Purchasing a safe and appropriate habitat for your pet hamsters is one of the biggest decisions you will make for their well being. In this article, we will discuss basic cage safety, general habitat requirements, and show you some of the best options on the market for your pet hamster.

General Cage Size Requirements

You will need a cage that provides at least 1 cubic foot of space for 1 dwarf hamster, with an additional .5 cubic feet of space for each additional hamster in the same habitat. Depending on the social dynamics of groups of hamsters, you may find you need even more room to prevent squabbling.

There are many benefits of having an appropriately sized hamster cage. An appropriately sized cage will not get dirty as quickly, which will create less of an ammonia build up and keep your hamsters healthier. Hamsters who live in social groups are more likely to get along with their cagemates if they have ample room to interact, and also get space to themselves if they do not want to play with other hamsters and need some private time. Hamsters are less prone to becoming cage aggressive and feeling like they have to defend their space if they have plenty of it. A large cage will also reduce the chances of your hamster developing a compulsive behavior from boredom and aggitation, such as bar chewing that can lead to broken teeth or circling/pacing behaviors.

Basic Safety Requirements

There is a huge variety of hamsters cages on the market, but not all cages are created equally. Hamster cages offer different amounts of useful space and many popular cages that look great on the shelf aren't very user friendly once you have them at home with your hamster inside. Here we have collected some basic requirements and safety guidelines to help you make an informed decision on your hamster's cage.

Not all cages are as secure as they look, pay attention to bar spacing and escape points

Dwarf hamsters can squeeze through very small spaces, and are prone to finding the one place in the cage where they can either chew a hole or pop open a cage latch to make their escape. Your cage should be rock solid so that you don't have to worry about your hamster getting out and getting lost in the house. You should look for a cage with 1/2 inch or smaller bar spacing for adult dwarf hamsters, and baby dwarf hamsters may need to be in a cage with glass or plastic walls as they may be able to slip even the smallest bar spacing.

When you are looking at a cage with bars, you should check further beyond making sure that you have a 1/2 inch or less space between the bars and look for any areas where this measurement might be slightly larger. Corners where the cage folds, or areas where the bars may not be straight by doors or other connecting areas could provide the escape route your hamster will be looking for. If you have any doubts about your cage's security, place it in a large plastic bin (if it fits) or in a bathtub with the drain plugged for the first week. If there is an easy way out, your hamster will likely find it in a matter of days but you won't have to search the whole house for them.

The base of the cage should be a solid surface, no wire grates for poop to fall through

While it might seem like a good idea to have wire floors so that pet waste falls through and your pet doesn't live next to their poop, hamsters don't do well walking on wire surfaces. While they are light enough that it is rare for a hamster to get bumblefoot from walking on normal wire, hamsters rarely watch where they place their feet and will continually plunge their feet through open spaces. This means a hamster who is running or walking down a ramp may be able to stick their leg through the wire and fall, breaking a very small bone. If your cage has wire levels or ramps, we recommend covering them. You can use a plastic material like coroplast, laminate flooring purchased from the hardware store, cardboard or cardstock.

The cage should be made of safe materials that can be cleaned easily

If you invest in a good quality cage, your cage will last for the entire lifetime of your pet hamster and with good care can be used for many more years if you continue to keep pet hamsters. Look for a cage that has sturdy plastic if you are choosing a cage with a plastic pan or parts, as you will be able to scrub or bleach the plastic without worrying about it cracking. Keep in mind cages with lots of plastic connectors or tubes are prone to chewing or breakage when disassembling the cage. It is more ideal to look for the metal cage components to be powder coated or PVC coated, which will protect the metal from rusting. Keep in mind that PVC coated cages are susceptible to the finish wearing or cracking, but they will last much longer than a galvanized metal cage with no treatment applied. Some people opt to house their hamsters in aquariums, which are largely impervious to wear if they are kept clean and not dropped. You may also choose to make your own home made hamster cage out of a plastic bin, which provides a high level of durability without the risk of dropping and breaking glass.

You should have easy access to all parts of your hamster's cage

When you are choosing a hamster cage, pay close attention to all of the access points such as doors and lids that open to see how they are organized. The cage doors should be suitably large for an adult to reach in and take out your hamster. You should not have to bend your wrist to make it around a corner or reach in an awkward way to any part of the cage. Make sure that the door closure method is secure, a good way to test this is by closing the cage door and giving several firm tugs on the bars in the center of the door. If the door pops open, your hamster may be able to pop open the door with enough effort. Ideally, the cage should be fairly easy to disassemble so that you can easily clean sections.

Look for more horizontal space than vertical space, and minimize any areas your hamster can fall from

Hamsters are very good at climbing up in their cage, but they are not good at climbing down and will generally hit the top of where they are going and fall back down to the ground floor. Pay attention to how the cage is laid out and try to minimize any vertical drops or hard places your hamster could land badly. Your hamster will appreciate more flat running space versus vertical climbing room in a cage, so it's best to look for a shorter cage with a broader footprint for your hamster.

"Tube" cages and special considerations

Hamster cages with tube connectors, such as Crittertrail, Habitrail or Critter Universe cages can provide a fun, expandable habitat for dwarf hamsters where the sky is the limit as far as how you configure your cage. With a variety of accessories made to snap into place, these cages are some of the most fun for someone interested in building and expanding your hamster cage. Just keep in mind that you will periodically need to break down your habitrail cage and give it a good scrubbing, and depending on the size of your cage and the model, this can be quite the time commitment. Plan to purchase a few back-up tubes or bubble caps in case of any breakage so that you have a quick way of making sure your hamster is secure if anything goes wrong.

Buying a "Starter Cage" versus a "Cage to Grow Into"

Baby hamsters grow so quickly that there is never a point where your baby hamster will need less room than an adult. Baby hamsters can only leave their mother as soon as four weeks of age, and by two months they double in size, so they will need just as much space as a full grown adult hamster. Plan to buy a cage that meets the minimum guidelines of space for the number of hamsters you plan to house from the start. If you are purchasing an aquarium, building a bin cage, or buying another cage that is not expandable, you'll want to buy the largest cage in your budget from the beginning. If you are buying a tube type cage such as a Crittertrail, Habitrail or Critter Universe cage, you can start out with enough floor space for the number of hamsters you want to house and add additional habitats or accessories on as you please further down the line.

Watch out for spots your hamster can chew open

When you are choosing your cage, look at any ridges or surfaces that are not absolutely smooth that your hamster will be in contact with. Any ridge or bump on the inside is a potential area your hamster will be able to chew and create an opening in. You'll want to consider how much that particular part of the cage would cost to replace if you started noticing your hamster chewing on it, and if it seems to be a very thin part of the cage, the liklihood that you will have to replace that part more than once if you have a hamster who is a persistant chewer.

You will reduce the chance of your hamster focusing in on one area to chew if they have a large habitat that provides enough room for them to entertain themselves. Bored hamsters become obsessive chewers. If you end up with a hamster who is wearing out their habitats, you may want to consider opting for a chew-proof habitat such as an all-metal enclosure or an aquarium.

Features to Look for in Special Situations

Depending on your situation, you may want to look for a cage with specific features that will make it easier to house and care for your hamsters in the long run.

Do you have a cage territorial hamster? Look for a wide open cage plan

Many hamsters, and in particular campbell dwarf hamsters, are prone to cage territorial behavior. A cage territorial hamster may bite hands inside their environment, but may be friendly and easy to handle if they are removed from the cage by being allowed to walk into a scoop or other item instead of a hand coming in and intruding on their space. You will have a better time interacting with this type of hamster personality if you have plenty of room to move in, so cages with small doors or tubes may not be the most ideal situation. An aquarium or bin cage with an open top, or a wide open cage plan with a large door that helps you move freely will help keep your relationship with your hamster from getting rocky.

Keep social hamsters from getting cranky with eachother by eliminating bottlenecks

Even a happy social pair or group of dwarf hamsters can get grouchy with each other from time to time, but in the wrong type of cage a minor argument can turn into a serious fight. If there is an area where one hamster can corner another, this can turn into a "pressure point" that can cause arguments to escalate, so plan to have either a cage that is difficult for one hamster to corner another in, or lay things out so that there isn't any area one hamster can get trapped in. Aquarium or bin type cages will work well for providing an open floor plan without pressure points, and tube cages can be planned so that every area has at least two exits to keep it from becoming a trap.

If you have a social group of hamsters that is starting to bicker more than usual, try switching them to a broader, more open cage if they are in a cage with narrow passageways. Sometimes a little bit more elbow room can solve a lot of problems in their daily life.

Carpeted floors around the cage? Look for a deep cage pan

Cage pans vary in depth from about 1" to 3" deep on cages with wire portions. If you are using a loose bedding substrate as opposed to a fabric bedding, your hamster will kick some of the bedding out of the cage. Having a deep cage pan will help keep more of your hamster's bedding inside the cage instead of on the floor around it. An aquarium or bin type cage will keep all of the bedding in the cage without room for it to get knocked out.

Do you have senior hamster? Look for a flat cage instead of one with multiple levels

If you are considering a cage with multiple levels, your aging hamster may find themselves at a point in their lives where a ramp to get to the higher areas is too much for them to undertake. You can either choose a cage with a flat floor plan from the start, or you can look to eliminate any steep ramps or tubes from existing cages to make them more senior friendly.

Our Favorite Hamster Cages

Now that you've read all about how to choose a good hamster cage, where do you go next? We've put together a list of some of our favorite hamster cages, along with the pros and cons of each cage.

The Best Basic Hamster Cages

10 Gallon Aquarium

10 Gallon Glass Aquarium with Screen Lid

The ten gallon aquarium is the most common starter habitat used for dwarf hamsters, and can generally be purchased very inexpensively locally. Providing a clear view of your hamster's activities, an aquarium can be an attractive habitat that is easy to add more interest to with accessories and cage decor. With a secure screen lid, an aquarium is virtually escape-proof as long as you take care not to provide anything for your hamster to climb high enough where they can reach the top and push the lid off. Aquariums are very heavy compared to other habitats, and plan to handle yours carefully as even a short drop can cause cracks or complete breakage. These cages also provide very little ventilation or air movement, so plan to keep them dilligently clean to avoid any ammonia build up in your hamster's airspace. Care should also be taken to keep them out of direct sunlight as the heavy glass panes will create a greenhouse effect and cause the temperature to go up quickly. A variety of lid types can be purchased for a 10 gallon aquarium, including a Basic Flat Lid, Screen Lids with Doors, Screen Lids with Holes for Tubes and more. You will also need a water bottle hanger to secure your water bottle inside the tank.

Quick Look:
Cage Width: 20"
Cage Depth: 11"
Cage Height: 12"
Material: Glass Aquarium with Metal or Plastic Base
Screen Material: Metal mesh in metal frame, or plastic with fabric mesh
Included Accessories: None
Cubic Feet: 1.5
Suitable Housing For: 1-2 Dwarf Hamsters
Average Price: $30-$40 Purchased Locally, $50-60 Purchased Online
Pros: Simple set-up, easy to maintain, virtually escape-proof
Cons: Very heavy, prone to breakage, prone to heating up dangerously in direct sunlight

Buy Perfecto Manufacturing 10 Gallon Aquarium on Amazon

Buy Zoo Med Screen Cover for 10 Gallon Tank on Amazon

Buy Zoo Med Screen Cover with Door for 10 Gallon Tanks on Amazon

Buy Basic Aquarium, empty 10 gallon from Walmart

Buy Deluxe Screen Cover (with Tube Holes) from Walmart

* Note: Aquariums and screen lids tend to be much less expensive when purchased locally than online. Visit your local retail store, pet store or aquarium supply store to find a basic aquarium at a low cost *

Hamster Bin Cage

Homemade Hamster Bin Cage

A home made hamster bin cage can be a great alternative to a plastic aquarium, as they can be made very large while remaining light weight and inexpensive. The cost of a bin cage will vary depending on the supplies you have on hand and what you use to make your bin cage, but they can typically be made for $20-$40 in materials and offer a great open and virtually escape-proof environment. You can pick up any sized Storage Bin, preferably one that is at least 11" tall, and add ventilation in the roof and/or sides protected with hardware cloth. Just make sure to keep any sharp points of hardware cloth covered if your hamster can get in contact with them. Visit Hamster Central's Bin Cages Made Easy! tutorial for great straight forward instructions and examples of how you can make a bin cage.

Quick Look:
Cage Width: Varies
Cage Depth: Varies
Cage Height: Varies
Bin Material: Clear Plastic
Screen Material: Typically galvanized metal hardware cloth
Included Accessories: None
Cubic Feet: Varies
Suitable Housing For: Varies based on size bin chosen
Average Price: $20 - $40 New
Pros: Light weight, easy to clean and move, can provide lots more floor space than traditional hamster cages
Cons: Cost of building can be high if you have no tools on hand already, expect 1-3 hours for assembly depending on design

See the Tutorial at Hamster Central's Bin Cages Made Easy!

The Best Hamster Cage Kits

Super Pet CritterTrail Primary Habitat

Super Pet CritterTrail Primary Habitat

The Super Pet CritterTrail Primary Habitat is a great place to start, especially if you plan to expand your cage with additional Crittertail Habitats and Accessories as it includes six points for connecting tubes and accessories. The cage itself doesn't offer a very generous floor plan, but is set up with easy access points with a centrally located front door and large opening lid. With a quick set up of under ten minutes, the cage is made of six portions that are easy to disassemble for cleaning and put back together. The drip water bottle design resists leaking, and the solid surface wheel is generously sized to let your hamsters run without arching their back. While the food bowl is designed to peg into place on a post built into the base, we've found that you are more likely to sit the bowl on top of a layer of bedding as the post will be mostly covered anyway.

Quick Look:
Cage Width: 16"
Cage Depth: 10"
Cage Height: 11"
Base Material: Plastic
Bar Material: Coated metal
Included Accessories: Woven grass hanging nest, drip water bottle, food dish, solid surface running wheel
Cubic Feet: 1
Suitable Housing For: 1 Dwarf Hamster
Average Price: $25 - $40 New
Pros: Simple assembly, highly expandable with additional accessories (sold separately), included accessories, easy access points
Cons: Too small for social pairs or groups of dwarf hamsters, small floor space overall, no room for extra toys.

Buy Super Pet CritterTrail Primary Habitat on Amazon

Super Pet Crittertrail One Habitat

Super Pet CritterTrail One Habitat

The Super Pet Crittertrail One Habitat is a step above their Primary Habitat, containing the same basic overall layout with the addition of a U shaped side climbing tube and removable nest area compartment above. While this version of the cage has lost the wide opening lid of the Crittertrail Primary Habitat, the nest box on top of the cage lifts off cleanly to provide another wide open space for you to access your hamster. You'll regain a lot of floor space for your hamster by having an elevated nest area, and the nest area can easily be converted into a temporary carrier or holding container for your hamster by blocking the entrance/exit with a bubble cap while you are cleaning the rest of the cage. Like all Crittertrail cages, there is a lot of possibilities for expansion with additional Crittertail Habitats and Accessories. While you gain a little bit more useful floor space with the additional level and the cage will house two social dwarf hamsters, we've found that campbell and winter white dwarf hamster species still need more elbow room, but roborovski dwarf hamsters will generally live happily in pairs in this cage. This cage is sold in two color schemes, one primarily blue/green and one pink.

Quick Look:
Cage Width: 16"
Cage Depth: 10"
Cage Height: 11"
Base Material: Plastic
Bar Material: Coated metal
Included Accessories: Woven grass hanging nest, drip water bottle, food dish, solid surface running wheel
Cubic Feet: 1
Suitable Housing For: 1-2 Dwarf Hamster
Average Price: $25 - $40 New
Pros: Simple assembly, highly expandable with additional accessories (sold separately), included accessories, easy access points
Cons: Too small for social pairs or groups of dwarf hamsters, small floor space overall, no room for extra toys.

Buy Super Pet CritterTrail One Habitat (Blue/Green Version) on Amazon

Buy Super Pet CritterTrail One Habitat (Pink Version) on Amazon

Ware Manufacturing Critter Universe Small Pet Cage System

Ware Manufacturing Critter Universe Small Pet Cage System

The Ware Manufacturing Critter Universe Small Pet Cage System is similar to many other tube type cages, but the Critter Universe line sets itself apart with the quality of materials used and small extra considerations to detail that make them a step above the rest. The plastics used in Critter Universe cages is thicker and less brittle than plastics typically used in hamster cages, which means you will have a more durable cage that stands up to disassembly and other wear and tear better than the other expandable hamster cage systems. With bright, bold colors, deep pans and an endless ability to customize them with additional Critter Universe Habitats and Accessories, you'll have a hamster cage you can grow with and enjoy for years. All of the included accessories are good functioning items, with a water bottle that resists drips, a food bowl with a wide base that resists tipping, and a safe solid surface running wheel. The elevated nesting area doubles as a removable carrier as well.

Quick Look:
Cage Width: 15-1/2"
Cage Depth: 9-1/2"
Cage Height: 16"
Base Material: Durable Plastic
Bar Material: Coated Metal
Included Accessories: Drip resistant water bottle, solid surface running wheel, plastic food bowl, removable carrier built in.
Cubic Feet: 1.3
Suitable Housing For: 1-2 Dwarf Hamsters (Campbell Dwarf Hamsters and Winter White Dwarf Hamster pairs generally need more floor space, Roborovski pairs get along better in this cage)
Average Price: $25 - $45 New
Pros: Flexible and durable plastic construction, well made accessories, integrated carrier, expandable with additional habitats and accessories
Cons: Not suitable for campbell dwarf hamster or winter white dwarf hamster pairs (roborovskis do better), floor space is partially dominated by wheel and tube access to top level.

Buy Ware Manufacturing Critter Universe Small Pet Cage System on Amazon

The Best Large Hamster Cage Kits

Super Pet CritterTrail 2-Level Habitat

Super Pet CritterTrail 2-Level Habitat

The Super Pet CritterTrail 2-Level Habitat is a larger version of the basic Crittertrail cages, offering two platform levels as well as a top level nesting area. This cage offers more elbow room as a stand-alone kit than most Crittertrail cages and provides plenty of interest for social groups of hamsters with multiple tubes, a safe solid surface running wheel, and a long climb to the top nesting area. This cage is fully expandable with additional Crittertail Habitats and Accessories so you can continue to develop your hamster's habitat if you want to expand from the base cage. This cage has two doors to allow easy access to either level of the cage, as well as a flip open nesting area to access the top compartment of the cage. Unlike the other crittertrail cages, the top level nesting area in this cage is built in and is not removable. This cage comes with a safe solid surface running wheel, a simple round plastic food bowl and a drip resistant water bottle.

Quick Look:
Cage Width: 16"
Cage Depth: 10"
Cage Height: 16"
Base Material: Plastic
Bar Material: Coated metal
Included Accessories: Drip water bottle, food dish, solid surface running wheel
Cubic Feet: 1.48
Suitable Housing For: 1-2 Dwarf Hamster
Average Price: $30 - $55 New
Pros: Simple assembly, highly expandable with additional accessories (sold separately), included accessories, easy access points
Cons: Difficult to add more toys/accessories inside the habitat, potential long drop along center of cage.

Buy Super Pet CritterTrail 2-Level Habitat on Amazon

Super Pet CritterTrail Discovery Deluxe Habitat

Super Pet CritterTrail Discovery Deluxe Habitat

The Super Pet CritterTrail Discovery Deluxe Habitat is a fully expandable habitat with a non-traditional layout, unlike most hamster cages the Discovery Deluxe Habitat is designed with an almost fully opening clear front that provides a great view of your pet's activity and easy access. This cage is more ideal for dwarf hamsters with cage territorial behaviors, as you can easily remove your hamster with a scoop without having to reach through narrow spaces or corner your hamster thanks to the open layout. The additional level is well thought out, as it is low to the ground but provides a long stretch of space for your hamster to move in. With the wheel situated outside of the main cage's floor space, your hamster will lose less of their regular space to the wheel and have more room to run and burrow on normal footing. This cage includes a built in generously sized removable carrier that can be used as a temporary holding space while you clean the rest of the cage. The water bottle mounts well to the side of the cage and is easy to remove for refilling. This cage is fully expandable with additional Crittertail Habitats and Accessories, but has less places to connect additional tubes or units compared to other Crittertrail models. Some owners may also find that their hamsters tend to nest or stash food in the wheel, which can either remove the functionality of the wheel if used as a nest or make it noisy when the hamster runs in it after dropping off their food stash inside

Quick Look:
Cage Width: 23-1/2"
Cage Depth: 15-3/4"
Cage Height: 12-3/4"
Base Material: Plastic
Bar Material: Coated metal
Included Accessories: Solid surface running wheel, water bottle, built in detachable carrier
Cubic Feet: 2.7
Suitable Housing For: 1-3 Dwarf Hamsters
Average Price: $45 - $70 New
Pros: Clear viewing of hamster activities, wide opening front door, open floor space, expandable with additional habitats and accessories
Cons: Less connection areas than other Crittertrail model cages, wheel sometimes becomes nesting area or noisy

Buy Super Pet CritterTrail Discovery Deluxe Habitat on Amazon

Ware Manufacturing Critter Universe Small Pet Expanded Cage System

Ware Manufacturing Critter Universe Small Pet Expanded Cage System

The Ware Manufacturing Critter Universe Small Pet Expanded Cage System builds on the good foundation of the Ware Manufacturing Critter Universe Small Pet Cage System. While similar to many other tube type cages, the Critter Universe line sets itself apart with the quality of materials used and small extra considerations to detail that make them a step above the rest. The plastics used in Critter Universe cages is thicker and less brittle than plastics typically used in hamster cages, which means you will have a more durable cage that stands up to disassembly and other wear and tear better than the other expandable hamster cage systems. With bright, bold colors, deep pans and an endless ability to customize them with additional Critter Universe Habitats and Accessories, you'll have a hamster cage you can grow with and enjoy for years. All of the included accessories are good functioning items, with a water bottle that resists drips, a food bowl with a wide base that resists tipping, and a safe solid surface running wheel. The elevated nesting area doubles as a removable carrier as well. The second level in this cage has the particularly nice added touch of providing a full floor length surface with walls that are capable of holding in bedding.

Quick Look:
Cage Width: 16"
Cage Depth: 9-1/2"
Cage Height: 22-1/2"
Base Material: Durable Plastic
Bar Material: Coated Metal
Included Accessories: Drip resistant water bottle, solid surface running wheel, plastic food bowl, removable carrier built in.
Cubic Feet: 1.9
Suitable Housing For: 1-3 Dwarf Hamsters (Campbell Dwarf Hamsters and Winter White Dwarf Hamster pairs generally need more floor space, Roborovski pairs get along better in this cage)
Average Price: $35 - $65 New
Pros: Flexible and durable plastic construction, well made accessories, integrated carrier, expandable with additional habitats and accessories, full length second floor with walls
Cons: Floor space is partially dominated by wheel and tube access to second level.

Buy Ware Manufacturing Critter Universe Small Pet Expanded Cage System on Amazon

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