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Wire, Glass or Plastic – Don’t Burn Cash On A Bad Cage!

HAMSTER BY LUSI

There are a countless number of hamster cages on the market today – the trick is finding a good one that will help not harm your hammy’s health. There are designs with crazy tunnels connecting different levels, amazing coloured plastics, even one made from the casing of an i-Mac computer. But are they any good for the hamster – or is all that flashy design just going to burn a hole in your pocket? This article explains the differences between wire and glass or plastic cages for health, for you (cleaning) and when attaching vital hamster supply products. By the time you’ve read this, you should be able to work out whether you want a wire or glass/plastic cage for your little hammy or hammys.

Health: Safe for teeth, bodies and breathing?
Hamsters are technically rodents and as such their gnashers constantly grow. They need to be Able to gnaw on something regularly to prevent teeth becoming overgrown. The bars of wire cages could be useful for gnawing, although the site of the hamster gnawing at the bars might not be the nicest, it can look a bit ‘prisonerish’. Hamsters of course must exercise and wire bars can be also be good for them to climb about on. Plastic designs may have crazy tunnels they can scuttle through but check these are safe – could they become trapped in the tunnel, is there enough ventilation? Ventilation is a big issue with plastic or glass cages – they should at the very least be fitted with ventilated lids and its worth considering whether they can really get enough flow through of air to be truly considered safe. Alongside the need for gnawing, exercise and air, there are also your own needs as an owner to consider.

Space commander cagebig wire oneRotastack pink cagebublle type

Check very carefully for saftey – ventilation, places they could slip, fall or get trapped ?

Keeping It Fresh
You’re going to need to tidy every day and clean thoroughly at least once every week. If the cage has an easily removable plastic base, you can just slide it out. If the cage has bars, you’ll need a little ‘moat’ of newspaper around it as you’ll probably find hammy will toss and kick bedding materials through the bars! The flashier designs with multiple parts to take apart will definitely take more time and you will need a ‘bottle brush’ or similar to clean out any tunnels. Its safe to say you’ll spend considerable time tidying and cleaning the cage so don’t overlook this aspect in favour of say, the look of the cage. Cleaning aside, you’ll also need to be sure the cage will easily accommodate essential supplies.

hamster by aguisa

Essential Stuff You Need
You’ll want to make the cage as big as you can for your hammy’s enjoyment but he or she will still need an exercise wheel (see Safer Cages Tips). These days there are designs that clip on easily to any type of cage. You’ll also need to fix a drip-feed hamster water bottle and these may end up having to be hung in a plastic or glass cage, or bowls provided instead. Water bowls are not a great option, due to the amount of ‘flying sawdust’ antics hamsters get up to, leaving them with bowls full of soggy mulch.  You’ll also need a food bowl. hamster dish by brofosio

Choosing a hamster cage is about finding one that really does the true job – housing your hamster in a healthy and spacious environment. The breed of hamster may determine choice – the now defunct Hamster Society published online advice indicating they favoured wire cages for larger hamsters and glass/plastic tanks for littler ones (1). Whilst its tempting to for the most visually appealing maze of tubes, levels and who knows what else, it really needs to be healthy and a doddle to clean or you’ll end up weekly bemoaning the day you bought it.

IMPORTANT: This article is intended to give some insight as an introduction only – there are different species of hamsters and every animal has individual needs to consider. Please consult you vet for advice about your hamsters welfare – no internet pages can ever replace their advice!

Jonathon Boyd

References
1. The Hamster Society.  Choosing a Cage [online]. Available from:

http://www.hamsoc.org.uk/husbandry.php#Cages

Useful Reading

ASPCA. Hamster Care [online]. Available at:

http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/small-pet-care/hamster-care.html

RSPCA. Know what your hamster needs [online]. Available at:

http://www.rspca.org.uk/servlet/BlobServer?blobtable=RSPCABlob&blobcol=urlblob&blobkey=id&blobwhere=1154077759094&blobheader=application/pdf

Photo Credits:

Top hamster in cage http://www.sxc.hu/profile/lusi Next hamster in cage http://www.sxc.hu/profile/agusia Hamster bowl  http://www.sxc.hu/profile/brofosifo

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Hamster Cage Supplies – Starter Pack

For your hamster cage, you will need certain essential items no matter what design you buy. Hamsters will not be healthy or happy unless their minimum needs are met through properly equipping and maintaining their home environment. This article provides expert’s views on water bottles, nesting boxes, toys and cleaning. Discover how to create a basic hamster care accessory kit to give them a healthy, more enjoyable life.
hem the hamster by DeepBlu
Water Bottles
Many people may remember their school pet hamster, with little ceramic ware bowls in – well, these days, universally hamster care discussions focus on using a drip-feed water bottle. This is probably a reflection of how far the pet care industry has come in the last 20 years and how we are more accustomed to searching for specialist products. Make sure it’s got a metal spout (it may get chewed). Replace the water as often as you can, at least daily, so it’s fresh and clean. Clean the bottle once a week – although the ASPCA recommends soap and water (1) , we also suggest you ask your vet for hamster-safe detergents – these days, they will be on the market.  With a constant supply of fresh water, your hamster will avoid dangerous dehydration, but he or she also needs a nesting box.

Nesting Boxes
Hamsters are nocturnal, asleep in the day and up scurrying about making a mini-racket at night. When they sleep in the day, they have a natural instinct to hide themselves away inside an enclosed space. They also need somewhere to hide the food titbits they famously stuff into their pouches. You can give them a simple small nesting box (without anything sharp on it) with an entrance, through to buying a fancy nesting product from pet stores.   Ask yourself is it big enough to comfortably accommodate them, could anything sharp injure them or become sharp/detached/both through chewing? Accommodating their natural behaviour will leave them less likely to suffer stress and you can also help them by providing toys for mental stimulation.
ziggy the hamster by pitrih
Toys
Back to safety rules again here – is anything sharp, could it become sharp/detached/both. Also it needs to be untreated wood or non-toxic material. Gnawing toys are essential to keep their ever-growing teeth stay at a manageable length; tubes are fun and good for exercise. Hamster balls are controversial, with opinion steeply divided. Some say they’re fun and great for exercise. Others point out hamsters naturally want to hide and feel balls frighten them because they can’t behave naturally. Others claim they only run as they feel trapped and trying to escape, creating ongoing anxiety.  A safe play pen can accomodate natural behaviour,  with tubes and a (sterilised) sandbox to dig in . Interestingly, balls didn’t feature for exercise within 7 different care advice resources – whereas solid wheels did (1, 2, 3, 4 ,5, 6, 7, 8). Ladders are good so long as they can’t get limbs caught in them, hanging toys not recommended again in case they got caught in them. As well as toys for dental health and stimulation, hamsters require daily grooming.

blue tubes by bubbels
Hamster Brushes and Sand
A long haired Syrian hamster needs daily brushing, with a special hamster brush from a pet store or even a soft toothbrush (1, 9). Some sources say all hamsters need daily brushing (9); all appreciate a dish of sand bought from a pet store to roll in, removing grease from their coats. Practice good handling daily to get your hamster used to this and be extremely, super-gentle, they truly are delicate little critters. Pick them up with the upmost care with both your hands as a scoop, and only handle them over a flat, soft surface – never at height in case they fall or jump. Be aware if you wake them in the daytime, they may bite – because as far as their concerned, it’s the middle of the night and you’re simply a weird and intrusive predatory ‘giant hand-thing’ looming around them. With gentle persistence, you can establish a daily grooming session to keep coats healthier and shinier.

Your ‘accessories’ starter-kit now consists of a drip-feed water bottle, nesting box, toys and a brush. You’ll also want to consider a newspaper ‘moat’ if using a wire cage for bedding materials projected by hammys through the bars. You’ll need suitable bedding and of course proper food and a decent feeder receptacle. Armed with these essentials, you give your hamster a fighting chance of health and happiness

IMPORTANT: This article is for general reading – please consult your vet if you have any concerns or questions about hamsters, as no article can be exhaustive nor definitive  on health and safety.

Jo Boyd

References:

1. ASPCA. Hamster Care The 411 [online]. Available at:

http://www2.aspca.org/site/PageServer?pagename=kids_pc_hamster_411

2. RSPCA. Know what your hamster needs.[online]. Available at:

http://www.rspca.org.uk/servlet/BlobServer?blobtable=RSPCABlob&blobcol=urlblob&blobkey=id&blobwhere=1154077759094&blobheader=application/pdf

3. Pet care – Hamsters .[online]. Available at:

http://www.rspca.org.uk/servlet/Satellite?pagename=RSPCA/RSPCARedirect&pg=SmallAnimalsCare&marker=1&articleId=1154077755713

4. The Hamster Society, Choosing a Cage [online]. Available at:

http://www.hamsoc.org.uk/husbandry.php#Cages

5. ASPCA Hamster Care [online]. Available at:

http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/small-pet-care/hamster-care.html

6. BCSPCA. Kids Hamster Care [online]. Available at:

http://www.spca.bc.ca/kids/animalcare/hamstercare.asp

7. National Hamster Society. Getting Started [online]. Available at:

http://www.hamsters-uk.org/

8. EASE. The EASE Guide To Caring For Hamsters [online]. Available at:

http://www.ease-animals.org.uk/frame.html

9. RSPCA. Handle With Care – Hamsters [online]. Available at:

http://www.rspca.org.uk/servlet/Satellite?blobcol=urlblob&blobheader=application%2Fpdf&blobkey=id&blobtable=RSPCABlob&blobwhere=1099596633295&ssbinary=true&Content-Type=application/pdf

Photo Credits

Hamster in white background http://www.sxc.hu/profile/DeepBlu Nesting hamster http://www.sxc.hu/profile/pitrih Tubes http://www.sxc.hu/profile/Bubbels



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Which Hamster Bedding?

Choosing the right bedding to go inside hamster cages is a sometimes a life or death decision! Your hamster is in constant contact with the materials, so these need to be non-toxic and contain nothing remotely abrasive or sharp. This article gives tips for what to use in the cage, what not to use, and how to tidy and clean the cage contents. This should give you a guide for shopping for your hamster and appropriate daily and weekly cleaning duties.
hamster by red2000
What To Put in
Hamsters chew all sorts of things and the lining of their cheeks (their little pouches) is a delicate membrane that is easily injured. They also have delicate eyes, skin and gastro-intestinal systems, so never introduce any type of bedding that is potentially toxic, abrasive or in any way could develop into a sharp piece, no matter how small. You can try putting a clean layer of sawdust on the floor of the cage (1, 5) and clean white kitchen paper for bedding (1, 5). Or use timothy hay, aspen shavings, shredded paper, pelleted bedding (2,3,4) and/or hamster-specific recycled bedding (3). These should be fine but be aware other materials are very dangerous.

What Not To Put In
Cedar or pine chips or shavings can create poisonous fumes (2, 4) and newspaper or other paper printed inks can also be a poison to hamsters (1, 4, and 5). Don’t use synthetic fluffy, other fluffy, fabric or wool bedding, including cotton wool  as it can become lodged in their cheek pouches (4) or cause blockages if eaten which can be fatal (5, 6). Stick to the list of recommended substances unless otherwise directed by your vet for safety and develop good cage hygiene habits to ensure better health.
captivity by tatertot10
Cage Hygiene
You will need to tidy the cage daily – this means removing soiled and wet bedding materials and any pieces of discarded food, otherwise it will rot in there. You can also use this time to check for any sharp pieces, although hopefully these won’t ever happen as you’ve already red the Safer Cages Tips. Place your hamster into a safe enclosed area for weekly cleaning, while you empty and wash down the hutch with hamster-safe disinfectant from a pet store or your vet. You may want to retain a little old bedding to mix it, to make your hamster feel at home when she/he gets back to his spring-cleaned cage with otherwise unfamiliar smells all around her/him.

clean it 3 by lusi
Clean safe materials in the cage are a must – you risk hamster injury or worse by trying different materials. Creating a safe place to put hammy in while you clean is essential, one way to do this is to double up a daily exercise play pen as the cleaning-time enclosure. With a checklist of some known good hamster care ideas and some known harmful materials, you should be equipped to make a cosy home and start your hamster cage cleaning routine.

Jonathon & Jo Boyd

References

1. RSPCA. Pet care – Hamsters. [online]. Available from:

http://www.rspca.org.uk/servlet/Satellite?pagename=RSPCA/RSPCARedirect&pg=SmallAnimalsCare&marker=1&articleId=1154077755713

2. ASPCA. Hamster Care [online]. Available from:

http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/small-pet-care/hamster-care.html

3. Hamster Care The 411 [online]. Available from:

http://www2.aspca.org/site/PageServer?pagename=kids_pc_hamster_411

4. EASE. The EASE Guide To caring For Hamsters [online]. Available from:

http://www.ease-animals.org.uk/frame.html

5. PDSA. Golden Hamsters – A Suitable Environment [online]. Available from:

http://www.pdsa.org.uk/goldenhamsterenvironment.html

6. National Hamster Society. Getting Started [online]. Available at:

http://www.hamsters-uk.org/

Photo Credits

Hamster in cage in garden http://www.sxc.hu/profile/tatertot10 Cleaning products http://www.sxc.hu/profile/lusi Hamster Close-Up http://www.sxc.hu/profile/red2000

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