Did you know that hamsters originally lived on the steppes or the edge of deserts? That meant warm, dry conditions and sometimes very cold too, as well as the need to roam over large distances to collect food. While we can’t easily replicate those conditions exactly, there are lots of things we can do to ensure we have happy hamsters.

  • Give them space. That wanderlust has to be catered for. The Blue Cross recommends that the cage should be at least 100 x 50cm floorspace, and at least 50cm tall, but this is just the minimum and bigger is almost always better.
  • A tank or aquarium is perfect to keep your pet pal safe, and although cages based on a tube system may look appealing, they are not the best choice of home – Syrians may find the tubes a bit too small to be comfortable, while more often than not, dwarf breeds aren’t great at climbing.
  • Hamsters tend to be active at night or early evening. Try to ensure that they are not kept in an area where artificial light disturbs their natural behaviour patterns. It might also mean they make better pets for young adults or teenagers who also tend to sleep later in the evening! You might also want to avoid keeping them in bedrooms as the noise may prevent the occupant from sleeping – making for a happy hamster but an unhappy owner. 
  • Hamsters also spent a lot of their time underground. Their thick coat, short legs and sturdy little bodies are well adapted to that. To keep them happy, provide tunnels or substrate they can build tunnels through. Some people use sand, sawdust or soil for tunnelling but a very safe option is to bury cardboard tubes under their standard bedding, as this won’t risk collapse.
  • Hamsters also like to climb, so create platforms or levels, although be careful about steep drops – their eyesight is quite poor and they don’t seem to appreciate how far they can fall. 
  • Unlike some other small pets, not all hamsters like to have a companion. Syrian hamsters in particular are usually best kept alone or with a friend in a separate cage or compartment. Same sex pairs or groups who have been introduced when young can often work with other breeds.
  • Don’t forget some wood to gnaw on – hamsters love a nibble!