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How to Choose the Right Cage Size for Hamsters

Nicole Cosgrove

May 24, 2021

Since your hamster will be spending the majority of its life inside its cage, it is essential to have the right size cage for them to live in. Your hamster’s cage is likely the most important investment you’ll make in looking after these little creatures. The right cage for your hamster should be easy to clean, spacious, and roomy enough for them to run around in, and of course, escape-proof!

Hamsters are highly active animals — they can run 5-8 miles a night in the wild! — and the size of the cage you buy is arguably the most important factor. That being said, there are several other vital factors to consider other than size, all of which can have a dramatic influence on the health and happiness of your hamster family.

In this article, we’ll look at how to choose the right cage size for your hamster, as well as some other important factors to consider.

Before You Start

There are over 20 species of hamsters, but there are 3 main types that are typically kept as pets. Remember that different species of hamsters should not be kept together, and hamsters of the same sex will likely fight, too. In this case, it’s better to have smaller, single cages for each hamster. Different species of hamsters will have different habitat requirements, including space and cage size. The most common species of hamsters kept as pets are Syrian Hamsters, Dwarf Hamsters, and Chinese Hamsters.

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Step 1 — Minimum Size requirements

Syrian Hamsters

For Syrian Hamsters, around 900 square inches of floor space is the minimum amount of space needed per hamster. For a typical cage, this is about 40 x 20 inches, with a bedding depth of around 10 inches. Of course, this is the bare minimum needed to house them, and you should always aim for more space than required. The height needs to be around 24 inches tall at least to provide space for bedding and a small wheel. As with size, higher is also better.

Dwarf and Chinese Hamsters

Chinese hamster
Image Credit: alexvey, Shutterstock

Chinese and Dwarf Hamsters may be small but still require adequate space to run around in. Around 700 square inches of floor space is an ideal minimum to aim for — around 40×15-inches per hamster. Again, the height should be a minimum of 24-inches and they’ll need space for adequate bedding too, a depth of around 6-8 inches.

It’s vital to note that these are just minimum guidelines, and the more space your hamsters have the happier they’ll be, so you should always aim to exceed these guidelines. This is especially true for hamsters that do not enjoy being out of their cage, and if you are planning to include a lot of toys and wheels in their cage.


Step 2 — Types of Cages

hamster in cage pixabay
Credit: _Alicja_, Pixabay

Now that you have a good idea of size, you’ll need to decide what style of cage you want to house your hamsters in. There are various types of cages used for hamsters, all of which have their own unique pros and cons. The most important considerations are the cage material, ventilation, ease of cleaning, and substrate suitability.

  • Wire Cage. Wire or mesh cages are the most widely available and commonly used cages used for hamsters. They are a great option as they are chew-proof, well ventilated, and quick and easy to clean. The downside is that most variations are not deep enough for the required amount of substrate, and your hamster will not be able to burrow. Plus, the substrate and bedding can easily be pushed out of the wire sides and make a mess.
  • Tank and wire top. These designs are probably the best option to go with for hamsters. They have a plastic or glass tank base that has plenty of space for burrowing and substrate, with a wire or mesh top that clips on and off. This makes them the best of all worlds as they are well ventilated, easy to clean, and relatively escape-proof.
  • Vivarium or aquarium. Aquariums are not specially made for hamsters but can be successfully used to house them. They are typically made from glass or Perspex with a mesh top, making them easy for your hamster to burrow to its heart’s content. The downside to these tanks is, even with the mesh top, there is very little ventilation. They are also heavy, making them difficult to move and clean.

Step 3 — Cage Location

hamster tea party
Image Credit: Tetyana Kovyrina | pexels

The location you want to put your hamster in will also have an impact on the size you choose. Larger cages will have fewer options available of where you can place them and are more difficult to move around. The location needs to have exposure to natural sunlight, night and day cycles, air movement, and temperature control. Ideally, the cage should be placed on a table above the floor, near a window for airflow and sunlight, in a closed room for temperature control, and in a space safe from other animals like cats and dogs.

The cage should never be placed in direct sunlight as it can heat your hamsters up very quickly but should have enough indirect sunlight to keep them warm and alert them to natural day and night cycles.


Step 4 — Accessories

hamster red wheel

Cage size minimums for various species are not all that’s needed to consider, though. While space is an important factor to a happy hamster, so is the ability the exercise their natural instincts as they would in the wild. Hamsters are naturally active animals that love to forage.

Their cage should allow them to exhibit these natural habits, and you need to include items that will encourage this behavior. Scattering their food around the cage will promote foraging, tunnels and wheels will keep them exercised and entertained, and different substrates like wood and sand baths will give them different textures to explore. Hamsters have very poor eyesight, and this variety of textures and scents will give them the sensory stimulation they require to stay happy.

Hamsters also love to have a “home within a home” to sleep in and have some private space. Also, the more hamsters you are housing together the more space you’ll need. These accessories obviously take up space, and so need to be accounted for when choosing the right size cage for your hamster.

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Final Thoughts

Choosing the right size cage for your hamster has several different important aspects that you need to consider. There are minimum requirements of space that hamsters need to be happy and healthy, as well as accessories that will not make the cage unnecessarily cramped. The ideal hamster cage size needs to cater for your hamster, but also for tunnels, wheels, and substrate to burrow in, plus be light and mobile enough the easily move around. Lastly, the larger your hamster cage is the more difficult it is to clean, and if you have more than one hamster this is an important consideration too.


Featured Image: Szymon Kaczmarczyk, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.