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Old 10-31-2019, 06:45 PM   #1
sayaspice
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Default Can large cages be good for Chinese hamsters?

I am planning on making a DIY cage which is based around a 6 ft (182 cm) display case that I will be getting for cheap in a few weeks. The seller currently does not have the depth measurement of the case (they're out of town) but I will likely replace the glass sides with wooden ones so ideally the cage will be 24 x 72 x 20 in (60 x 182 x 50 cm). This is about 1700 sq in or 10900 sq cm.

I've heard that Syrians are much pickier about cage size than other hamsters species so I'm sure this cage would work for a majority of Syrians and maybe even an active Robo/RCD/WW but I haven't heard much about how Chinese hamsters react to large cages. I do want to clarify that I will be adding in a lot of substrate and many hideouts to avoid as much empty space as possible.

I haven't quite been able to understand my hamster's preferences yet. I have had my Chinese hamster for a month now and it feels like we have gone backwards in taming. For context, he is in a 576 sq in (3640 sq cm) bin cage. He was very skittish the first week which I understand is normal, and then he became very playful, curious, and energetic the second two weeks. He would run for hours in his wheel, and if I put my hand in the cage, he would run in the wheel for 10 seconds, come out and walk across my hand/wrist, explore his cage, then back into the wheel and repeat.

Now I rarely see him in his wheel and he usually runs to hide if I come near his cage. This has been happening for a few days. I know he isn't running in his wheel when I'm asleep because I've been awake for 20+ hrs at a time from insomnia and I never see him or hear him in his wheel even if the lights are off during that time. He does drink water and eat but only for a few minutes at a time and goes back to his hides. I have noticed that he has been burrowing a lot so I assume that is how he uses up his energy.

Would upgrading him to a larger cage make taming even harder? And is there evidence that shows that large cages are not as good for skittish hamsters? I wouldn't want to scare him and I'm afraid I'd be doing more harm than good even if a larger cage hypothetically sounds great. I could see more enrichment and space potentially giving him more fun things to do, but I can also see how so much space could be overwhelming.

Sorry for the long post and thanks to everybody who got this far!
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Old 11-20-2019, 07:52 PM   #2
Hamsterdam4sale
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Default Re: Can large cages be good for Chinese hamsters?

I'm far from an expert on hamster behavior, so take what I say with a grain of salt.

That said, I don't believe that having too large of an environment is ever a bad thing for a ham. The biggest concern would be moving him to a new environment may stress him out a bit. But once he is adjusted he would likely be much happier in a larger space.

If you decide to go forward with the larger space, the best way to make the transition would be to somehow attach the new space to his current space, via tubes or whatever other method would work. That way he would have the comfort and familiarity of the space he is used to, while also having the opportunity to explore the new space while he gets used to it.

I wish you the best of luck moving forward.
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Old 11-20-2019, 07:58 PM   #3
Dessi
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Default Re: Can large cages be good for Chinese hamsters?

I’ve had my dwarf for about 6 weeks now and yes, having him in a bigger cage with lots of burrows had made it a lot harder, as he almost never comes out. On the other hand, when he is in a smaller cage, he spends a lot of time in plain sight, doing his thing and turning his wheel. He lets me pick him up easily in the small cage, but flees as soon as he sees me in the bigger one.

I’ve tried the switch twice and the same thing happened twice, so it’s not a coincidence. I guess he must feel more threatened in the bigger cage, so he hides to stay safe. Whereas the smaller cage make him feel secure.

I’m giving him a few months and then I will try again in the bigger cage.

I think you should try it for yourself. And please update this thread so we learn with you.
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Old 11-21-2019, 03:19 AM   #4
Serendipity7000
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I am not an expert on Chinese hamsters, but I think it varies. Some people say they need a lot of space as they are so active. Some people find them very shy and fine in a smaller cage. And maybe some of that depends on the personality of the hamster.

I also have a thing about front access - in the early days of taming, a hamster can be affected by a hand coming from above (as with a tank style or bin cage) - and in that respect, handling and taming is done better out of the cage (you could get them out by lowering a hamster ball into the bin with a treat in and let them hop into that). Or by letting them walk into a tube with a treat in then quickly put your hands over either end and lift them out that way, but I would have a box or similar nearby to put the tube down in fairly quickly, in case the hamster makes you jump and you drop the tube (I doubt they would nip but they can "push"your hand).

Some hamsters just don't like a hand in the cage at all as it is their territory. Personally I would focus on taming your hammy while he is still in the bin cage by having taming sessions out of the cage.

Chinese hamsters also like to climb a bit more than other hamsters. I know Cypher on here, always preferred to have hers in barred cages with a front entrance, but others have successfully used bins or tanks.

Even if you have the hamster more tamed, a change of cage can set things back temporarily so you would have to give it a bit of time. They need about 2 weeks to fully settle into a new cage environment and ideally leave them alone completely for 2 to 3 days and then don't clean anything/move things for the first two weeks. He will gradually scent mark and familiarise himself with the new cage although a lot of this may be done at night.

When changing cages also it's important not to clean everything before the move and to move all the old substrate across into the new cage,even if it's a bit whiffy and toys/house/wheel etc without cleaning anythng. The familiar smell helps them adjust easier.

When you have a much larger cage you need a lot more substrate, so fill the new cage with new substrate then put most of the old substrate on top at the end where the house is and sprinkle the rest on top of the new/spread it out on top.

It also helps to have a similar layout so their "route" is familiar - eg house at left end, wheel centre back, other items laid out in a similar way to before and assume you will also add new items to fill the space.

The key with a much larger cage is to not have a lot of open space and have plenty of enrichment. Lots of floor toys, tunnels, hides etc and I think a platform is fairly essential too (it is overhead cover for them and also somewhere to go/climb onto.

Is the new cage you're looking at a detolf? Or bigger. I am not so sure about replacing the glass with wood sides tbh - firstly you can see through glass and secondly hamsters can chew wood cages. If you have a photo of the prospective new cage it might help with advice.

Another thing you can do initially is effectively make a smaller cage area in the new big cage - so it's not much bigger than the current cage - eg put in partition and fill the area beyond thepartition with substrate and a couple of hides and tunnels on top of that substrate, then have a hole in the partition, so the hamster can explore into that end if and when they want to, while still feeling secure in a smaller area. When the hamster has adjusted you could remove the partition or lower it so you can have a ramp over the top of it so it is one large area but on different levels.

One thing they do need is somewhere dark to retreat to so a large house or nesting box that is dark inside helps them feel secure and so they can build a really big nest. A shoebox house is an ideal size (cut the base out of the shoebox, keep the lid for a lift off roof so you don't need to lift the house out to prevent the nest being disturbed, and cut a hole for a door - at one end of the long side of the house is best so the other end is darker.

Hope that helps. I see you are in the US and there is a shortage of barred cages altogether and cages with front doors, so many people use bins and tanks.

I would look at the detolf though - it is not too expensive - it just needs two removable lids making. For a Chinese I would add things like a large branch that could make a kind of climbing toy.

https://www.ikea.com/us/en/p/detolf-...rown-10119206/

Some examples here

Most of these don't have enough substrate in or enough enrichment, but there are some good examples if you scroll down

https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=ha...w=1252&bih=554

Just to add - for more information about what is best for Chinese Hamsters - Vectis has a lot of very helpful information on her website - she is a breeder of Chinese Hamsters.

https://vectishams.com/chinese-hamster/

This page has a few examples of detolf setups with plenty of enrichment so there's not too much open space, and examples of sectioning off an area/different levels (the photo at the top changes to show the different setups).

Ikea Detolf

This set up also shows how you can make 3 smaller areas/levels within the larger space

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FileIY_cage_example_(Ikea_detolf_-_157_x_38cm_._Approx_0.6sq_metres).jpg

Personally I think a 6 foot cage may be a bit too big for a chinese. Some people have found they are very happy in an 80 x 50 cage like the Hamster heaven - which has a big front opening door for good access and you can use the bars to add enrichment - shelves etc.

Unfortunately it's a bit expensive in the US - this is the version with the narrower bar spacing - the Lixit Mickey 2 Xl. I have this cage and it's very good - the wire platform needs removing though.

https://www.amazon.com/Lixit-Animal-...4332552&sr=8-5

It might not be much different from your bin cage size except for having front access (good for interaction and taming) and bars.
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Last edited by souffle; 11-21-2019 at 04:09 AM.
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Old 11-21-2019, 05:48 AM   #5
Fluffagrams
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Default Re: Can large cages be good for Chinese hamsters?

Quote:
Originally Posted by sayaspice View Post

I haven't quite been able to understand my hamster's preferences yet. I have had my Chinese hamster for a month now and it feels like we have gone backwards in taming. For context, he is in a 576 sq in (3640 sq cm) bin cage. He was very skittish the first week which I understand is normal, and then he became very playful, curious, and energetic the second two weeks. He would run for hours in his wheel, and if I put my hand in the cage, he would run in the wheel for 10 seconds, come out and walk across my hand/wrist, explore his cage, then back into the wheel and repeat.

Now I rarely see him in his wheel and he usually runs to hide if I come near his cage. This has been happening for a few days. I know he isn't running in his wheel when I'm asleep because I've been awake for 20+ hrs at a time from insomnia and I never see him or hear him in his wheel even if the lights are off during that time. He does drink water and eat but only for a few minutes at a time and goes back to his hides. I have noticed that he has been burrowing a lot so I assume that is how he uses up his energy.

Would upgrading him to a larger cage make taming even harder? And is there evidence that shows that large cages are not as good for skittish hamsters? I wouldn't want to scare him and I'm afraid I'd be doing more harm than good even if a larger cage hypothetically sounds great. I could see more enrichment and space potentially giving him more fun things to do, but I can also see how so much space could be overwhelming.
I tend to feel that Chinese are often to most difficult to find the right caging for as they are the species that seem to vary the most. I've had some that have never been happy in anything smaller than a Hamster Heaven and others that won't settle unless they're in something much smaller like a Ferplast Mini Duna.

From what you've said already, I'd be fairly sure that for now, an upgrade will make him more skittish and I'd probably want to keep him where he is until he is less inclined to dart for cover. Perhaps look at adding more coverage in the cage you already have with some more hides... my Chinese seem happiest with cages that other people might consider to be a bit cluttered.

You may find that eventually he is more settled and can be upgraded to a larger cage but I've known Chinese that have refused to leave their nests in a cage too large and this has been with plenty of hides, coverage and substrate. One of my lads actually lost weight because of it but he was a particularly nervous hamster to begin with.
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Old 11-22-2019, 04:08 AM   #6
velma
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Default Re: Can large cages be good for Chinese hamsters?

My chineseys seemed much happier in mini dunas that a bigger space. And they seemed to prefer lots of cover so tubes and bendy bridges to go under or little hideys to sit in as well as something bigger for a nest & plenty of substrate to dig around in. They’re all different so you’ll need to make a call on whether you think a bigger environment would be better but if your ham is already skittish & doesn’t seem bored then you probably don’t need to size up.
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