As the largest pet hamster species, some important considerations apply to Syrians’ housing and space requirements, especially when they’re young and more active.
Syrian hamsters (also called golden hamsters or teddy bear hamsters) require spacious and well-equipped cages to stay happy, healthy, and entertained.
Syrians need a minimum cage size of 12 inches long by 24 inches wide, with a height of at least 12 inches.
Golden hamsters are active small animals, so cages with 2-3 levels and hiding spots, like tunnels and tubes, are essential. They need deep bedding to burrow in and a large running wheel for exercise.
What is the Minimum Size for a Syrian Hamster Cage?
Providing a Syrian hamster with sufficient space is vital for its health, happiness, and well-being. As stated, the cage dimensions below should be considered a minimum:
- Depth (12 inches or 30.5 cm).
- Width (24 inches or 61 cm).
- Height (12 inches or 30.5 cm).
- Bar spacing (maximum of 6 mm).
The bar spacing must be minimized because hamsters can escape through narrow openings.
A longer cage is preferred, but if you don’t have the space in your house or apartment, a relatively short but wide cage with sufficient depth and height can compensate.
You can house Syrian hamsters in converted glass aquariums. So, a 20-gallon tank would be the smallest recommended size, but wire cages with horizontal bars offer more enrichment.
Having fun things to do will keep a hamster active and engaged, which is fundamental to its well-being.
How Do I Know A Cage Is Too Small?
A hamster living in a too-small cage will manifest signs of unhappiness and discontentment. When kept in stressful or under-stimulating environments, Syrian hamsters may harm themselves.
Hissing, hiding, and shaking are also indicators of stress in hamsters.
This can be a means of escaping. Hamsters become destructive when upset, and if they’re willing to challenge the nigh-unbreakable cage bars, you can be sure they’re bored and frustrated.
Syrian hamsters may start to climb the cage walls and ceiling bars repeatedly when stressed. They may also chew, nudge, or nose the opening mechanisms of the cage to escape.
Of course, not all escape attempts are a symptom of distress; hamsters are curious creatures. Known as escape artists, hamsters may try to get out for no greater reason than curiosity.
If you provide a large cage with many things to do, escape attempts should be reduced. According to the Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine, enrichment is vital to hamsters’ long-term health.
How Big Should A Syrian Hamster Cage Be Ideally?
No single cage size is perfect for every Syrian hamster, but more space is always better.
Although small, Syrian hamsters can run up to 6 miles a night when foraging in the wild. So, there’s no risk of providing a cage that’s too large.
What you put in the cage is important. Also, changing out some (not all) of the toys and hideaways each week can be beneficial, and adding items they can eat, chew, or destroy can be cathartic.
There’s a range of hamster-safe toys that you can put in the cage, including the following:
- Tunnels and tubes.
- Mini dollhouses.
- Wooden block puzzles.
- See-saw toys.
- Mineral blocks.
- Exercise wheels.
- Elevated platforms.
What Types of Cages Are Good for Hamsters?
The best cage for hamsters depends on their activity levels and personality. Here are the options:
Wire Mesh Cages
These cages are usually constructed from metal with wire mesh floors and walls. They’re ideal for air circulation, provide lots of room for exploration, and are easy to clean.
Ensure the cage has a secure lid to prevent curious hamsters from escaping.
Aquarium cages provide more privacy and safety for skittish and nervous hamsters.
Unlike wire mesh cages, aquariums don’t permit as much air circulation. Consequently, they must be cleaned more frequently to prevent bacteria, mold, and fungus accumulation.
Plastic cages provide ample space and can be easily cleaned with hamster-safe soap and water. They’re also lightweight and less likely to break than aquarium cages, making them easy to move.
Plastic cages usually have more accessories, like tunnels and extra shelves. Some plastic cages even have a built-in running wheel, but ensure it’s large enough to prevent back and spinal injuries.
Like aquariums, plastic cages don’t facilitate as much air circulation as wire cages.
Critter Nation Cages
Critter Nation cages are larger with multiple levels, allowing hamsters to climb, play, and explore. They’re also fitted with accessories like hammocks, ladders, and ramps.
They’re made from wire mesh, providing good air circulation, and are easy to clean. Also, the bar spacing is small enough that the hamster can’t get out or get its head stuck.
The type of cage you select for a pet hamster should be based on its unique needs and preferences.
Each cage type has advantages and disadvantages, so you must carefully assess the cage’s size, design, ventilation, accessibility, and ease of cleaning.
Select a cage that has a safe, comfortable, spacious, and stimulating environment for Syrian hamsters.