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Old 03-17-2021, 03:18 AM   #1
felldown
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Default Bar biting and cage set up

Hi - this has turned into quite a long post sorry!

My hamster is about 4 months old. She was absolutely tiny when I got her, and was quite shy and reserved and didn't like open spaces. Because of this I kept her in a smaller cage that I'd been meaning to replace, and she was fine until about two weeks ago - as she got tamer and more confident she also has become obsessed with getting into the back corner of the cage and chewing the bars.
I've struggled to find a bigger cage, but I managed to get a secondhand Alaska and she moved in last week. I put a house in front of the back corner she'd been obsessed with in the last cage. She explored for a day, and then squeezed her way into the back corner and started biting the bars again.

I've attached a picture of her cage - she's got a big bendy bridge as a house, a ferplast guinea pig house, a straw box, a willow tunnel, a hay tunnel, a cardboard box, two smaller platforms with a bendy bridge, a sputnik, a large platform, sandbath, two working wheels which she can run straight in, loads of chews either attached to the bars or loose, a drinker, a working bottle drinker a treat puzzle, and she's scatter fed with a bowl for snacks. She comes out for some out of cage time either in a playpen or on the sofa every night.

She ignores pretty much everything apart from one wheel, her bridge, sandbath, and the bars! She'll chew anything stuck through the bars from the outside, like a toilet roll, in the place she like to gnaw, but not a chew attached to the inside of the bars.

We're going to try lining the back wall with something next, but previously she's just moved elsewhere.

Is she just not a bar cage hamster or is something wrong with her setup?
Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated!
Thanks in advance.
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Old 03-17-2021, 04:18 AM   #2
Dodo
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Default Re: Bar biting and cage set up

Hello! Overall your set up is beautiful, however I am not sure about the size of your wheel(s). Are they 28 or 33 cm? They shouldn't be smaller than this for a Syrian....
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Old 03-17-2021, 05:05 AM   #3
LunaTheHamster1
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Default Re: Bar biting and cage set up

It sounds like you have done a lot with her set up to try and please her.
You don't say what species she is. I'm guessing a dwarf by the wheel size. The only thing I can suggest is to add more bedding so she can burrow. If she is a chewer you could add cardboard/grass mats to the outside of the cage so they don't get destroyed and the bedding doesn't fall out and make a mess everywhere.

This is a video i did about getting more bedding in a barred cage- hope it helps.
More bedding in a barred Hamster Cage | Cosmic Hamsters - YouTube
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Old 03-17-2021, 05:35 AM   #4
felldown
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Default Re: Bar biting and cage set up

Thanks so much for your replies and help.

She is a Syrian, but quite small. I just measured the wheels though and they're only about 19cm - I thought it looked like she was running flat, but feeling how she would be standing on the wheel she can't be.
I'll order a 28cm one to replace the two small ones.

Good idea on more bedding, she does like digging and making tunnels when she's not gnawing. The video was great.
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Old 03-17-2021, 06:39 AM   #5
Ria P
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Default Re: Bar biting and cage set up

That's a lovely set up. I really like it.
Yes, the wheels are for dwarf hamsters but that's easily fixed.

None of my hamsters chew on shop bought chews either apart from a whimzee of course. A monkey nut jammed in the bars keeps an impatient bar chewer distracted for a while.
I know why mine bar chew when they do chew, it's because sometimes they have to wait their turn to free roam or they get jealous when a hamster roams around and it's not them.

I read that female Syrians can be demanding and hard to please and sometimes they bar chew no matter how big their enclosure is.

If it becomes a problem where she's hurting her nose from bar chewing, the only solution may be to get a large fishtank and make a lid for it or a Zoozone 2 then mesh the lid.

Hopefully a bigger wheel will help.
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Old 03-17-2021, 07:51 AM   #6
felldown
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Default Re: Bar biting and cage set up

Thanks Ria!

I've ordered a 28cm wheel, so she should be more comfortable at least. I'll try the peanut trick too! she has a largely unused whimzee, but I will try wedging one of the smaller ones through the bars and see if that interests her.

I think wanting attention/out of cage time could be a part of it too. She was digging this morning, but when she noticed we were up the chewing started again.

Thanks again
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Old 03-17-2021, 08:07 AM   #7
Ria P
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Default Re: Bar biting and cage set up

We have a morning hamster who prefers out of cage time in the morning. My retired OH always has his morning coffee in the company of "his" hamster. She climbs on his feet when she wants back in her cage.

Hamsters do communicate with us humans but it can be very difficult to figure out what they want.
Often enough it's a matter of trial and error.

Could be to do with timing. If practical, you could let her out in the morning and see if that works better for her.

Another one of ours who "claimed" me as his human bar chews when he sees me but doesn't necessarily want free roaming time. I let him out of his cage and sniff around on me for a bit while i talk to and stroke him. He usually settles after a bit of attention.

Maybe you've already tried allsorts of things and i'm just jabbering on.
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Old 03-17-2021, 08:21 AM   #8
felldown
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Default Re: Bar biting and cage set up

Aww, that sounds like a perfect morning, a hamster and a cup of coffee

Her routine has been a bit disturbed recently, we've been around at different times to usual - up earlier and back to give her her food later than normal, so she might not appreciate that either! Will keep trying different things for her.
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Old 03-17-2021, 03:18 PM   #9
Serendipity7000
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Default Re: Bar biting and cage set up

I think the bigger wheel will make a big difference Sometimes they bar chew when something isn't right. Although the wheel isn't so small it should cause discomfort but they do seem to run better in a big wheel.

Also how long has she been in the Alaska? Cage changes are also stressful and it takes a good two weeks for them to adjust and feel settled. Apart from the above suggestions I'd also scatterfeed a bit (still put food in the bowl but scatter some as well) to distract her - they like foraging. Sometimes I scatter a few pumpkin seeds instead of hamster food.

These balls are also good for sticking sunflower seeds under the folds = that keeps them busy getting the seeds out. There are 3 balls but I only use the hyacinth one which is softer, safe for chewing and easy to stick the seeds under the folds. The sisal one I unravel and use as sisal string for tying things to the cage. The wicker one I don't use as I worry there are sharp bits if chewed.

Rosewood Boredom Breaker Small Animal Naturals Toy Trio of Fun Balls, Medium, 2 pack, 19572: Amazon.co.uk: Pet Supplies

Our current hamster likes to move his ball around sometimes! Currently he's pushed it into the front of his house (so no one can see inside ).

Another thing to consider adding (especially as you said she seemed scared of open space at first) is something hanging from the roof so it doesn't feel too exposed from above - that can freak some hamsters out. That can be tricky a) so as not to block access for you from the top entrance door and b) something suitable to hang. Fleece hammocks aren't suitable as they can be chewed (and she sounds like a chewer). You can get grass hammocks (this is where the sisal string comes in handy). The attached strings on the grass hammocks aren't that secure and you can hang them lower with longer string.

Or you can make one out of toilet rolls (10 toilet roll toys for hamsters on youtube). Vectis I think had a post on making one out of an egg box but I found that better for a dwarf hamster.

If you hang the hammock higher up then it gives overhead cover - I found attaching it to the underside of the door works so you can still open the door (but make sure the hamster isn't in the hammock when you open it! The hammock comes out with the door).

Other times I've attached one either side of the door and still been able to get my hand round it - with that cage it has a big front door so the top door isn't 100% necessary.

Trix-ie Natural 100% Grass Reed Rush Hammock Mat for Rats Ferrets Degus Hamsters Rodent: Amazon.co.uk: Pet Supplies

Main thing is avoid doing any cleaning out for at least a couple of weeks and just spot clean for a while to avoid stressing her. And not move things around or take something away (they don't seem to like things being removed! Unless it's a safety thing then you have to). Swapping the wheel over or adding something new usually works fine.
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Old 03-18-2021, 05:07 AM   #10
felldown
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Default Re: Bar biting and cage set up

She has only been in it a week, and I have added things in as they've arrived, so it's not been an uninterrupted week! She moved nest to the bigger house last night and has made some sort of mysterious tunnel system so perhaps she's starting to feel more at home.
Quite glad of the excuse not to do a full clean as the cage is harder to wrangle with than the last one!

I put a peanut and a mini toothbrush whimzee through the bars and that has helped to distract her - she's getting through them at quite a rate though!

The toilet roll hammock is a great ideal, I will try it. Attaching it to the door would mean it was in quite a convenient place for her.

Thanks for your suggestions, and for the reassurance!
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