Saturday, 7 January 2012

Guide to Buying a Cage

Hamsters are highly active creatures and need plenty of space - probably a lot more than most people realise! Not only does a good sized cage provide room for the essentials - wheel, house, food bowl, water bottle etc - but plenty of room for toys and running about as well.
Savic Ruffy 2 80cm x 50cm

The RSPCA recommend cages be at least 75cm by 40cm although most experienced hamster owners will tell you that Syrians need a little more space and most dwarf species are happy in cages slightly smaller than that. However, bigger is better*. There are numerous cages on the UK market that reach and exceed, this size. Some are quite costly, reaching up and over £100 but a lot are relatively cheap (£50 and under). There are also alternatives to the bog standard, wire hamster cage including aquariums, bin cages (storage boxes converted into cages using a bit of DIY), furniture "hacks" and cages marketed for other species. 

There are a number of things to consider when searching for the right cage for you and your hamster, I'll try and cover as much as possible in this post. In no particular order mind you! This is to help you make a more informed decision when choosing a cage - so that when someone recommends a particular cage you can decide if it's a good recommendation, or if it's suitable for yourself and your hamster.

Bar Spacing: Syrian hamsters shouldn't be kept in cages that have bars further apart than 1cm, a cage with larger bar spacing should be meshed to prevent escapes. Dwarf hamsters can squeeze through tiny gaps, although most adults will be fine in cages with 1cm bar spacing, babies and smaller dwarf hamsters are safer in cages with smaller bar spacing or in aquarium, tank or bin cages.

Shelving: If the cage includes a bar or mesh shelf, it must be removed or covered as they can cause injuries and bumblefoot. Solid plastic or wooden shelves are best.

Holes: Tank style cages, such as the ZooZones, have holes for water bottle spouts and that, although a lot of hamsters will ignore them, if you have a hamster that has a thing for chewing anything and everything, the holes will need to be covered or blocked.

Height: The height of a cage can vary greatly. A tall cage (40cm plus) must have a selection of shelves and hammocks to prevent falls, or even better a full sized shelf which will not only prevent falls but provide loads more room. Short cages can pose a problem where wheels are concerned - make sure that the cage is tall enough to accommodate the right sized wheel. Flying Saucers are good for shorter cages as they aren't very tall.

Base Depth: Cages with separate bases and tops (like wire cages and tank style cages) need to have a base that is deep enough to contain plenty of substrate. Hamsters are burrowing animals and require a deep layer of substrate.

Access: A lot of commercial, wire cages only have small doors which makes accessing the inside of the cage difficult. Although putting your hands inside the cage while the hamster is in it should be kept to a minimum it does make life easier having decent access to the inside of the cage. The position of the access should also be taken into consideration - front access is needed if you plan on stacking cages, on shelving units or relatively high.

Weight and Bulk: Heavy, bulky cages are difficult to move so unless you are sure you can get help to move the cage when needed, ensure that where it will be placed means you can clean it where it stands or that it's light and easily picked up (Savic wire cages have secure handles which makes them much easier to move). 

*In most cases at least - nervous, shy, sick, injured or older hamsters are often better in smaller cages

Friday, 23 December 2011

Under Construction

I'm remaking Hamsters Galore, with the hope that it will be more user friendly. Please bare with me while I get it all sorted :)

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Dashing Hamsters: My Opinion on Exercise Balls

Excersie balls are a bit of a controversial topic, some people love them, some loathe them. On a discussion at Hamster Central the lovely Christmas Hamster posted a link to a blog post they wrote in April, I thought it was fantastic and wanted to link you to it -

Dashing Hamsters: My Opinion on Exercise Balls: Hamster Balls - Cruel? I have heard much debate as to whether run around balls are cruel. In my experience I have yet to find evide...

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Wish List

Christmas coming up has made me think about things I'd like to receive, what I will be giving etc. Then I went on to thinking what I would like to get Luna, little miss spoilt Luna! So, here's my current hamster wish list!

Nutty Stick Ball with REAL NUT INSIDE

Ancol Bunny Veg Assorted 8cm
Small Furries Alf A Donut
Nature First Rope Bridge with Sticks
Boredom Breaker Natural Treats Rodent Roller
Trixie Corner Toilet with Roof
Loof 'a' Chews Sharples 'N' Gran
Super Pet Giant Run About Rat Chinchilla Exercise Ball
Those are a few bits and bobs that I would like to get her at least. The ball is the most important thing to get as the one she has at the moment is too small. I'll be stocking up on substrate, bathing sand, toilet litter and treats soon so might get a few things from the wish list as well.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Q: Should I get a hamster?

Hamsters tend to be impulse buys - you nip into a pet store to get some dog food and can't resist the cute little face staring out at you in the hamster section. The thing is, this often results in a hamster living in poor conditions - whether that be due to a small cage, lack of knowledge, the person not really having enough time or not having enough money to get what the hamster needs. Thankfully, if you're reading this, you probably haven't just gone out and bought a hamster - you've at least starting doing your research!

So, there are three main things to consider when buying a hamster - time, space and money.

Do you have enough time?

Hamsters need out of cage time every day for at least half an hour or an hour a day. Obviously no one is going to blame you if you cant because of an emergency etc but generally speaking, they need time out each day. Most hamster owners spend a couple of hours with their hamsters a day - ball time, cuddles, free roaming etc. This doesn't, and shouldn't be done all at once - 20-30 minutes at a time is about right for a Syrian, slightly less for a dwarf. Even if you just put them back for 5 - 10 minutes it gives them time to have a snack, pee, poo and drink. Plus a bit of a rest if they need it.

Take into consideration that they are crepuscular (active during twilight hours) and don't often wake very early - if you go to bed early each night you may not see the hamster at all. You can altar their body clocks slightly - repeatably waking them up at the same time each night should result in them getting up then on their own at that time but that doesn't always work. Just bare that in mind!

Do you have enough money?

Annual costs for hamsters are very little - I only spend 60p every two weeks on substrate. Food isn't expensive either and treats can be stuff from your cupboard and fridge (veg, nuts etc). The most expensive continual cost is cage disinfectant.

Set up costs can be quite substantial though - I spent just under £100 when I got Luna. This included a cage, toys, food, treats, sand, toilet litter, bedding, substrate and probably a few things that I cant remember as well. The bulk of the cost went on the cage - a Savic Hamster Heaven - but you can bring that cost down quite a bit by shopping around. There are great sized cages for £40 - £50 and bin cages are even cheaper. You can also have a look through sites like eBay, Gumtree and Preloved for cheap second hand cages. Don't limit searches to hamster cages - try rat, chinchilla, rabbit and guinea pig cage searches as a lot of cages that are meant to be for these animals are no where near large enough for them but big enough for a hamster.

You will also need a bit of cash set a side for potential vet bills. You don't want to be caught out with a sick hamster and no money to pay for treatment.

Do you have enough space?

Hamsters need cages that are around 80cm x 50cm (a couple of cm is going to make too much of a difference but bigger is better) so you need to ensure that you have the space available for a cage that size. Ensure that the available space is "safe space" as well - somewhere where it wont be knocked over, pushed off, kicked, slobbered on by dogs etc.

If you've answered "Yes" too all of these questions then yup, find a breeder, check out local rescues and get yourself a hamster!

If you've answered "No" to any of these I suggest waiting until you answer "Yes". After I had convinced my other half and landlord to let me have a hamster I had to wait four months as cash was tight at the time and I needed to save up for the cage I wanted. It's worth waiting for things, whether that's saving up enough money like I had to or waiting for a litter to be available from a local breeder.


Monday, 17 October 2011

Hamster Haul from ZooPlus

My latest ZooPlus order came this morning (everything in the above photograph) - I'm really pleased with all of it! It was a little over £20 for everything although the carrot chew was free through the loyalty points programme ZooPlus have.

I bought the following -
As you can probably tell I love the JR Farm range - I think it's fantastic and Luna hasn't turned her nose up at any of it yet!

As she was awake when I took everything out of the box I gave her a couple of things - the Nibble Log which she couldn't wait to get to (she was pushing my fingers out of the way!) and one of the Strawberry Farmys which she bit a big chunk of and took it to bed.

No idea where the Dari cob will go in her cage, she's rapidly running out of room! I think I'll keep them all wrapped up until she's finished the Nibble Log.

The packet of Fruit Salad was a lot bigger than I thought it would be - seeing as I'll only give a couple of bits a day, if that, it will last forever! Please note that this should not be fed to any dwarf species as they are prone to diabetes and fruit is high in natural sugars.

I'll post some photographs and/or videos of Luna with her new treats once she's up and my camera is charged.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Homemade Hamster Toys - Toilet Roll Treat Box

Simple, homemade toys tend to be better recieved by hamsters than expsensive purpose built ones. A good old toilet roll can entertain a hamster for hours!

There are loads of different things you can do with them, one of which making a treat box out of them. I made a quick, 1 minute tutorial showing you how to make them -

Here is Luna enjoying it -


Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Syrian Hamster Cage List

This is purely a basic list containing as many suitable cages for Syrian Hamsters that I can find - at least that are on the market today.

Of course, I've not used all of them (I'm a Savic fan myself) so I cannot guarantee that they are all high quality etc, only that they are suitable, in the sense of size/footprint, for Syrian Hamsters.

This is the Savic Hamster Heaven, a personal favorite of mine -

I'll include a link for each cage to somewhere that sells it (be sure to shop around though, you may find it cheaper elsewhere) as well as the dimensions of the cage and will be asking people who have these cages to do reviews for Hamsters Galore in the near future. If I have missed a cage off this list, don't hesitate to post a comment with the name of the cage.

Cages suitable for Syrian Hamsters

Alexander - 101 x 52.5 x 51 cm  - Alexander at ZooPlus

Igor Fuchsia - 82 x 51 x 36 cm - Igor Fushsia at ZooPlus

Barney - 82 x 51 x 40 cm - Barney at ZooPlus

Falco - 80 x 45 x 70 cm - Falco (larger size also available) 

Fabio - 75 cm x 46 cm x 75 cm - Fabio at ZooPlus (very tall, hammocks, additional shelves needed to break falls)

Savic Sky Metro - 80 x 50 x 37 cm - Sky Metro at ECF (same as Hamster Heaven but without pink shelf and penthouse) 

Igor - 100 x 54 x 38 cm - Igor at ECF (two smaller sizes also available at ECF, both suitable)

Kevin - 82 x 51 x 36 cm - Kevin at ECF

Savic Mickey XL - 80 x 50 x 32 cm - Mickey XL at ECF (shelf needs covering or removing as wired shelves can damage feet)

Savic Hamster Heaven - 80 x 50 x 50 cm - Hamster Heaven at ECF (height measurement includes penthouse)

Savic Ruffy 2 - 80 x 50 x 38 cm - Ruffy 2 at ECF (marketed as a rat cage, it's too small for rats but great for hamsters)

Simba Rif Multi - 82 x 51 x 40 cm - Simba Rif at ECF

Hagan ZooZone 2 - 100 x 51 x 37 cmZooZone 2 at Equipetable (lid needs meshing to prevent escapes) 

Imac Rat 80 - 80 x 48.5 x 37.5 cm - Imac Rat 80 at Animal Source (marketed as a rat cage, too small for rats but great for hamsters) 

Ferplast Criceti 15 - 78 x 48 x 39 cm - Criceti 15 at Pet Planet

Ferplast Mary - 80 x 50 x 37.5 cm - Mary at Just Cages (another rat cage only suitable for Syrian hamsters)

Ferplast Maxi Duna - 99 x 51 x 37 cm - Maxi Duna at Gardens and Homes Direct (marketed as a a rabbit cage, too small for rabbits but great for hamsters) 
Homemade Cages

Bin cages are cheaper alternatives that are made from plastic storage boxes with holes drilled in them and meshed ventilation panels added. I'll be doing a post on bin cages soon.

The more expensive homemade cages are usually IKEA hacks, such as this IKEA Expidit Hamster Home.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

New Hamster Checklist

You need to purchase a number of things before getting a hamster so that everything is ready for him or her. It's not a good idea to bring a hamster home before getting a cage!

A note on "Starter Cages" - I firmly believe that "Starter Cages" are an absolute con and all they do is make is so that either a hamster lives a life in a tiny, cramped cage or the owner has to fork out a load more money once the hamster outgrows the starter cage. It's much cheaper and more sensible to buy a cage that will be perfect for the entire life of a hamster.

Anyway, here's a checklist of things you will need, plus a few extra bits and bobs. 

The RSPCA recommend that cages should be at least 75cm x 40cm, Syrians are better in 80cm x 50cm cages Dwarfs can go in cages slightly smaller (depending on the breed and the hamster). Levels and different compartments do not count towards this measurement - this should be the minimum footprint of the base of one cage.

Syrians need wheels that are 10inches or larger, 8inch wheels are good for all Dwarf breeds, although the smaller Roborovski hamsters and smaller hybrids are fine with 6inch wheels. 

Water bottle or Bowl
I much prefer bottles to bowls as there isn't any risk of spillages or substrate/food/poo/anything else getting into it. Classic water bottles seem to be the best out there and they aren't very expensive either.

There are about a million different houses out there, plastic ones, wood ones, ceramic ones, cardboard ones etc. I've tried wood and plastic but do you know what my hamster currently sleeps in? A cardboard box. Tissue boxes are great for houses! A lot of hamsters do have open nests though so if your hamster doesn't end up using the house I wouldn't worry, make sure they do have access to one though (and that its big enough, some aren't big enough for Syrian hamsters). 
A good layer of substrate is needed in the bottom of a hamsters cage, there are plenty of options out there from the well known option of wood shavings (ensure its dust extracted and kiln dried) and the more expensive Carefresh which comes in different colours. Whatever you choose it's best to buy it in bulk if you have the room to store it as it will save you a lot of money!

Nesting Material
NEVER, ever buy cotton wool/fluffy bedding. It's highly dangerous and can cause all manners of injuries and illnesses. Safe nesting materials include shredded jay cloth, shredded paper and the home made variety - shredded loo roll. A large handful should be given each clean out and replaced in between if needs be. 

Wooden Chews
As with other rodents, hamsters teeth constantly grow. This means they require things to chew on, whether wooden chews or wooden toys it doesn't matter, as long as they have some wooden things to chew on. Make sure that they are hamster safe - a twig from the back garden isn't suitable. 

This is an absolute must for cleaning the cage - you can pick up pet safe cage cleaning sprays from pet stores and you can also buy pet safe disinfectant wipes which are just as good.


A good quality, specialist hamster food is an obvious must.

Non Essentials


Some people are completely against using balls - its unnatural for a hamster to be locked in a small ball etc but a lot of people use them and their hamsters seem to like them. It really does depend on the hamster - if a hamster refuses to walk into one then don't force them, if, like my Luna, they will sometimes refuse to come out of the ball then its fine to use them. Ensure that the ball is big enough (same principle as wheels).


Hamsters need "floor time" - in other words set up a secure space with toys etc for them to have a run around in. You can get specialist hamster playpens for this but be warned - Syrians can climb out of most of them! Things like children's paddling pools, large cardboard boxes etc can be used as a (often cheaper) alternative.

Additional Toys

If you love hamsters you're unlikely to be able to buy hamster toys for your beloved pet - bridges, tunnels, climbing frames, grass balls - the list is endless.

Toilet and Toilet Litter

Hamsters are very clean animals and 99% of the time have a "wee corner", this can get quite smelly very quickly though. Providing a toilet with special toilet litter will give the hamster somewhere to do its business and the litter will reduce the smell to almost nothing. Good ones clump too which makes it easy to get soiled litter out without having the replace the entire lot.


Sandbaths are fantastic for both hamster and owner - the hamsters coat will improve and you will be able to watch them as they dig, dive and flick around in the sand. It's great to watch! Ensure to use sand and not dust - the dust ones are great for Chinchillas but not hamsters (it can cause respiratory problems in hamsters).


Fabric hammocks are a great addition to a hamsters cage - keep an eye on them when you first get them though, if a hamster chews them its best to remove them. Pouching or swallowing the fabric can be dangerous to hamsters digestive system.


Hamster treats come in all shapes and sizes and fresh vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds also make great treats.

I apologise if I've forgotten anything... Went over it a few times while scratching my head but nothing else came to mind!

One thing I will add - ensure that you have someone who will look after the hamster when you go on holidays and that you have registered the hamster with a local vet.

Good luck with your new hamster!

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Hamsters and the Five Freedoms

Hamsters make wonderful pets for people of all ages, although they are often a child’s first pet as they are small and charming little creatures. There are various breeds and colouration's, from a golden banded Syrian to a pearl Winter White. I have a love for Syrians myself and have a lovely tortoiseshell and white girl called Luna (see her intro here).

Sadly, hamsters are often the most neglected of animals, people either forgetting or never realising that they are highly complex creatures that need just as much, if not more, care and attention as a dog or cat. Pet owners, under the Animal Welfare Act, are required to meet the "Five Freedoms" and not doing so will result in legal action.

The Five Freedoms, which apply to all pets including hamsters, are as follows -
  • Freedom of hunger and thirst
  • Freedom of discomfort
  • Freedom from pain, injury and disease
  • Freedom to act normally
  • Freedom from fear and distress

Freedom of Hunger and Thirst

Hamsters have a special nutritional needs and require the right food to account for that - a good quality, hamster specific, dried food mix is a must. Harry Hamster is a popular brand, I use JR Farm Hamster Feast myself. Dwarf hamsters are prone to diabetes so ensuring that the mix you buy is free/low in sugars is important, you can get specialist dwarf hamster food that is perfect for them but normal hamster mix is fine if you remove things such as the corn.

Fruit, vegetables, herbs, seeds, nuts, mealworms etc can be given as treats, as well as specific hamster treats from pet stores, all treats should only be given in small amounts and some should be avoided completely. More on suitable treats and amounts soon.

Water can be given either via water bottle or water bowl. I personally prefer a bottle as there is no risk of it tipping over and the hamster going thirsty. They also cant kick substrate, food or poo into it either! Whatever you choose, the water must be changed once a day, tap water is fine - the reason I say this is because some places try to sell people bottled water for animals, its a con, don’t buy it. Water bottles can leak - Classic water bottles seem to be the best out there and are cheap too.

Freedom of Discomfort

Hamsters need a good sized cage, a place to nest and suitable substrate and nesting materials. The RSPCA minimum cage size is 75cm (L) by 40cm (W), although Syrians are best in 80cm by 50cm cages and single Dwarf hamsters can be housed in slightly smaller cages. Compartment cages are unsuitable for hamsters as no single compartment will provide the floor space needed - a group of smaller compartments joined to provide the 75cm by 40cm floor space is not the same as one single cage. Levels in a cage do not count towards the required size either. Remember these measurements are minimums, the bigger the better!

Substrate is often a controversial topic - many believe that pine wood shavings are the devils bedding and shouldn’t ever go near a hamster. Many moons ago someone said that the phenols in pine wood shavings will cause health problems, this spread like wildfire throughout the online and offline community. The thing is, pet safe pine wood shavings are safe - as long as they are dust extracted and kiln dried (this destroys the dangerous phenols). If you still don’t trust pine wood shavings there are alternatives, such as Megazorb (virgin wood pulp) and Carefresh. All have their own pro's and con's, I'll do a post on substrate soon.

Nesting material - one of the most popular and cheap types of bedding is loo roll. Yup, toilet roll - shred a few sheets (roughly a handful or so) or put the whole sheets in the cage so the hamster can shred it. Cotton wool/"fluffy" bedding should never, ever, ever be given to a hamster - it can wrap around feet, cutting of blood supply, get stuck in pouches and cause intestinal problems if ingested. It's just not worth the risk.

Freedom from Pain, Injury and Disease

It always surprises me when people admit that they didn’t realise a vet would treat a hamster - just like any other animal, hamsters sometimes need to see a vet and the Animal Welfare Act requires that prompt veterinary treatment be given to all animals, including hamsters when needed. A vet that specialises in small animals and/or exotic animals is the best, as not all vets are very good with hamsters.

Prevention of injury or disease is also a must - make sure there is nothing in the cage that can injure the hamster, from sticking out wires to high drops. Providing the correct diet etc is also relevant here - the wrong diet can and will cause health problems.

Freedom to Act Normally

This includes providing the correct environment, from the cage to the toys. It also includes keeping Syrians a lone (this is highly important, they are solitary animals). Dwarves can be kept in pairs or groups but I have to be honest, I've rarely seen a pair or group that haven’t eventually ended up having to be separated because of fighting.

Freedom from Fear and Distress 

In other words, don't torment a hamster, or any animal. Don't shout at them, don't poke them, don't hit them, don't scare them in any way. It's cruel, plain and simple.

This has just been a quick overview of the Five Freedoms and Hamsters, I will be going into a lot more detail on certain topics in future posts but I thought it would be better to cover the basics first!