Syrian and dwarf hamsters are easy and inexpensive to care for, which is one reason they’re often recommended as starter pets for children. Still, you must put together an appropriate habitat so that your hamster stays happy and healthy.
A wire cage is well ventilated and great for hamsters. However, wire flooring hurts little hamster feet, so choose a cage with a plastic bottom. Cages with customizable plastic tubing provide fun and exercise, and you can even buy extra tunnels and compartments to expand the habitat. Single Syrian or dwarf hamsters need a cage that’s at least 2 feet by 1 foot and 8 inches high, but bigger is better. Choose a hamster cage with bars close together. Glass aquariums with mesh lids are another good option.
Where to Place the Cage
Hamsters are temperature-sensitive, so keep the cage out of direct sunlight and drafts. Don’t put the habitat near sources of heat or cold. House your hamster in a temperature controlled room between 65 and 75 degrees.
If you’re considering putting your hamster in your child’s bedroom, remember that they’re nocturnal. Hamsters eat, play, and run on the exercise wheel overnight, making more noise than you’d expect from such a small animal. The resulting noise can disturb your child’s sleep.
Bedding for the Cage
Cover the bottom of the cage with bedding that absorbs odors and liquids. Hamsters burrow for warmth, comfort, and fun, and they bury food and toys. Pelleted paper or aspen shavings are good bedding materials. Never use pine or cedar, which are toxic to hamsters. Your hamster will also appreciate a small pile of white toilet paper or paper towels to shred and make nests with.
A House in a Home
Your Syrian or dwarf hamster also needs a little enclosure inside its cage to hide and sleep, so consider buying a hamster house. You could also use something like an empty cardboard oatmeal container, but it will become chewed up and need replacing. A small enclosure is important because your hamster not only needs it to sleep in, but also for stress relief.
Accessories for Your Hamster’s Home
Put food in a sturdy dish your hamster is unlikely to tip over. Your hamster also needs constant access to fresh water. Put it in an inverted water bottle with a stainless steel ball bearing-tipped sipper tube.
An exercise wheel is essential for your hamster’s cage. Get a plastic or mesh wheel, not one with wire bars. Add a few toys, as well as a chew toy or small piece of untreated wood. Hamster teeth grow continuously, and they gnaw to keep them filed. Your hamster also requires out-of-cage time, so purchase a secure playpen.