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 Care standards and information are outdated, and these little creatures are misunderstood by many.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.



    Hamsters spend the majority of their lives in their cages so it is important that they have a large, spacious and stimulating set up. Otherwise a hamster can become bored, under stimulated and unhappy. Even with plenty of out-of-cage time they still require a proper set up, you cannot be there to have them outside of their cage 24/7.

So here is what you are going to need for your hamster and each will be discussed on this page.
1. Cage
2. Shavings/Bedding
3. Water Bottle
4. Food Dish
5. Wheel
6. Bed
7. Something for your hamster to chew on
8. Toys are required to make the set-up a fun and stimulating living environment
9. Food *check out the Food & Nutrition page for info*


     Cages are what your hamster will live in for the majority of it's life. You need to pick a cage that provides plenty of floor space for your hamster and is also easy for you to maintain. If you don't like maintaining the cage then it will become a chore to carry out the cleaning of the cage and your hamster may suffer. Hamsters prefer floor space over height, so you need a cage that is longer and wider then it is tall. Shelves are nice for a little extra room but should not be added into the equation when measuring floor space. For a single hamster or a pair of dwarfs you need the area of the floorspace to measure out to 360 square inches (2324 square cm). Hamsters may be small but they require plenty of room for their supplies and to move around. You may be able to fit some basic supplies in a small cage but it would be like fitting a tread mill, a plate, a water bottle and maybe a sleeping bag into a closet for you. A lot of 'hamster' cages are in fact too small for hamsters, these cages are made to be cute, fit in small spaces and are based on outdated information. **To measure the area of the floor space just multiply the length by the width.

     There are four basic kinds of cages, which include wire cages, aquariums, connectible/plastic cages and bin cages. Which cage you get depends on what is right for you.

Wire Cages are your everyday cages with wire sides and often a plastic bottom pan. Wire cages are well ventilated, usually easy to clean, and allow your hamsters some climbing fun. It is difficult to find a decent sized wire cage as many are made too small with the larger cages having wide spaces between the bars. With that being said you need to make sure that the bars are at most 1cm apart (.5 cm a part for young dwarfs) as your hammie could use this as a way out. If you really feel that a wire cage is best for you then you may have to look into getting a rabbit (or similar) cage and cover it with some mesh, found in hardware stores. You also need to make sure that there is no wire bottom or wire levels in the cage as they will hurt your hammies feet.

are easy to find and make great homes! Most people have an old aquarium in their basement or maybe their neighbours even have one. Aquariums can also be found cheaply in online ad's or even in your local newspaper. Aquariums are easy to clean, easy to view your hamster with, and nearly impossible to escape from. Ventilation is all right so long as you have a wire/mesh lid, hamsters don't have enough ammonia in their urine to create a problem so long as the cage is cleaned out regularly. Some places are just too hot and humid year round, making an aquarium a bad choice if there is no way to keep the hamster cool. Generally the 20 gallon long (not high) is the perfect size for a hamster, any bigger then that is just even better. Be sure that you have a 20 gallon long (30" L by 12" W) as a 20 gallon high does not provide enough floorspace for a hamster.

Connectible Cages
or plastic cages make great fun cages but many of them are hard to clean, have bad ventilation, are cheaply made and do not allow any decent space for hamsters. If you really want them then in my experience I recommend either 3 or more habitrails or 2 or more Critter Trail Outlooks. They are fairly easy to clean and allow adequate space. I have used connectible cages a lot and although I don't mind them I do find them annoying to clean after a while as you need so many cages (not just tubes) in order to give the hamster adequate space.

Bin Cages
are becoming quite popular. They are cheap, easy to clean and easy to replace if broken. They are just rubber bins made into cages like the one pictured below. They can be as fancy as you want them to be or really simple. They are easy to make and cheap to get. They make great permanent cages or even good temporary cages. For some information on how to build them check out this topic: How to Build a Bin Cage.


Substrate, Bedding and Sand

     Substrate is what you lay on the floor of the cage to allow hamster to burrow, store food and absorb messes. There are some substrates that are not very safe for hamsters despite their popular use over thirty years ago. However thirty years ago not much was known about hamsters and so now that we are beginning to understand these little creatures better we are also discovering that some substrates are dangerous.

     The most commonly used substrates are shavings. Shavings made from softwood trees such as cedar, pine, or spruce (also known as UK pine) contain aromatic phenols that are toxic to hamsters, harming their sensitive respiratory system and so should be avoided. These phenols are that nice smell of these woods that so many people enjoy. There are ways to remove some of these phenols, through a process called kiln drying. This however does not remove all the phenols and so could still pose a risk to hamsters. Please give this a read if you wish to learn more exactly why softwood shavings are unsafe: Scientific Look into the Dangers of Cedar and PineHardwood shavings, such as aspen are perfectly safe to use as they do not contain phenols. Some hamsters may suffer from allergies to aspen however this is not common.

     Corncob bedding is also not the best as it is not very sanitary and mold grows easily in it, some hamster owners even claim to have found mushrooms growing in their corncob bedding. Newspaper and shredded blank printing paper can also be used but do not absorb well requiring you to clean the cage more often.

     Another safe alternative is paper/paper-pulp based substrates. These are eco-friendly, absorbent and safe for hamsters. Some brands to look out for are Care Fresh (though not the Care Fresh Basic as it contains kiln dried pine shavings), Critter Care, Boxo bedding, Megazorb, Yesterdays news cat litter and any other paper based substrate.

     Recently scented substrates have become more popular and readily available on the pet market. Even if they are naturally scented they can still pose harm to your hamster's sensitive respiratory system and so should also be avoided.

     As for how much substrate should be laid down, I always try and make sure that its 3" deep. Studies have shown that hamsters enjoy burrowing and that having deeper substrate to burrow in stops bad behaviours such as bar chewing. Just remember that deeper substrate never hurts, but having too little can be boring and under-stimulating for your hamster. Your hamster won't suffocate if it burrows under the substrate and it won't get trapped either. In the wild hamster live sometimes as far as three metres underground in their burrows, they know what they are doing at any rate.

     Bedding is what is used in a hamster's nest. Regular substrate can be used but they often enjoy having something extra to line their nests with. Since I use aspen shavings for a substrate I usually provide Care Fresh and toilet paper for their nests. Fluff/wool bedding is easily found on the pet market but should be avoided at all costs. Hamsters have been known to swallow it, causing internal blockages. Some hamsters have also been noted to become tangled in it, often losing circulation in a limb. It is not safe and so should be avoided.

     Sand is another material that should be considered for your hamster's cage. Roborovski dwarf hamsters originate from sandy areas and have been found to benefit greatly from having sand in their cages; some say at least 1/3 of the cage should be sandy. At the very least a container big enough for your robo to dig and roll around in should be available and filled with sand. Other species of of hamsters don't seem to require sand in their cages but seem to benefit from it. Hamsters can dig, wear down their nails, roll in the sand, use it as a toilet or just enjoy hiding food in it. However like substrates not all sands are safe for hamsters. There is a bit of debate about what sands are safe. Many agree that Chinchilla Sand (not chinchilla dust) is safe while others argue that Chinchilla Sand/Dust as well as play sand are dangerous due to the silicates found in them. These people tend to recommend aragonite sand (fish section of the store) which is argued to be dangerous due to the calcium levels in the sand. I suggest that you do further reading on both sides so that you are able to come up with your own educated decision on the matter.  

Water Bottle & Food Dish

     Every animal needs fresh water so the best way to provide it for your hamster is in a water bottle. A water dish isn't a great idea as they often get dirty very quickly and if a hamster gets wet then they can catch a chill easily and become ill, that is unless you take the proper precautions.

Water dishes should be kept out of the way where substrate and other mess cannot be kicked into them and where the hamster cannot accidentally step into it as they run around. It should also be small enough so they are less likely to step into it as well. The dish should be heavy enough that the hamster cannot push it around nor tip it over. Most people seem to recommend a dish that has a lip for the hamster to be able to place their paws as they drink. Glass tea light holders seem to be the most popular option for water dishes for hamsters. If used with these precautions in mind a water dish can be just fine to use and easier to clean.

     Food dishes are used to hold food basically. A heavy, ceramic dish works best so that hamster doesn't flip it over and make a huge mess. I know that some people prefer to spread the food around the cage to encourage scavenging as they would in the wild but I find it more difficult to monitor how much they are eating this way. If you have more than one hamster then you will want a food dish large enough for both hamsters to sit in it, so that they can both reach the food without arguing over a spot in a small dish. 



     Wheels are extremely important for a hamster as they help burn all that excess energy and that need to run. In the wild they can run up to 8 miles a night! They need a wheel even if they get plenty of out time and have a big cage. No matter what, wheels are essential for hamsters. Although some hamsters won't run up to eight miles a night it does not mean that they don't use their wheels at some point even if only for a little bit.

    Wheels that have gaps or rungs (metal or plastic) are dangerous for hamsters as your hammie's feet can slip through and get stuck causing cut off circulation or even broken limbs. These injuries can easily be avoided by getting a solid surfaced wheel. Mesh wheels should be avoided unless you have no solid surfaced wheels available to you. Some brands to look out for are comfort wheels, silent spinners and wodent wheels.

    Size plays a factor as well with wheels. Syrians need wheels that are at least 8" in diameter any smaller and it can cause their backs to arch, some larger Syrians may even need a bigger wheel. Silent spinners do not come in 8" diameter by the way, their 'Syrian' sized wheel is only 6.5" in diameter. Dwarfs and Chinese hamsters need at least 5" diameter wheels.



     Beds are needed to give your hamster a safe place to sleep, store food and build their nest. Not all hamsters will use store bought or homemade beds but it is best to give them the option. Every pet store has some sort of bed available and it doesn't really matter which you use as long as your hamster can fit into it. Some examples that my hamsters have enjoyed:


Chewing Needs

     Hamsters are a rodent and as with any rodent they have ever growing incisor teeth. These are the four front teeth (two on top and two on the bottom) that are in the front of their mouths. They use these teeth to break off pieces of food so that they can chew it or stuff it in their cheeks easier. There are several molars in the back of their mouths that they use for chewing. Since their incisors are continuously growing they need to chew on things in order to wear them down to a proper size. There are ready-made chew sticks, blocks and all sorts of varieties of chew toys for hamsters at pet stores, though many of these are ignored by hamsters. I've found that placing these wood toys in their beds might instigate some chewing. A favourite option for wearing down teeth from my hamsters are milk bones or Greenies for dogs. No matter what you use, something needs to be available at all times so that the hamster has a way to wear down their teeth.



     Hamsters need toys in their cage in order to give them something to do and to provide a more stimulating environment. Pet stores are full of all sorts of different toys for your hamsters, which toys your hamster will like will depend entirely on your hamster. It's all trial and error. Some toys that seem to be a huge hit with my hams include the Critter Trail Puzzle Playground sets, see saws, tubes and toilet paper tube rolls: