Small Cages
are Cruel

Even though hamsters are very small they actually require a lot of space, it is not uncommon for hamsters in the wild to run 9km in one night. The Veterinary Association for Animal Welfare is Headquartered in Frankfurt and was established in 1985 by 150 veterinarians, also known as (TVT) it “recommends the owner give the Syrian hamster as much space as possible — at minimum 100cm x 50cm x 50cm (L x W x H) which is 5000 cm2 (775 in2)” as can be seen on Wikipedia. The minimum recommended cage size is for ALL species of hamsters including dwarf, on the Wikipedia dwarf hamster page it also says “A lone, or pair of Roborovski hamsters should be kept in a cage ideally 50 x 100 cm.” Please note this is the minimum of unbroken floorspace (not levels), the more space the better.

 

Don’t be fooled by what the pet shops recommend. Pets shops usually always sell cages which are far too small, this is because they are often cheaper for customers to buy and they save on shop floor space. If you buy a cage which is too small, your hamster will sadly live a miserable life.

Top Tip: Some hamster keepers recommend 150cm as a minimum length and will use a glass tank or an IKEA Detolf which is 163cm long, its a glass cabinet which can be placed horizontally on the floor or put on a long stand, and used as a tank. The price varies between £40 -£60 and is a far better way to spend your money then paying the same price for a tiny cage. Also there are no bars so you will completely avoid the bar biting issue. For inspiration see our amazing setups page.

 

Dwarf hamsters get a particularly bad deal by the pet shops. It’s true that they require a smaller wheel but they still run and travel just as fast. Just because their body is a few cm’s smaller when they look around at their surroundings they still have the same thoughts as a Syrian hamster. Just like a taller a human has the same perception of space as a shorter person. TVT research shows that Dwarf hamsters require the same size enclosure as a Syrian hamster.

 

Often cages which are too small can’t fit an adequate size wheel, causing injury to your hamsters back. Also, you will probably see your hamster Bar biting in an attempt to break free for a better life. Bar biting can cause serious injury to your hamster. Research shows that a smaller cage size causes more bar biting.

Hamsters are protected under The Animal Welfare Act and there is a good argument that Hamster cages which are too small to fit an adequate size wheel should be banned. There is plenty of research that shows the injury that a small wheel will cause to your hamster. For example on Wikipedia it says “Tierärztliche Vereinigung für Tierschutz (TVT) recommends wheels should be at least 20cm (8″) for Dwarf Hamsters and at least 30cm (12″) for Syrian Hamsters, since smaller diameters lead to permanent spinal curvatures, especially in young animals.”  The research also found that hamsters use their wheel for an average distance of 8.3km per night.

 

“Unfortunately, most hamster cages sold in Pets shops will not fit an adequate sized wheel and it’s about time that the rights of hamsters are respected so that they can exercise without causing injury to themselves.”

Provide a Deep Layer of Bedding for your Hamster to Burrow

hamster burrow in beddingThe bedding material has two purposes, it is the ground your hamster walks on and the ground your hamster will dig under to make a burrow section and a chamber to sleep. You need to provide hamsters with the correct type of bedding that will hold up the structure of a burrow e.g. Carefresh or Kaytee, its made from paper that seems more like clumps of tissue. You may also choose to mix this in with a different texture such as Aspen shavings or Teabag bedding. Please take a look at Our Safe Bedding Options.

 

                    Thanks to our friends at Hamster Society Singapore – The Art of Hamster Burrows

 

Research shows that giving your hamster the ability to burrow results in a far happier and less stressed hamster. Research on Bedding depth has shown “Hamsters kept with 10 cm deep bedding showed significantly more wire-gnawing and a higher running wheel activity than the hamsters in the other groups. In 80 cm deep bedding wire-gnawing was never observed.sciencedirect.com article

 

It is recommended to have a section of at least 6 inches of bedding but 10 inches (25cm) is much more suitable as the hamster can make a deeper burrow like they would have done in the wild, it is also a way to make them feel safe and warm in their environment.

 

The RSPCA say: “In the wild hamsters are extremely good diggers and construct deep, dark, underground burrows so, if possible, give your hamster a thick layer of litter/bedding in which to dig and burrow”

 

The Royal Veterinary College say: “Hamsters should be housed in a large glass or plastic tank with good ventilation”

Good Cages / Tanks

“Hamsters prefer larger cages and want much more than the minimum required space suggested. “Starter packs” or hamster pens advertised for new owners are almost never large enough to be the only housing for a Syrian hamster, even when these pens are advertised for this purpose.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamster_cage

 

As a SuggestionYou will see that owners often buy a tank at no extra cost than a cage and they create natural wild looking setups that your hamster will love. No bars means no bar biting, it also allows you to add enough bedding depth so that your hamster can burrow. For INSPIRATION take a look at our Amazing Setups page.

IKEA Detolf

163 x 42 cm (6845cm2)

Alexander

101 x 52cm (5252 cm2)

Barney

100 x 54cm (5400 cm2)

A Glass Tank!

Various Sizes

Niteangel Bigger World

120cm x 50 cm (6000 cm2)

Laola Nagarium

120cm x 50 cm (6000 cm2)

DIY IKEA Linnmon

108 cm x 61 cm (6588 cm2)

Ferplast Maxi Duna

99cm x 54cm (5346 cm2)

Niteangel Glass Hamster Cage

120cm x 50cm (6000 cm2)

Savic Plaza

100 x 50cm (The Wheel included is too small for Syrian Hamsters)

Mamble 100

100 x 54cm (Tall so needs lots of Hammocks so your Hammy wont fall to far)

Pawhut Cage

115 x 60cm

Aleko Pawhut

112 cm x 61cm

Livingworld Eco Habitat

99cm x 59cm

DIY on a budgets – Convert a large Plastic box into a bin cage

Marrakesh Terrarium

96 x 47cm

Zoozone 2 Large

101 x 51cm (5151 cm2)

Other considerations that meet The RSPCA minimum cage size but are not ideal are below:

 

These are certainly better than smaller options but are not as good as having a larger cage and people have found that upgrading from the below cages to a larger cage stopped their hamster from bar biting, which could be a sign of wanting to escape.

  • Savic Hamster Heaven – 80 x 50cm – The Wheel included is too small for Syrian Hamsters
  • Alaska – 84 x 48.5cm
  • Prevue 528 – 82 x 48 cm
  • Grosvenor – 78 x 48cm

Bad Cages

So what makes a cage unsuitable? A number of factors but the main one is floorspace, if it comes under 100x50cm (5000cm2) for all hamster species, if it’s too small to fit a 28cm wheel for a Syrian hamster, or a 20cm wheel for a dwarf hamster. If it’s easily escapable and/or has barred flooring which could lead to bumble foot. If the base isn’t deep enough to add enough bedding for burrowing.

 

Below is an example of some bad cages that don’t fit this suitability criteria. Sadly though, there are many other cages available similar to these and many hamsters across the world that have to live in them:

Some commentary taken from this Facebook post by Izzy Paine

1) Habitrail Ovo, too little floorspace and cannot fit an appropriate wheel

2) Pawhut 5 tier cage, too little floorspace, very small wheel

3) Rotastak Creepy Castle, too little floorspace and the wheel is too small

4) Beeztees spelos dwarf hamster cage, too little floorspace and cannot fit an appropriate wheel

5) Savic Spelos dwarf hamster cage. Not enough floorspace and wheel is too small

6) Rosewood Abode dwarf hamster cage, too little floorspace, wheel is too small

7) Ferplast Circus, Too little floorspace and cannot fit an appropriate wheel

8) Rosewood Eco Pico, too little floorspace and cannot fit an appropriate wheel

9) Ferplast Olimpia, too little floorspace and the wheel is too small

bad hamster cage imac fantasy

10) imac fantasy (even with added levels) too little floorspace and cannot fit an appropriate wheel

11) 24cm x 18cm how is this allowed!

12) Tinytales Cage / Toy!

Hamster Cage Study Conducted by Liverpool John Moores University

 

“The important note for pet owners is that ensuring pets have adequate opportunities to express natural behaviours in captivity improves their mood and is essential for their welfare”

https://www.ljmu.ac.uk/about-us/news/articles/2015/7/30/hamster

 

“Hamsters Are Optimists When They Live in Comfy Cages”

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/hamsters-are-optimists-when-they-live-comfy-cages-180956095/

Study Shows That A Smaller Cage Size Causes More Bar Biting

 

Behaviour of golden hamsters kept in four different cage sizes

 

“Cages for laboratory and pet hamsters are usually small. Using video recordings, the behaviour of sixty female golden hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus), housed individually in four different cage sizes, was compared in order to draw conclusions about their welfare. The cage sizes were 1,800 cm2, 2,500 cm2, 5,000 cm2, and 10,000 cm2. Enrichment items and litter depth were standardised and all cages were equipped with a running-wheel (30 cm diameter). Stereotypic wire-gnawing, usage of the provided space, weight gain, and reactions to mild husbandry stressors were used as welfare indicators. Stereotypic wire-gnawing was observed in all cage sizes, but hamsters in small cages gnawed significantly longer and more frequently. There were no significant differences in running-wheel activity. In small cages hamsters made use of the roof of their wooden shelters as an additional platform more often than in big cages, which could suggest that they needed more space. Therefore, the welfare of pet golden hamsters in cages with a minimal ground floor area of 10,000 cm2 seemed to be enhanced compared with smaller cages.”

 

Authors: Fischer, K; Gebhardt-Henrich, SG; Steiger, A

Source: Animal Welfare, Volume 16, Number 1, February 2007, pp. 85-93(9)

Behaviour of Golden Hamsters kept in four Different Cage Size study PDF – Click Here

 

“Wire gnawing might be an attempt to escape from the cage (similarly in mice, Würbel et al. 1998a, 1998b).”

https://awionline.org/lab-animal-search/fisher-k-gebhardt-heinrich-s-g-steiger-2007-behaviour-golden-hamsters

RSPCA

RSPCA Minimum Hamster Cage Size The RSPCA have said “The minimum size for a cage should be 75 x 40 x 40 cm – but the larger the better.” as can be seen in This PDF – RSPCA Hamster Care Sheet from 2009. (Sadly though The RSPCA don’t display their minimum cage size opinion on their website any more. It is speculated that since they teamed up with Pets at Home and started a “working together” relationship the public started complaining that Pets at Home weren’t following The RSPCA Guidelines.) In the below forum it says “The RSPCA removed the guidelines back when Pets at Home was getting a barrage of attacks from people online over the cages they sell.”

 

Forum Discussion on this page at hamstercentral.com

 

RSPCA PDF Taken from this historic page https://web.archive.org – RSPCA May 21 2009 

 

The RSPCA teamed up with Pets at Home in 2012 “RSPCA and Pets at Home team up for animal welfare” | Vet Times

 

It is widely discussed in the community that the RSPCA minimum Cage size requirement used to be 80cm x 50cm X 50cm. It is said that there were “a lot of cages around the 80cm by 50cm size as a result of the old guidelines”. Surely it can only be a benefit to hamsters to bring back a minimum cage size guideline which is close to the requirement that TVT research shows.

 

There is currently a Change.org petition to Bring back the 80 x 50cm RSPCA minimum enclosure size for hamsters with over 36,000 signatures.

Story About a Finger Biting Hamster who had Cage Rage

I am going to talk about cage size. I am not judging you, but rather am mentioning it because of our own personal experience.

 

We found our Syrian hamster last February 12th, thrown out by the side of the road like trash. She was in a Tiny Tales cage. It was horrid. It was 65°F. outside. The only warmth to the whole cage was where she had huddled into a ball. I held the cage close to me and in so doing let a part of one finger protrude into the cage. The hamster proceeded to give me a nasty bite. Knowing she was stressed from both being outside and the cold temperature, I laughed the bite off, proclaiming her a ferocious lil beast. Hence, Beast, became her name.

 

Not having budgeted for the hamster, we didn’t automatically have funds to purchase hamster needs. Thankfully when we said we would keep the little Beast, one of my cousins said she would purchase a proper cage for her.

 

It still took two months to get the Prevue 528 cage. In those two months Beast drew blood from both my husband and myself. We couldn’t easily get in her cage to even spot clean. You had to trap her in a small corner with cardboard and be quick to remove uneaten vegetables at the end of the week and to clean her potty area.

Photo Credit: Wendy Zerla Torres

We didn’t care about the biting other than as a minor nuisance, as we hadn’t taken her in as a pet, but rather as a rescue. We were fine if we were never able to pet or hold her.

 

Finally the Prevue 528 arrived. We set it up and I gritted my teeth to catch Beast, knowing I was going to be bitten. She loved the new cage, settling in to explore. That was the very last time Beast bit either if us. Now, she doesn’t even bite if we have to wake her to clean her cage. She is a sweet pet. I had heard that a too small of a cage could make a hamster mean (cage rage) but had written it off as a myth. Now I have direct evidence that it does exist and providing a large cage can fix it. I hope our experience helps you and your ham.