Like most owners, you’re always looking for new ways to keep your hamster entertained.
Wild hamsters have an endless supply of new and interesting things to explore, discover, and play with due to the ever-changing landscape in their open environment.
They have things like rocks to climb on and hide under, plants and bushes, bodies of water, trees, and sticks. They have a wealth of items available to them outside.
It’s only safe to assume that hamsters in captivity could grow bored of the closed-off environment of their cages where things rarely change, and nothing is ever new.
This is why it’s important to occasionally change your hamster’s cage’s layout. Give your hamster new toys, things to explore, and scenery to look at.
Recreate the outdoors for your hamster a bit using rocks and sticks. However, you must do so carefully to keep your hamster safe.
Are Rocks Good for Hamsters?
Rocks can be good for hamsters because they’ll help make their cage appear more like their natural habitat in the wild.
If the rocks are large enough, your hamster will love climbing on them. Small rocks will give your hamster something to pick up and examine. Your hamster might even use the rocks to help build its nest.
Having rocks in your hamster’s cage is beneficial to them. Rocks give their cage a more outdoorsy feel, which could comfort them.
The hard surfaces of the rocks will keep your hamster’s claws trimmed and filed as they climb on them.
Can Hamsters Play with Rocks?
It might be beneficial to think about the types of things wild hamsters play with and do outdoors.
When hamsters are in their natural habitat, they play with all sorts of things that hamsters in captivity don’t get the chance to even become accustomed to.
Wild hamsters use rocks, sticks, grass, leaves, and anything else they find while scavenging to build their nests. Why shouldn’t hamsters in captivity have the same opportunities?
Rocks make excellent play toys for hamsters. Depending on the size of the rocks, they can do various things with them, such as holding them, playing with them, hiding under them, and climbing on them.
What Size Rocks for A Hamster’s Cage?
When you consider the variety of rock sizes available outdoors for wild hamsters to play with, it seems the sky is the limit on rock sizes to put in your hamster’s cage.
However, one benefit captive hamsters have is owners that look out for their safety. Keep your hamster’s safety in mind when picking out rocks to put in your hamster’s cage.
Really small rocks like pea gravel may not be the best choice in your hamster’s cage. The tiny rocks could hurt your hamster if it stuffs a bunch in its cheek pouches.
Stick to slightly larger rocks that are small enough for your hamster to pick up and maneuver but not so small that they could hurt your hamster.
You can also place big rocks in your hamster’s cage that are large enough to climb on.
Stacking rocks together to form multiple levels can also be a fun climbing apparatus for your hamster. Just be sure they’re stacked securely so they don’t fall on your hamster.
What Rocks are Safe for Hamsters?
There’s an abundance of rocks that would be safe for your hamster. The main thing you want to stay away from is rocks that have pointy or sharp edges.
Keeping your hamster safe is the most important thing, so avoid anything that could cause harm.
Here is a list of the types of rocks that would be safe to use in your hamster’s cage:
There are many different types and sizes of pebbles. The main ones to stay away from are the tiny pebbles, often called pea gravel.
They’re called pea gravel because each rock is similar in size to a pea. They often have a rough texture with sometimes sharp points on them.
These are the ones that could be unsafe and cause injury to your hamster if it decides to stuff them in its cheek pouches.
A few safe types of pebbles include the following:
River rocks can be found in many shapes and sizes, but they tend to be on the smaller side, which is why they’re also called pebbles.
The surface of these rocks has been worn smooth from the river water rushing over them, and they’re the perfect size for your hamster to pick up and move around.
Mexican Beach Pebbles
Mexican Beach Pebbles are smooth and small decorative rocks found in Baja, Mexico, and sold commercially.
These pebbles are pieces of the cliffs along the beach that have eroded and fallen to the ground. Their smooth texture and shape are caused by the force of the ocean waters washing over them.
Mexican Beach Pebbles are found in a variety of sizes and colors. They would make a perfect addition to your hamster’s cage.
Slate rocks come in various sizes, but they’re perfect for building steps, bridges, and climbing apparatuses for your hamster.
Stack them any way you want and secure them with strong glue. Sometimes slate rocks can be pointy or have sharp edges, so select the ones safest for your hamster.
The rocks you put in your hamster’s cage don’t have to be fancy or store-bought. You can go to your garden and select a few rocks for your hamster’s cage.
If you do intend to put rocks in your hamster’s cage that have been outside, you should sterilize them first to kill off any bacteria that could make your hamster sick.
Another option would be to use fake rocks. Fake rocks are plastic or another material manufactured to look like real rocks. You’ll see these in pet stores around the fish aquarium supplies.
These rocks are a great choice to add to your hamster’s cage. They’re safe, lighter, and often made with tunnels or fun things your hamster can play with.
How to Sanitize Rocks for Hamsters
You might be asking yourself why it’s necessary to sanitize rocks before putting them into your hamster’s cage. After all, wild hamsters live around dirty rocks and do fine.
The thing is, hamsters that live in the wild are used to living with dirt and bacteria, and their bodies have built up an immunity to it.
Hamsters living in captivity are used to clean, bacteria-free environments, so if they’re exposed to things like that, they can get sick more easily.
Sometimes their behaviors and hormones are the opposite. For instance, hamsters in captivity are crepuscular, but hamsters in the wild are often diurnal.
The National Library of Medicine: National Center for Biotechnology Information states that hamsters living in captivity are just as susceptible to human illnesses as humans are. This is why hamsters can catch colds and other illnesses from their owners.
Now you know why it’s important to sanitize rocks brought in from outside; here’s how to do it:
Don’t Boil the Rocks
When you hear the word ‘sanitize,’ most people’s minds automatically go to boiling the object to rid it of any germs or bacteria. Ordinarily, this would be correct.
When it comes to rocks, however, boiling them could lead to disaster. Rocks that are porous or contain layers can explode if placed in boiling water or if heated up too quickly.
The quick temperature change creates a pressure buildup, and the only way to release the pressure is for the rock to explode.
Scrub with Hot Water
Using a scrub brush, soap, and hot tap water, scrub the rocks thoroughly, making sure to get into any indents or crevices.
Once you’ve scrubbed the rocks with soap and water, rinse them in hot tap water. Then, use a different scrub brush and scrub the rocks without soap.
When you’ve finished with the second soap-free scrub, rinse the rocks 2 to 3 times, and set them aside on a towel to dry.
Let the rocks sit to dry for a couple of days. You want them completely dry before putting them into your hamster’s cage.