Best Hamster Cages: Ethical Cage Requirements for a Happy Hamster

by Monika
Best hamster cages for Dwarf and Syrian hamsters

Most hamsters spend the majority of their time in their cages, so they need a cage that will allow them to express their natural behaviors. In the wild, hamsters create complex burrow systems underground, so you want your cage to be able to mimic that. Their enclosure should allow them to dig and burrow while being spacious enough so it can hold all the necessary supplies and toys and have some room to run around too.

Keep on reading to find out how you can choose the best hamster cage for your pet and what are some of the things you shouldn’t compromise on.

Hamster Cage Requirements

Choosing the best hamster cage is much more work than simply popping into the nearest pet shop and getting that cute colorful cage on sale that your kid loves. Doing that will likely result in an unhappy and stressed-out hamster. There is much more to it than that. First thing first, you’ll need to make sure your new hamster cage meets the following criteria for the ethical housing of your new pet.

Cage Size

Hamster cage size has been an object of debate for a long time. Different animal welfare organizations point out different cage size requirements. RSPCA used to have minimum requirements of 430 square inches for dwarf hamsters and 620 square inches (4000 square centimeters) for Syrian, but they have since stopped recommending the minimum due to a lack of evidence on what hamsters prefer. But they point out that you should make the cage as large as possible. I like to stick with their previous requirements and go with 620 square inches for all hamsters as an ethical minimum. The more space they have, the more enrichment their cage can provide, making for a happy and healthy hamster.

So the ethical minimum continuous uninterrupted footprint of the cage I recommend is 4000 square centimeters (620 square inches), which equates to 80 x 50 cm (31.5 x 20 inches) or a longer, thinner 4ft tank. Many hamster cages sold as modular systems of interconnected smaller areas don’t provide such a continuous footprint, making them a bad choice for hamsters.

If you don’t want to settle for a bare minimum for your hamster, a cage of at least 775 square inches or more would be an even better option. This minimum cage size is recommended by German animal welfare organizations, which have higher standards than the rest of the world.

A Deep Base

Best hamster cages have a deep base

Another important thing to consider when buying a hamster cage is how deep the cage base is. You’ll want at least 15 cm (6 inches) of bedding where your hamster can dig and build burrows. Ideally, you should have 25 cm (10 inches) or more bedding, which will provide even more burrowing fun for your hamster. Syrian hamsters are larger, so they need deeper bedding. I would aim for at least 30 cm of bedding for Syrians.

Height

Hamsters are good climbers, so you want to ensure they can’t get out of their enclosure while you’re away. A recommended height for a hamster cage without a top is at least 40 cm for dwarfs and 60 cm for Syrians. This will allow you to have 20-30 cm of bedding for your hamster to enjoy while being high enough so they can’t escape.

Bar Spacing

The bar spacing of your cage will depend on the type of hamster you have. Smaller species such as dwarf and robo hamsters need a bar spacing of maximum 1/4 inches as they can squeeze through anything bigger. Syrian hamsters will do fine with a bar spacing of 1/2 inches or less.

A Large Wheel

In the wild, hamsters can run up to 9km per night. And while a hamster wheel will allow your pet to run as much as he wants, a large cage will better resemble his natural habitat in the wild and allow for all kinds of enrichment. Small hamster cages sold as modular systems of interconnected smaller areas can’t usually fit a big enough hamster wheel. Unfortunately, most of those small cages include a wheel smaller than the minimum a hamster needs, which is over 8″ in diameter for dwarfs and 12″ for Syrians. Small wheels cause your hamster to curve his back while he’s running, which will likely result in back pain and back issues, considering the amount of time spent on that wheel.

Cage Enrichment

Hamster cage enrichment

A big cage doesn’t mean much to a hamster if it doesn’t provide enough enrichment. Every cage needs a wheel, a sand bath, a deep substrate for digging and burrowing, a house, lots of toys, tunnels, a water bowl/bottle. A food bowl is optional as some people prefer scatter feeding their hamsters for enrichment while some do a combination of putting food in a bowl and scatter feeding. A big enough cage will fit all of these necessary supplies and provide extra room for running around.

Examples of the Best Hamster Cages on the Market

Now that you know what to look for, I’ll list a few cages that fit these requirements. Unfortunately, finding a suitable hamster cage can be quite a task, with so many of the cages sold being far too small and inadequate for our precious pets.

Hamster cages that are big enough tend to be more expensive than the regular small cages sold in most pet stores, which is understandable considering they are much bigger. But having a pet hamster comes with its fair share of responsibility, and buying a suitable cage that will allow your hamster to enjoy, run around, explore, and express their natural behaviors will ensure a happy and healthy hamster. So, in my opinion, money shouldn’t be the most important thing to consider when it comes to the quality of life of a living creature that depends on you.

If you want to provide your hamster with a spacious and enriching home but can’t spend too much money on the cage, then I suggest you take a look at the IKEA hacks at the bottom of this post. You can make a great hamster enclosure for a fraction of the price with IKEA products!

Wood & Glass Cages

Niteangel Vista Hamster Cage: Sizes M & L

Niteangel Vista hamster cage

Niteangel makes some of the best hamster cages on the market. Their cages are usually very spacious, which is a rarity. This cage comes in 3 sizes. Medium and large would make a great and spacious home for a hamster. 

  • Dimensions size M: 40.7 x 22.7 x 22.9 inches (LxWxH) (923 square inches)
  • Dimensions size L: 47.1 x 22.7 x 26.9 inches (1069 square inches)
  • Sold on: Amazon.com and Niteangelpet.com

Niteangel Bigger World: Sizes M & L

Niteangel Bigger World Hamster Cage

Another spacious hamster cage loved by many hamster owners. If you want to go with this cage, I suggest sizes M or L as they have more than the minimal 620 square inches.

  • Inner dimensions size M: 39.4 x 19.7 x 19.7 inches (776 square inches)
  • Inner dimensions size L: 47.2 x 19.7 x 23.6 inches (930 square inches)
  • Materials: wood and glass, PVC board on the floor to prevent water and pee from soaking into the wood
  • Sold on: Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, and Niteangelpet.com

There’s a great video on how to set up this cage here.

Niteangel Glass Cage for Hamsters

Niteangel Glass Cage for Hamsters

Another Niteangel cage (or better-said terrarium), this one is all glass (except the top for air circulation of course) and has sliding glass doors at the front. The base is not extra deep (around 7 inches), but you can put more of the substrate on one side and up to 7 inches of the substrate on the side where you’re opening the door.

  • Dimensions: 39.2 x 22.3 x 13.2 inches (874 square inches)
  • Base depth: around 7 inches
  • Sold on: Amazon.com

PawHut Compatible Wooden 3-Tier Hamster Cage

Another specious hamster cage with 1063 square inches. It has doors at the bottom, but I wouldn’t use them as I would fill the bottom with 20 – 30 cm of bedding. The top can also open, so you can use that to open the cage.

  • Dimensions: 45.25 x 23.5 x 21.75 inches (1063 square inches)
  • Materials: wood and glass, mashed wire top for ventilation
  • Sold on: Aosom.com

Living World Hamster Cage

Wire Cages

Savic Hamster Plaza

Savic Hamster Plaza cage

This is one of the bigger hamster cages sold in pet stores. But if you decide to go with this cage, keep in mind that the wheel in this cage is only 7” which is too small for hamsters so you’ll need to replace it with a bigger wheel.

  • Dimensions: 39.37 x 19.69 x 19.69 inches (775 square inches)
  • Bar spacing: 9.5mm / 0.37 inches
  • Base depth: 6.5 inches (not ideal but could work)
  • Sold on: Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk

Savic Mickey 2 XL

  • Dimensions: 31.5 x 20 x 20 inches (630 square inches)
  • Base depth: 6.5 inches
  • Bar spacing: the width is not specified, but according to reviews, it should have ¼ bar spacing
  • Sold on: Amazon.com

Marchioro Goran 82

  • Dimensions: 32.25 x 20 x 16.5 inches (645 square inches)
  • Sold in: Walmart

Good Cages Sold in the UK & Europe

Available cages differ significantly based on the part of the world or a country you live in. Here are some of the cages sold in UK and European stores.

PawHut Hamster Cage

  • Model 1 (Amazon.co.uk) – Dimensions: 115 x 60 x 55 centimeters (6900 square cm)
  • Model 2 (Amazon.co.uk) – Dimensions: 115 x 57 x 55 centimeters (6555 square cm)

Ferplast Criceti 100

Skyline Small Pet – Size 100

A large version of this cage (size 100) is a good option with enough room.

  • Inner dimensions: 92.5 x 44 x 35 cm (4070 square cm)
  • Sold on: Zooplus.com

Unfortunately, many of these cages can be unavailable or out of stock for longer periods. So you might even have more luck with IKEA hacks. What’s that you’re wondering? It’s creating a hamster cage from IKEA products. Believe it or not, IKEA’s cabinets make better hamster cages than many real cages made by pet companies.

IKEA Hamster Cage Hacks

For those willing to go one step further for their hamsters, some IKEA products can be converted into wonderful hamster homes. This also ends up much cheaper than large hamster cages.

IKEA Detolf 

Detolf is an IKEA cabinet that is commonly used as a hamster cage. With its floor space of 1074 square inches, it makes for an awesome hamster home with plenty of room to do all the things that come naturally to hamsters. If you decide to use this cabinet as a hamster cage, you’ll need to do some updates, as the cabinet will need a top lid (that provides enough ventilation) to prevent your hamster from escaping. See how you can do this in this video.

Since this cabinet is not too deep, I recommend having one side of it filled with the bedding material almost to the top, so they have enough to burrow.

You can see how this hack looks in action here.

IKEA Pax

Another great IKEA hack is using their Pax wardrobe frame for a hamster cage. It comes in many different sizes, such as this one with the dimensions of 39.3L x 22.8W x 79.1H” (100L x 58W x 201H cm) which equates to 2803 square inches of floor space. When you lay it down on the floor or a desk, it makes for a VERY spacious and comfortable hamster enclosure (or better said a mansion). Its depth of 58 cm allows you to put a deep layer of bedding for your pet to burrow.

IKEA Linnmon

This one requires a bit more work as you’ll have to drill and cut the materials in half. The end results is a beautiful hamster home with 858 square inches. You can see the tutorial for this cage here.

What Kind of Cages to Avoid

Those small colorful hamster cages with modular systems are very popular among kids, so they are usually the first go-to choice for parents. But if we take a hamster’s point of view, these cages don’t provide nearly enough space or enrichment that all hamsters need and deserve. 

Cages with wire floors are not a good option because hamsters need a deep substrate where they can dig and burrow, and a cage with a wire floor is not suitable for containing the substrate unless you cover it with a deep tray that will keep the bedding in. Another thing is that walking on wires all the time can cause issues with your hamster’s foot, called bumblefoot. Considering all of this, it is best to avoid these types of cages.

Is Your Current Cage Too Small?

Hamster sleeping in a cage
Hamster yawning

If your hamster is stressed in his cage, some signs will tell you how he feels. A stressed hamster will try to chew his way out of the cage. You’ll often see him chewing on the bars if you have a metal cage. Hamsters that are content don’t tend to chew the bars too much so this will be a sure way to know if your hamster doesn’t like his habitat.

Hamsters who are very stressed due to their living conditions can even get a psychological disorder called cage rage. This usually happens when a hamster is kept in a cage that is too small for them, which causes them daily stress.

If your current cage is smaller than the recommended minimum of 620 square inches, I would seriously consider getting a bigger one for your hamster’s welfare.

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