Knowing how big should a hamster cage be can be tricky, as it’s dependent on a number of factors. First of all, there’s the type of hamster you have – but also, you might land on a different answer if you opt for certain types of cage.
It can be easy to assume that very small pets, such as hamsters, don’t need an awful lot of room. However, you should be prepared to invest into as large a hamster cage as you can accommodate in most cases – they’re creatures who love to explore, burrow and exercise, and therefore they’ll need the room to do so.
With this piece, we’ll be exploring some of the different options to help guide you further.
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What is the absolute minimum for a hamster cage?
It’s hard to pinpoint an absolute minimum, with advice varying depending on who you ask. In fact, some animal welfare groups refuse to give a minimum, as really it should be about providing as much space as possible – not providing the minimum.
That said, a good rule of thumb to aim for is at least 450 square inches to make sure that there’s plenty of space for your hamster to explore. Spend some time checking the size of the best hamster cage to make sure it’s up to scratch. Opting for modular systems gives you the scope to expand your hamster’s running space too, and can be useful if you have an awkward space you want to fit your hamster into.
You should also think about how much of the cage’s floor space is taken up with other elements, such as wheels, food bowls, toilet areas and bedding areas. Make sure there’s plenty of consideration for that when picking your hamster cage.
Although it’s important to bear in mind the different types of hamster, roughly speaking, even smaller hamsters such as dwarf hamsters, Russian hamsters or Chinese hamsters, also need plenty of space like larger Syrian hamsters. As you’ll often keep smaller hamsters in pairs, then there should be plenty of space to make sure they each have enough room (note: you should never keep more than one Syrian hamster in the same cage).
If you’re only keeping one smaller-variety hamster, then you might be able to consider smaller cages – such as those designed for mice. You will also need to consider other things, such as the size of the bars, or any potential escape routes, too.
Why do hamsters require a large cage?
In the wild, hamsters can often roam for many miles at a time, so making sure there’s enough to stimulate and entertain your hamster in their cage is ideal for having a happy pet.
Obviously, it’s difficult to recreate that in the home environment. And, of course, hamsters are far less likely to be given free roam of larger areas of your home. It’s therefore imperative that you give them plenty of space to burn off all that natural energy.
As large a cage as you can afford, accommodate and practically look after is always a good idea. Also make sure you think about other stimulation in the cage, such as wheels, toys and things for them to chew.
How to choose the best hamster cage
There are a number of key criteria you should consider when trying to choose the best hamster cage. Roughly speaking, these are:
- Size of hamster cage
- Style of hamster cage
- Ease of cleaning
- Ventilation possibilities
We’ll go over the above list in more detail below.
Best size for hamster cage
There really is a lot of truth in the “bigger is better” maxim when it comes to choosing the best hamster cage.
Hamster cages can be affordable, or they can be extravagant and expensive. Although hamsters are often thought of as low-cost pets, it’s important to factor in the cost of housing them – investing in a good quality, large and spacious cage is vital, and proper consideration should be given to how much space you have available in your accommodation.
Best style of hamster cage
There are three general styles of hamster cage – wire cages with a plastic base, an all-plastic modular construction, and aquarium-style cages. All have their pros and cons, and should be carefully considered.
In terms of creating the most amount of space, fun and excitement for your hamster, modular systems that can be expanded offer maximum flexibility. It’s important however to remember that there should still be one large “continuous” expanse of space, even if you have multiple tubes and modules coming from the main area.
If you opt for a traditional wire sided cage, bear in mind the type of hamster it is for. Smaller hamsters might be able to escape or get stuck in between thicker wires that might be OK for larger hamsters. Wire-sided cages can be problematic for excessive chewing. If you opt for this type of cage, you should ensure that there’s plenty of other more appropriate things around for them to chew – such as dedicated chew sticks.
Aquarium-type hamster cages have their advantages, as they offer a bit more security for those who are anxious about the hamster escaping. But it tends to be hard to find one which offers an adequate amount of space, and they can also be quite heavy to move around.
Best type of hamster cage to keep clean
It’s extremely important to set up a good cleaning routine for your hamster cage.
In terms of practicalities, the simpler the cage, the easier it is to keep clean. Wire-sided cages with plastic bases tend to be the simplest to keep clean. With these, you can easily remove the sides, and empty out whatever’s in the base and reattach it in a matter of minutes.
Modular construction cages which require a little more effort to deconstruct and reconstruct them can be a bit more complex to clean fully. With this type of cage, you might want to only deep clean the main area regularly, opting to spot clean other supplemental areas depending on how much they are used. Think carefully about how much time you have to dedicate to cleaning a hamster cage and its various add-ons if you intend to opt for this type of cage.
Since aquarium-style hamster cages are heavy to move, cleaning can be a little tricky too.
Check out our guide on how to clean a hamster cage, too.
Best type of hamster cage for ventilation
It’s important to think about the environment that your hamster’s cage will be placed in. That means it should be well-ventilated (but not draughty), not disturbed by too much noise, not placed in a high-traffic area and well-lit in a regular pattern.
Wire-sided cages are great for ventilation, but if there’s any kind of draught in the house, the hamster will be less protected from it. Make sure that if you opt for a modular plastic hamster cage, or an aquarium-style hamster cage, that it is properly ventilated and is placed somewhere that regularly benefits from fresh-air coming into the room.
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Amy Davies is a freelance writer and photographer with over 15 years experience. She has a degree in journalism from Cardiff University and has written about a huge variety of topics over the years. These days she mostly specialises in technology and pets, writing across a number of different titles including TechRadar, Stuff, Expert Reviews, T3, Digital Camera World, and of course PetsRadar. She lives in Cardiff with her dog, Lola, a rescue miniature dachshund.