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Old 06-03-2019, 03:04 AM   #11
Serendipity7000
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Default Re: Behaviour change after an escape

The Barney cage comes with just about everything you need except a few toys You don't need that many really - just the odd tunnel and hidey place and you can make them - eg pringles tubes (washed out of course), cardboard egg boxes etc. I had quite a few things accumulated from our last syrian. I do like the hanging rat sputniks though (like a plastic hammock) - they are somewhere to sit and also something to sit under, so like another mini shelf/hide really. They work best next to a shelf so the hamster can get in easily.

The only real toys they seem to enjoy, in my opinion are tunnels or hidey places. Yes they do need substrate area to dig on and move around on, but a tunnel (like the large cork one in my cage) is just a kind of shelter over the substrate and they can still run through.

What they do sometimes need, depending on the personality of the hamster, is a bit of overhead cover. They can feel quite exposed if there is a large open space of substrate and nowhere to dive into for safety! And the same if there is a large open space above.

The Barney has a nice shelf (something to hide under/sit under if they want but also to sit on, which they like doing at wash time sometimes), and a it has a nice big house for nesting. A floor tunnel and one or two other items would be fine They also need a chew stick to keep their teeth worn down.

Mine definitely aren't creative ha ha. I just hung things over the places where the hamster went and always feel a bit frustrated that everything seems a bit symmetrical in our hamster's cage! It can be a fiddle, so can be good to keep it simple - and you can guage whether the hamster approves.

So - the fiddly bit is ensuring everything works - and in particular "access" - sometimes you see very creative cages but the hamster can't access something or reach it because there is no way up to it eg - and if that happens to be the water bottle or food that isn't good.

The Barney sorts most of that out for you - ramp up to the shelf (I don't use it but most people do) and that takes up a fair bit of space so you wouldn't need a lot more at floor level.

The shelf is good for putting a food bowl on so it doesn't get full of substrate. I also have my (mouse sized) water bottle over the shelf so any drips don't make the substrate soggy. Putting something under the water bottle to help keep their nails getting too long, can be a good idea and helps soak up any drips too. Something like a terracotta plant pot base is fine or the rough side of a ceramic tile eg. So every time they go for a drink it wears their nails a bit.

But everyone's cage is different and hamsters have different personalites and like different things. A nervy hamster will need more things to hide in or under so they move around the cage without feeling too exposed. A more gung ho hamster won't be bothered.

They do like to dig and build mountains out of the substrate sometimes and move it around. Our hamster piles it round the outside of his house in winter, for insulation? Or to hide a hoard.

So yes the wheel is mainly for running/exercise - the other items are for variety or "enrichment" - places to go, things to do, so it's interesting and they don't get bored.

But their basic instincts and behaviours are nesting, hoarding, foraging, grooming, running - and escaping! I've found with that size cage they don't usually try and escape.

Some behaviours are to tell you something and get your attention - eg if the wheel is stuck and not turning, or the water bottle has emptied itself, so any frantic behaviour can be a sign to check things are ok in the cage.

So you don't need a lot of toys etc or to spend a lot. One thing I think is worth investing in though is a litter tray/potty as they will use one and it helps keep the cage clean and dry so you don't need to clean out very often (clean outs do stress them so partial cleans are better - eg spot cleaning the substrate if necessary mostly and only changing the substrate after 6 to 8 weeks or even longer if it's clean and dry - and not cleaning everything at the same time, so something always smells familiar and they still feel at home - eg wheel a different week to substrate and any toys etc a different week again - so as and when needed).

I get this litter tray which works well in a corner - they often choose a corner of the cage as a toilet so when you find out where he is peeing, spot clean that area a bit (ie take out a handful or so of soiled substrate and add a handful of new) and put the toilet there with chinchilla bathing sand in (soaks up the pee). The first time, put a tiny bit of the pee'd on substrate on top of the sand so they know it is still their toilet area.

They are very clean little things really. Ours pees in the very back corner of his toilet and sits in the front part to have a wash when he wakes up. Then you just empty the litter tray out every few days and put more sand in. I easily go 3 to 4 months without needing to change the substrate, with a litter tray and the odd bit of spot cleaning. The base stays clean and dry if you have 4 to 5" deep substrate. So it takes a lot of substrate to start with but ends up working out cheaper in the long run.

So getting a litter tray is worth investing in

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Trixie-Corn...gateway&sr=8-9

The sand needs to be Chinchilla Bathing sand. Or some people use childrens play sand from Argos which is sterilised. A tub of the Chinchilla bathing sand lasts me ages.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Supreme-Pet...gateway&sr=8-2

Some people also waterproof the wood shelf and the inside of the house by painting them with plasti-kote enamel paint, which is pet-safe, virtually odourless and water based. I have never had the shelf pee'd on but I do paint it just in case, so it's wipe clean. It is a good idea to paint the inside of the house as occasionally they can have an accident and pee inside the house and then it gets stinky. Or you can just give it a scrub under a tap to clean it if you don't want to bother with painting, but it might need having to replace the house eventually. Annoyingly you can't get replacements for the shelf and same house but there are plenty of other houses.

This is the plastikote. It does come in different colours if that appeals! Two coats makes it waterproofed and wipe clean. I do one coat and the second coat the next morning - it dries in a few hours if the coat is thin.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

The extra tunnels etc at roof level are a bonus for variety but not essential

Some people have amazingly creative cages - mine tend to be more practical and look a bit mish mash ha ha.

The most important thing really is to have everything set up before moving the hamster in, so you don't need to move things or make any changes - at least for the first couple of weeks while they're settling in. And you can guage what they like or have a problem with at that time. They usually like a large tube or tunnel (rat sized ones are best for syrians as the hamster sized things are often only big enough for dwarf hamsters - a syrian with full pouches can be 6cm wide or more!).

After they're in the cage, adding the odd new thing is fine and usually well accepted. What they don't like is things being moved around or taken away! Sometimes it's necessary but best avoided.

They scent mark their cages in the first few days/week - so they claim the items as theirs and also it provides a scent trail to find their way around as they really don't see well. Which is why removing all their scent can stress them and make them feel a bit lost. Hence the partial cleaning.

Don't worry about poops unless they start taking over and then spot clean a bit. Their poops are like little seeds and not dirty or smelly. They will sometimes eat them. This is normal - they have two stomachs and can redigest nutrients and vitamins from their poops - they may even have a little hoard of poops somewhere for emergency food supplies!

Food - not sure which one you use but you can't go wrong with Tiny Friends Harry Hamster as a basic mix. It contains everything needed and is sugar free. They need at least 18% protein which that mix has.

Apart from that, a tiny bit of veg each day is good. Initially every 3 days so their stomachs adjust to the veg, then after a week or so every day. Broccoli, carrot, cucumber etc are fine and the ones I tend to have in the fridge. But there are a lot more - there is a list of safe fruit and veg on here. Things to avoid are citrus fruits, tomato, onion, spices etc. And apple pips (poisonous).

Just a tiny piece of veg - about 1cm cubed size (doesn't have to be square though!). They tend to eat it straight away rather than hoard it.

They like any fresh food as a treat - eg a little piece of apple or banana or half a shelled walnut or pecan nut will be snaffled up.

Best to leave nests and hoards alone as they are very precious about those. Unless they are pee'd on and have to be removed, but then try and leave a bit of the old nest behind and and add a big pile of torn up strips of plain white toilet paper in the cage somewhere (not in the house) and they take those to rebuild the nest. If hoard has to be removed it's important to replace it with new food in exactly the same place. If their hoards are removed they can start peeing on them to deter thieves! Which leads to a catch 22 type thing.

I find the hoards stay clean and dry until it's time to do the substrate and I prune it a bit then as the lower part of the hoard can go a bit stale, but dried food tends to last quite a long time hoarded.

Sorry that is probably far too much information all at once.

But the key is - enough enrichment, avoid cleaning out too much, variety, and not stressing them!
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Old 06-03-2019, 09:59 AM   #12
Coco61
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Default Re: Behaviour change after an escape

Like Serendipity, I have a cork tunnel but not a complete circle, it is open where it sits on the substrate. It is the entrance to his 2 room house. He uses the outer room as his bathroom despite a sand bath and another covered one in the cage! Those are hidden under shelving in the photo. I also have 2 rat sized Sputniks hanging as you can see. Each with a rat tunnel leading to it but I already had those from before. The shelves along the front I got from pets at home. Chinchilla shelves and I got 3 for 2 price so they are along the front of the cage and he can run along underneath them. He also uses them to reach the small barney front doors which is where he comes when he wants to come out or more usually for treats at feeding time! Then the other tunnel is a willow tunnel. There is a lot of moving around space, just not in the open air, rather with cover which provides security for a prey animal. I am not creative but picked up these practical tips here.
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Old 06-03-2019, 10:18 AM   #13
Jaysephine86
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Default Re: Behaviour change after an escape

Great thanks again for the tips- loads of brill ideas!! I'll send a photo when it's all done; just had a little top up of hidey places from Amazon. It makes sense to give him more space to play/hide in a covert fashion rather than running in the open imagining the birds are after him!

While you've both mentioned hamster bathrooms, this is one that is frustrating me: getting Alan to wee in a tray or something that can be kept clean. He currently does a handstand against a corner and wees down it. It has stained the cage bottom and obviously is not perfectly cleanable. I've tried a tray. Serendipity on your recommendation I've ordered another, that corner one which i hope might be better for him. Based on other posts I've ordered some sand hoping that might encourage him too. I had tried the litter from the pet shop but that looks like a no go for health so removed it sharpish and Alan didn't use it anyway. He tried to eat it, not ideal and even though i put some soiled bedding on the first tray and into the corner he usually wees in, he was having none of it and just changed his wee corner. Any idea what i could do next?

Thanks everyone for all your advice!!
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Old 06-03-2019, 10:26 AM   #14
Coco61
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Default Re: Behaviour change after an escape

My lovely Mocho used a hamster toilet from the start until he was 2 and 1/2 and went to the bridge. Maestro has other ideas! He likes going in the covered toilet and the corner one, both with sand, but use them?? Ha ha! The lazy boy uses a corner in his outer room, so I have a very small ceramic corner toilet ( from Rodipet) with substrate in it. It catches some but not all of his output! He also thinks it is nice to stash some of his food in it too so that gets removed at spot clean time.
Sometimes they just out think us...
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Old 06-03-2019, 10:52 AM   #15
Serendipity7000
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Default Re: Behaviour change after an escape

Two toilets Have had to do this myself before when one becomes seen as a rather handy place to put a hoard! If he pees higher than the back of that tray you can get bigger ones for guinea pigs - that would double up as a sand bath/digging place as well.

So a big one and a small one in the other area? Maybe wait and see where he chooses to pee in the Barney cage At the moment he might be changing his toilet corner for various reasons if things aren't right for him.

Someone else had this larger one , ordered by mistake. It is quite big - but she liked it anyway.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rosewood-Co...gateway&sr=8-3

When Newt stopped using his for a while it was to tell me he wanted it somewhere else - so I moved the toilet where he moved his pee corner to.
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Old 06-09-2019, 04:49 AM   #16
Jaysephine86
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Default Re: Behaviour change after an escape

Update: we set up the Barney cage last night and Alan LOVES it! I intended to let him explore then move him properly after a couple of nights but he took to it straight away. He sacked off his usual bed and has picked a new one even though we left the old one in.

We've set up a few adventure places which he was cockahoop about. He was playing for hours and seemed very happy. We were unsure about the size at first as the cage looked HUGE but once everything was in it was clear it was so much more suitable. His old cage looks so tiny now :'(

Also i put a sandbath in and he's using it as a toilet! Go on Alan! He was loving having a little wash in there
too so I've set up another one. All tips have smashed it so thank you for your help everyone.

I've attempted to put some photos in i hope this works!



Attached Images
File Type: jpg 20190608_194520.jpg (4.64 MB, 8 views)
File Type: jpg 20190608_202526.jpg (4.27 MB, 7 views)

Last edited by Jaysephine86; 06-09-2019 at 04:59 AM.
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Old 06-09-2019, 06:22 AM   #17
Serendipity7000
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Default Re: Behaviour change after an escape

Ooh he looks really happy there And it looks great. Just a few other tips if that's ok There is lots of variety and fun things to do in there - but just from a safety aspect, the open rung hanging ladders can be a bit dangerous - they do better with solid things rather than open rungs.

Also chains can be a safety issue too - plenty of stories of hamsters hanging by a broken leg with a foot caught in a chain. There is an easy solution to that though as sisal string or rope is safe to chew and the chains can be replaced with that. I have also used plastic cable ties to attach some things to bars.

The fabric hammock is also a possible safety issue if chewed - they can swallow the fabric and get internal blockages, or get loose threads tied round a leg and circulation cut off (plenty of stories of amputations too!).

Final one is fall risks/injuries. Which relates to the hanging ladder as well. Adding more substrate can help avoid this so they have a nice soft landing, and it's also good for them to have 4 to 5" at least so they can dig, move it around and bury hoards under the nest. In addition you can go much longer between clean outs the more substrate you have in, so less stress for the hamster as well.

The Barney does take a lot of substrate - but the bigger the cage and the more substrate in it, the less often it needs a "full clean" so it does actually end up working out cheaper even though you have to put an awful lot in to start with. More about that below.

Sorry to be such a pain there. But there are ways round it. Unfortunately many toys etc sold for hamsters are quite dangerous or not suitable - no regulation on what they can sell.

However, as he has just moved in then starting to change things and take them away could cause him to get upset and stressed as it's normally recommmended to not disturb anything or clean for the first two weeks.

However adding something new tends to be accepted well, or replacing something. Whereas just taking something out can get them upset and stressed (ie stealing my stuff!)

So if you could find something else to put where the runged ladder and hammock are that could be good. You can actually get grass hammocks which are safe to chew, or people make them out of cardboard egg boxes and sisal rope. Some hamsters will chew, some won't but it's always a risk because their natural instinct is to forage for nesting material so they want to rip nice soft things to bits and take it to their nest.

I would keep an eye on it while you think of something to replace it with in that area. I did the same thing at the start and our hamster did start chewing the hammock and I had to take it out (and the runged ladder!) and he had massive tantrums. However I found a nice vine branch and he liked that and sat there looking happy.

Will link a few things below - or making something - cardboard is your friend ha ha. Safe to chew and rip to pieces.

Substrate and clean outs etc

So with the large cage and a good depth of substrate, (and him cleverly using the toilet!) you just empty the toilet out every few days and the cage should stay mostly clean and dry and you can "spot clean" occasionally when necessary - ie take out a handful of slightly soiled substrate and replace it with a new one, and mix it in a bit so it still smells familiar.

I find with the hamster using the toilet and occasionally a spot clean or adding more substrate if it goes flat - I go at least 3 months without needing to change the substrate - the base of the cage stays clean and dry. And there is no need to disinfect anyway unless there has been illness or disease. So when you do come to change the substrate, just a warm damp cloth is fine, or a bit of fairy liquid in the water, but then rinse well. They have an extremely sensitive sense of smell and anything remotely scented can make them feel unwell or have respiratory problems. Or even cause allergy.

Also it's best to only do "partial" cleans - so something always smells familiar and it isn't stressful for them. They scent mark everything in their cage - partly to claim it and partly to follow a route and find their way round as they don't see well. So if everything is cleaned at once and all their scent removed, they feel lost, invaded and might want to escape or start bar chewing out of fear etc.

So when you do change the substrate it's best not to clean anything else at the same time, and do the wheel a different week and any toys a different week again. I also leave the nest and hoard alone (their most prized possessions and very particular about them) unless they are pee'd on. And in that case try and leave a bit of old nest and hoard behind and add new food to the hoard in exactly the same place, if you've removed some. And put new nesting material out for him to forage and take back to the nest to rebuild it. I tend to leave the hoard though, if not pee'd on, until I do the substrate and then prune the bottom half which is the oldest food. They tend to just hoard dried food and eat fresh stuff straight away but if he does hoard any fresh stuff you can just pick it out - you soon get to learn their individual habits.

Also when changing the substrate, it isn't necessary to change the lot if most is clean and dry - if the bottom third is clean and dry then re-use that and mix it in with the new as then it still smells familiar a bit. Or what some people do is replace the substrate and keep back a bit of the old clean and sprinkle it on top - it really makes a difference so they accept the change and aren't stressed.

This is the grass hammock - it's cheaper on zooplus but then there's postage to pay and a minimum order amount I think.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Trixie-Gras...ateway&sr=8-19

Here are a few tried and tested toys that are popular! That are safe to chew and have large enough entrances for a syrian. A lot of hamster toys are only big enough for dwarf hamsters, and have tiny entrances a syrian can get stuck in.

Hyacinth tunnel

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rosewood-Bo...gateway&sr=8-2

Rat sputnik - a kind of plastic hammock - works best next to a shelf so they can get in easily. Hangs from the roof. Rat sized toys are generally better for syrians - I put some bedding in them.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Savic-Ferre...gateway&sr=8-1

Coconut hut - they do like round things! Can be screwed to the roof so probably needs to be over a shelf so there isn't a big drop. I just took the screw out and used it on the floor of the cage.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Beetest-Nat...5W30HTH89S3499

Nibble sticks - our hamster loves these - they taste fruity I think - otherwise he ignores wooden chews

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rosewood-3D...upplies&sr=1-6

Rainbow Bridge always popular - too small for a ramp but they like running over it at floor level

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rosewood-Bo...upplies&sr=1-8

Trio of balls - I only use the hyacinth one - you can stick treats like pumpkin seeds under the folds and they have fun trying to get them out. The wicker one I found to pokey and scratchy and don't use. The sisal one - tip - it can be unravelled and used as sisal string for hanging or attaching things. Normal cotton string isn't safe to chew.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rosewood-Bo...pplies&sr=1-18

I like the big cork tunnels/logs - they make a large floor toy that gives overhead cover so they don't feel too exposed, and also something to climb over with an interesting texture - can also be used next to a shelf as a ramp rather than using the long ladder.

https://www.rodipet.co.uk/accessorie...-diameter.html

This is the vine branch I got for the corner of our syrian's cage a couple of years back that he liked. They can be a bit iffy though as they vary and some can have sharp bits on - so there are plenty of other toys.

https://www.rodipet.co.uk/accessorie...-20-30-cm.html

It's not necessary to go buying a lot though - pringles tubes are popular toys! Just for some ideas.
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Old 06-09-2019, 06:27 AM   #18
Serendipity7000
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Default Re: Behaviour change after an escape

The general rule to avoid injuries from falls is - enough substrate to effectively reduce the height and give a cushioned landing. And checking they can't fall more than say 25 to 30cm and land on something hard or pointy. So the sputniks can help with that too as they can hang over the top of a hard toy for example. And you can then tie a tube to the roof of the cage with sisal string - leading from the sputnik to the shelf (or to another shelf eg if the sputnik is next to the shelf) and it makes a kind of extra roof run and also covers up hard items underneath

They can actually monkey bar across the roof and drop the full height and who knows what they get up to when we're asleep.

But for now I would just add some more substrate and think about replacing the hammock and hanging ladder.

The whole hamster toys sale is really annoying - I wasted a lot of money on useless items at first. Hence the list above for tried and tested ones!
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Old 06-09-2019, 06:43 AM   #19
Jaysephine86
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Default Re: Behaviour change after an escape

Thanks for the feedback. Funnily enough that photo was taken before we put Alan in and we decided to leave the hammock out as we weren't convinced by it. I'm so glad now! Everything else in there i ransacked Amazon reviews for hamster safety as there's so many things to consider! I have a few of the toys you've listed (like the ball to chew) but i left out the rainbow bridge as a few people said it splintered when chewed I'll keep the others you've suggested for when we're adding in the future! New toys always welcome.

I was concerned about the substrate as he was monkey barring last night and i wasn't sure about his landing as the ceiling is high on this cage. There's a good few inches of bedding and it looks pretty soft but i might add another couple more! He's quite the acrobat now he's got the means.

The best addition is that adventure playground it kept him occupied for ages and he's currently snuggled up asleep in it!
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Old 06-09-2019, 07:02 AM   #20
Jaysephine86
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Default Re: Behaviour change after an escape

Here is the actual set up! His other sand bath is under the shelf and we added our own bigger wheel. There's a photo of Alan himself too!
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