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Old 11-17-2019, 08:10 AM   #1
Otaku
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Default Customised adaptions to cage

After a 5 year hiatus I have decided to get another hamster. I had gotten rid of my old cages, with the exception of my Tom Rat Cage (measuring 80H x 80W x 50D).
I think the Savic Plaza is a fantastic cage, but I don't have space for the length of the cage, which is why I am going to adapt the Tom Rat cage to make it safe and suitable to house a Syrian. (I live with my parents in a bungalow - I don't want the cage on the floor because I don't want the hamster disturbed by footfall and also because it is colder on the floor. My room has 3 exterior walls, which again are colder so I have only one wall for the cage to sit which shares wall space with other furniture.)

The first thing is shelves. I have drawn a blueprint for my father to cut 6 shelves of varying shapes and sizes, to be placed every 10cms after the first at 20cms up (the base is 15cms deep). I have seen threads discussing woods for custom made shelves, but my dad (a window installer) said he has lots of plastic from which he can make the shelves. Plastic is smooth and doesn't have any grip so does anyone have any suggestions of materials I could line the shelves with? Or do you think I should use wood instead?
I will use large rat/ferret/chinchilla tubes, wooden bendy bridges (covered to protect tiny toes), and a ladder to go between levels and to fill gaps to ensure any falls are no more than 20cms. Hammocks will serve as safety nets (I used to make hammocks out of tea towels for my rats as they can cover larger areas) and other accessories will furnish the cage for enrichment.

Substrate is the next issue as I am still undecided. Kaytee Clean & Cosy is very popular but the health warning (that is contains chemicals known to cause cancer) is worrying, especially as the cage is within a foot of my pillow (I'm not worried about the hamster as their lifespan is too short for them to develop cancer related to these chemicals). The pros are that the white colour means I can spot soiled bedding and it's supposed to be great for burrowing.
Fitch is also recommended in this forum though less popular, so I'm just hoping my forum members can assure me that Kaytee is the better choice or to go with Fitch considering the close proximity of the cage with my bed.
I plan to purchase Ikea's 11ltr Samla box with lid to attach to the side of the cage, upright, as a makeshift burrow tower. Holes will be cut into the lid for entry/exit points, along with the removal of the top end (entirely) to ensure adequate ventilation. For the burrow box I was thinking of Hugro hemp because it is supposed to be great for burrowing and provides variety. Does this sound ok? Should I buy some soft hay or mix with another substrate to help keep the form of the burrow?

I was thinking of using chinchilla sand in the litter tray so the hamster had access should it wish to enjoy a sand bath, but I was curious. What’s it like for odour control when soiled?

Any suggestions, advice, or recommendations would be most welcome. (^_^)
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Old 11-17-2019, 09:46 AM   #2
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Default Re: Customised adaptions to cage

I haven’t had my dwarf hamster for long (6 weeks) but so far the sand doesn’t have a smell to it when soiled. I use a small corner box and I find that the sands is very similar to kitty litter, ie the urine clogs in the bottom and the top sand stays fresh.
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Old 11-17-2019, 10:56 AM   #3
Otaku
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Default Re: Customised adaptions to cage

Excellent! I certainly didn't want my future hamster rolling in smelly, soggy sand while I slept so that's really pleasing to hear.

I actually forgot to ask the forum about cork logs too. I was wondering if I could buy a large cork log and cut it down the middle length ways to make 2 hides. Is that possible or is cork pretty weak and likely to disintegrate if cut length ways/with the grain?
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Old 11-17-2019, 02:52 PM   #4
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Default Re: Customised adaptions to cage

Should be ok to cut cork because sites like Rodipet sell full tunnels and half tunnels.

Sand last quite a long time because its easy to remove the pee when it forms into a lump. I sieve the sand when it has seed shells, substrate etc in it then its all clean again.

I use Kaytee C&C and my trio of hamsters really like it especially the burrowing dwarves.

I suppose you could put hemp mats on plastic shelves. You can buy them in sheets and then cut to size. Not sure how a cage that high would work for a hamster though because they are usually ground dwellers. Fabric may not be suitable for hammocks in case a hamster chews it but you can get plastic sputniks or hammocks made from seagrass etc.

I'm sure you're going to figure it all out. It's so much fun to set up a hamster home. Have you looked at the "Let's see your cages" thread under Housing on the Forum?
Looking forward to see your cage once its all finished.
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Old 11-17-2019, 03:55 PM   #5
Otaku
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Default Re: Customised adaptions to cage

Thanks Ria P, I have been through "Let's see your cages" for inspiration and have to be honest, I was pretty green with envy by the time I was through. lol.

Thank you for reassuring me about the cork. I had seen the half tunnels and figured it would make sense to get a large tunnel and then split it for two spacious halves. (It's always good to have supplies to hand.)

I also appreciate the advice concerning sieving sand, I'll be sure to do that as it'll be more environmentally friendly for me to use it until it has been soiled, rather than check the lot out regularly.

Kaytee really surged ahead in the polls. I am naturally concerned about the health warning but considering how happy it makes critters I think I will try it. Was really tempted by the price of Fitch.

I had added hemp mats and also "small pet rug" (zooplus is selling 2 packs for £4.79) to the basket to line the shelves for grip (and because I don't want the plastic feeling cold on tiny feet), in addition to a couple of hanging grass mats (which I read were good boredom breakers for bar chewers) so those are lovely suggestions, thank you. As for fabric, that's a good point. I remember finding a free roaming hamster in my bottom drawer. He had chewed through a few t-shirts to make a nice nest for himself, cheeky boy!

Thank you for your encouragement. I'm looking forward to making progress with it, I just need to wait for my dad to come home from France next weekend and make time to cut the shelves to size. Meanwhile, I should order the substrate try to focus on work and uni. (-_-)
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Old 11-17-2019, 04:18 PM   #6
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Default Re: Customised adaptions to cage

I get the Kaytee C&C from Porton Aquatics near Salisbury where i buy 85l bags for £17.99 but i'm in Wiltshire so can drive there. It expands x3 so works out cheaper than Carefresh. I use the white for my diabetic dwarf so i can see where he pees and the natural and camo for my Syrian's and Robo's natural set ups.The prices on Amazon vary but still cheaper than in the pet shops. Never tried Fitch so can't comment on it.
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Old 11-17-2019, 04:48 PM   #7
Otaku
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Default Re: Customised adaptions to cage

Thank you so much for the recommendation! I'm over in South Croydon and I don't drive so despite the discount it's still £21.44. Gotta love how warped the universe can be. (¬_¬)

I'm tempted to buy 6 boxes of basic tissues and tear them up. It could be a moment of bonding with my new child, like sewing a quilt together, albeit with a sappy woman and a teeny, tiny, furry helper. lol.

Right, I need to get ready for bed. Work awaits... How I miss childhood.
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Old 11-18-2019, 01:49 AM   #8
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Default Re: Customised adaptions to cage

Cork is pretty easy to cut through but i have had a few pieces break at thinner points - still useable just not a full tunnel.

Kaytee Clean and Cosy is safe, I’ve never seen the cancer warning on the UK stuff and in the US its the generic “found to cause cancer in the state of California” warning that is on almost anything. Definitely recommend it, my hamsters love C&C for nesting and burrowing!

For the platforms, personally I would do one full level platform at the around 40cm height or several overlapping platforms with 20 between them. That way theres no fall risks.
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Old 11-18-2019, 05:49 AM   #9
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Default Re: Customised adaptions to cage

Aspen is another option for bedding. In the UK it comes in big 14kg sacks for about £30 from Pets at Home. I used to use it but found it very dusty.
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Old 11-18-2019, 03:21 PM   #10
Otaku
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Default Re: Customised adaptions to cage

alpacassei, it's reassuring to know that cork is pretty easy to cut through, my dad will make short work of it. haha.

Quote:
Originally Posted by alpacassei View Post
I’ve never seen the cancer warning on the UK stuff and in the US its the generic “found to cause cancer in the state of California” warning that is on almost anything.
I read up on it last night and learned that basically anything that can be dusty carries the same risks, so really all bedding carries the risk, just some to higher degrees. Given C&C reputation for being relatively dust free it is probably one of the safer options.

Thank you for your suggestions about the platforms. I had one blueprint, then I considered a bigger burrow box last night so need to draw up another blueprint (, the original plan was for a Samla 11l box, 39 x 28 x 14, on its side to make it 39cm deep, now I'm thinking a 38 x 28 x 28 will be more interesting).

No matter the size of the box, the plan is for levels every 10cm so tunnels/ramps are not steep, more levels means more surface area, and to ensure the overlaps mean no potential to drop further than 20cm... then I measured my old rat wheel and realised that there will be one area with an uninterrupted 40cm drop. As I read others have had issues with bedding getting caught in the wheels I'm thinking of putting a couple of hemp mats or something there for cushioning, just in case. (That is depending on how soft they are.)

sushi_78, yes! I forgot Aspen, thank you! I have to consider storage space so I'll have a look at smaller bags, but I would like to try different substrates as I have seen people say that offering different textures is another form of enrichment.
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cage, shelves, hamster, make, burrow, box, colder, thinking, lid, 20cms, wall, hammocks, ensure, cancer, chemicals, kaytee, substrate, popular, soiled, supposed, suggestions, forum, fitch, great, burrowing

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