Many first time dwarf hamster keepers make the mistake of thinking that any cage in a shop listed as being for a hamster means that they are okay for dwarf hamsters. Most commercially made hamster cages are scaled for the much larger Syrian of golden hamster. Dwarf hamsters can (and will) easily slip between the bars of a Syrian hamster cage and escape.
But there are still many options for the dwarf hamster keeper. Options include wire-mesh cages, combination cages and aquariums.
In a pinch, aquariums can be used, but they need to be large and kept away from heat sources. Aquariums do not do very well for long-term dwarf hamster keeping unless you are vigilant about cleaning. This is because aquariums can build up and trap the ammonia fumes from hamster urine. They are not as well-ventilated as other types of cages. Make sure the lid is wire mesh and not solid.
The smallest type of pet hamster available, the Roborovski or “Robo”, are usually kept in aquariums because they are so tiny and nimble. A very large twenty gallon aquarium with toys and a deep layer of bedding help to provide the Robos with activities and a great place to tunnel.
Another option is small animal ages made of fine wire mesh of an opening about ¼ of an inch or less. Some people do not like these cages because the dwarf hamster may be able to escape from the space of the door and the door of the rest of the cage. Keep in mind that the dwarf hamster will climb all over the cage, so there can’t be any gaps wide enough for the hamster anywhere – even the roof. The floors are generally solid.
Dwarf hamsters are very active and will begin annoying habits like biting the bars of the cage or escaping if their cage is too small. Make sure that each dwarf hamster has at least a floor space of one foot by two feet to exercise in. Toys, ramps and old shoeboxes (changed when they get wet) make for a multi-layered home.
There are some clever people who are able to make holes in wire mesh cages and attach plastic hamster tubes to a standard plastic hamster module. There are also some commercially made aquarium lids for hamsters that have a tube that connects them with another aquarium or cage.
There are all-plastic hamster modules, but these can be difficult to take apart and clean or they may not provide the ventilation needed. But many accessories like tunnels or “hideaways” or “shy towers” will even fit inside of a twenty gallon aquarium.
No matter what cage your dwarf hamster winds up with, be sure to clean it out at least once a week. Have another little cage to temporarily keep the dwarf hamster in while you go apart dismantling and cleaning the cage.
“Hamsters.” Audrey Pavia, et al. Bow Tie Press; 2008
Hamsterific. “Homes nd Habitats.” http://www.hamsterific.com/HomesAndHabitats.cfm
About.com. “Before You Buy a Hamster Cage for YourDwarf Hamster.” Lianne McLeod, DVM. http://exoticpets.about.com/od/hamsters/bb/dwhamstercages.htm