Articles for the ‘Cage Saftey Tips’ Category
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.
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.
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 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
1. RSPCA. Pet care – Hamsters. [online]. Available from:
2. ASPCA. Hamster Care [online]. Available from:
3. Hamster Care The 411 [online]. Available from:
4. EASE. The EASE Guide To caring For Hamsters [online]. Available from:
5. PDSA. Golden Hamsters – A Suitable Environment [online]. Available from:
6. National Hamster Society. Getting Started [online]. Available at:
Once you’ve chosen a hamster cage, you still need some tips on considerations to stop your hamster becoming ill, injured or even dying accidentally. Hamsters are tiny, delicate little souls who have often come to harm or died through inappropriate keeping. This article explains whether to keep one or two, safety for exercise wheels, and the dangers of chewing.
One Hamster Or Two?
The general consensus seems to a be Syrian hamster especially must live alone in their own cage (1, 2, 3, 4) and all the larger breeds too. This is because hamsters fight each other – although some experts advocate the ‘dwarf’ hamster species enjoying living in pairs (2) but they may still fight (5). Even so DO NOT put boys and girls in together, even if they’re related – they will breed, leaving you with greater care issues and many new hammies to home. Sexing hamsters is difficult – from experience of a seemingly endless ‘supply’ of gerbils from parents we swore were all boys or girls – ask you vet. Having decided how many and using the ‘Hamriettas’ from the ‘Hamrys’, move onto how they’ll exercise.
Wild hamsters run 11 – 12 kilometres daily. Domestic hamsters also need to have at least an exercise wheel (plus a bigger safe play pen are to run in daily outside the cage is also great). DON’T BUY old fashioned wheels with rungs – these have been known to cause horrific injury. Only choose solid wheels, where no little hamster body parts can get trapped. Don’t waste your money – before you buy ask your vet about size – your hamster simply won’t be able to exercise properly in it if it’s too small or too big. Think you’ve found a solid, correctly sized wheel? Move onto considerations of chewing.
Chewing Their Way To Danger
One basic of hamster care is, like many small pets, they are fanatical chewers. They do it to keep their teeth in check apart from anything else – rodent’s teeth constantly grow and chewing wears them down to comfortable lengths. If small pieces become detached through chewing – say splinters, or slivers of plastic- they can cause injury in a number of ways. They may injure the eyes, nose, tail or other body part by ‘poking in’; or the hamster’s pouches and/or insides if swallowed and cause poisoning if they’re made of materials toxic to hamsters. Check anything going near your hammy is incredibly robust, made of untreated wood, non–toxic plastic, etc, and of course IS NOT ELECTRONIC IN ANY WAY – no matter what someone trying to sell you any gadget says! It’s better to hesitate and not give them any toys you’re unsure of until you’ve checked with your vet.
IMPORTANT : Please read this as a general introduction to the topics only – it can’t replace a vets advice- their needs absolutely vary by breed, age, temperament, health status, etc.
1. RSPCA. Pet care – Hamsters [online] available from:
2. ASPCA. Hamster Care [online] available from:
3. ASPCA. Hamster Care The 411 [online] available from:
4. National Hamster Society. Getting started [online] available from:
5. California Hamster Association. FAQs [online] available from:
No discussion on hamster cages would be comlete without mentioning some of the foods that you should and should not feed them. Hamsters like all pets need specialist feeding to stop them getting unhealthy or even dying prematurely. They also need to be carried about safely to prevent escape, or injury, when they’re not in their cages. This article explains a good hamster diet, some tips for harmful foods and carriers. This should give you tips on avoiding injury through malnutrition and poor handling in transit to and from the vets or to your pet-sitters while you’re away.
What to feed
Hamsters need a varied diet. They are herbivores by nature and require grains, nuts and seeds. Buy this from a pet store as some can harm you hamster (see Stuff That Harms Hammies). They also need fresh, washed fruits and vegetables and constant access to fresh water. Hamster treat products can be given in moderation. You may want to consider organic food to avoid chemicals as hamsters weight little compares to ingestion intakes of other animals per grams of bodyweight. Considering hamster food, it’s also useful to know what to avoid.
What Not To Feed
Not all seeds, nuts, fruit and veggies are safe for hamsters. Known foods which can poison them include apple seeds avocado, cherry pits, eggplant, elderberries, grapes, horse chestnuts, mushrooms, onions, garlic, chives, peach pits, potatoes raisins, rhubarb and tomatoes (1, 2). NEVER try to improvise with human foods or plants from the home or garden. The safest way is to have your vet to provide a diet sheet of safe foods. Establishing a good diet is vital, as is having a good carrier for trips outside your home.
You need one in case your hamster needs vet care or for when you go away on holiday to take him or her to a friends or professional pet-sitters. Don’t be tempted to skip getting one – hamsters can easily escape from cardboard boxes and there may not be enough ventilation in one or another ‘DIY’ carrier. They range in price from a few $ or £ to more fancy versions but remember, your hamster won’t care what style it is, so long as its comfy and safe.
Small animal carriers and food are not always interchangeable – food stuffs must be nutritionally species appropriate and carriers the right size. It’s also not necessary to buy a flashy product with a hefty price tag, many supplies are inexpensive. With some tips for a healthy diet and safe transportation, your hamster is more likely to live longer and avoid injuries.
IMPORTANT: IF YOU SUSPECT YOUR HAMSTER HAS EATEN OR CHEWED OR ‘POUCHED’ SOMETHING HARMFUL OR IS INJURED/HARMED IN ANY WAY, PLEASE ONLY TAKE IT TO THE VETS – DO NOT TRY TO DIAGNOSE USING THIS ARTICLE. IT CANOT COVER ALL THE FOODS AND SITAUTIONS THAT CAN BE DANGEROUS. LIKEWISE, PLEASE CONSULT YOU VET FOR YOUR INDIVDIUAL HAMSTERS NUTRITIONAL NEEDS AND STATUS.
1. The Hamster Society. Husbandry – List of Poisonous Plants [onine]. Available from:
2. ASPCA. People Foods To Avoid Feeding Your Pets [online]. Available from: