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Hamster Habitats

Updated: Jan 4, 2023

One Voice for Animals UK Guest Blog by Burgess



Hamster habitats


If you want to create an enriching environment for your hamster – or hamsters (only the Syrian hamster prefers a solo lifestyle) – we’ve all the info you need to design and set up the perfect hamster home. You’ll have hours of fun watching your curious hamster investigate and explore all the intriguing things you’ve provided for them.

When it comes to creating the perfect hamster habitat, a good place to start is by thinking about what’s really important to hamsters and taking some time to understand what kind of environment they need to enable them to exhibit all their natural hamster behaviours. Follow our 6 steps to creating the best environment for happy, healthy hamsters – and find out lots of interesting hamster facts too.


DID YOU KNOW?

Wild hamsters are found throughout much of Europe and Asia and like to live in warm, dry areas, such as steppes, sand dunes and the edges of deserts. There are many species of hamster and, apart from the Syrian or ‘Golden’ hamster who prefers to go it alone, most are social and live in family groups.

  1. Hamsters need plenty of space and intriguing areas to explore

When hamsters wake up at night, they are very active and need plenty of space to explore, play, climb and exercise. Different breeds need different housing. A Syrian hamster should be kept in a large wire enclosure with a solid, plastic base. It should be at least 80cm wide x 30cm deep x 35cm tall to give them plenty of room to climb the sides – a favourite activity and great exercise.

Dwarf hamsters are smaller, so could squeeze through the wire and escape. A tank or aquarium with a secure, wire lid for proper ventilation is best to house a dwarf hamster in. Provide them with a cage that’s as big as possible, ideally with a deep plastic base (minimum 3-5cm) and wire top.

A multi-level cage with different platforms will make the most of the available space, giving your hamster more areas to explore. Your hamster will set up its own toilet area, nesting area, eating area and playing area, so their hamster housing will need to be big enough to accommodate all of this.


DID YOU KNOW?

In the wild, hamsters carry what they forage and find in their specially designed cheek pouches so they can eat it later in the safety of their burrow, away from potential predators. Pet hamsters retain this behaviour. And, as hamster cheek pouches don't contain saliva glands, everything is kept fresh and dry during transit.

  1. Hamsters need to be housed somewhere quiet

Hamsters are very sensitive to high frequency sounds (known as ultrasound) which we cannot hear and can find this stressful. House your hamster away from anything that can generate ultrasound, such as television sets, computer screens, vacuum cleaners or sources of running water. Keep them in a room where the lights are not left on till late in the night as they’ll be waiting for darkness to venture out and play.


DID YOU KNOW?

Hamsters are endlessly curious and intelligent. With a little time and patience, they can be taught their name, pick up routines easily, litter train themselves and can be trained to come when food is presented or to perform simple tricks. These small, nocturnal rodents have poor vision, so your hamster will not get to know you by sight, but by scent.

  1. Hamsters need plenty of bedding to burrow in

In the wild, hamsters are extremely good diggers and construct deep, dark, underground burrows. Your pet hamster will appreciate a thick layer of paper bedding in which they can dig and burrow to their heart’s content. There should be enough nesting material to make a proper, cup- shaped nest. Don’t give your hamster any fluffy or fleece bedding. This could get caught in their legs or cause issues if they eat it.


DID YOU KNOW?

In their natural habitat, wild hamsters eat grasses, seeds and grain. And, although they are often through of as herbivores, they are actually omnivores and will happily munch on burrowing insects.

  1. Hamsters need somewhere cosy to sleep

Your hamster needs a nesting box or shelter to retreat to, keep warm, feel safe and sleep in. A shelter should be big enough for your hamster to store food placed nearby, make a nest and comfortably move around. There are many options available, from wood arches and lodges to plastic huts. You can also use every day cardboard items, such as empty tissue boxes. Your hamster will enjoy using them and chewing them up!

You can help your small furry friends get the best night’s (or day’s) sleep with Nap & Nest. This is a super absorbent, luxury paper bedding and litter for small animals that’s made from unused offcuts from teabag production. Soft on little paws, it’s easy to spot clean, reducing waste and making each bag last longer. Add a 3-5cm layer to your small animals’ bedding and toilet areas. Remove and replace just the soiled areas of bedding daily.


DID YOU KNOW?

Hamsters need a little top quality feeding hay to nibble on every day, along with some untreated softwood such as hawthorn, hazelnut, pear, poplar or apple wood to chew, which will keep their continually growing teeth in good shape.

  1. Hamsters need somewhere to take a bath

A sand bath that is! A ceramic dish filled with chinchilla dust will provide a sand bath to enable your fastidious hamster to keep their coat clean – although they may use it to double up as their toilet facility.


DID YOU KNOW?

While hamsters’ pouch-stuffing behaviour is endearing, it does mean that it’s very easy to overfeed them. The food you put out for them may quickly disappear – but beware – the chances are they haven’t eaten it but have simply hidden it away. As hamsters’ cheek pouches extend all the way down to their hips, they can store an amazing amount of food in them, so don’t be fooled by an empty dish.

  1. Hamsters need lots of fun things to do

When it comes to toys and accessories and fun things to gnaw on, make sure your hamster has plenty. There are all sorts you can buy, including tunnels, climbing blocks, ladders, bridges, wooden chew blocks, and rope treats.

Chewing, gnawing and shredding stuff is a natural hamster behaviour, so provide a variety of things for them to get their teeth into such as cardboard, coconut shells, hay bars, pumice stone and seagrass.

Hamsters also appreciate a good quality running wheel. Make sure you select one that is the right size for your hamster – there’s quite a difference in size between dwarf hamsters and Syrians. They should be able to run with a straight back – if they have to bend backwards this can lead to back problems. The wheel must be a solid structure (not rungs) and be axle free, fixed close to the cage wall, so that your hamster’s feet or legs cannot get trapped and injured. The running surface should be non-slip.


TOP TIPS ON FEEDING YOUR HAMSTER

  • A good diet for your hamster is one that contains nutrition-packed hamster nuggets specially designed for these small rodents. It’s best to avoid ‘muesli-style’ hamster food mix varieties as this encourages selective feeding, where hamsters pick out the bits that are high in sugar, which can cause painful problems with their teeth, and discard the nutritious and fibre rich elements, leading to an imbalanced diet.

  • Also provide a little top quality feeding hay to nibble on, which will keep their continually growing teeth in good shape, along with a tiny amount of fresh food a couple of times a week. Safe foods to feed your hamster include broccoli, cauliflower, kale and cucumber.

  • It’s essential that you only feed your hamster with the amount of food they need each day – around a tablespoon of specially-formulated hamster nuggets, depending on the species of hamster you have and how active they are. To help you, there are on-pack feeding guidelines you can follow. Rather than using a feeding bowl, scatter their food across the cage as collecting it will provide your hamster with another activity and encourages natural food-gathering behaviour.

  • Your hamster’s water bottle should have a valve-less sipper tube. Hamsters are not able to apply strong suction and can sometimes find it difficult to suck water from a traditional ‘ball-valve’ sipper tube.

  • The best feeding time for a hamster is in the evening when they start to wake up. Because hamsters are nocturnal, this is their breakfast time!

If you liked this blog you can find more like it on the Burgess website - https://www.burgesspetcare.com/blog/hamsters/hamster-habitats/

 

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