Hamster cages can be made from different types of material, such as metal, plastic, or glass. You cannot use wood or cardboard, however, because the hamster will chew right through those. Whichever material you choose, it is important that the cage be large enough for your hamster to have plenty of room to run around.
You need to put a layer of substrate in the bottom of your hamster cage. You also need to add some softer material that the hamster can use to build his nest. Your hamster prefers an enclosed space – a bedroom, if you will – in which to build his nest. You can construct this from half of a Clay flowerpot or you can purchase a plastic “hamster igloo.” The important thing is that it be enclosed and private, to resemble an underground burrow that your hamster would dig in the wild.
You will need to put a food dish inside your hamster cage. You will also need to provide a source of water. You can add a bowl for water or attach a water bottle to the side of the cage.
You will also have to give your hamster a wheel which he will use for exercise. Wheels can be free-standing or may attach to the side of the cage. You can also construct different levels inside the cage; just make sure that your hamster can fall no more than 12 inches (10 cm).
Your hamster is an escape artist, so ensure that you close the door of a wire cage tightly.
You will also want to provide your hamster with toys for stimulation. These can be as simple as empty cardboard tubes, such as those from paper towel, wrapping paper, or toilet paper rolls. You can also purchase elaborate plastic tubes for your hamster to explore. If you have a Chinese dwarf hamster, you especially need to ensure that it has lots of places to hide.
Just realize that anything you put into the hamster cage will get chewed. So don’t add any substances that could be toxic to your hamster.
You can also add a hamster potty to the cage, otherwise plan to clean up wet substrate on a daily basis.
Speaking of cage cleaning, how often you clean out your hamster cage will depend on how large it is. The larger that it is, the less frequently that you will need to clean it. For a standard 10 or 20 gallon tank, you’ll need to clean the hamster cage about once a week.
To do this, first gently remove the hamster from the cage and put him in temporary housing. Then, throw away all of the substrate and replace it with fresh. You should also wipe down any solid surfaces such as glass walls and floors, and any plastic toys. You also need to wash out the water bottle, so that mold does not grow there. Make sure that the cage is thoroughly dry before you add fresh substrate otherwise you can also get mold growth. Once the hamster cage is clean, then you can return your pet to it.