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How Big Should My Hamster Enclosure Be?

What does the term 'minimum enclosure size' mean? Essentially, it establishes a baseline to ensure that your hamster lives in humane conditions. It's often challenging to replicate the vast open space hamsters enjoy in the wild, so setting a minimum provides guidance for hamster keepers when purchasing or constructing a habitat that meets at least the basic standards of comfort and well-being.

It's important to note that meeting these minimum requirements doesn't guarantee your hamster's happiness. Meeting the minimum simply means that you can provide a basic standard living space for your hamster. Whenever possible, aim for the largest enclosure you can provide, as ample space contributes significantly to your hamster's overall contentment.

Minimum Enclosure Size for Hamsters

A hamster enclosure must be large enough to accommodate all the necessary hamster enrichment items . Following the standards of the Veterinary Association for Animal Welfare, we recommend that all enclosures should be at a minimum 100cm x 50cm in length and width and at least 50cm in height. also follows and recommends this standard. This provides at least 5000 sqcm in floor space and an adequate amount of height for burrowing. Having a large amount of floorspace is not enough, a sufficient hamster enclosure requires a good base that bedding does not fall out of and the necessary enrichment items.

At minimum, your hamster enclosure should not be any less than 38cm (15 inches)in its smallest size, and should have a calculated floorspace of 5000sqcm (775 sqin). Your enclosure should also be able to have at least 20cm (8”) of bedding throughout the whole enclosure.

Why do they need large enclosures?

There have been a couple of experiments done with Syrian hamsters and cage sizes. An earlier study was done by Gernot Kuhnen in 1999. In this study, they were trying to determine how cage size and cage enrichment affected the hamster’s ability to regulate their own temperature. During the study, they injected hamsters with lipopolysaccharide (a bacteria) to make them sick.

The conclusion of the results suggested that hamsters who were housed in smaller cages had chronic stress, which means that they had a harder time regulating their body temperature. This means that a sick hamster will have a harder time getting better because of his already compromised immune system.

This study also observed that increasing the cage size and providing cage enrichment led to an increase in the fever response. This means that hamsters who have larger and more enriched enclosures can fight illnesses better than those who don’t.

There was also another study done by Fischer, Gebhardt-Henrich, and Steiger in Switzerland in 2005. In this study, sixty female Syrian hamsters were housed in various cage sizes (1800 sqcm, 2500sqcm, 5000sqcm, and 10000 sqcm). They were all given 15cm of bedding (6 inches) and all of the enclosures had a wheel.

In this experiment, all hamsters utilized their wheel. However, in the larger cages, the hamster used the wheel a lot less. The hamsters were bar-biting 4x more in the smallest cage than in the largest cage. The results from this study indicated that larger cages greatly improved the welfare of hamsters. The scientists even speculate that 10,000 sqcm of floor space might not be enough.

And if you still have doubts about whether hamsters really need all that space, we recommend looking at Plueschraupe’s Instagram guide on Nea's Tunnels. Nea is a cute Syrian hamster who lived in a cage far larger than the recommended minimum and built a tunnel around her whole enclosure. And she still had access to a large playpen! She used every space she could get access to. Hamsters absolutely love the space, and they love to explore.

Multi-Level vs Single-level enclosures

Hamster enclosures should not provide more height than length or width as hamsters need floor space more than they do height. Remember that hamsters are ground-dwellers and are not biologically fit for climbing. They benefit more from a large single-level enclosure than a multi-level enclosure.

Having multiple levels also does not increase the amount of floorspace your hamster has. All hamsters need access to at least 5000 sqcm / 775 sqin of unbroken floorspace. When providing multiple levels, their main home must meet or exceed that limit.

If providing a multi-level enclosure, make sure that the hamster has a safe way to access both enclosures. Some very clever people have created hamster-safe staircases to give hamsters access to their playpens. Plueschraupe and Aquamariewhangandgang have both made amazing custom staircases for their hamsters.

The advantages of larger hamster enclosures

  1. A larger enclosure provides more space for physical and mental stimulation, which reduces the likelihood of hamsters developing stereotypies
  2. Hamsters are natural burrowers, and a spacious enclosure allows you to provide them with the opportunity to express this instinct fully.
  3. A larger enclosure means that your hamster has the space to establish distinct areas for various activities such as nesting, feeding, and exercising. This allows them to feel more secure and relaxed, as they have a space to retreat to without feeling cramped or stressed from a more limited area.
  4. A larger enclosure with an adequate amount of bedding reduces the frequency and need for deep cleaning.
  5. A larger enclosure encourages hamsters to run, explore, and be more active.

The drawbacks of a small enclosure

  1. A smaller enclosure significantly restricts your hamster’s ability to engage in their natural behaviors, most notably burrowing. Remember that in the wild, hamsters are tunnelers and burrow as part of their daily activities. Depriving them of this can lead to severe boredom and frustration.
  2. Confining your hamster to a small enclosure can result in chronic stress, a condition that poses serious health risks to their overall health. Prolonged stress can weaken their immune system, making them more susceptible to illnesses. They will also have a harder time recovering from this.
  3. Hamsters in small enclosures can often make them more prone to developing stereotypies, which is a common indicator of poor animal welfare.
  4. Less space also means that you will need to clean the area more often, as smaller enclosures are prone to becoming soiled more often. Frequent cage cleaning can be disruptive and stressful for your hamster.


A hamster needs a lot of space so that they can burrow and forage. Hamsters naturally travel many miles in the wild, and to box them in living conditions where they cannot express their natural behaviors is cruel. For safety reasons, we cannot allow hamsters unlimited free roaming access to every corner of our home. However, we can still provide them with a large enough living space where they are free to exhibit their natural behaviors.


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