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Old 03-07-2023, 10:23 AM  
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Join Date: Mar 2016
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Default Re: "Bioactive" Enclosure

I've seen this subject come up before. Ultimately, bioactive enclosures cannot be done safely and appropriately for hamsters. One thing I don't think has been addressed is the significant issue of things like pathogens in any soil(organic can even have more than conventional).

Any sort of soil could become humid. Even a safe substitute like coconut fiber whether chips or coir needs to be used very carefully & sparingly otherwise you run into the same humidity issues.

As far as hay goes it can be used with precautions like making sure you don't have sharp bits. Another very important precaution is freezing the hay before adding it to any enclosure otherwise you risk introducing all kinds of pests which some members have had to learn the hard way.

Live plants are still a very bad idea with hamsters for reasons that have been addressed on the forum previously. You're always better off offering safe fresh foods and making sure they don't end up rotting or molding in the cage. Of course all fresh produce should be rinsed regardless of being organic or not for basic food safety. I can't say for sure the need to rinse produce gets mentioned here enough but it really is important.

As far as replicating the wild environment goes I do think it's something a lot of people can get caught up in without realizing the wild is far from perfect and not everything is as safe as it seems. Clay for example is fairly common in soils, but we know with captive hamsters clay is not safe since it can cause digestive blockages. Wild animals are also far more likely to harbor parasites & general pathogens from soils etc but we obviously don't want that for captive hamsters.

The best thing we can do as a compromise that considers safety for captive hamsters is set up enclosures in a way that allows for natural behaviors like burrowing and foraging while still using only safe materials.

Personally I do think it's entirely possible that at least some female Syrians could be even more demanding of enrichment than the stereotypical males. Other than the basic foraging & burrowing I'd be curious to see if having things that could be safely destroyed might help at all for some females, as well as any role ease of destruction might play in that.
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