Hamsters aren’t your typical kind of lazy-bone pets in the United States of America. Despite their tiny sizes, hamsters are energetic, requiring large spaces to play, burrow, and explore. Now, since you’ll have to keep your furry friend in a cage, have you been wondering how big it should be?
A standard hamster cage should be 576 square inches (3,616 square cm), which is the standard according to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). However, different individuals and organizations have varying guidelines on how big an ideal cage should be.
The rest of this article will discuss a few topics related to this question in detail. I’ll address the best size for a hamster cage, how the cage size affects a hamster’s well-being, and ideal hamster cage samples. You don’t want to miss out on anything, so read on.
The best cage size for a hamster is at least 30 x 30 x 15 inches (76 x 76 x 38 cm), but the bigger, the better. Note that the hamster cage size may also depend on a few factors, including the hamster species, availability of space to keep the cage, and number (or type) of accessories.
The rule of thumb is to provide the largest space possible to make your hamster happy.
It can be daunting to settle on specific dimensions for your hamster’s cage size, as there are numerous opinions on the topic. Most animal welfare groups recommend that a hamster’s cage be at least 450 square inches (2,903.22 square cm).
However, Hamster Central forum members argue that the size shouldn’t be less than 465 square inches (2,999.99 square cm) for the floor space.
Now, the best cage size is one that allows a hamster to run, burrow, explore, and make its toilet. If you think about it, a cage can’t compare to a hamster’s natural habitat (despite the species), as these small creatures create long burrows in the wild.
Moreover, due to their dynamic nature, you need to keep them in a large space that’ll help them burn their massive energy.
19 hamster species exist, although only four are kept as pets. The Syrian (or golden) hamster is the most popular pet hamster. All the other three are dwarf breeds, including the Campbell’s, Russian, and Chinese hamsters.
Since Syrian hamsters are bigger and love roaming around in large spaces, you can have a cage measuring 600—900 square inches (3,870.96—5,806.44 square cm).
Moreover, this hamster breed is solitary, meaning it’ll thrive better when living alone. But that shouldn’t stop you from keeping your paw-friend entertained, and you can have several accessories in the cage.
Despite being smaller, dwarf hamsters also require ample living space. So, they can do well in a cage measuring 450—700 square inches (2,903.22—4,516.12 square cm). Like other species, they also need toys and accessories, including wheels, bedding, tunnels, and tubes.
Dwarf hamster species are more social than their Syrian counterparts. Therefore, you can keep them in pairs or small groups. But this will also require you to increase their cage size, ensuring there’s enough space for everyone.
A hamster cage is a home within a home. So, you need to find an ideal space to place the cage—away from direct sunlight, predators, and your bedroom (hamsters are nocturnal). The available space in your house will determine how large the hamster cage will be.
A larger cage will be the best option if you have ample space. Plus, you can decide to set up a continuous one with tunnels, ladders, a wheel, nest boxes, and other interactive toys. But if space is a concern, opt for a tank (with a good depth), as it’ll provide enough room for the hamster’s bedding and accessories.
As I’ve mentioned, hamsters are active (especially at night) and require interactive toys to keep them entertained.
Now, if you want your furry friend to exercise maximally and remain stimulated, having several accessories in its cage will be an added advantage. But this will require sufficient space to ensure that these extras don’t crop up and reduce your pet’s nesting area.
The cage size can help maintain the hamster’s well-being. Some research findings have shown that large hamster cages can help minimize chronic stress in the animal. The evidence correlates with what we know about hamsters: they’re adapted to extensive areas.
Therefore, a small cage would be unfavorable and have adverse effects on the hamster.
Research on the relationship between hamster behavior (and well-being) and cage size is limited. But some researchers have studied this topic, confirming what animal welfare organizations and experts recommend about hamster cage sizes—the larger, the better.
So, let’s have a look at two of these studies.
In the first study, Gernot Kuhnen examined the effect of cage size and enrichment on core temperature and febrile response (fever) in golden hamsters. The hamsters were kept in standard-sized cages and then transferred to differently-sized and enriched cages.
However, the cages had smaller dimensions (200, 363, 825, and 1,815 square cm or 31.00, 56.26, 127.87, and 281.32 square inches) than the standard hamster cage sizes.
Kuhnen induced fever in the hamsters to demonstrate how chronic stress weakens an animal’s immune response. And hamsters in smaller cages exhibited a lower febrile response than those in larger cages, indicating a weaker immunity due to chronic stress.
Therefore, findings from this study showed that small-sized cages increased chronic stress in hamsters and affected their thermoregulation.
Another study by the Animal Welfare of England observed the behavior of golden hamsters kept in four differently-sized cages (1,800, 2,500, 5,000, and 10,000 square cm or 279.00, 387.50, 775.00, and 1,550.00 square inches).
Video recordings showed that the hamsters in smaller cages gnawed more on wires and tended to look for extra space on the roofs. Contrastingly, those in the largest cages (10,000 square cm or 1,550.00 square inches) had less gnawing, demonstrating better welfare.
So, the researchers concluded that hamsters in smaller cages exhibited higher stress levels than those in larger cages. Though gnawing is a natural hamster behavior, prolonged and frequent gnawing could mean that they weren’t comfortable in the limited space.
On the other hand, the hamsters in bigger cages made maximum use of the space, depicting that they could do well in a larger cage.
In both studies, cage size impacted the well-being of golden hamsters. However, these findings weren’t void of limitations.
For instance, the second study didn’t consider other factors affecting a hamster’s welfare, including cage enrichment and the hamster species.
Moreover, placing the small cages next to each other would have increased the hamsters’ stress levels since golden (Syrian) hamsters are solitary.
Apart from sizes, hamster cages are available in different types and designs. With the numerous varieties in the market, it can be challenging to settle on. However, the perfect choice of hamster cage will depend on several factors.
The best cage for a hamster is a spacious cage made of high-quality material, well-ventilated, and easy to clean. Moreover, a hamster cage should be chew-free and well secured, as most hamsters are escape artists.
Several brands that sell some of the best hamster cages include Savic, Ferplast, Midwest, and Kaytee CritterTrail.
Since hamster cages come in different sizes and designs, you can choose one depending on your furry friend’s requirements or your taste. But it should also resonate with the available space in your home. Additionally, the cage size should allow you to add accessories to keep your hamster entertained.
Here are different types of hamster cages and their properties:
- Wire/mesh cages: contain a plastic or metal base surrounded by wire or mesh. They’re popular due to good ventilation and high-quality materials. Plus, they’re easy to clean. But the shallow base isn’t ideal for hamsters; hamsters prefer deep bedding (or substrate layer). Also, hamsters love chewing on the bars, and they may even escape if the spaces between them are big (mostly over 1 inch or 2.54 cm).
- Tanks with cage toppers: are alternative cages entailing a glass or plastic tank with a metal topper. Unlike wire cages, tanks have a deeper base and chew-proof materials. They’re also well ventilated and easy to clean. Most of them comprise two sections, making them ideal for installing interactive toys such as ladders and tunnels. Therefore, they make good hamster cages if they’re large enough.
- Vivariums: are typically cages that somehow resemble aquariums or terrariums. So, they’re made of glass, with plastic, metal, or wood frames. However, you can customize them by having a mesh upper part to improve ventilation. Unlike the other cage types, vivariums are harder to clean but are larger and have deep bases to allow burrowing.
Now, let’s look at some of the best cages you might consider buying for your hamster:
Ferplast Laura Hamster Cage
Laura Hamster Cage (available on Amazon.com) is an ideal habitat for your pet, featuring interactive toys, such as fun tubes and a running wheel. It has a deep base that accommodates a thick substrate, perfect for burrowing and exploring. Moreover, it’s detachable, allowing you to clean it and remove hamster litter.
Laura Hamster Cage has two access doors, allowing you to refill the food dish and water bottles without a hustle. Moreover, you can conveniently remove your hamster when cleaning the cage or bonding. And, the side locks are secure and easily detachable.
Besides toys, this hamster cage comes with a food bowl and a refillable water bottle. It measures 18.11 x 11.61 x 14.76 inches (45.99 x 29.48 x 37.49 cm), but you can connect Ferplast tunnels and add other accessories to create more playing space. So, it would be a great habitat for a Syrian or dwarf hamster.
Midwest Homes Hamster Cage
This fully-equipped hamster cage (available on Amazon.com) comes with a hamster hideout, a water bottle, a food dish, and a running wheel. It comprises two floors, with the lower one having a deep base to allow your hamster to burrow with no limitation. And it also houses the wheel, enhancing your furry friend’s physical activity.
The upper roof features a large space where you can put your hamster’s food dish, water bottle, and hideout. It also has a plastic ramp to let your furry friend access the lower floor. Moreover, it’s well-ventilated, easy to detach, and has an access door.
The Midwest Homes Hamster Cage measures 23.6 x 14.4 x 11.8 inches (59.94 x 36.57 x 29.97 cm), smaller than the standard dimensions. But it contains a connecting port where you can attach a tube (or tunnel) to another cage or play area. The cage also consists of secure side latches, ensuring that your hamster is always safe.
Kaytee 2-Story Hamster Cage
It’s a wire cage with a deeper plastic base (available on Amazon.com), accommodating a thick layer of hamster bedding. The cage comes in detachable parts that are easy to assemble and clean. Moreover, you don’t have to worry about ventilation, as it’s sufficiently breathable.
The 2-story cage has two compartments, ensuring that your hamster exercises maximally. It also features a running wheel, plastic shelves and ramps, and a slide. Additionally, the wireframe is coated and chew-proof.
The only downside about this hamster cage is that it’s smaller than the standard dimensions, only measuring 15 x 11 x 6 inches (38.1 x 27.94 x 15.24 cm). So, you can use it as a beginner habitat for dwarf hamsters or as a travel cage. But it’s also secure, so your hamster won’t escape easily.
For your hamster to be comfortable, it’s not just about having the right cage size. Here are other things to address so your little pet can enjoy its cage:
- Choose the right bedding for your furry friend. Shredded paper or cardboard and tissue paper on cardboard would do the trick.
- Add several interactive toys. For cage enrichment, including tunnels, mini dollhouses, and chewing toys.
- Clean the cage often. You should do this to prevent diseases. If your hamster has a designated ‘toilet,’ clean it daily.
- Place the cage in a cool and quiet area, away from direct sunlight. Hamsters thrive in warm and dry conditions, away from high-frequency sounds.
Besides being cute and tiny, hamsters are energetic, making them one sought-after pet. There are no definite guidelines on how big a hamster cage should be. Bu, for your hamster’s well-being, always ensure that the habitat is large enough and enriched with interactive accessories to keep your pet happy, active, and comfortable.
Related Hamsters articles:
- How To Tell if a Hamster Is Pregnant
- What Does a Dead Hamster Look Like?
- Why Is My Hamster Biting the Cage
- Why Is My Hamster Scared of Me?
- Male and Female Hamster Difference
- Will My Hamster Be Okay Without a Wheel?
My name is Everly. I am a Milwaukee-based mom of 2 and have been a proud owner of many hamsters throughout my life. Like many of us, my introduction to hamsters happened when I was very young. My family saw several hamsters come and go through the years, and I enjoyed playing with them, but I never fully appreciated them until I grew up and my own children decided to jump on the hamster bandwagon. At that point, I was determined to learn all I could about caring for these adorable pets. Read more