From Hamster Central WIKI
For Dwarf Hamsters a cage is 12 inches wide by 15 inches long by 12 inches high would be suitable for one or two hamsters. This sized cage would also be suitable for one Syrian hamster.Types of cages can rang from wire to plastic to glass aquariums.
article imageWire cages come in many shapes and sizes. Some old cages such as birdcages can be recycled into a hamster cage so long as the bars are spaced close enough together to prevent injury or escape. It is recommended that wire floors in a cage be covered with a solid surface or try weave cardboard through to stop their feet from falling through and getting caught. Wire cages are usually on the inexpensive side, durable and easy to clean. However they are not draft proof so if buying a wire cage its in your hamsters best interest to place it in an area safe from drafts. There is also the possibility of bedding being shoved outside the cage making a mess.
article imagePlastic cages usually come in multiple colors and have accessory attachments such has tubes, wheels, burrows and other small animal habitats. These cages are helpful in preventing drafts but are usually more expensive and are likely to be gnawed on and further more can be difficult to take apart and clean. For the Syrian hamster these cages may end up being to small and any well-rounded Syrian may end up getting stuck in the tubes.
Plastic cages are useful in the way that you can add onto its home and change it around constantly giving you hamster more to explore. Tubes can be used for community cages for hamsters like the Campbell’s and winter white allowing a entrance into the different cage areas. Sawdust and smells can be kept inside the plastic cages, but are still easily ventilated with their wire doors.
article imageAquariums are often used in pet stores, as you will see most small rodents displayed in them. They keep your hamster protected from drafts and also keep all the bedding inside the cage. They are pretty much escape proof but with the aid of a nest box or water bottle they might be able to reach the top. Mesh wire tops can be purchased to prevent your hamster from escaping or any pets such as cats from getting inside. They are usually held on by metal or plastic clips.
Plastic aquariums are also available. They have the advantage of being lighter but the aesthetic disadvantage that they tend to get scratched from the inside after a while.
Their heavy weight can make it awkward to clean. Although the glass sides prevent drafts aquariums have poor air circulation. It may also cause a mundane environment since sounds from the outside world are muffled and its forced to live in its own scent all the time.But some hamsters might positively relish having a world to themselves.
article imageBin cages are the new rage with hamster owners because they are inexpensive, usually more roomier, customizable, light weight and stackable. They can be made to fit both your needs and your hamsters need and unlike aquariums and barred cages bins can provide the best of both worlds. However one must have a crafty hand or else someone to help them put a custom made bin cage together. It’s really not that complicated, and you can find articles about how to make your own.
Making the cage a home
The first cage accessories that you will need are a water bottle and a food dish. Water must be provided for hamsters at all times. Dishes can be used but you will quickly find that they get filled with bedding material and will need constant changing. There for water bottles are recommended. You can find these in plastic, and sometimes glass. They can be bought to mount on either the outside or the inside of a cage or aquarium. Some plastic habitats come with its own water bottles that are designed to nicely fit in with the cage.It is recommended to provide two water bottle sources in the event one drains due to not being tightened securely or simply malfunctions and stops dispensing water.
Ceramic food dishes are best as they are heavy and not easily toppled and wont be chewed apart like most plastic food dishes. The hamster may rarely use it as they store their cheek pouches full and horde a supply of ready to eat food in their nests.
Hamsters are burrowing creatures and enjoy digging around. Bedding is supplied for this reason but also to give comfort to the animal, warmth and to help absorb urine and contain the smells.
There are verities of rodent beddings on the market. Two types to avoid using are clumping Cat litter and cedar based shaving and litters. Hamsters are coprophagic which means they eat a portion of their feces as part of the digestive process. kitty litter will get lodge in the digestive system and will cause the hamster to die of an intestinal obstruction if digested.
Cedar shaving release aromatic oils which over long periods of time of breathing these fumes a hamster can become ill from irritation of the respiratory system, and in some cases cause neurological damage and convulsions. However, the pine wood shavings available in the UK do not have this problem. Cedar is still offered in pet stores but just because a product is made for the use of hamsters or any animal doesn’t mean that it’s the best to use. Sawdust and 'cotton-type' beddings are also dangerous.
Many people are now switching to and recommending bedding made of reclaimed cellulose fiber that does not contain ink, solvent or dyes found in many recycled paper products. Its soft and extremely absorbent, has no scent and is hypoallergenic. It appears to look like small chucks of gray dried paper pulp. Some brands out there are Carefresh, Yesterday's News and CritterCare.
Other beddings available are pine shavings, aspen shavings, pine pellets, alfalfa pellets, sawdust, and corncob bits (although unsuitable as they are too scratchy). Paper based beddings and paper-based cat litters (like Bob Martins) are safest for hamsters.
Other cage Accessories
Since hamsters are burrowing creatures its important they are proved with a den that they can crawl into and build a nest and sleep. A cardboard box with a cut out hole would suffice but there are many wooden nest boxes and cute little houses available for you’re hamster to sleep in. Some hamsters may prefer to sleep in a built up nest behind an exercise wheel or food bowl but from my experience once a house is provided they will happily move in.
Water bottles Water dishes can be used but there is a hygiene disadvantage of dishes, which is that they easily get filled with sawdust, soaking up all the available water. They must be checked a few times daily and must be cleaned daily.
Water bottles are recommended. Water bottles with ball-bearings in the tube tend to better than those without. They should regularly be checked to make sure the bottle is working and the ball isn’t stuck.
Food dishes A food dish is not absolutely necessary, the hamster would be just as happy to forage for it off the cage floor if sprinkled around. Ceramic food dishes and metal dishes are suitable since they aren’t easily knocked over and are easy to clean and can’t be chewed. Your hamster will most likely relocate the food to its nest area anyway.
Bedding/nesting material Your hamster will appreciate bedding material to build a nest with. However any bedding material that it fluffy, cotton or wool should be avoided. These materials can cause harm if eaten by the hamster and the fine fibers can become caught around the hamster's limb causing injury.
Soft paper bedding is best. Try taking un-dyed and unscented toilet paper or paper towel and tearing it into strips for your hamster. Hay can also be used but it should be clean and not moldy or dusty. Straw should not be used as the sharp edges can injure a hamster.
Exercise wheels are very important they keep the hamster busy and well worked out, plus they love to run on them! Many hamster cages come fitted with a wheel, some are attached on and some removable. It’s important that the wheel has a solid running surface. Although there are still wire wheels out there they are not safe for the hamster. Wheel such as this can result in broken limbs that get caught in between. Some good wheels out there are the Silent Spinners, The Wodent Wheel and Comfort Wheel.
Removable ramps and platforms can also be purchased to add some interesting exploring. These also increase the floorspace for the hamster to move around in.
In addiction to the basics there are other items to add to a hamster cage for habitat enrichment. Adding such items like chew tunnels or pvc pipes can help make exploring more interesting.
A sand box can be added into the cage. Use chinchillas sand and make sure it is not the dust. Dust is to fine and can get into the hamsters respiratory system. The sand can be placed into a ceramic bowl or empty tissue box. They will enjoy digging and rolling in it and you can also use it as a potty and train your hamsters to use it.
Other items such as toilet paper rolls, wood chews, mineral blocks and plastic tubes can help add enrichment.