Last Updated on: 24th September 2023, 07:09 pm
Tubes replicate the tunnels hamsters dig in the wild and are a good form of enrichment. Cardboard and wooden tubes are advised, as chewing plastic leads to ingesting small fragments.
To find the right-sized tube for a hamster, measure it to ensure they don’t get stuck.
- Syrian hamsters: Tubes with a diameter of 7 cm (about 2.76 inches).
- Dwarf hamsters: Tubes with a diameter of 5cm (1.97 inches).
If a hamster sleeps in its tubes, keep them out of the sun because it could overheat and dehydrate.
Are Tubes Good for Hamsters?
Tubes offer hamsters many benefits, including the following:
Laboratory Animal Medicine explains how hamsters live in deep tunnels in their native environment.
Most hamsters use tubes because they’re like tunnels, making them feel more at home in their enclosures. Hamsters also use tunnels to escape predators and move around safely.
While captive hamsters don’t have predators, they don’t know this is the case. So, tubes can make hamsters feel more at ease while resting.
Hamsters like to sleep in warm, dark, and enclosed spaces where they feel safest.
Tubes enable them to recuperate their energy without fear after a long night of running on their exercise wheels, cleaning themselves in their sand baths, and foraging for food.
Tubes are a good source of physical and mental enrichment.
Hamsters enjoy running through tubes and climbing on top of them. Hamsters also gain enrichment from chewing tubes made with natural materials, like wood and cardboard.
This helps keep hamsters’ ever-growing teeth down to the right length.
Are Plastic Tubes Bad for Hamsters?
There are negatives to having tubes in a hamster’s enclosure, including:
As tubes replicate tunnels and burrows, they discourage hamsters from digging and carrying out their burrowing instincts. That’s why providing deep bedding is better than tubes.
All hamsters burrow, but they need the right amount of bedding to get started. 6+ inches is a minimum, but some hamsters need 10 inches to start digging.
You can help a hamster start burrowing by submerging a wide tunnel into the bedding. Eventually, the hamster will learn to dig holes and tunnels by itself, meaning you can remove the tubes.
Too-small tubes increase the risk of a hamster getting stuck. Syrian hamsters need tubes that are 7 cm, while dwarf species need tubes that are 5 cm.
Hamsters emerge between dusk and dawn, usually while their owners are asleep. Getting stuck while their owners are in bed will be a stressful experience, putting them at risk of dehydration.
The constant friction of a hamster moving through its tubes causes some of its fur to rub off. This is common with tubes too small to fit through, although even the widest tubes can cause problems.
The prolonged use of an overly small tube may irritate the skin and result in soreness.
Lack of Oxygen
Some plastic tubes have tiny breathing holes, which don’t allow sufficient oxygen to circulate inside.
The lack of oxygen resembles someone sucking air through a straw. As you can imagine, this will affect the hamster’s long-term health and well-being.
Hamsters are prone to respiratory infections, so poor ventilation can trigger breathing problems, especially if they spend time inside their tubes.
Many hamsters pee in their wheels and tubes.
Tubes also don’t have enough space to hold bedding to soak up the urine. As tubes are hard to clean without removing them, ammonia builds up and can’t escape due to the small air holes.
There won’t be enough oxygen to remove the ammonia and carbon dioxide particles without ample airflow, making the hamster inside the tube sick.
Also, the holes aren’t large enough to allow poop to fall through, making the tubes unhygienic and potentially dangerous to a hamster’s health.
Avoid direct sunlight if you have a cage where a plastic tube runs along or outside the top.
Due to the lack of large ventilation holes, hamsters can become overheated, developing heatstroke and dehydration. Hamsters who sleep in their tubes may get too hot and perish.
Can Hamsters Chew Through Plastic Tubes?
Some, though not all, hamsters chew through plastic tubes. This is caused by the following:
- Stress, most notably from tubes or an enclosure that’s too small.
- Overgrown teeth that the hamster needs to file down.
- There is a lack of enrichment within the cage.
- Wanting to escape their cage.
Plastic is flimsy and easy to break, and sharp pieces can cut the hamster’s mouth and cheek pouches. Small plastic fragments can cause blockages if ingested, risking internal problems.
As a result, wooden and cardboard tubes are considered safer options. Even if the hamster chews through them, they’re unlikely to hurt themselves.
You must also upgrade the hamster’s enclosure to one measuring at least 80 x 50 cm and provide more enrichment to keep it entertained.
In the short term, remove the tubes and provide more bedding to encourage the hamster to dig down and create natural tunnels.
Are Cardboard Tubes Safe for Hamsters?
Hamsters can use cardboard tubes as long as they’re wide enough and aren’t made from harmful materials that are dyed, glossy, or waxy.
Cardboard toilet tubes are a good enrichment for dwarf hamsters but too small for Syrian hamsters. Large shipping tubes are a better option for larger hamsters like Syrians.
When using a cardboard tube, be sure it hasn’t come into contact with food. Bugs from fruits and vegetables can infest a hamster’s fur and bedding, while pesticide traces can make it sick.
Hamsters enjoy chewing cardboard tubes as much as sleeping and running through them.
Hamsters rarely ingest the cardboard, as they spit them out. If unsure where the cardboard tube has been, clean it before giving it to the hamster.
Tubes aren’t a suitable or safe choice for all hamsters. Large tubes are a good form of enrichment, but you shouldn’t encourage a hamster to sleep in them.
Avoid plastic tubes and opt for natural materials like wood.