Choosing the Right Enclosure and a Guide to Using Our Enclosure Database

Enclosure Database | Compare Enclosures | Bedding Calculator

Let’s start by talking about what this database is. This database is a collection of enclosures with an estimated floorspace size. We only have estimations based on (mostly) the outer dimensions of the enclosures listed, as most enclosures do not post the inner dimensions. However, when given the inner dimensions we will use that. It is safe to assume however that the larger the outer dimensions are, the inner dimensions should be large as well. There are exceptions to this rule such as irregularly shaped cages.

Though we have tried to include bar spacing and base height of wire/bar type enclosures, some data is still unavailable to us.

As always, prices may change and prices may differ from place to place. Though we try to stay updated at all times, we cannot keep track with price specifics. Not every item is available in every country.

We highly recommend always reading the reviews on the particular product. It is also best to confirm the inner dimensions with the manufacturer or where you’re buying your enclosure from before purchasing, especially if you’re ordering your enclosure online. If you have the option to buy an enclosure in-store, you can bring a measuring tape to get an accurate measure of the inner dimensions.

If you do have information on you, please think about helping improve our database by sending in the dimensions. Thank you!

Enclosure Minimums

Before proceeding, I highly recommend reading FiveLittleHam’s post on choosing the best cage for your hamster. Very insightful and absolutely worth the read.

Now, what exactly is an enclosure minimum? A minimum is a way of setting a lower limit to making sure your hamster is humanely living in an area. As most people typically cannot recreate the amount of space a hamster naturally gets in the wild, a minimum helps the pet owner purchase or build a home that is at least livable. This does not mean that getting the minimum amount means your hamster is happy however, and as much as possible, strive for the biggest enclosure you can possibly get.

If you’ve seen our page on hamster enclosure standards from around the world, you can definitely see how the minimum size changes depending on organization and country. Some organizations have way bigger standards than others, while some definitely need to increase their minimum sizes.

Organizations and companies may implement smaller standards for a reason. Some may have a lack of research, others may try to make hamster care more accessible by setting a more inclusive standard that more people can follow while slowly upgrading their standards, as some places have a lack of commercial options that are available to them. Setting a high standard while there are no options may put people off and may turn people away from proper care and lead them to buy an unsuitable enclosure.

However, some may set an incredibly small minimum size so that they can sell you more products. Most cages catered to hamsters in pet stores tend to be marketed to children and are way smaller than the minimum requirements, thus can cause a great deal of stress to the hamster[6].

A hamster enclosure should have a solid (not wired!) base that is filled with bedding[6].

Why your hamster needs a bigger enclosure

Hamsters are extremely active animals, and have large territory ranges[2][19]. Hamsters in the wild often travel many miles each day foraging[19]. A larger enclosure makes it possible to add more enrichments as well as more bedding. Larger enclosures can also make it easier for your hamsters to act as they naturally would.

Hamster cages should also not provide more height than length or width as hamsters need floorspace more than height[6].

Hamsters with insufficient floorspace, bedding, and enrichments may exhibit stereotypies.

Stereotypies

These are repetitive and invariant behaviors without apparent immediate function and may be caused by the animal’s attempts to adapt to its environment. They may also be a dysfunction of the animal’s central nervous system[9].

Boredom Behaviors and Stereotypies

  1. Bar Chewing / Bar Biting - Not a natural trait of a hamster and this may be them trying to escape[4]
  2. Pacing - Constantly running back and forth along the cage[16]
  3. Cage Aggression - Hostile behavior inside the cage[16]
  4. Monkey-barring - When the hamster climbs up the bars of the cage[16]
  5. Lethargy - Often misinterpreted as laziness, the hamster just sits around and does nothing. This may be because there’s nothing to do[16]

To some people, these behaviors are so common that they’ve already been accepted as healthy or normal behaviors. Some people may even think that hamsters are naturally aggressive, however, a happy and enriched hamster would not be showing these boredom behaviors[16].

Benefits of a Bigger Cage

  • Less chances of stereotypies[4][16][18]
  • Possibility to offer more burrowing[18]
  • Hamster’s can feel more relaxed[18]
  • Less need for cleaning[18]
  • Hamsters can be more active[18]

Drawbacks of a Smaller Cage

  • Deprives hamsters the opportunity to live naturally[19]
  • Smaller cages induce chronic stress in a hamster[8]
  • Hamsters may become more lethargic[16]
  • Less space means that cleaning will happen more often, which can cause more stress to the hamster

Advantages and Disadvantages of Different Enclosure Types

Tanks

Advantages

  • Bedding can’t fall out[6][19]
  • No bars that hamsters can climb[6]
  • Hamsters cannot chew through the glass[6]
  • Prevents air drafts that may disturb the hamster[6]
  • Sturdy[12]

Disadvantages

  • Heavy[12][19]
  • Poor ventilation and heat can be trapped inside[12][19]
  • Though non-toxic, aquarium silicone may be gnawed on[19]
  • Lids may have to be DIY[19]
  • Hamsters can only be removed from the top which may scare the hamster[19]
  • Pricey[12]
  • Not stackable[12]

Bar Cages

Grid Spacing

  • Grid spacing for Syrian hamsters should not exceed .8 - 1.2 cm (0.31 - 0.47 in)[19]
  • Grid spacing for Dwarves should not exceed .8cm (0.31 in)[20]
  • Grid spacing for Roborovskis should not exceed .6cm (.24 in)[20]

Advantages

  • Drinking bottles and other accessories can easily be attached[19]
  • Better ventilated than glass enclosures[19]

Disadvantages

  • Bedding height depends on bedding tray[19]
  • Bedding may spill out of cage[19]
  • Can be noisy[19]
  • Hamsters may break out or get stuck in the grid[19]
  • If bedding isn’t deep enough, hamsters may chew on the wires[19]
  • Chance of hamsters climbing on the wires[6]
  • May expose hamsters to cold drafts[6]

Bin Cages

Advantages

  • Light weight[12][19]
  • Easy to clean[19]
  • You can easily add a lot of bedding[19]
  • Customizable[19]
  • Cheap[12]
  • Stackable[12]
  • Reusable[12]

Disadvantages

  • Poor Circulation (depends on how you design your bin cage)[19]
  • Difficult to get in suitable sizes[19]
  • Plastic enclosures may be gnawed on[19]

Wood Cages

Advantages

  • Natural look
  • Sturdy material

Disadvantages

  • Wood may be chewed on
  • If wood is not protected, it can seep up pee
  • Can be heavy
  • Wood that is not sanded properly may cause splinters

DIY Cages

Advantages

  • Can be customized to be perfectly adapted to the needs of your hamster[19]

Disadvantages

  • May be costly[19]
  • Construction skills are necessary[19]

Bedding Depth

Now you might be thinking that having a bigger cage means that your hamster will be happy and fulfilled. Good news is, you’re almost there! Bedding and substrate both play a very important role in your hamster care.

Deep bedding is important because hamsters love to burrow and it’s one of the many observable things they do in the wild. Burrow depths for Syrian hamsters have varied in the wild between 36-196cm[5]. More bedding in the cage is better[14], as hamsters who have more bedding tend to be happier and have better health[6].

In a study on bedding depth, hamsters that were given 40-80cm bedding constructed burrows which they occupied[7]. They also found decreased wire gnawing in hamsters with 40cm bedding while 80cm bedding had no wire-gnawing was observed[7].

These are the bedding recommendations taken from FiveLittleHams. We highly recommend that they are followed:

SpeciesBedding Depth
Syrians30 cm / 11.81 in
Winter Whites, Campbells, Chinese Hamster20 cm / 7.87 in
Roborovskis15 cm / 5.91 in

Reasons why your hamster is not burrowing

  1. Inappropriate Substrate Depth[2]
  2. Inappropriate Substrate Choice[2]
  3. Combination of 1 and 2[2]

Deep bedding (with a substrate that allows burrowing) should make up at least 1/2 or 3/4 of the enclosure[2].

A combination of deep bedding and a large cage will be a great improvement to any hamster’s life[4]. Visit our bedding calculator to see how much bedding you will need to buy to fill up your enclosure.

Enrichment

Most animals get enrichment in different ways. These ways often involve interacting with the same species, interacting with humans, and interacting with the environment[16]. However, in the case of the solitary hamster, they cannot get enrichment from their same species. They also may not be getting enough enrichment from playing with their human companions (some hamsters don’t even like human interaction), thus, the only reliable source of enrichment comes from their environment[16]. Thus, we must give hamsters an environment that is as enriched as possible.

An enriched environment is an environment that allows the hamster to perform natural behaviors and allows them to be more active. It should also increase the hamster’s control over their environment and be stimulating[13].

Hamsters who have a more enriched environment often made more positive judgement decisions compared to hamsters who didn’t[1].

Must Have Enrichments

  1. Appropriately sized wheel[2][4][6][11][14][19]
  2. Gnawing materials[6][15]
  3. Multichamber House[6][14][19]
  4. Sandbath[2][6][11][14][19]
  5. Deep Bedding[2][19]
  6. Water Bottle or Water dish[11]

Moving Your Hamster to a Bigger Enclosure

If your old cage can be connected to your new one[19]

  1. Connect old cage to new enclosure
  2. Put your hamster’s main nest in the new enclosure
  3. Give your hamster a few weeks to adjust
  4. After a few weeks, you can disconnect the old enclosure if you don’t wanna keep it

If you can’t connect your old cage to your new one[19]

  1. Set up the new enclosure with toys, used bedding, and accessories from the old cage
  2. Scatter food in the new enclosure and leave hamster alone for a while to adjust to his new surroundings
  3. Gradually add new pieces to the enclosure

Conclusion

A good hamster enclosure will not only have a large floorspace, you will also need deep beddings, a wheel, and other enrichments for your hamster to fully thrive. If you cannot meet all these conditions all at once, it is still better to keep trying. If you have a smaller cage, increase your bedding depth and add more enrichments until you can upgrade. Allow your hamster to free roam or spend time in a playpen. If you do not have enough substrate, increase the things your hamster can interact with. If you do not have enough enrichments, things like cardboard tubes make great things for them to play with. Always keep trying to improve.

Sources

[1]Bethell, E. J., & Koyama, N. F. (2015) . Happy hamsters? Enrichment induces positive judgement bias for mildly (but not truly) ambiguous cues to reward and punishment in Mesocricetus auratus. Royal Society Open Science, 2 (7), 140399. doi:10.1098/rsos.140399
[2]Choosing the Best Cage for Your Hamster. (2020, May 28). Retrieved June 15, 2020, from https://fivelittlehams.wixsite.com/correcthamstercare/blank-1/2018/01/14/Choosing-the-Best-Cage-for-Your-Hamster
[3]Devor, M., & Schneider, G. E. (1974). Attraction to home-cage odor in hamster pups: Specificity and changes with age. Behavioral Biology, 10(2), 211-221. doi:10.1016/s0091-6773(74)91823-9
[4]Fischer, K. (2005). Behaviour of golden hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus) kept in four different cage sizes. 1-56.
[5]Gattermann, R., Fritzsche, P., Neumann, K., Al-Hussein, I., Kayser, A., Abiad, M., & Yakti, R. (2001). Notes on the current distribution and the ecology of wild golden hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus). Journal of Zoology, 254(3), 359-365. doi:10.1017/s0952836901000851
[6]Hamster cage. (2020, May 08). Retrieved June 15, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamster_cage
[7]Hauzenberger, A. R., Gebhardt-Henrich, S. G., & Steiger, A. (2006). The influence of bedding depth on behaviour in golden ... Retrieved June 15, 2020, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S016815910500393X
[8]Kuhnen, G. (1999). The effect of cage size and enrichment on core temperature and febrile response of the golden hamster. Laboratory Animals, 33(3), 221-227. doi:10.1258/002367799780578246
[9]Manteca, X., & Salas, M. (n.d.). Stereotypies as Animal Welfare Indicators [Brochure]. Author. Retrieved from https://www.zawec.org/media/com_lazypdf/pdf/Sheet%20ZAWEC%202%20.pdf
[10]McLeod, L. (2019, May 05). The Right Cage Will Be a Happy Home for Your Syrian Hamster. Retrieved June 15, 2020, from https://www.thesprucepets.com/hamster-cage-for-your-syrian-hamster-1238927
[11]Ontario Hamster Club. “Habitats and Accesories.” Accessed July 9, 2020. https://ontariohamsters.ca/education/habitats-and-accessories.html.
[12]Philippine Hamster Keepers (n.d.). Hamster Caresheet: Housing [Digital image]. Retrieved June 15, 2020, from https://philippinehamsterkeepers.com/hamster-care/caresheet/
[13]Saint Louis Zoo. (n.d.). Animal Enrichment. Retrieved June 15, 2020, from https://www.stlzoo.org/animals/enrichmenttraining/animalenrichment
[14]Stichpunkt-Liste mit Basis-Tipps/Haltungsideen für den Einstieg & Berechnungstool für Streumenge, Glasgewicht (Aquas) und Zuschnittmaße beim EB. (n.d.). Retrieved June 15, 2020, from https://www.das-hamsterforum.de/t/stichpunkt-liste-mit-basis-tipps-haltungsideen-fuer-den-einstieg-berechnungstool-fuer-streumenge-glasgewicht-aquas-und-zuschnittmasse-beim-eb.253401/
[15]Swiss Animal Protection SAP. (n.d.). Small rodents as pets [Brochure]. Author. Retrieved from https://www.animal-protection.net/sites/factsheets/kleinnager.pdf
[16]Taxonomist. 'The Surprising Truth About Cage Size.' 2017. Accessed June 15, 2020. http://hamsterhideout.com/forum/topic/138114-the-surprising-truth-about-cage-size/.
[17]Veillette, M., & Reebs, S. G. (2011) . Shelter choice by Syrian hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus) in the laboratory.
[18]Waarom HamsterScaping? (2020, March 03). Retrieved June 15, 2020, from https://hamsterscaping.info/waarom-hamsterscaping/
[19]Wilde, C. (n.d.). Tiergerechte Hamsterbehausung. Retrieved June 15, 2020, from http://www.diebrain.de/hi-gehege.html
[20]Wilde, C. (n.d.). Tiergerechte Zwerghamsterbehausung. Retrieved June 15, 2020, from http://www.diebrain.de/zw-gehege.html

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