Since hamsters are nocturnal, they will be active during the night while you are asleep. So in addition to some time outside the cage for safe and managed exploration, your hamster should be given a variety of different toys in its cage to keep it happy, active and healthy.
A hamster wheel gives your hamster important exercise in its cage, while a hamster ball will allow you to give it similar activity outside the cage. Houses and tubes give your hamster interesting places to explore and hide food, and chew toys can provide further entertainment for your hamster as well as helping to keep its teeth short.
It is also a good idea to hide small treats around the cage for your hamster to find, but make sure fresh food is only provided in manageable amounts that your hamster will eat to avoid food rotting in the cage.
Many hamster toys are made out of plastic, but these should be treated with caution. They can potentially be quickly chewed through and if any plastic is swallowed by your hamster then this can be a problem. If you give your hamster any plastic toys then make sure they do not have any protruding ridges that your hamster may start chewing. Keep an eye on the toys and remove them if excessive chewing occurs.
Most plastic, wooden and cardboard toys given to your hamster are likely to be chewed to some extent, and so you will probably need to replace them occasionally.
Hamsters in the wild often run for miles at night looking for food, and pet hamsters similarly need plenty of exercise to keep them content and healthy. It is therefore very important to provide your hamster with an exercise wheel, but it is equally important that you buy a wheel that is safe for your hamster to use.
Many cages available come with pre-fitted hamster wheels, but you should be aware that these may be too small for some larger Syrian hamsters. You can also buy free standing wheels to place where you like in the cage, while some are available in novelty shapes such as cars that can allow your hamster to play outside its cage.
Hamster balls offer another way to give your hamster exercise. You can place your hamster in a ball outside its cage and allow it to run around the floor without worrying about it being able to escape.
You should always supervise your hamster when it is using a ball however, and never use it near stairs where the hamster may fall down. Because these balls can overheat they should not be used for more than 15 minutes at a time, and you should remove your hamster from the ball if at any time it seems unhappy. A few hamsters may not like being inside the ball at all, so do not force your hamster to use it if it does not appear happy to do so.
Several different types of hamster balls are available, from simple balls to novelty shapes such as cars. You should buy a ball that is large enough for your hamster to use comfortably, and so Syrian hamsters in particular should be given a large ball. Make sure that the ball closes securely before you use it.
A hamster ball should not be used in place of a wheel, as it will not provide your hamster with sufficient exercise or enable your hamster to use it on its own during the night.
Hamster houses are used by your hamster as a separate area to nest in. Many different types are available but it is important that they are well ventilated to prevent poor air quality and condensation, which can cause your hamster and its bedding to become damp. Therefore you should choose a house with an open front, or an open or ventilated top.
Dwarf and Chinese hamsters will be able to easily squeeze through the openings on houses, but for a Syrian hamster, you should also make sure that the house has large enough doorways and windows to prevent your hamster becoming stuck.
Play pens are used outside of the cage to give your hamster a safe, confined place to run around without being able to run off and hide.
Hamsters’ teeth can quickly become overgrown so you should give your hamster a variety of different toys and food items, such as dog biscuits, that it can gnaw to keep its teeth short and in good condition.
Wooden chew toys, or wood gnaws, are the best option. These can be bought ready made from pet stores, or you can provide your own as long as it is free from pesticide and does not come from evergreen woods such as cedar. If unsure, it is best to buy from a store.
Alternatively, you can use cardboard, which can also give your hamster a place to hide.
A lot of pet stores sell mineral blocks, salt blocks and pumice stones as something that your hamster can chew on that also provides added minerals. However, these are not necessary as wooden chew toys can be used for gnawing and all the minerals required by your hamster should be provided by its food. Furthermore, many hamsters will find these blocks too hard and not use them.
You can buy either plastic or wooden tubes for your hamster to crawl through, hide in, or nest in. Wooden ones are preferable as they can be safely chewed and have the added benefit of keeping teeth in good condition. Alternatively you can give your hamster a cardboard tube, such as from a used toilet roll.
Your hamster will enjoy having a dish of sand to roll in as this will help it to remove grease from its coat. For this you can use about one inch of chinchilla sand, which is specially designed to remove grease from fur, placed in a heavy ceramic or metal dish that does not easily tip over. Do not use very fine sand as this can cause problems with your hamster’s breathing.
A deeper box of sand can also be provided to give your hamster something to burrow in.
A variety of different wooden climbing blocks are available to add further interest to your hamster’s habitat. You should be careful if buying these for a Syrian hamster though as the holes on many are too small and only suitable for dwarf and Chinese hamsters.
Wooden or plastic seesaws are available, but as with tubes, wooden ones are preferable. You will need a larger seesaw for a Syrian hamster.