Welcome to Dashing Hamsters. I created this website back in 2005, initially to have a place to share my love of hamsters. Throughout the years I have come across a lot of information that just often doesn't match up. Care standards and information are outdated, and these little creatures are misunderstood by many. So I decided to make this website as more than just a hamster lover's website, but a hamster website for modern owners who are looking for up to date advice on how to care for and understand their beloved hamsters. On DH you can learn about hamsters, see some cute pictures and read through a hamster filled blog.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Convincing Yourself and Others to Upgrade

     I understand that one of the major roadblocks in planning to upgrade your cage to a more suitable size is that sometimes you need to convince others. Whether it's your room mate, your parents, your significant other or someone else it sometimes needs to happen. So below I will provide you with some ammunition to help convince them. Or maybe you need some convincing yourself, keep on reading then.

     First of all what the minimum cage size is, is different mostly depending on where you are from. Some countries have great minimum cage sizes (as posted by their local animal society group such as the RSPCA in the UK). However not all countries do, Canada and the USA are a good example of a outdated minimum cage size (2 square feet). I personally recommend that a cage have a minimum of 360 square inches (2322 square cm) of floorspace. This is smaller than some people's minimum but it is more doable for most people. If you want more info on different minimum cage sizes and some visuals to go along with it, please check out this link: Minimum Cage Sizes.

Please do also remember that minimum is not the same as the best cage size. You are only just fulfilling the bare minimum amount of space that a hamster should have. That's it. That's not to say that meeting the minimum isn't good, it's just not the best. Bigger is always better. You love your pet right? You want what is best for your hamster? Minimum is not best, it's ok. Bigger than the minimum is best.

     If you need to prove this to yourself or to others than you need proof. Proof can come from two areas: experience and fact. For experience, talk to other hamster owners that have their hams in a bigger cage. Show the person that you need to convince (even if it's just yourself) the evidence as seen by other people's experience.
     For example I had a RC dwarf hamster named Dusk that lived in a 10 gallon aquarium (2 sq feet). He had actually lived in there with his brother, but they fought over space and had to be separated (point one there, the space was too small for more than one hamster). I termed him as evil because he would attack me the second my hand entered his cage, feeding him became a chore and he only ever left his little cage to play in his exercise ball or to let me clean the cage. For my birthday that year I got a 20 gallon long aquarium (360 square inches/2322 square cm). Dusk was moved into it and within an hour he let me pick him up for the first time in over 6 months. I had been wrong. He wasn't evil, he was cage territorial and so was aggressive when in his cage. When I realized this I noticed that many other people spoke of the same experience or wondered why their dwarf was 'evil' only in their undersized cage: they were all cage territorial in small cages. Dusk was also not as bored in his 20 gallon long, he started to play more and explore more and do more 'hamstery' things. (Second point here, that tiny cage greatly impacted his behaviour in a negative way and upgrading impacted him for the better).
     That was only a change to the minimum cage size. I moved my two roborovski dwarfs from a 20 gallon long into a IKEA DETOLF cage (1025 square inches/ 6612.89 cm²). They are never bored now, they act like hamsters are supposed to because they have more of the room needed to actually do this.

     The second kind of proof is fact. Science has not gone far to help us with this, not in English any way. There are some articles, though they aren't all in English. This does not make them any less valid, they were still done by smart people in lab coats. Most of these studies are done in German speaking countries. Luckily hamster lovers that are fluent in both English and German are starting to close the gap between us and are sharing what they know. One such person has a wonderful blog set up (it's in my links) that talks about more natural looking hamster cages. She has one post that discusses studies and scientific facts about hamster homes. Of all of the things I am putting in this post this might just be the most important:Scientific Facts about Hamster Homes
There is more information on those kinds of cages here too: German Style Cages.

     Find your evidence and do your research before talking to the person that needs convincing. This keeps you organized and well prepared. Tell them that you want to be more responsible and that to do so you have done research. Parents seem to appreciate it if they see that you have put effort into this. Write an essay, make a slide show, or prepare a presentation. Play on the fact that this does mean a lot to you. And for kids and teens especially, do not whine about it. This is just pushing you farther away from what you want. Consider what arguments they might make against your case and be prepared with answers against them.

  If money is the issue than look into building a bin cage [look on the Supplies page if you don't know what this is; under Cages]. If space is an issue than you need to look at it this way. You wouldn't get guinea pigs because they need more space than you can provide, (7.5 sq ft minimum; 10.5 sq ft recommended). So why does this logic not apply to hamsters? Hamsters need more room than the pet industry lets on. If you don't have the space then you are not in the right position to have a pet.

     As for the argument about "if they make cages that small then they must be alright" this is just 100% false. They make foods for all sorts of animals that aren't actually good for them (Ol' Roy for dogs, Kaytee's foods for hamsters for some examples). They make treats for hamsters that are loaded in sugars and recommend them for dwarf hamsters, who are prone to diabetes. They make runged wheels that are known to break legs. They build cages with wire floors that are known to irritate feet. They sell fluff bedding that is known to strangle hamsters, cause internal blockages if swallowed and can wrap around limbs and cut off circulation. They sell pine, cedar and spruce (UK pine) shavings that contain phenols (that nice smell) that damage lungs. They sell scented litters and beddings that also irritate the respiratory system. They sell wheels, like the Silent Spinners, and recommend the wrong size for each species [syrians should have at least an 8" wheel, but they recommend a 6.5" wheel]. They sell over-the-counter medicines that claim to cure wet tail, but they only mask the symptoms. How then is it so difficult to believe that the cages they sell just might be wrong?
     In the UK they make hamster cages that are of an adequate size such as the Hamster Heaven cage, so they aren't all bad and this is proof that even the pet industry is willing to at least make more options, to make change.

     As to the argument about dwarfs being smaller and so needing less space, I am afraid that it is false too. Dwarf hamsters and Chinese hamsters are smaller, to be sure. However they tend to move a whole lot more than Syrian hamsters. They are more energetic and move much more quickly than Syrians' do. Therefore they need just as much space as Syrian hamsters, if not more actually.

In the end upgrading your cage is what is best for your pet.



  2. Great article!
    btw: now that Christmas time is coming up it's the perfect time to upgrade - look for an artificial Christmas tree storage bin for a cheap and easy solution. I have posted some info here: http://hamstergehege.blogspot.com/2011/12/artificial-christmas-tree-storage-bins.html

  3. Not a problem! C: Thanks for sharing the link!

  4. i have connected a bin cage with 2 crittertrail cages, this provides my hammy with 578 square inches of floorspace

    1. nice, your hammy must be happy :)

  5. I've had dwarf hamsters years ago in 'standard size cages' and I have no qualms about it. I think I observed natural behavior, unless forging and bed building indicates a problem. I don't recall aggression issues, bar chewing, and they all lived 2+ years. So basically, these cages sizes are being deemed inadequate because of 3 studies, one of which I've skimmed ("Behaviour of golden hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus) kept in four different cage sizes") appears to be biased or have a desired outcome.
    The study provides evidence, EVIDENCE, not "proof" that 'small' cage sizes pose a well-being problem. Yet the study cites that ALL cage sizes resulted in stereotypy in some of the hamsters, and that they recommend possibly an even larger cage size than -10sq feet-. Sorry, I find that ludicrous.
    The study does not explore the quality of the enrichment used and whether or not that may make a difference regardless of size. The photos in the study also appear to show the largest cage size not being in close proximity to a neighboring cage as social stress is also a possibility, as well as hormonal (any correlation between males and females?). If the study determines wellness by lack of bar chewing, what about the hamsters that didn't chew? What about my hamsters? Not to mention that the study was not done with dwarfs but goldens, which is another species.

    I see that people in this hamster community are placing a lot of stock in less than a handful of studies because that is all that is available. If I were you I'd make sure there's no animal rights sentiment lurking behind some of this science trying to scare people away from pet ownership.

  6. All very well and good; I disagree with your conclusion and general sentiment but alas I know that no minds will be changed here and seek to agree to disagree.

    I seek to educate pet owners about the proper care and welfare of their pets. If they cannot provide basic care, then yes they probably should not be pet owners. However I would not dare to scare someone out of pet ownership when they have the potential to provide a forever home to an animal and enjoy the benefits of having a pet. I would therefore not seek to push any science that claims such a goal or an inspiration. I have yet to find any quality evidence (aside from anecdotal tales) that suggests that smaller spaces are beneficial.

    It's easy to see what you wish to see when faced with the opinion that the care your provide for your pets isn't ideal; but in the end it is up to you whether to continue as you have or not.

  7. thank u so much! this is the exactly the help i needed

  8. this is great! I really need to convince my mom to get me a bigger cage for my hammie. the cage I have currently is 357 square inches. I think I might want to make a bin cage. a big one too. im sure my clover would like a bigger cage too :)

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