hamsters are very fragile and need some extra care, even when it comes to our toys !
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The transport cage for your hamster’s travel
Let’s talk about the transport cage itself. This is the most important part of transporting your hamster, since you can’t bring the cage your hamster lives in.
The main debate about transport cages in whether you should get a very secure one – like those made of plastic – or a very breathable one, with wire.
It’s entirely up to you, is what I say. You don’t need a transport cage often, but when you do you’ll be very specific about it. Of course you can later use it as a place to keep the hamster while you clean and change his big cage.
Now, whatever type of cage you get, it’s important that it is very well secured. It will not spring open suddenly, and you hamster can’t gnaw on the clasps to open it easily.
Just as important, how breathable is the cage ? Wire cages are very breathable but are not the most secure. However the plastic cages offer more safety but only have holes in them to allow air to pass through it.
The size of the cage does not really matter, in that it can be smaller than the one your hamster lives in. But make sure that he will fit easily into the transporting unit, and you can take him out just as easy.
Some examples of great transport cages for your hamster
I’ll go through the best I’ve found, one for wire cages, and one for plastic cages. You pick whichever you think sounds better, but at least you’ll know the pros and cons of both.
Plastic transport cage for hamsters
The two tube endings can be attached to the main cage through, well, tubes so your hamster can use it as an extra home when not traveling. The two endings can be closed off with lids that comes with the cage.
There are enough air holes on the top of the cage, to let the hamster get enough air. It also prevents drafts since the holes will not catch a lot of sideways air.
You can fit a lot of bedding in the lower part of the cage, since it will reach high enough. But don’t add any sand for a sand bath, since it can escape from tiny nooks.
I’ve both checked the reviews on Amazon, and looked at one in our local petshop. This kind of cage looks and feels sturdy, and the handle will definitely keep when you travel.
A couple of downsides are that if you order it or buy it in a sealed package, you might have to assemble it yourself. But as far as I’ve seen the instructions are very clear and most people managed to assemble it okay.
The other small downside would be that longer journeys would be a bit more difficult, since there is not much space in this cage. The air holes do provide some air, but not for 24 hours.
You can find it on Amazon here, and check its price as well.
Wire transport cage for hamsters
It’s also harder to wrap a cloth around the cage to prevent drafts since the hamster will try to chew the cloth.
But, in this case this cage has more space than the plastic one I talked about earlier. There’s an added level that can give your hamster a bit more space, but I recommend taking it out so he can’t fall.
Your hamster will have a lot of breathing space, which is essential if you’re going on a long trip or he needs to be in that cage more than a couple of hours.
The spacing between these bars is about 1.25 cm/0.5 inches so your hammy has no chance of fitting his head through the bars. Both Syrians and smaller breeds (like Siberians or Campbells) are alright in this kind of cage for transport.
I can see only a couple of downsides to this cage, one being that the bedding can get all over the car in some cases, like if your hamster kicks it around or there is a sharp turn. And second, it is very hard to protect from drafts.
You can check out this exact cage on Amazon, and see its price as well.
A word from Teddy
Hi ! I hope this article managed to clear up a lot of your questions, and you can safely transport my brother or sister. I know transport cages seem tiny compared to how much space us hamsters really need, but for a few hours it’s alright.
As long as you can keep us safe, healthy, and well fed and watered, we’ll survive the trip.
If you want to know more about hamsters, and for example how much we can go without food, or if we need a light on, then check out these other articles !