Why Do Hamsters Need Big Cages? (Important Facts)

By Dawn | Hamster Care
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One of the things that I see quite a lot is hamsters being kept in cages that are far too small. Newbie hamster parents unknowingly make the mistake of thinking that since these are very small pets, they do not need large amounts of space. But the opposite is, in fact, true. 

Hamsters need a lot of space to move around because, in the wild, these tiny animals spend a lot of time running around. However, since hamsters are burrowing creatures, they must also have sufficient room to do this activity and minimum cage size of 450 square inches is recommended.

It comes as something of a surprise to many hamster owners, so let’s take a look at what we should be providing to our pets in terms of space, and why this is so important. 

Do I Need A Big Cage For My Hamster?

You have chosen your pet at the pet store; a tiny hamster that fits perfectly in the palm of your hand; it would stand to reason that a small, compact home would suit them just fine. 

This is the mistake that a lot of people make, but in the end, this can lead to their hamster becoming unhealthy and unhappy. 

The reason for this is that hamsters, despite their small frame, require a lot of exercise. In the wild, these animals can run miles every night. It is not uncommon for a pet hamster to run up to six miles a night in their wheel. 

Having a wheel is important as this is the best way to let your pet exercise. However, it is also important to give them lots of space to explore within the enclosure. You can also regularly take your hamster out of the cage to run even more. 

But running is not the only thing that a large cage enables your hamster to do. When they are in the wild, hamsters will spend their days burrowing under the ground, sleeping. 

This keeps them at the right temperature, but more importantly, keeps them hidden from potential predators. 

Just because a hamster is being kept in captivity, this does not mean that they can shake their natural instincts; your pet is going to love to burrow. 

A small cage simply will not allow for this. The base should be deep enough to lay at least six inches of substrate since the hamster will want to dig tunnels. 

Having all of this space will allow your pet to explore and be free but will also give you plenty of room to place toys and other items that can prevent your pet from becoming bored.  

A hamster who is bored can begin acting in concerning ways such as chewing on the bars or experiencing severe lethargy. 

There are studies that have shown that boredom can cause a hamster to suffer from depression. But more concerning, if your pet has nothing else to do, they may start eating more. 

This could then lead to them becoming overweight which will see a whole host of health problems

Regardless of the species of hamster, having room to explore, run and play is essential. Some people think that dwarf hamsters will not need as much space but these little animals will also enjoy a generous home. 

What Is The Right Cage Size For A Hamster?

Depending on where you are from in the world, you may be given slightly different advice when it comes to the correct cage size for your furry friend. However, the consensus is pretty similar across the board; hamsters need a decent amount of space.

According to the RSPCA, in the United Kingdom, there should be no limit on how large the cage is. They used to recommend hamster enclosures to be at least 70cm x 40cm for dwarf hamsters and slightly larger for Syrians. However, this has been removed and the organization now recommends ‘as large as possible.’

In the USA, the ASPCA recommends a 10 gallon minimum regardless of the species. This perfectly demonstrates that a lot of space is needed.

However, I recommend an absolute minimum floor space of 450 square inches, which is inline with the hamsterhideout forum.

On top of this, there are many hamster cages that come with tubes, platforms, and other add-ons. It is vital that you keep in mind that these items should not count towards the overall floor size. 

Can I Use A Crittertrail?

If you are adopting a hamster for the first time, you may have seen the Crittertrail cages which are colorful and appear to be extremely fun for your little pet.

On the contrary, there is a lot of suggestion that these cages, as cute as they may be, are not suitable for hamsters to live permanently. They are simply not large enough. 

If you like the idea of these cages, the only thing we would recommend them for would be for exercise or for use as a travel cage for a visit to the vet. Your hamster may like to explore the tubes and toys but as a permanent home, these are not suitable. 

Related Questions

Is it cruel to keep hamsters in cages?

There are some people who would argue that keeping a hamster in captivity is cruel. Of course, you won’t ever be able to entirely match the wild habitat of an animal but provided that you offer your pet enough space, the right diet, and all of the essential care they need, then they will live a very happy life. 

Why do hamsters chew on cages?

This could be a sign that your hamster is bored, in which case, you should provide them with things to stimulate them. But this might also be a sign that the enclosure is not large enough; changing your pet’s home to something more substantial could make a difference.  Finally, chewing the bars of the cage may indicate that your hamster’s teeth are overgrown and they are gnawing to tackle this issue. Providing suitable materials for gnawing is essential in caring for these animals. 

Can a hamster live in a glass tank?

Many people prefer a glass tank as these are much more secure, but they should feature a mesh lid for improved airflow as these enclosures can get very warm. But also to stop the hamster from getting out – or anything else getting in. This is particularly important if you have other pets or small children.