Are Bin Cages Safe For Hamsters?

By Dawn | Hamster Care
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We’re currently looking into upgrading our hamster’s cage and we’ve been looking at some of the options.  One option is a bin cage, so I decided to do some research into them to make sure they’re safe.

So are bin cages safe?  Yes, bin cages are safe as long as they are large enough and well constructed with small-squared mesh, plenty of ventilation holes and no sharp edges.  Bin cages are an excellent alternative to a commercially bought cage and make for a fun diy project.

So what makes a safe bin cage?  Are they durable?  Is it really possible to keep an animal in what is simply a plastic storage box?  Well, let’s dive in and take a look so you can weigh up if a bin cage is right for you and your hamster.

Making hamster bin cages safe

As long as you make a decent sized bin cage, set it up well and make sure that there’s adequate ventilation, then bin cages can make decent cages for hamsters. 

Cage size

So what do I mean by a decent sized cage?  Well, it is recommended as an absolute minimum, that the floor space in your hamster’s cage is 450 square inches.  

You should go as large as you can afford and larger than the minimum if possible.

To measure the amount of floorspace, simply multiply the length and the width on the inside of the cage.

You may think this is a lot of space for such a small animal, but remember, hamsters need a lot of room as they have lots of energy.  In the wild they cover many miles at night foraging for food. 

Joining two or more bin cages

If you were to join two bin cages together and connect them via a tunnel or tube, then unfortunately this doesn’t increase the amount of floorspace.

Floorspace in a hamster’s cage should be uninterrupted.  

If you can find a way of joining two bin cages together by cutting one of the sides off each bin and sealing them together, then this would increase the amount of continuous floorspace.  

However doing this could compromise the structural integrity of the cage and make it more difficult to move around.

In addition to  a decent amount of floorspace, you also need to make sure that the sides are high enough so that your hamster can’t climb up on top of things and escape out of the top.

Hamster bin cage ventilation

Equally important as size is adequate ventilation.  To make sure that a hamster bin cage has enough ventilation, you would need to cut large holes in the side and the lid.

When cutting the hole in the side of the cage, it needs to be high enough up to allow for at least 6 inches of substrate without the substrate falling out. 

Cutting holes in the plastic with either a dremel or cutters can result in jagged edges so it’s important to sand off these edges with sandpaper and then run your hand over them to make sure the edges are smooth. 

After cutting out holes in the side and the lid, you need to cover the holes with sturdy wire mesh which have gaps that are small enough to prevent your hamster escaping.

Wire mesh that has 7mm gaps is small enough to be suitable for all hamsters species, including the smallest of them all which is the Roborovski.

Getting a secure lid

If the sides of your bin cage are high enough so that your hamster can’t escape, then having a lid on your bin cage is optional.  

However, in my opinion, hamster cages should always have a lid on them as it is simply not worth the risk of your hamster escaping.  

In addition to getting a lid for your bin cage, you should also try and get one that has clips on either side that can secure the lid in place.  

If you can’t get a bin cage that doesn’t have locking clips on it, then you should find a way to keep the lid secure and prevent it from lifting off easily.  

Remember, hamsters are incredible escape artists!

One final thing to note is that the walls of the cage should be completely vertical.  If there is anything protruding on the sides of the cage or any notches, then this will provide something for your hamster to get their teeth around and could potentially gnaw through the cage.

Bin cage myths

Many people have concerns over putting their hamster in a plastic storage bin and think there are long-term health risks associated with doing so. 

Such concerns include plastic leaching, plastic fumes and concerns about a particular type of plastic known as BPA.  

Fortunately these health issues are unfounded and there are no records that show any long-term health risks to hamsters. 

Plastic bin cages have been used for many decades and are therefore deemed to be completely safe for hamsters.

Of course if your hamster does find a bit of plastic to gnaw on and starts to consume the plastic then this can cause health problems, but if you have enough chews and chew toys in your cage there should not be anything to worry about.

In terms of plastic fumes, these only arise when you set fire to plastic, so if your cage is on fire, the fumes will quickly become the least of your worries!

Can hamsters chew through bin cages?  

Yes hamsters can chew through bin cages and other enclosures.  So, although it is not totally unheard of, it’s very rare.  

Most hamster owners, including myself, complain that their hamster doesn’t chew enough and are worried that they’re going to have dental issues as a result.

So for most people, this isn’t a problem and doesn’t really need to be considered.  However, if you have a particularly destructive hamster that likes to chew through everything that it sees, then it’s best to place them in a glass tank with plenty of wooden chews to gnaw on.

Wrapping up

So in answer to the question, are bin cages safe, yes they are, as long as you do a good job putting one together and you don’t have a destructive hamster!  If you do have a destructive hamster, consider getting a wire cage or even better, an aquarium.

However most hamsters aren’t so destructive, in which case a bin cage will provide you with a cost effective way of ensuring that your hamster has the room that they need.  You can also customize them and make them look very effective!