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Old 09-16-2020, 10:52 PM   #1
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Join Date: Sep 2020
Posts: 8
Question scared in new cage

Hi! So we recently got our dwarf hammy a big new cage (the prevue 52. He made the transition on Sunday (three days ago); I transferred over all of his old bedding, wheel, house, food bowl, etc. in the same positions. The only thing I had to switch was the water bottle, as his old one wasnít compatible.

Hereís a picture of the setup:
I put in a new wooden house and sand bath, which are in the picture.

I guess I have two main issues:

1) he is still incredibly scared and timid. His new cage is wayyy bigger than his old one (like over twice the size; his old one was way too small), so I expected an adjustment period, but I honestly canít tell if heís getting more comfortable? The first night he was kind of frantic stressed but since then heís just been scared. Every time I check on him at night he is holed up in his wooden house and wonít come out unless Iím offering him food (he will still take food from my hand, but I either have to put my hand in the cage or stick it through the bars right by his face). Today I saw him come out, grab a piece of food, then sprint back into the house to eat it.

Is there anything I can do to help him adjust more smoothly? Iíve read that it can take a long time, even up to two weeks, but it just hurts my heart to think about him being so scared all the time.

2) his new cage has an upper level, which is accessible via the ramp (see pic). The first night, when I went to check on him he was already upstairs. He seemed to have forgotten where the ramp was, because he kept looking over the edge on the other side and was clearly thinking about jumping, but then kept deciding it was too high. Eventually I managed to direct him to the ramp and he stepped on it, but then slipped and just slid down the rest of it like a slide. Iím pretty sure this spooked him, so I adjusted the ramp to make it less steep. I havenít seen him use it since so I donít know if that fixed the problem, but today I saw him look over the edge and think about jumping again. He eventually decided not to and went back into his house.

I will probably lower the platform eventually, when I can take him out of the cage again, but my dad also suggested gluing a piece of cloth to the ramp so that itís less slippery. Would that be okay, or would there be a risk that heíd chew threw the cloth to the glue or something? I would really like to solve this ramp problem but donít know what the best thing to do is.

Sorry for the long post! If it would be more appropriate to take the second half to the supplies forum, Iím happy to do that too.
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Old 09-16-2020, 11:33 PM   #2
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Default Re: scared in new cage

It can take them anything up to a couple of weeks to adjust to a new cage so you will need to give him time.
It is quite a big cage & fairly tall so I would think about putting some small shelves or ledges in to make it safer & seem less empty, you can buy ones that bolt onto the bars, degu shelves from amazon, lava ledges available in pet shops & online, ranch house cages on ebay do some good shelves too.
I would put more substrate in, as much as the base will hold or even more with some cardboard around the inside to stop it from falling out.
If you do that he should be able to reach the shelf from the substrate easily, I would ditch the plastic ramp & replace it with a bendy bridge or two, Russian hams do tend to peer over the edge of shelves & jump or fall so you do need to make that safer.
You can use hemp mat in the cage but I doubt it would work on a ramp, it might be an idea to put some on the plastic shelf though so it’s more comfortable for him & would also slightly cushion falls if he bar climbs, they are goo at climbing up but not down so tend to let go & fall.
I would fill up more of the space with hides like cork tunnels or coconut hides, even things like egg boxes with a couple of holes cut into them to make him feel safer & make it more fun for him.
Does he have a house for sleeping in? YOu could put a large wooden house with a lid that lifts off at the opposite end to the shelf, the rodipet labyrinth houses or granite houses are good, they do need a good size house with no base on deep substrate to dig down & nest in, a bendy bridge over the door helps to make it darker inside too & works well. You can then use the house as a shelf too for other toys, water, food bowls, hides etc.
Have a look at the lets see your cages thread for more ideas.
Let's see your cages - New thread - July 2017

edit sorry I only just thought, you're in the US so some of the shelves & houses I mentioned won't be available but you should be able to get some thing similar.
For a house you can even use a shoebox with the base cut out.
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Last edited by cypher; 09-16-2020 at 11:47 PM.
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Old 09-17-2020, 12:02 AM   #3
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Default Re: scared in new cage

Hi, give him time and I think he will settle more, like Cypher says I think if you fill up the space in the cage a bit more I think it will help him feel safer. Either buy a few things like tunnels, cork logs, hides etc or even use recycling, using empty boxes and cartons. Does the house on the shelf have a bottom? If not, I was wondering if you could move it off the shelf and put it on the left of the main part of the cage so he can burrow right down into the bedding. Using cardboard, grass mats or hemp mats on the side of the cage will mean you can add more bedding and make it feel a bit darker/ safer for him.
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Old 09-17-2020, 12:20 AM   #4
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Default Re: scared in new cage

I agree, fill the cage up a bit more and it wont seem so daunting to him. He will love the new bigger cage once he feels comfortable and less anxious about it. I do not think there is much more you could do, changing cages is always going to be scary for them but it sounds like you did a good job regarding transferring items that could be kept from the old cage and keeping the layout the same.
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Old 09-17-2020, 02:02 AM   #5
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Default Re: scared in new cage

Hi. Yes it does take 10 days to 2 weeks. Even with all his old bedding he will need to learn new routines in a different cage and suss out where everything is and scent mark it. Before he feels less jittery. The problem with tweaking things or helping him in the early days is it can set back his settling in time. I wouldn't do anything to the ladder just yet. Moving things and changing things can stress them more. But adding the odd new thing can be accepted ok. So if you have a bendy stick bridge eg, then adding that next to the shelf somewhere (another way of getting down) might help. You might need to add more substrate in the area where you put the bendy stick bridge so it sits high enough to make a ramp.

It's all confidence. Once he's settled he'll be zipping up and down onto the shelf and might even enjoy sliding down the ladder.

If he didn't have a shelf before, then the house on the shelf may be a bit confusing, if he was used to having a house sat on the substrate. If you can also sneak in a cardboard hide under the shelf, when you put the bendy bridge in (eg a small tissue box or even another little house that's open underneath) then he may move in there. They tend to prefer nesting in a house that is open underneath and sat on the substrate so they can bury hoards under their nest and get cosy. It also helps a house stay cleaner and need cleaning less often.

I think it is the amount of space above that can scare them and it is quite a tall cage. For now I would try putting a blanket on top of the cage so it makes it darker above. That can help.

But no glue and cloth wouldn't be safe to stick on a ladder anyway. Some glue (Elmer's school glue) is safe for making toys etc but I don't think it would work well on a plastic ladder and cloth is definitely unsafe (for chewing and cloth threads can get wrapped around teeth and feet and cause circulation to get cut off).

One thing I sometimes use a ramp to a shelf is a cork tunnel - it's a bit taller than a bendy bridge so goes right up to the shelf and can be pushed down into the substrate a bit to hold it firm up against the shelf. It makes a kind of ramp to climb up the side of and also makes a tunnel. But they can be difficult to get hold of in the US possibly. They're usually sold for reptiles and can be far too big to fit a hamster cage.

Although you're used to handling him etc, I would leave him alone for 2 or 3 days now and not put your hand in the cage when he's awake - until he feels more at home. And don't clean anything or move things around for the next two weeks, so he can settle without set backs.

Just keep talking to him if you see him. And just put food and water out. Let him come to you when he's ready. Another thing that can help distract them from the change and scariness of it is scatter feeding. So put his food out as usual in his bowl but also scatter a little bit extra around the substrate. They enjoy foraging for it and forget to be scared momentarily
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Old 09-17-2020, 02:08 AM   #6
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Default Re: scared in new cage

Seriously, if you move anything now you will freak him out. So if you do add a bendy stick bridge or another little house under the shelf - just add it where there is space and don't move any other items to fit it in.
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Old 09-17-2020, 07:12 AM   #7
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Default Re: scared in new cage

Thank you all! He does have another house from his old cage ó itís hidden in the picture but itís a little smaller and I actually havenít seen him use it at all since he moved. Iíll get him some new things to fill up the space and add some more sibstrate, though!
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