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Old 09-14-2020, 10:22 AM   #1
Amethyst_ice
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Default Cage/Peer pressure on social media

Hi all,

I hope everyone is keeping well. I wanted to make a post after receiving some private messages on some other social platforms & engaging in some discussions. It is not a criticism of anyone who has a large, tanked natural set up in any way.

I have never been a huge social media poster. I left facebook nearly a year ago and have found life a lot less stressful! I have been using instagram quite a lot recently as I love taking photos to preserve memories.

I have been observing the ever changing ways that hamster care is developing over the world but lately have seen some trends that concern me and I wanted to make this post to perhaps provide some assurance and guidence for our members. (It may make me appear a bit of a golden oldie!)

I've been keeping hamsters as an adult for around 13 years now and been on HC 10 years! I've seen cages, substrate and toys all develop which is to be expected and am still learning daily things about hammies.

I, as i'm sure many of us have, have cringed and felt guilty about the cages we had in the earlier days of our keeping hammies, used fluffy bedding and a host of other faux pas.

Large glass tank cages with a natural set up seem to the the popular "go to" at present. They look amazing, have multiple layers of different kinds of bedding and hides, tank decorations and a host of other "themed" accessories.

This post isn't to criticise them at all but I'm seeing many accounts telling new owners the dos and don't and a popular theme is the cost of hamster care and that these are the "right" kind of set ups. One I recently interracted with said they did a large survey of hamster owners and they spent £20-£30 per month on their hamsters. They were arguing that hamsters aren't a cheap pet.

While this may have been the findings of the demographic they surveyed (most of those posting their set ups on social media appear to be the large natural tanks so I wonder if the survey results were not a fair reprresentive cross section of hamster owners- it also didnt mention the country as hamster care and availability of supplies varies), I feel this is misleading and from the private messages I received after putting forward my points, I was quite upset that many people who wanted to own a hamster felt they couldn't afford to and thus were denied the joy of owning our little fur friends.

These large, natural set ups are lovely. If you have the time, space and finances to provide a set up like this then that is wonderful. I have absolutely no issue with them at all. Personally, I couldn't manage the upkeep of one on a financial and personal health level. I have also recently downsized house.

In my opinion, they are not ESSSENTIAL for a happy, healthy hamster and this is my main concern, that new owners are feeling pressured into providing these set ups with all the trimmings that they see on social media.

Hides can be made from card board boxes, tunnels from free carpet inserts, raiding your house for things you can turn into fun hammy toys and buying bedding in bulk if you can will reduce costs.

Some of these hides can cost £20 in themselves. The people spending these kind of figures each month are CHOOSING to, it is not the basic essential costs of keeping a hamster. Again, if you can afford to and want to then fine, we all love to spoil our pets! But they are not the essential needs of keeping a hamster happy and healthy.

Most of us now agree the cage minimum is 80 x 50cm for a syrian. My cage is a criceti 16 (I think) that I got second hand from another HC member 8 years ago for £10... and she got it from ebay prior. This cage has served me well over the years for both hammies and ratties (hospital and intro cage). I am still a personal fan of the Alaska and Barney which have come down in price considerably now and seem good, sturdy wire cages.

The tank set ups can cost upwards of hundreds of pounds from what I have seen. They can be a good investment though so an initial large spend on a hamster isn't so much of an issue in my opinion. It is the ongoing costs that I believe don't have to break the bank and shouldn't put off new owners.

There is also rising discussion in wheel size. A popular topic I've watched over the years, but now i'm seeing the MINIMUM for a syrian being put forward as 10-12". Many of you know I keep rats and while I dont use wheels for them, I have friends who have rats that comfortably run, flat backed, in a 12" wheel! A rat is at least 3 times the size of a hamster. I purchased a 10" wheel for Boromir and I struggled to fit it in the cage and he struggled to actually run in it. His 8" wheel (again, that I have had for years) he bombed his way on, flat backed and suited him fine.

Again, this point was raised in my messages that these new potential owners were scared to sharing their set up or hamster on a wheel for fear of being told they are being cruel.

I'd be interested to know if any of our members have felt peer/cage pressure in these ways or indeed if they disagree with my points. I invite healthy discussion and have grown to realise that in the pet world, there will always be someone who doesn't think your way is the right way but in most cases we should respect that (unless of course it is an obvious mistreatment like keeping syrians together).

Keep safe all,

Amethyst
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Last edited by Amethyst_ice; 09-14-2020 at 04:36 PM.
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Old 09-14-2020, 10:48 AM   #2
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Default Re: Cage/Peer pressure on social media

I agree with everything you have said, it is nice to buy the odd bit, replace a chewed mat or some treats. my ongoing costs are minimal, average of about £5 a month at a guess. I have put aside some savings for any vet visits as having just seen a vet, private script and antibiotic eye drops I waved goodbye to £50. My main ‘must do’ is have some saved money should you need a vet, much more important than a posh house.

I feel like a lot of things are very much for the owners pleasure not for the hamsters, again if that’s your choice - absolutely fine
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Old 09-14-2020, 12:23 PM   #3
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Default Re: Cage/Peer pressure on social media

I never have & probably never will be on facebook but I do see some of this kind of thing on instagram but tbh I think it has more to do with the nature of social media where people comment/like/dislike rather than discuss.
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Old 09-14-2020, 12:24 PM   #4
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Default Re: Cage/Peer pressure on social media

Totally agree! I think in total I maybe spent 100 Canadian for my own hamster. I don't really spend any extra money each month specifically on them either. I got my enclosure second hand for around $25, two big bags of paper bedding on sale for $20 together, use a little sauce dish for water and scatter feed, food was another $20, treats were about $5, and a wheel that was abut $25. I use a drawer organizer filled with play sand I use in my aquariums for a sand bath, all the hides and toys are made from cardboard and/or sisal that I construct or weave myself. Even the hamster themself was free though I chose to donate $20 to the rescue.

I think people often get very caught up in thinking that amount of money spent and visual appeal equals quality of care. My own set up honestly looks like a mess- theres tape on the exterior of the cage, scuff marks and scratches on the acrylic, a crack messily fixed with resin, and just cardboard things strewn about. One could look at it and think I'm not taking care of her as well as I should. My focus is not on making the cage pretty- it's on making it functional, safe, and enriching to the pet within it. Though I do admit I often look at it and compare it to those I see online. I have to remind myself that my hamsters current cage is actually more spacious than many I see and that it is laid out to her specific needs- she likely would not like being in the cages I think look great. Of course I would like to be able to see her more clearly and one day I even plan to build my own cage that is significantly prettier than this.

I generally keep this attitude with all my pets- my first fish as an adult for example was actually kept in a clear storage bin because it was cheaper than an aquarium but had the same functionality. I eventually found a free tank, then was gifted a bigger one, then eventually at a used store found an even bigger one. Did I need to upgrade? No, but I chose to because I was given the opportunity to. I think pets as a whole would be more accessible if more people shared this attitude and perhaps pets as a whole.

That all being said I am a lot more ok with someone putting off getting a hamster because they think they are more expensive to keep than I am with someone getting one and finding out too late they can't afford it. Even if the actual supplies and upkeep can be a lot cheaper than they believe the extra money can be saved for vet visits.
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Old 09-14-2020, 12:40 PM   #5
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Default Re: Cage/Peer pressure on social media

I think I totally agree with you about everything you just said Amethyst, apart from the wheel maybe. (discuss more in a min)

I took a break from 'hamstagram' the other week and now only on there fri-sun. all of a sudden after being on there for nearly a year the hamster community seemed to take a turn for the worse, people will call you out for the smallest thing they do not agree with. I even did a story on my a/c about being kind as you don't know who is behind a lot of these accounts, e.g. little kids (who aren't even old enough to have an account sometimes) and I don't agree with people naming names of accounts and shaming people into changing their hamster care. That in itself is bullying. If a hamster is in danger and being abused that is a totally different matter, yet i feel some people think that if you don;t have a natural set up etc that you are abusing/neglecting your hamster. I don't agree with that.

I know I have just invested in 2 expensive cages and I buy things for my hamsters all the time, but I can afford to do that and I don't go on holiday etc as too ill, it doesn't mean I will pick on someone else for not doing the same as long as they have the basic essentials in place.

In my opinion, a proper sized cage and wheel, correct type of bedding, decent food and vet fund are the essentials. Everything else you can get from charity shop e.g. hides, or use your recycling. In fact I created a video about creating a budget cage made out of recycling as I was trying to show examples that it didn't need to cost much to give your hamster a good life. I had got fed up of seeing so called 'budget videos for hamsters' when they were still really expensive and they don't need to be.

I actually want to create another video like that as I have had more ideas since. I hope I can help show people that they can add enrichment to their hamsters life without having to buy things. It may not be until next year though.

The wheel size: i started off with the silent runner 9 inch wheel for Luna as i did my research and lots of people said that would be big enough. It was only a few months later when I actually looked at Luna in the wheel that I realised how small it was for her, she was a big girl. Two of my other Syrians have been very long so all 3 of them are/were in 11-12 inch wheels. Only Star my very tiny syrian was fine in the 9 inch wheel, but I still gave her the 12 inch in her cage. If I wasn't so noise sensitive I would not buy the expensive silent runners as i think the Trixie wheels are really good for the price.

I see lots of people dissing Harry Hamster food too these days, but for £1.49-£1.99 I think it s a good choice for most people. I know there is better food out there like rodipet, bunny hamster dream etc but people need to be realistic and appreciate that is not in everyone's budget.

So to sum up I personally don't feel peer pressure, I do what I want but i know and have seen cases of it.
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Old 09-14-2020, 01:16 PM   #6
Ria P
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Default Re: Cage/Peer pressure on social media

I also agree with you and will give you a personal example that may surprise you.

On this forum i feel very comfortable and free to talk. As you can tell by my increasing number of posts, i hardly ever shut up.

I'm also a member on another forum in another country where the minimum enclosure size is significantly larger and the huge, expensive, natural set up tanks you mentioned seem to be the only acceptable habitat to house a hamster in.

I am a silent member.

Silent because my Alaska and Hamster Heavens would be frowned upon and critised no end. Members are generally judgemental about anything that doesn't meet their high standards.

Makes me a bit sad sometimes.
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Old 09-14-2020, 01:25 PM   #7
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Default Re: Cage/Peer pressure on social media

[QUOTE=Ria P;943592
I'm also a member on another forum in another country where the minimum enclosure size is significantly larger and the huge, expensive, natural set up tanks you mentioned seem to be the only acceptable habitat to house a hamster in.

I am a silent member.

Silent because my Alaska and Hamster Heavens would be frowned upon and critised no end. Members are generally judgemental about anything that doesn't meet their high standards.

Makes me a bit sad sometimes.[/QUOTE]

This right here is why the 'hamster community' needs to be less judgemental. It puts people off, it doesn't encourage helping one another and learning. People that think only huge cages with natural setups are the only way and correct way are not helping create better lives for all the other little hamsters out in the world.

If we can help and encourage people to improve their hamster care even just with what I consider the basics as stated in my previous post without it costing a fortune then I think that is a good thing.

I made a whole maze out of recycling for Twinkle, he uses it everynight, he loves it. doesn't look pretty, didn't cost anything yet he is happy, anyone can do that if they have the energy to do so.
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Old 09-14-2020, 01:36 PM   #8
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Default Re: Cage/Peer pressure on social media

I 100% agree Amethyst!
Alaskas, Hamster Heavens etc are perfectly fine for Syrians. I remember when a detolf was the cage everyone wanted and the cage that (space and money dependant) so many people aspired to have. I mean, it's huge! So I get pretty exasperated when I see people now saying that a Detolf isn't big enough as a Syrian cage and that 2 detolfs joined is more acceptable (Yes I have seen pretty much those exact words when someone proudly showed off their lovely detolf setup for their Syrian.

I have a slightly unpopular opinion in that I would rather see a hamster that is loved, adored, lots of attention in a cage that might fall slightly under the recommended size than see a hamster with all the toys and space that never receives any attention.

People are far to quick to judge.

Not only that, not every hamster copes well in a huge cage. I breed and show Chinese and I have had far more chinese that have become stressed and unhandleable when put into larger cages (with lots of cover and enrichment) than I've had happy ones.

I know everyone wants the best for hamsters, after all, that's why we're all here, but I do think we need to extend that compassion and understanding to our fellow hammy owners too.
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Old 09-14-2020, 02:16 PM   #9
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Default Re: Cage/Peer pressure on social media

I think the Alaska, Barney and Alexander are still the cages most recommended on here when people come asking about cages And now the Savic Plaza as well. The Alaska and a 28cm trixie wheel are the usual budget recommendations for a Syrian owner - or a second hand hamster heaven if money is tight. But the Alaska is a good budget option.

It's a shame people on social media get this view and they should come on here! I think the Linmon cage on youtube got a lot of people keen on making diy tank style cages. I prefer barred cages and front opening cages and we're lucky to have a good choice of those in the Uk.

But you're right there is not so much about keeping hamsters on a budget and it seems a long time since we had lots of threads about how to make home made toys. The shoebox house is often recommended along with pringles tubes for tunnels etc.

When I first joined, bin cages were seen as the cheap option, but the Alaska can work out cheaper

I prefer larger wheels because I've found Syrians run better in them. The Silent runner is a great wheel and the safest, most long lasting wheel I've ever had. It only comes in 12" and 9" unfortunately. I don't think hamsters need a 12" wheel - 11" is the one that suits even larger hamsters. But the silent runner isn't deep or bulky and hamsters do love it. It won't fit in many cages though. And wodent wheels aren't available any more. But the 28cm trixie is a good budget option.

I think wheels are something that over time 10" or 11" has been seen as a standard syrian size. Although I know when I first came on here it was either 8" or 11" depending on the size of the hamster. I'm sure everyone agrees that anything smaller than 8" is too small for a syrian. But with the demise of the 6.5" silent spinner, a lot of dwarf hamster owners go for 8 or 9" wheels so 11" seems even more normal for a Syrian then.

It's a shame if seeing these lovely tank set ups makes people feel hamster owning is expensive. I don't use social media but maybe someone could start a section on how to keep a hamster on a budget and still keep them happy.

The German forums have amazing natural set ups and large tank set ups and different views to other countries perhaps. I sort of went with a lot of the things they did for a while but soon came to the conclusion that 30cm deep bedding isn't necessary when you have a good house and enrichment. Yes hamsters may tunnel in it but if they have a nesting box they have no need to dig a burrow.

I think on here people are fairly open minded and flexible. I have to admit I like 100cm cages for Syrians but some hamsters do prefer something less big. I downgraded Pickle for that reason and have upgraded him again now because he is so big! So have filled the bigger cage up so it's cosy for him and given him bigger toys.

But yes they need lots of love and attention and not just large natural cages.
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Old 09-14-2020, 02:23 PM   #10
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Default Re: Cage/Peer pressure on social media

I think the benefits of barred cages as opposed to tanks are underappreciated - better interaction with the hamster, potential for front opening doors, better ventilation, potential for shelves and hanging toys. If only there were barred cages with deeper bases of about 8 inches, I think that would be ideal.

I partially agree and partially disagree about the wheels. I've never owned a Syrian but have boarded some and it's been my experience that a few small Syrians can run on an 8.5 inch with a flat back, most need slightly bigger, but all Syrians prefer and seem most comfortable on an 11 inch wheel. It is a useful minimum in that it works for basically all Syrians and it's much simpler to give a single number to an owner than to try to explain the position a hamster's back should be in when running (especially when I'm communicating via Whatsapp to a parent who really isn't that interested in their child's hamster's spine and just wants to be told exactly what to buy). Over time, these general recommendations tend to become absolutes, especially on social media which often isn't good at conveying nuance. 11 inches is often touted as a minimum below which all Syrians will have bent backs, which just isn't true, and people shouldn't criticise owners for a hamster in a smaller wheel if the back isn't actually arching. I don't measure hamsters' wheels when they arrive, I just see if the back is arching, and if it is, I message the owners with information about wheels.
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