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Campbell’s Hamster Home

These eight cage setup tips will help you set up your hamster’s best habitat.

By Linda Price
Posted: March 21, 2012, 7:30 p.m. EDT

see Hamsters table of contents

Although Campbell’s hamsters (Phodopus campbelli) are one of the four dwarf hamsters, they still need a cage setup that is the largest you can afford to buy and keep in your house. Follow these tips to provide your dwarf hamster with the best hamster habitat possible.

1. Campbell’s need a lot of cage floor space — particularly on the main level of the hamster cage. The minimum size for housing a Campbell’s hamster is a 10-gallon aquarium (10 inches by 20 inches or roughly 1 1/2 square feet). Larger is generally better, and main-level floor space is generally preferable to multiple stories in height.

2. If you are keeping more than two Campbell’s dwarf hamsters to a cage, increase the cage size by about 1/2 to 1 square foot per hamster. As you add hamsters, include more hiding places, houses and wheels to minimize stress in the group.

3. For both Campbell’s and Winter White hamsters, single-story cages are optimal, but multi-story hamster cages with the right features can also work. If you choose a wire cage, be aware that dwarf hamsters may be small enough to squeeze through the bar spacing.

4. Hamsters are great at climbing up, but they find climbing down much more difficult. Wire ladders or steep ladders should be replaced, and the levels should be no more than about 6 inches high.

5. Although most hamsters can readily climb up a vertical tube, getting down is difficult, particularly if the tubes are made for the larger Syrian hamster. Configure the cage so that any tubes are horizontal or angled instead of vertical. Clear all landing space below the tube, levels or ladders to prevent injury if a hamster falls. Any extra tubes make great toys for inside the cage when laid in the bedding.

6. If you have a single-story hamster cage, make different “levels” for your hamster with toys or cardboard boxes. Purchase long toys with 4 to 6 inches of height for your hamster to play on. Most of these toys also double as a house with space under the level for sleeping and some security for the hamster. If such toys are unavailable, cut doors and windows into cardboard food boxes. Hamsters invariably chew on these, but that’s great fun also. The boxes can be thrown out with the weekly cage cleaning and a new cardboard house can be used for the next week.

7. An exercise wheel is the most important toy for a Campbell’s hamster. Avoid runged wheels, though, because these often cause injury when the hamster’s feet fall through the rungs. With dwarf hamsters, avoid wheels with crossbars that extend from the axle to the edges of the wheel. When one dwarf is running on the wheel and the other dwarf attempts to join in, crossbars can cause serious injury to limbs and necks.

8. Ideally, provide two exercise wheels if you have a pair of Campbell’s. This minimizes fights about a wheel, and the hamsters always seem to run at the same time. Sometimes they will choose to run together on the same wheel, so provide an exercise wheel that is wide enough to allow two adult dwarf hamsters to run side by side. The width of the wheel needed will vary with individual hamsters, but usually 3 or more inches will work.

Campbell’s hamsters love to play and run through things. Plan for sufficient floor space to allow a house or two as well as some toys in addition to their exercise wheel.  Hamster toys can be as simple as extra tubes or a toilet paper roll. (For greatest fun, leave a few sheets of toilet paper on the roll with a few sunflower seeds or other treats hidden between the sheets.) Always use toys that are easily washable.

Excerpt from the Popular Critters Series magabook Hamsters with permission from its publisher, BowTie magazines, a division of BowTie Inc. Purchase Hamsters here.

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