Setting up a hamster’s cage can be overwhelming and a daunting task. However, it can also be fun and very enjoyable. Before we get to tips on how to set up a hamster cage, we first must discuss the items you will be needing and decide what hamster theme cage you would want it to be.
You also have to decide if you want a DIY hamster cage or prefer something easy to set up and ready to use. Next, you need to decide what type of hamster cage material you will be using.
Last but most important, figure out what species of hamster are you planning to house in this beautiful cage. If it’s your first time having a pet, check out our basic hamster care beginner’s guide or take a look at our affordable complete ethical hamster care book. If you are unsure what to put in a hamster’s cage, you should also take a look at these basic items to prepare for a pet hamster.
WHAT IS THE BEST HAMSTER CAGE
Let’s first discuss different types of hamster cages. Knowing what options you have out there makes it easier to decide what kind of cage you should get for your hamster depending on their species. Of course, we recommend a big hamster cage that meets the size requirements (which I will discuss later on). Here are the types of hamster cages:
- Bin cage – DIY hamster cage made of plastic storage box
- Storebought hamster cage (plastic) – you might have to put a mesh wire over the wall side, if the spaces between them are too wide, your hamster could squeeze in and escape
- Wooden hamster cage – ready-to-use
- Glass hamster cage – make sure to create good ventilation on the top
- Bookshelf – DIY bookcase for hamster, choose a bookcase that is deep enough to create deep burrowing
I personally recommend a glass tank for hamsters. Hamsters can’t chew through it which means less chance that they can escape. It’s also good at keeping the cage’s temperature at a reasonable level. Plus it’s easy to repurpose in case you no longer want a hamster after your first one.
MUST-READ: DIY hamster cage inspiration from Reddit
UNSAFE HAMSTER CAGE TO AVOID
You will be surprised how many bad hamster cages most pet stores sell. Have you seen these critter cages from your local pet store? Sure they are colourful and seem fun, but do you that not only those are too small but also unsafe? This is such a common mistake new hamster owners make.
Don’t waste your time and money on buying hamsters cages that are too small, flimsy, don’t meet the cage size requirements, and the design is hazardous. We have a list of bad hamster cages that you should be wary of.
CHOOSING A HAMSTER CAGE THEME
Now that you have decided what type of hamster you will get and the type of cage material, it’s the type to think about what theme you want the cage to be.
If you don’t want it to be in a specific theme, then that’s easy. Simply find the cage, toys, and accessories you need and you are ready to go.
However, let’s say you want a hamster cage with a theme of natural or forest-like. With this idea, you will want to get brown bedding, a wooden running wheel, and even a wooden water bottle. You probably want a sandbox made of wood too or a tunnel made of natural materials.
Some people get super creative and change the themes according to the season or event. For example, some people will create a Christmas themed cage, Valentine’s Day-themed cage, or even a summer-themed cage.
However, you should remember that you must not re-arrange the cage too often as it can cause stress to your hamster. Hamsters rely on their senses to navigate. Due to poor eyesight, hamsters will memorise where things are in the cage, this helps them move around fast and without incident.
You can change up the position of the toys or set up the cage once every 3 months and don’t move anything else again. Once you are done rearranging, leave your hamster alone for a day or two to get familiar with the new setup.
One last thing, when choosing accessories for the cage, make sure the paint or colour is edible or food grade. You should also avoid any toys or accessories with calcium minerals on them.
WHAT ITEMS ARE NEEDED TO SET UP A HAMSTER CAGE
Before we get on how to set up a hamster cage, let’s first learn the basic hamster needs checklist:
- cage – minimum hamster cage size requirement is 32x20x20 in (620 square inches) or 80x50x50 cm (4000 cm2) or 40 gallons for Dwarf and Chinese hamsters, Syrian hamster needs 39x23x23 in (100x60x60 cm) – check our recommended hamster cages
- bedding – paper or aspen (no cedar, pine, wool, fluffy bedding), list of safe hamster bedding
- water bottle/bowl – list of best water bottles and water bowl
- food bowl – recommended food bowl for hamsters
- dry mixes food – healthy and balanced dry mixes
- sandbox – list of hamster sandbox
- bathing sand – recommended safe sand for hamsters (avoid dust bath or powder sandbath)
- hideout or sleeping dens – recommended hideouts
- running wheel – and other toys like tunnel, ladder and climbing platform, etc
- rocks – for the hamster nail care
- chew toys – safe chew toys
- treats – healthy hamster treats (this doesn’t go inside the cage)
- playpen – recommended playpen for hamsters (this doesn’t go inside the cage)
- vet carrier/transport cage (this doesn’t go inside the cage)
We also have a printable hamster checklist for free. Download your free hamster checklist.
OTHER TOOLS TO PREPARE
These tools will be useful in many ways, make sure they are ready before you sit down and design the cage
- Edible glue
- Mesh wire
- Zipties – if you are planning to use mesh over the store-bought cage, zip ties are an okay choice but your hamster might chew it
- Popsicle sticks – no colour or with food-grade colouring
- Screws – screws might be a better way to hold up or attach a mesh wire
- Hot knife
- Drill machine
- Lubricant oil – if drilling a glass, use oil to not break the glass, start with a small hole and gradually make your way to a bigger one
SETTING UP AN EMERGENCY HAMSTER CAGE
If you are rescuing a hamster and don’t have a cage 100% ready, you can simply fill the cage (or a plastic storage box) with some bedding, scatter dry mixes, and hook a water bottle. Add holes on the top cover to secure a mesh to avoid any escape accident.
Only keep your hamster in this cage for no longer than 2 days though. Staying in such a small cage with incomplete necessities can really affect your hamster’s behaviour and relationship with you. Throughout the day, make sure to let the hamster out 2-3x a day to keep their mood positive.
HOW TO SET UP A HAMSTER CAGE
Now to the fun part! Setting up a hamster cage is actually a fun part. If you are creative (unlike me), you can fully express your creative side and have fun building a great home for your pet hamster. I recommend you to clear out your day plan though as this could day an entire day or you can also mark it as a short-term project that could last up to a week depending on your free time.
Before you truly start though, make sure that you have all the accessories ready. Either hit up the store or wait for everything to be delivered. Having incomplete items could slow down your setting up a cage.
Freeze the bedding and bake the sand
It’s important to freeze the bedding to kill any bugs in them. Both the paper bedding and wood bedding could have bugs crawling all over. For sand, if unsure, you can bake it in the over to kill any bugs as well.
You have to do this first because you will need to thaw the bedding and cool down the sand before using it.
Clean the cage and toys, then dry thoroughly
First, it’s vital that you clean the cage first. You may use a mild soap (unscented, baby soap is a great choice) and lukewarm water. If it’s a wooden cage, you may use wet wipes or sanitizing wipes. You should also wash the toys (hideout, wheels, tunnels, food bowl) during this time.
Make sure to rinse the cage at least two times. Dry with paper towels or kitchen towels, it’s important to make sure that the cage is thoroughly dry to avoid bacteria or mould growing inside the cage.
Draw a mockup cage interior design
Before you being putting things inside the cage, you should create a mock-up design. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or great drawing just guidance on where things should be so you will have a visual idea of what the cage will look like.
Having such a guide will also help you decide which part you should start with. Are adding holes and hooks should be done first or should you create dividers?
Mark holes and hooks
Start with marking the holes and hooks you will be needing. If you are creating a bin cage or attaching a water bottle or wheel on the wall instead of using a stand, start with that. However, don’t drill a hole yet, this can be done towards the end of the middle. Start with a marker in case you miscalculated the placement of the hooks/holes.
Create top cover
I personally like to begin with the topic cover because by doing so, you will know if you need to add more holes for ventilation on the body of the cage. Attaching the top cover can also be challenging to make sure it’s secure. This includes adding hooks or screws between the top cover and the top part of the body of the cage.
If you are using a plastic box top cover, you may cut the entire top and only leave a small part to attach the mesh. I tried drilling holes on it but it seems like there’s not enough ventilation. Once you cut out the majority part, you can attach a mesh wire using screws or zip ties.
Start with one section first
I always say to our readers not to fill the cage with bedding everywhere. Instead, create at least three sections, only one of those sections should be filled with bedding. The other one can be a play area where the wheel, climbing toys and tunnels can be, and the last one is for the rocks, water bottle, and sandbox.
TIP: Place the rocks below the water bottle and/or as a walking path, this will force your hamster to trim their nails
I like starting with the corner and then finishing with the bedding or sleeping area. Starting the middle is complicated since the dividers will not be up yet. While the bedding really goes everywhere, that should be done towards the end.
Put up the dividers
Most people use cardboard boxes as dividers, while this is a cheap and really easy solution, hamsters might chew on them and break your division, it is also prone to absorbing moisture and smelly pee.
You can use a plastic or glass panel or the most popular one is the bendy bridge. The bendy bridges come in different sizes. If you are using it to hold up the 5-8 inches bedding, choose the tallest bridge you could get. You can also use hot glue to make the wall taller.
Arrange the toys and fill the bedding
Now that your dividers are in place, you can start arranging the toys. But first, you must test the running wheel, and see if it’s running smoothly and stable. One thing you should avoid, don’t place the food bowl next to the sandbox especially if your sandbox doesn’t have a cover. Your hamster will kick the sand out of the box and cover the entire food bowl.
When adding bedding, make sure to hide some treats or dry mix under the bedding for your hamster to find.
Introduce your hamster to its new home
Everything is now in place, you may introduce your hamster to its new home. If you are afraid of holding your hamster, you can use a coffee mug to carry them and really them inside the cage.
TIPS AFTER PUTTING YOUR HAMSTER INSIDE THE CAGE
The work is not done yet, here are other things to remember once your hamster is inside the cage apart from making sure that the cage is locked and secured. Read more about proper hamster care.
Leave your hamster alone
Your hamster will need to get familiarised with their new cage, they will spend hours spreading their scent and memorising the cage set-up. So, it’s vital to leave your hamster alone in the cage for at least a week if it’s they are coming right from the store or the rescue centre.
If you are simply moving your hamster to a new cage and are already familiar with you, about 3-4 days is a good time to leave your hamster alone.
Only approach the cage when giving treats or replenishing water or food bowl.
Spot clean the cage
To keep the cage in order, you must spot clean 1-2 a week. This includes picking up an empty shell of sunflower seed, changing the sand, water, and food. Removing stale food from burrow sites, washing the toys (the wheel often collects dirt and pee residue), and general tidying up of the cage.
Don’t do it too often as it can stress your hamster.
Deep clean the cage
Deep cleaning of a hamster’s cage should be done once every 5-6 weeks. This includes removing everything and washing the cage and the toys. Then add new bedding (mix it with the old bedding to not stress your hamster too much with the changes).
This is also a good time to change the cage theme or rearrange toys to keep your hamster curious about the new cage set-up. We have a complete guide on cleaning a hamster’s cage.
It’s actually pretty fun to set up a hamster’s cage. It lets you be creative and at the same time, you can tailor your pet’s home according to your liking. The one big thing to remember is to choose the right cage and when doing research, use the words “safe or suitable”. For example, search for “safe food for hamsters“, in this way, you will get more accurate information.
I hope that you found this how to set up a hamster cage article helpful. If you have other tips, let us know in the comment section below.