Several types of cages are available which are suitable for housing hamsters. Many of these units come equipped with cage “furniture” such as exercise wheels, tunnels and nest boxes. These accessories contribute to the pet’s psychological well-being.
Hamsters do very well in solid bottom cages with deep bedding and ample nesting material. Bedding must be clean, nontoxic, absorbent, relatively dust free and easily acquired. Shredded paper or tissue, wood shavings and processed corncob are preferred beddings. Be sure that the wood shavings and ground corncob are free from mold, mildew or other contamination before using. Cotton and shredded tissue paper make excellent nesting materials. Adult hamsters require a minimum floor area of 19 square inches and a cage height of 6 inches. Female breeding hamsters require much larger areas.
Optimal temperature range for hamsters is between 65 & 76; and 80 & 76;F, with babies doing best at 70 & 76; to 75 & 76;F. The relative humidity should be between 40% and 70%. Twelve hour light cycles are preferred, with hamsters being more active during the night.
Pet hamsters are generally housed singly. Mature female hamsters tend to be very aggressive towards one another and should never be housed together. Females are also larger and more aggressive then males, thus males usually need to be separated immediately after breeding. Males may also fight when housed together, but tend to be less aggressive than females.
As a rule of thumb, the cage and accessories should be thoroughly cleaned once to twice weekly. An exception to this schedule is when newborn babies are present, then wait until they are at least two weeks old. Other factors that may require increased frequency of cleaning are the number of hamsters in the cage, the type of bedding material provided and the cage design and size. Cages should be sanitized with hot water and nontoxic disinfectant or detergent then thoroughly rinsed. Water bottles and food dishes should be cleaned and disinfected daily.