If you’re a hamster parent in Ireland or the UK, you might be surprised to learn that many popular hamster cages on the market are, well, just too small. Despite their cute appearance and appealing features, these cages are often totally unsuitable for our little furry friends. Let’s look at some common but unsuitable hamster cages and discuss why size matters so much for hamsters.
Why Size Matters
First, let’s talk about why small cages are so unsuitable for hamsters. According to Irish standards, Syrian hamsters need a minimum of 5000 cm² of internal floorspace, while dwarf species need at least 4000 cm². This minimum amount of space is essential for their well-being, allowing them to engage in natural behaviours like running, burrowing, and exploring.
Inadequate cage sizes can lead to a host of behavioural and health problems, including stress behaviours, obesity, and even depression. Hamsters are exceptionally active creatures that need plenty of room to roam and burn off energy. Without enough space, they can become lethargic and develop health issues.
Now, let’s dive into some specific cage models that are popular to see on our local shop shelves that fall short of these standards:

10. The Alaska

The Alaska cage is larger than others on this list, with external dimensions of around 84 x 48.5cm. However, it still doesn’t provide enough space for hamsters, giving only 3700cm² of internal floorspace. While it’s close to standards and commonly used in rescue work, it’s still not up to par with our standards for optimal hamster care.

9. The Savic Hamster Heaven

The Savic Hamster Heaven is often promoted in pet stores as a luxurious hamster habitat option. It comes with all sorts of plastic accessories, like tunnels, platforms, and even a penthouse. However, despite its deluxe price point, it only barely offers 3200cm² of usable floorspace. This is well below the recommended size, and the low overall height of this enclosure makes fitting in a suitable wheel difficult or impossible. The odd shelves, tight tubing, and compartments pose dangers to your pet, and there are known weaknesses with the cage design that can lead to escapes.

8. Pets @ Home Cages

Many cages sold at Pets at Home fall short of the required dimensions. They do sell the Savic Plaza, which suits dwarf hamsters, as well as the new Savic Plaza 120cm model that can home all species of hamster, but many models are still far below 4000cm² internally. This unfortunately includes the brand’s new cage line, the Habitat range. It’s crucial to always check internal cage dimensions and ensure they meet the minimum size requirements before purchasing to avoid disappointment.

7. Pawhut

The 2-tier Pawhut wooden hamster cage is unsuitable for hamsters because it fails to provide the necessary 4000 cm² of internal floorspace on a single level, which is essential for their well-being. Hamsters thrive in environments that allow ample space to explore, burrow, and exercise, all of which are compromised in a multi-level cage. Instead, the Pawhut wooden 115 cm model is a more appropriate choice, as it meets the spatial requirements on a single level, ensuring a healthier and more stimulating environment for hamsters.

6. All Rotastak Models

Rotastak cages are infamous for their colorful, modular designs. These cages might look fun, but they are typically very small and fragmented. The tubes and compartments don’t provide the open floor space hamsters need. They also present cleaning challenges and can restrict airflow, creating an unhealthy environment for your pet.

5. Rosewood Pico XL

The Pico XL is another popular cage, especially for new hamster owners drawn to its compact design and colourful appearance. Unfortunately, it measures only about 58x38cm externally, so is far too small for any hamster species. Its multiple levels can be deceiving, providing the illusion of space without offering the continuous running area hamsters need, while posing a significant safety risk due to the fall heights they present.

4. The Omlet Qute

The Omlet Qute is one of the strangest products on the hamster market. It comes at a premium price point, boasting removable wipe-clean surfaces, a deep bedding drawer, and a modern furniture aesthetic. In actuality, it’s a cramped, poorly ventilated piece of furniture that provides less than a quarter of a hamster’s floorspace needs, and the sheer drop promoted by the vertical tube poses significant safety risks.

3. Savic Spelos (and similar looking cages)

Despite the clean and contained appearance of the Savic Spelos, every aspect of this cage encourages poor hamster care: its size, door style, and even its attachments and accessories. The included accessories, like the cage exterior, are inappropriate for hamsters due to their small size and poor designs. The water bottle sits within the low platform, making the drinking spout difficult to access for the hamster. It also makes it equally difficult to provide a decent amount of bedding, as it rests only a couple centimetres from the cage base. There are a lot of similar cages on the market, such as the Rosewood Abode, which is unfortunate since they are dangerous in design and can overheat quickly in summer due to the plastic design and poor ventilation. This cage and similar models offer less than half of the floorspace needed for a dwarf hamster.

2. Balacoo Hamster Cage (and similar looking cages)

The Balacoo and similar models found in discount stores around the country are truly some of the smallest on the market. This cage is similar in size to a travel cage, not a permanent hamster home! The enclosure and its accessories also have some very serious safety issues: the house’s lid can pop off very easily, leading to a quick escape; the wheel is far too small for any species of hamster to use without severe spinal strain; and finally, the slide is so steep that a hamster will just fall down it. Beyond all that, the cage is so small that any hamster that has to live in it will certainly develop cage-related behavioural and medical issues. Bar chewing, for example, causes the fur and skin on a hamster’s nose to wear away, and bar climbing can lead to broken limbs and sometimes even death.

1. Habitrail OVO

The Habitrail OVO system relies on narrow, oddly shaped plastic tunnels with tiny airholes that join remarkably small pods together. These often come with some of the poorest-designed accessories we have seen on the hamster market, including uncleanable wheel pods and impossible-to-reach water bottles. Marketed towards children, the bright colours and interesting shapes are more akin to toy manufacture than anything a hamster should live in. Hamsters require significant unbroken floor space, and the OVO doesn’t even come close to providing this. As well as not providing adequate space overall, hamster essentials like a suitable wheel, a sand bath, a multi-chamber hide, and other enrichment items just cannot fit inside any OVO pod. A severe lack of ventilation means this cage can get very warm in the summer and overheat. It also leads to a build-up of ammonia, making it smell bad very quickly and leads to respiratory distress and urine scald for hamsters. More cleaning means more stress for your hamster, and it’s not easy to get pee stains out of all those tubes, which have to be taken apart to be washed.

When it comes to choosing a hamster cage, bigger is always better. Despite the enticing features and designs of some popular cages, they often fail to meet the basic needs of hamsters. Always prioritize the dimensions and overall space over the aesthetic or convenience factors. Remember, a happy hamster is a healthy hamster, and providing them with a spacious home is the first step in ensuring their well-being.

If you’re on the hunt for a new cage, look for models that offer at least 100 x 50 cm of continuous floor space. Your hamster will thank you for it with increased activity, better health, and more natural behaviors. Happy hamster parenting!

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