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Old 09-29-2019, 01:23 PM   #1
PurpleKat
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Join Date: Dec 2017
Location: Midlands
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Default Soil in enclosure?

Wanting to use soil in my hamster's enclosure.
Would this be safe to use?
It says it's top soil

https://www.wilko.com/en-uk/wilko-gr...-20l/p/0339935
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Old 09-29-2019, 04:11 PM   #2
AmityvilleHams
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Default Re: Soil in enclosure?

It's definitely not a good idea to include soils in hamster enclosures. They often contain clays(which are very harmful if ingested,and that one definitely has clay) even if they're completely free of fertilizers and such, and because of the nature of the product they can also hold lots of humidity which isn't good for hamster respiratory systems.

If you really wanted to go for a soil appearance, a tiny amount of pure coconut fiber could be an option but you'd want to limit the amount as it also holds quite a bit of moisture. It really would be best suited to out of cage use for that reason if you want to use the pure coconut fiber, but it's not necessary at all and you could save a bit of money by not buying that.
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Old 09-29-2019, 04:30 PM   #3
EmmaAndChester
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Default Re: Soil in enclosure?

Using soil (or any soil 'replicate', like coco-fibre) as the main substrate in a hamster enclosure can be problematic. For burrowing species it is very difficult to maintain the moisture soil needs to be stable enough to hold burrows, while simultaneously ensuring that the moisture isn't too high for it to cause respiratory issues for the hamster. It works for reptiles, because overhead heating keeps top layers dry; but it just doesnt work for small animals, in my personal experience at least. Its such a difficult line to maintain that overall, i dont recommend it. Providing it in a sectioned area though, is totally fine - though im not sure about topsoil itself (i dont generally recommend using substrates that aren't marketed for animal use, just to potential risk of fertiliser or other contaminants). Coconut fibre and something like Arcadia earth mix (or earth mix arid) though, are what i would personally recommend.

I use arcadia with my Leopard gecko, hedgehog, and hamsters - for the Leo its his entire substrate, for the others its offered in a small contained area. All of them are species who do not like prolonged spikes of high humidity, and I've never had any issues with the stuff. I lightly mist it every morning (otherwise, like all soil, it will dry out and become extremely dusty) but it never feels 'damp' or wet, and doesn't spike humidity beyond unsafe levels. I do thing its a fun thing to provide for them; they love digging in it, and its a great provision of additional enrichment.

Never read anything about ingesting small amounts of substrate as being harmful either. For a healthy animal, that should be no area of concern. Clay would be in their natural environment, after all.
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Old 09-30-2019, 12:33 AM   #4
AmityvilleHams
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Default Re: Soil in enclosure?

Clay ingestion puts hamsters at a serious risk of intestinal blockages which is why it needs to be avoided at all costs in substrate. With coconut fiber being so much safer and digestible unless consumed in very high amounts, there's not really any reason to resort to a questionable soil or even any other product. This isn't to say clay is somehow toxic because that would be going way to far, since solid chew proof clay pots and other toys can be perfectly safe since a hamster has no realistic way to ingest clay from them, but it is still something we really shouldn't be allowing hamsters to ingest because of known serious health risks.
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Old 09-30-2019, 05:07 AM   #5
EmmaAndChester
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Default Re: Soil in enclosure?

I have honestly never heard of the clay content in soil posing a health risk to a hamster. Realistically, they would not be consuming massive amounts - just accidents ingestion, which would only be a very small amount of substrate... similarly again, to what happens in the wild. In any healthy animal, this poses absolutely no risk of impaction at all.

Do you have sources for substrate causing intestinal blockages in hamsters? Because I have literally never heard of such a thing as it relates to soil. If we were talking about straight up, 100% clay litter then i would be more inclined to agree that there is a potential health risk - but small clay content in soil? I have a hard time getting on board with that one, to be perfectly honest. Many people use the lucky reptile substrate that rodipet offer; also contains clay.
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Old 09-30-2019, 08:06 PM   #6
10Minutes
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Default Re: Soil in enclosure?

Not sure about clay itself causing intestinal blockages, but would it be possible to have hookworms in the soil (and one of the issues caused by hookworms are intestinal blockages)? There's this article on hamster vaccines that explains how hookworms can be found in soil, and different articles on soil-transmitted infections are also found in the linked references at the bottom: https://journals.plos.org/plosntds/a...l.pntd.0007345

In terms of ingestion, maybe it depends on the hamster. One of mine loves to roll around in her sandbath like a normal ham, the other seems to eat it (the sand bath level drops drastically in a short time period) instead of bathing in it. Both are Robos, so I thought they would instinctively know that sand isn't meant to be eaten... but nope.

As I was a bit concerned about whether it is safe to ingest Chinchilla sand in massive amounts, I have removed the sandbath from the sand-eater's cage. I'll probably just offer it to her once in while, though she really doesn't show interest in bathing.
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Old 10-01-2019, 04:23 AM   #7
PurpleKat
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Default Re: Soil in enclosure?

I was planning on just a small section, not the whole thing.
She's got a detolf and I've read and seen videos of how they can enjoy soil as a different substrate, just for a section not the whole thing.
Videos such as ones seen on erins animals, seem like if you're safe and monitor how your hamster behaves, it's ok.
My hamster never seems to eat things she shouldn't, such as sand.

I was wondering if this soil brand would be safe.
Wilkos own brand top soil.
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Old 10-01-2019, 05:27 AM   #8
AmityvilleHams
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Default Re: Soil in enclosure?

I would just use plain coconut fiber. Yes, erins animals does use soil, but she's certainly not perfect and not everything she does should necessarily be considered perfectly safe! With coconut fiber, you won't have to worry about all the unnecessary risks that using soil would bring. I would try maybe half a section with a thin layer of pure coconut fiber, so roughly a 20 cm x 20 cm patch from what I remember of Detolf dimensions.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/ORGANIC-COC...2N26VN28M3PRAY

With that product and coco coir(among many other names it goes by)in general, you'd be absolutely certain that it will not cause any problems as long as you don't use tons in a cage, add too much moisture/not let it dry long enough, or have a very unrealistic extremely large amount ingested. I'd still rather see it outside of cages for humidity reasons, but if you absolutely must have something soil-like in a cage it is the way to go. It is digestible, clay free, definitely has no fertilizers or other additives which would be harmful, and happens to be extremely environmentally friendly as a bonus.

It's not as cheap as soil, but it is far safer than taking unnecessary risks. Plus, Amazon also has some bulk options which are cheaper than buying the single brick version from the same company:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/ORGANIC-COC...Q992RQ3TRBC805

Or if you have lots of space they have a huge 5kg/70l option:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/COCO-COIR-P...RY966BVEQSN5AW
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