Why Are Crittertrails Bad? (The Truth)

By Dawn | Hamster Care
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You would think that any manufacturer that was creating pet products would do so responsibly, with the welfare of the animal in mind. But unfortunately, this is not always the case. Take Crittertrails as an example; these cages might look the part but they certainly are not advisable for your pet.

There are many reasons why Crittertrails are not good for hamsters and other rodents for that matter, but primarily, it has to do with their size. Furthermore, these overpriced enclosures are geared more towards aesthetics for the owner rather than the well being of the pet.

Knowing this instantly puts me off ever using a Crittertrail for any of my hamsters. But I thought I’d look into it a little more closely. Let’s take a look at what I found. 

Are Crittertrails Bad?

Crittertrails are a type of cage manufactured by the Kaytee brand. I won’t deny that they are incredibly nice looking cages and if you are looking for a decorative piece, then they would be the ideal product; just don’t put a hamster inside!

These cages are brightly colored and feature a network of tubes and other toys for hamsters, mice, and gerbils to explore. The problem is that they just don’t provide enough room for these types of animals. 

Of course, you will notice that there are several different Crittertrail cages and they are designed to link up to one another. This makes people believe that they have sufficient space. 

It is a common misconception that small pets such as rodents will thrive in a smaller enclosure but in reality, they do need a lot of space. 

Hamsters, for example, can run up to five miles a night when they are in the wild and this means that when they are kept in captivity, they must have a large cage.

As an absolute minimum, a cage size of 450 square inches is recommended even for a dwarf hamster but the Crittertrail cages come nowhere close to this. 

When you look at a Crittertrail, you will notice that they have very childlike designs and there is a good reason for this. These cages are aimed at children who are getting into hamster care and since many parents will purchase a hamster as a first pet, these cages often come hand in hand with that. 

The trouble is that these parents likely do not have much previous experience of hamster care and unknowingly invest in a cage that they think will keep their kids happy. Blissfully unaware of the health implications that a small enclosure could have on a hamster. 

Crittertrails are also notoriously difficult to clean because of the number of tunnels and tubes. Cleaning your hamster’s cage is an essential part of their care but you don’t want to make it more difficult than it already is. 

These cages are also made primarily from plastic and this is a huge problem for rodents since they are very likely to chew through the material. This could lead to them escaping or even swallowing a small piece of plastic. 

Furthermore, you might notice that a lot of the Crittertrail cages come with a wheel; great, hamsters need a wheel. But unfortunately, the wheels in these cages are far too small for a hamster. When hamsters use wheels that are not big enough, this causes them to arch their backs and can cause problems.

Finally, Crittertrails are a lot more expensive than other types of cages so you will be having to make a larger initial outlay. All for a cage that will not serve your pet in the way that you had hoped. 

What Is The Best Cage For A Hamster?

As we have mentioned, the most important factor when choosing a hamster cage is the size. While these pets are small, they do need an adequate amount of space for exercising and burrowing in the substrate

A common type of hamster cage is one that is enclosed with a series of wire bars. These are great for Syrian hamsters and larger species, but do be careful if you have a dwarf hammy as these have been known to escape by squeezing through the bars. 

This type of cage also comes with a deep base made from plastic which allows you to fill it with a sufficient amount of substrate.

Alternatively, there is a bin cage which is a home-made enclosure that makes use of a plastic storage box. 

Whichever type of cage you use, you will need to make sure that your hamster has lots of room to move around and plenty of climbing places. 

For larger hamster species, various levels are important as they love to climb. Conversely, dwarf hamsters prefer one level as their climbing skills are not quite as impressive. 

The cage should have various areas for sleeping, toileting, eating, and exercise and it is essential that you install a wheel. 

How To Exercise Your Hamster

You could be forgiven for thinking that a Crittertrail would be enough to supply your hamster with all the exercise they need. But these tubes and runways just don’t give them enough space. 

One of the best ways to exercise your hamster is to allow them out of the cage regularly. You can make an external enclosure for your pet to explore and in this, you can place tubes, climbing equipment, and other toys. 

This way, your hamster will have the opportunity to explore something similar to a Crittertrail without having to spend their life enclosed in a space that is too small. 

Hamster balls are not recommended since they can cause the animal to become distressed. Imagine being placed in a huge plastic ball and you might get an idea. 

Related Questions

Are Crittertrails good for dwarf hamsters?

No, Crittertrails are not good for dwarf hamsters.  Despite their small size, this doesn’t mean that dwarf hamsters need any less space.  The wheel might be more their size but the floor space certainly will not be sufficient. 

Can dwarf hamsters be kept in pairs?

One of the most important considerations when putting hamsters in the same enclosure is that they have enough space. You should never overcrowd a cage, and in the case of a Crittertrail, one cage isn’t big enough for one hamster so never put two in.  Dwarf hamsters may live together harmoniously but there might be instances where there is some fighting. The best way to judge this is to monitor the hamsters and see how well they get along.