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Old 05-15-2019, 03:20 AM   #1
LilRussianRebel
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Unhappy Desperately Need Help

Can someone give me some advice on what to do or where I'm going wrong?

I have an 8month old, Female Syrian (Age Approximate)
Named Cookie.

She's currently housed in a large wooden cage that measures in at 115x60cm. It has two shelves for additional climbing as Syrians prefer being up high, however I've had to take the top shelf out on account that she started chewing the mesh.

Originally when I bought this cage in February and rehoused her into it, she was rather quiet for a couple of days which was as to be expected, however a week or so later she began developing a chewing habit at the back of the cage beneath the shelf.

I dismissed this as her still adjusting to her environment however, it has since continued and within the past month she has completely become destructive about it. The bottom strut beneath the shelf is completely torn up with teethmarks galore, it's not just the struts under the shelf however it's any corner she can physically get her teeth on.

She has plenty of chew toys of which she does take interest in, as well as whimzee chews, occasionally plain cardboard of which she enjoys destroying too.

She has a 12inch Trixie wheel so has plenty of exercise and also has the bottom shelf to climb to reach addition items of enrichment.

Anyways, I'm becoming increasingly concerned that due to some medical issues that I have personally, she is going to end up getting hurt. I am unable to deal with her properly when she starts chewing and acting out and I'm quite afraid that she is going to get hurt. This is my own admission that I'm not perfect so please understand that atleast I can recognise my own faults.


As a deterrent I've tried hitting the cage to make noise and vibrations, I've tried blowing on her gently, I've tried blocking the corners, but nothing seems to work, I know there are probably a lot more things to try but I'm not sure as to what else to do.

She's naturally very stressy and I'm not sure she's had the best start in life given she was adopted from a local pet store in which she was housed in one of those tiny glass tanks, and she's a big girl, her accommodation after that although temporary, was also small and did not meet the required minimum set by the RSPCA, it wasn't that far off but it still wasn't big enough.

I do try to interact with her a few days a week, I don't like getting her out too often because I know how stressy she is and I don't want to cause her any issues, I've tried some handling and taming and she really doesn't like it, which is perfectly fine, I'm aware that some hamsters don't enjoy being held and if that's the kind of hamster she is then I'm perfectly fine with having her as a watch pet.

She's currently recovering from a very stressful episode this morning, I had to get her out so that a member of my family could help try and push the tray back into the cage properly given there was a gap and I couldn't figure out why, I couldn't find the cause when I cleaned her out two days ago. As it was a rushed in the moment thing I had to get her out with gloves and try and contain her in a carry box I'd made from a storage box, however I couldn't find the lid so she kept climbing out and I had to keep trying to keep hold of her so she didn't fall off the bed onto the floor, she managed to jump off my hands a few times which I didn't enjoy.

I'm hoping she will be okay after this, given how she really does stress out over the slightest thing, I'll be making sure later that she's coming out normal and be sure to see if she's eating or drinking at all, I've left a treat outside the box she's currently hiding in, hopefully she will take it later.

But I really need some advice on either how to stop this behaviour or an insight into what the cause of this could possibly be.

I really need to sort this issue out or the only other option would be to rehome her, I really don't want to do that if I can avoid it, I don't think that it's fair on her to give her up just because I can't deal with her behaviours. That's selfish of me.

I've not had any experience with Syrian's before, I'm still new to keeping hamsters and have only experienced the wonderful world of Dwarf's so far, I never had hamsters as a young child so this is my first experience, I've tried researching and the only thing I can honestly say it could be is stress related maybe possibly boredom (Although she has plenty of things to do, sometimes she chooses none and starts being a pain)

I know this is very long winded and some points may irrelevant but I tried to include as much as possible to give a better idea as to what I know about her which may help someone help me.

Sorry it's so long!
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Old 05-15-2019, 06:31 AM   #2
Shannonmcn
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Default Re: Desperately Need Help

This might seem like a very low effort response to such a lovely, detailed and thoughtful post, so sorry in advance but

Some hams just chew out of cages.

It doesn't necessarily mean it's not big enough or that they're miserable it's just an instinct to Not Be Contained. Wooden cages are lovely but I see a lot of people NOT recommending them for this exact reason. Which one is it you have? I think I know based on your description but just to be sure. The cage is the problem here, not the hamster and not your care. You are clearly trying so hard.

The only 100% effective solution is unfortunately a glass tank but the chances of you getting one to match your current cage in size are slim to none. You could look at the detolf which is mostly glass and does have wood panels on the end but no easily accessed edges to get a hole started. Or the Linnmon cage which is also made of IKEA tables, so wooden, but again it's all flush surfaces so hard to get a tooth into. Both of those are fairly affordable
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Old 05-15-2019, 12:03 PM   #3
LilRussianRebel
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Talking Re: Desperately Need Help

Unfortunately, my parents won't let me change enclosures for her again, I originally wanted a detolf but wasn't allowed so had to substitute. (Even though the money I spend on them is my own they still have an issue with me spending the amount that I do on them)

https://www.manomano.co.uk/p/xxl-wod...losure-6208378

That is a link to the cage she has, no top shelf as explained before and its the back corners under the shelf that she commonly chews.

I'll keep percivering and trying different things to block her but I'm pretty sure she will continue to move them and chew.

Thank you for the reply by the way, it's really appreciated!!!
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Old 05-15-2019, 12:12 PM   #4
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Default Re: Desperately Need Help

It's a great cage and yes better without the top shelf. If they climb too high they can fall and hurt themselves. Don't have much time to reply right now so I'll come back later, but aside from the fact she likes chewing wood it sounds as if she just isn't hand tame yet, and that will just take a bit of time and patience so don't worry about that yet. When they're not hand tame they don't like being held.

One thing that could stress her in the cage is if you're moving things around, taking things out or cleaning her out a lot. They like to feel settled and know everything is fairly stable. Spot cleaning mostly is better than big clean outs. Don't know how much substrate you havein, but you could add more maybe as they like digging - it may distract her into digging tunnels.

One thing I would say is - don't kick the cage or blow on her - that will only make things worse. She will see that as hostile and you two could end up at loggerheads. Plus it is unpleasant for the hamster and they don't feel safe or secure.

I have had a hamster chew the wood stilts off a large house. Strangely they don't seem to get splinters when they're chewing. They must usetheir teeth and avoid their mouth gettin close to the wood or something. If she did get a splinter she'd probably stop.

So try not to worry too much about the chewing right now. If she chews a hole right through you can patch it up from the outside.

If you can post a picture of your set up we might be able to spot something that isn't working for her. Does she have a house/nesting box and is it big enough and dark inside? They can feel too exposed in a large cage without somewhere dark to retreat to.
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Old 05-15-2019, 02:25 PM   #5
LilRussianRebel
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Default Re: Desperately Need Help

I'll try and get a picture tomorrow, had a few things going on today.

I usually clean her out once every 4-5 weeks, I don't spot clean too often to be perfectly honest because it's such a nightmare of a cage to clean in one go, let alone every few days. I know that's pretty selfish. When she gets cleaned I do try and add some of the cleanest bits of her old bedding back in but it doesnt seem to do much to comfort her, I don't clean her toys the same day and her wheel gets cleaned as and when it becomes dirty which unlike a lot of hamsters, hers is pretty clean most of the time.

To fill her cage with the appropriate amount of bedding would cost me nearly half of what I earn currently, so I do try to provide her with digging boxes and large amounts of bedding in the corners for nesting, plus she gets kitchen towel to use for nesting material. I use carefresh natural, the large bags and to afford two of them a month as I also use the same amount for my dwarf, is rather expensive.

With regards to the boxes, she usually prefers destroying them over actually using them to dig around in and sleep in, she did hide in one today for a while however but has since returned to her usual spot beneath the shelf.

I admit I'm not the best at dealing with her outbursts at stupid times in the morning, especially when they last for literal hours, I wouldnt mind but she's staying out well into the light of the morning which I didn't think was normal. She was almost out for a solid 12 hours today.

It has been getting hotter recently and my room isn't the best ventilated even despite having two Windows and it has seem to have gotten worse since the heat has started, but the heat also brings out the absolute idiots in the neighbours next door that are forever slamming doors and playing loud music so was wondering if the vibration could be an issue too? Or a contributing factor at least as her cage sits on the floor.

Thank you so much for the reply so far, it really is so much appreciated!
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Old 05-15-2019, 02:50 PM   #6
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Default Re: Desperately Need Help

Yes it is a big cage to fill. It sounds like you need to be getting bulk bedding so you can use loads and it's cheaper. Carefresh isn't cheap and doesn't go that far. Are you in the Uk? I use Fitch - which is popular on here. A 10kg bag costs about 22. I use about a third of it to fill a 100cm cage about 5 to 6" deep. After that it lasts ages with spot cleaning mainly.

Your cleaning regime sounds fine but it does sound like she could do with more substrate generally.

She sounds very active - a destroyer! Is her cage in your room? ie is it keeping you awake at night as that can be stressful.

It does sound unfortunately, with her being a chewer, that she will chew a wood cage and just see it as something to chew. She might give up eventually if she can't escape and it's better than chewing bars. The only alternative would be a glass tank or a diy cage with melamine board. You can probably just keep patching this one up if she chews a hole. But if it gets too bad maybe you could "line" it with melamine board on the sides and back. That would mean removing the shelf but you could always stick some legs on it and have it as a standing shelf.

My instinct would be to get her a good big wood house. Although she'd probably chew that as well!

I had this one for a while for our Syrian - your cage is big enough for it. It's described as a rabbit house but nowhere near big enough for a rabbit. It does have quite a large door though and is quite tall so it works quite well if you stand it directly on the base of the cage, rather than on top of the substrate, and put some substrate inside it (as if it's standing on substrate) and then just pile the substrate around it on the outside, so it;s part underground basically. This also reduces the sizeof the large door. If you have a bendy bridge tunnel, you could put that over the doorway - makes it dark inside, and gives a tunnel entrance, and also makes a ramp up to the roof. The roof lifts off so you can check inside without having to take the house out and disturbing her nest.

I expect she will move into it, if it's dark inside, and build a really big nest in there. That should keep her busy.

Better to use plain white toilet paper torn into strips, than kitchen paper. Kitchen paper isn't as dissolvable if swallowed and toilet paper is cheap enough. They like it too. She may pouch some to take to her nest.

The only thing with a wood house is it can pee stained. A lot of people paint the inside of wood houses with plastikote - I'll link that. I managed without doing that for a long time because our hamster uses a litter tray which fitted inside the house. Also the house fits together like a jigsaw - the pieces slot together. So I'd just scrub a piece under the hot tap if it did get pee on and that sorted it!

If you give them a large house/nesting box they almost always move their toilet corner inside the house, so putting a litter tray inside it usually works. If you put it in the back corner opposite the door it's the best place as they tend to build the nest furthest away from the door at the darkest end. Corner litter trays like the one linked below, fit in fine. Chinchilla bathing sand in it is best - a tube of that lasts ages. Then you just take the roof off the house and empty the litter tray every few days and the rest of the cage stays clean and dry a lot longer I don't worry about poops really unless they start taking over.

Ferplast Sin house

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ferplast-46...r=8-2-fkmrnull

Corner litter tray

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hamster-cor...gateway&sr=8-6

Chinchilla Bathing Sand

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Supreme-Pet...s%2C161&sr=8-1

I'll link the Fitch bedding as well. The 10kg one suits me. They also do a 20kg one which works out cheaper again but 35 seems a lot to fork out all at once and it's quite big so you need somewhere to keep it. It;s just recycled food grade paper - looks a bit like Carefresh but I think it's nicer and no dust.

https://www.fitchfirst.co.uk/fitch-p...-delivery.html
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Old 05-15-2019, 02:51 PM   #7
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Default Re: Desperately Need Help

With a litter tray and 6" or more of substrate in a cage that size you can easily go 2 or 3 months before needing to change the substrate and even then I replace a third to half of the old substrate that's still clean.
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Old 05-15-2019, 03:19 PM   #8
LilRussianRebel
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Default Re: Desperately Need Help

All of those links look great! And I'd been searching for a little house like that for a while but couldn't find a big enough one to fit her. Never even thought to consider something like a rabbit sized house.

I do live in the UK yes, I have considered Fitch before but wasn't thrilled on the appearance and how well it maintained itself really, but I might consider buying some and possibly doing a mix of the two?

The cage I'm not too worried about her getting out as it seems to be the thick wood on the corner she chews at most rather than the thin piece which is good, and my parents suggested using what melamine I had left from my Dwarfs upgrade to block off the corners, I have a decent amount of it left so I could try making a house out of that as well as some corner blocks maybe?

She does have a sandbath she regularly goes in but I recently changed it to an open bath, using a ceramic garden pot thing, hard to explain, as the pot she was using before was too small for her to do anything in. The sand I use is child play sand? not sure if that's right at all but I did read somewhere that it was better than dust for their respiratory systems.

The only reason why I'm using kitchen towel at the moment is because it was given to me by another family member, they thought it'd be good for their nests and it was convientient at the time given I'd run out of tissue, I'm also slightly concerned with some of the bleach and chemicals that are used in toilet paper, so thought again that kitchen towel was a little better.

I'm still learning and its great to know what to improve on, we all make mistakes.

Looks like I have a few conversations to make with my parents and then I'll have plenty of shopping to do when my next sum on money comes in, hopefully if I try some of the things suggested it might make things a bit easier for her.

She does live in my room and does disturb me when she chews that's why if been getting so frustrated with her, but hopefully I can try some things and maybe they will work, if not then I guess she will just be a chewer, which is obnoxious given I dont get a lot of sleep but hey ho, over time I'm sure I'll become accustomed to it lol.

Thank you so much for your time and advice
I was really stressing about this earlier wondering if anyone would have had a similar experience to me and if they would be able to help. So thank you so much!
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Old 05-15-2019, 04:15 PM   #9
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Default Re: Desperately Need Help

I used to worry about that with toilet paper too but I don't any more Been using it for years with no issues - it probably has less chemical processes than Carefresh which is wood pulp.

There are other beddings you can get in bulk. Zooplus sell hemp bedding in large bales if that appeals. I was allergic to it so used Fitch. I really like Fitch. The appearance varies sometimes. Some times it's very white, other times more an off white - I asked them about it once and they said it depends what they've been recycling. Usually it's white and reasonably soft.

Whatever you go for it can save a lot of money buying it in bulk and you can be generous with the substrate as well.

If you do go for that house, then maybe paint the inside with Plastikote. Only takes about 10 minutes, although two coats is best - I do the second coat the next day although some people find it dry within a few hours. Next day works best for me. Just means it'll last longer.

Yes childrens play sand is fine.

This is the hemp bedding

100 litres for 19.99

https://www.zooplus.co.uk/shop/small...ll_pets/182990

Rat rations also sell some beddings in bulk. The egg box carton one has been popular on here recently (Softacard). Out of stock though at the moment. About 15kg bale.

https://ratrations.co.uk/substrates-...rays/softacard

They also sell Megazorb which some people like. I haven't tried it because heard it could be dusty.

The other thing with a large cage is to have plenty of floor toys to fill the area and make it interesting - different levels and textures. The large cork tunnels are good for that
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Old 05-15-2019, 04:21 PM   #10
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Default Re: Desperately Need Help

When handling her or getting her out of the cage, it might be better to let her walk into a tube or hamster ball and lift her out that way - sometimes they don't like a hand in their cage or being picked up from above. A hamster ball is ideal (put a treat in it that smells - like cucumber) because you can then just pop the lid on and carefully carry the ball somewhere safe to let her out. A lot of people do bathtub taming. Put the plug in the bath and put the ball down in the bath and let her out. Helps to have a toy or tunnel or two in there so she doesn't feel too exposed.

It's a safe place for them to run around while you gradually get her used to being handled. Once she accepts you handling her she'll be tame and less frantic. But it's best to start slowly by just stroking her on the back with one finger while she;s running around or slithering up the side of the bath! If she jerks round or "pings" (jumps away) wait a bit and try again later. Maybe 2 or 3 times first session.

A couple of days later do the same thing again. Once she accepts a stroke on the back with one finger and doesn't bother, you move onto the next stage. Let her walk over the palm of your hand wiht the back of your hand flat on the bottom of the bathtub. Don't try to hold her or pick her up. A few times of that then lift your hand slightly,still flat, about 1cm or so but let her walk off. Leave it till another session and repeat. Then lift a bit higher and let her walk off. You should then be able to hold her next time she walks on your hand, and let her walk from hand to hand. Once she trusts you and feels safe being handled by you, she'll be hand tame.
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