Hamster Hideout Hamster Essentials

Hamster Essentials

When you take your new hamster home, you should already have it's cage set up with water bottle in place, fresh litter, a wheel and possibly some other playthings, and a food bowl with a fresh supply of food. If you do not have these things set up upon the arrival of your hamster, that means more waiting time in the little cardboard container your hamster came in...which means additional stress on the little guy or girl. You want to make the hamster as comfortable as possible straight away, right? Well, read on for the specifics:


Wire with plastic tray/bottom: These are usually an excellent choice for most Syrian hamsters. Many enjoy nawing on the bars, which allow them to keep their teeth from overgrowing. It also can provide some climbing space...and many hamsters can become quite the little acrobats. Wire cages provide good ventilation for hamsters, and provide an interesting view of their environment in your home. Wire cages can be a bit questionable for dwarf hamsters, seeing as their small size can sometimes allow them to squeeze through the bars and escape.

Aquariums: These are also quite an excellent choice for both species of hamsters...although they often don't provide enough ventilation for them. It is also more of a challenge to have a safe exercise wheel in an aquarium, and hanging a water bottle safely from the top of the cage can be tricky. Aquariums eliminate the escape problem for most dwarf hamsters, as there are no spaces for them to squeeze through.

Plastic cages: While these cages can come in a variety of nifty colors, they also often do not provide adequate ventilation for hamsters. And unfortunately, many hamsters are able to naw their way right out of plastic enclosures... The upside is that these cages often have a lot of interesting tubing features that can provide extra space and entertainment for hamsters -- the tubing can create a more natural habitat for hamsters as well.

Wire/plastic cages: In my personal opinion, these cages are the best. They provide the best of both worlds...adequate ventilation, sturdiness, and space. Habitrail has produced two very good wire/plastic options -- The Safari cage, and the Space Station cage. Both work very well for most dwarf hamsters. However, due to their size, Syrians may feel a little cramped.

It is always best to provide your hamster with as much space as possible. A crowded or cramped hamster is not a happy camper...the bigger, the better.


Hamsters need fresh water, with no exception. I prefer to use distilled water, as the tap water in my area contains a high concentration of chlorine, which I can't imagine being good for my little ones. Also, water should be dispensed through a bottle that is attached to the side or top of the cage. Water placed in a water bowl or dish is not a great idea, because hamsters will kick their bedding into it, attempt to sit in it, and basically leave you with a very wet cage. Not a good plan...


The litter or bedding you choose to use with your hamster is largely a matter of safety. PLEASE avoid cedar bedding, and pine bedding. These contain additives/chemicals that have been known to kill or severely injure hamsters, and why it's still being used and sold remains largely a mystery to me. Aspen shavings or a product called Carefresh are the safest choices at the moment. Don't even consider pine or cedar bedding. The other big "NO" about bedding/nesting materials is a product that is referred to as "fluffy" or "cotton" bedding. This can also kill or maim your hamster. Don't use it...try shredding some unscented toilet paper for your hamster's nesting materials. It's a much safer option.


Hamsters need an exercise wheel almost as much as they need food and water. Please avoid runged wheels...which pretty much eliminates the freestanding metal wheels and plastic wheels. They damage a hamster's feet, and many hamsters have died from having their little legs caught in the wheel. The best wheel is a solid open-front wheel that attaches to the side of the cage, leaving no spokes or stands for the hamster's legs and feet to get trapped in.

As for other playthings, it's the little things that count with hamsters. They often love nothing more than a cardboard papertowel roll, or a little cardboard box for a cozy little hideaway. And exercise balls can be an enormous amount of fun for hamsters, and for the human who is observing the activity. These are now available in smaller sizes for dwarf hamsters. Wooden chew sticks are a great option, because they allow hamsters opportunities to keep their teeth from overgrowing.


The main part of your hamster's diet should be a dry store-bought hamster mix which includes a variety of textures and flavors. I personally recommend Kaytee's Fiesta Blend -- it has a wide assortment of tidbits such as sunflower seeds, corn kernals, banana chips, dried carrot, bird seed (I think), little protein bite thingys, among a wide array of other flavors for hamsters.

Hamsters should also have access to fresh fruits and vegetables daily (in very small amounts...too much can give your hamster diarrhea, which can be fatal). Be mindful of the amount of leafy greens you are feeding your hamster -- these can also give your hamster diarrhea. For a comprehensive list of which fruits and vegetables are appropriate for your hamsters, be sure to check out the links listed below.

There are also a wide variety of store-bought treats on the market today. Yogurt drops, dog biscuits, fruit sticks, hard-boiled egg, and small amounts of cheese can be appropriate treats for hamsters.

Hamster Essentials Links:

Choosing a Cage


Feeding Your Hamster

Preparing the Cage

Copyright 2001 by Holly Stinehart

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