Things to Put in My Hamster’s Cage(Tips for First Time Owners-Cage Setup)

You have just bought the perfect cage for your hamster ( wire, plastic or glass tank ) and now it is the time to make the perfect home out of it. Setting up your hammy’s new house is an equally important and exciting task so you should prepare all the necessary items.

Before you start shopping the tings your hamster needs in its cage, read the following text to learn more about it. The more you know, the happier your hamster will be in its new habitat.

List of things your hammy needs in its cage :

  • Bedding
  • Chew toys
  • Exercise wheel
  • Food bowl
  • Water bottle
  • House/hideout/tunnels

In case you haven’t bought the cage yet you can check our article ‘The Best Cage for Your Hamster ( Ultimate Shopping Guide- Size, Types, The Best Rated Brands )’


What is the hamster’s bedding ( sometimes called a substrate)? It is the material you use to cover the bottom of the cage. Its basic purpose is to absorb the urine and bad smells, to replicate the hamster’s natural environment, giving him the opportunity to dig and burrow, to provide a safe place for your hammy.

Hamsters do have a strong instinct for makings nests. Nests are places where they feel safe and secure and are important the same as water and food.

It is recommended to put 3-4 inches of bedding material on the bottom of the cage in case you have larger hamster such as Syrian hamster and if you have a smaller one, you should put less.

When it comes to bedding, you should first think about the natural environment of your hamster. For example, Syrian hamster lives in dry and hot areas in the wild, so instinctively every hammy of this breed will dig deep in order to find the cool place to rest.

On the other hand, wild Dwarf hamster lives in a much different environment – beautiful plains abundant of grass so they prefer to tuck away in grass and sheep’s wool if possible. Bear that in mind when picking the perfect bedding for your pet.

The perfect bedding can be made of high-quality paper ( shred or crumpled) or hardwood shavings.

Paper bedding is the least expensive option. It is very important to use paper that is not scented or covered with ink. Shred toilet paper could also be a good option. The disadvantage of using paper as bedding material is that bad smell will not be masked, just for the record.

Hardwood shavings are a better option. You will find numerous alternatives in pet stores or online.

Before you learn the best-rated ones lets make a list of those you should avoid. Pet store staff is not always familiar enough with the products they offer so it might happen to sell you some bedding not good for your hammy.

For example, hardwood shavings based on cedar or pine wood are not recommended. These products can contain sharp pieces that can injure your pet.

Even if your furry ball does not end up cut or injured, a mixture of these shavings with its urine can easily produce toxic fumes which can make your hamster’s breathing difficult.

Another alternative to avoid is very soft, fluffy bedding. People usually think that the pet would be thrilled with things that suite them which is often not the case.

It is logical to think that soft bedding would be perfect for your furry friend but the truth is that those beddings are made of artificial fibers which could harm your hammy’s digestive system in case he swallows them.

Skip the following as well: corn bob ( not good for digestive tract of your hamster and mold can appear), cat litter ( also not good if swallowed by the hamster ), newspaper or any scented paper ( because of the toxic effect that ink and different chemicals can have ), sawdust ( although very absorbent material not good for any small animal, it can provoke breathing difficulties, eys and nose irritation.

Ok, now when we know what hardwood shavings products you should avoid, let’s see what are the ones that are good for your pet.

Carefresh products ( Ultra and Colorful Creations) are premium products, very similar to one another. The main difference is that Colorful Creations come in variety colors.

Now you might be asking yourself if the colors could harm your pet’s health but the good thing is that the colors used for this product are completely pet-safe so you just pick the right one and enjoy the cheerful atmosphere that this product can create in your hammy’s new home.

Aside from that, these products have great absorbent power ( 3 times of its weight in liquid), are made of non-toxic cellulose fibers. They do not contain any ink, clay or chemicals and are very soft.

Carefresh products are tested and sanitized to 380C degrees in order to kill mold, fungi and bacteria. As a disadvantage, I can say that these products can come out a little costly but at least you know that you buy good quality goods.

Another less expensive alternative is Aspen shavings. The good thing about this product is its price and it is safe for your pet.

The main downside is that its absorbent power is not so good. Bad smell can appear. The one thing you should be aware of – this product is sold in pet stores but also in lumberyard and carpenter stores.

Do not buy Aspen shavings anywhere but in pet stores as those sold in pet stores are specially treated to remove insects and mites.

Kaytee Clean and Cozy products are also highly recommended. They are made of plant-based paper fibers. It is dust-free material, very absorbent and soft. If you run into a scented version, do skip it, as it is no good for your pet’s health.

Tip – No matter for which bedding you decide, it is advisable to put it in the freezer for at least 48h. This process should kill any insects and mites. After 48h or more, remove the bedding from the freezer and let it defrost and return to normal temperature before putting in the cage.

Chew Toys

One of the things hamsters really need is chewing toys. They have hypsodont teeth which means they have long teeth that grow continuously during their whole life. In order to avoid problems that can appear if the teeth become too long, hamsters need to chew on things constantly. That is why chewing toys are an absolute must in their cages.

The best chewing toys are made of wood. The same as for bedding, stay away from cedarwood or any other evergreen type of wood (contain oils that can make the breathing of your pet difficult ).

If you buy those toys in some other place that is not a pet store, you should be 100% sure that wood is non-toxic and chemicals- free. If you have some fruit tree ( pear or apple trees are a good option) in your backyard and you know that was never treated with pesticide, you can also use it as a chewing toy for your hammy. You can also buy wooden blocks, sticks and much more in any pet shop.

Hamsters love cardboard! Of course make sure it is ink-free but cardboard boxes and tubes( toilet and paper towel tubes ) are perfect toys for chewing.

Exercise Wheel

Hamsters love to play. Moreover they need to play. To more you keep your furry ball busy, the happier will be. They love mental stimulation and interactive toys. The hamsters like to dig, climb and to run.

Exercise wheel is something that your pet will keep busy during the night. Hamsters are nocturnal animals and in the wild they run a lot crossing big mileage ( around 5 miles every night ! ). As they do not have enough space to cross that mileage in the cage they need a wheel.

When buying a hamster wheel do think about the following things. As the hamster will use it mostly at night, make sure you buy the quietest possible. Another thing is the hamster’s size, you cannot buy the same wheel for Syrian and Dwarf hamsters. Last but not least, find the wheel that is easy to clean. Avoid the wheels with bars as hamsters have really small legs.

I have done some research and that found the best rated hamster wheels are :

Love Hamster Wheel Quite Spinner – made of good quality, durable material, with a non-slip surface. This product got great reviews especially from the owners of large hamsters such as Syrian hamsters as it is suitable for hamsters ( and other small animals) up to 3,5OZ of weight.

Exotic Nutrition Silent Runner – the people who constructed this wheel had the safety of your hammy as a priority on their mind. This wheel does not have any axles which could cause entrapment and injuries. Non -slip running surface. Very silent mechanism.

Kaytee Comfort – made of solid plastic, has a non-slip, textured running surface. This wheel can stand alone and can be clipped to the wire cage side.

Food Bowl

It might happen that you buy a cage that comes together with a food bowl in it so you do not need to buy it separately. If you buy the food bowl bear in mind that you should skip classic plastic bowls.

Hamsters like to chew on plastic and generally that is not a big issue but swallowing some plastic part can cause health issues that require vet help. If you can find a plastic steel-edged bowl designed to prevent chewing, that would be great ( for example Mkono plastic cage feeder).

Another option could be stoneware products such as Kaytee Stoneware pet bowl or ceramic bowl such as Kaytee Hamster Pawprint dish.

Make sure your hamster’s food in the bowl is always full so he can eat whenever he likes. Do not worry, your hammy will not overeat.

Apart from food bowl feeding, you can also do scatter feeding which is more natural for your hamster. Of course, just sprinkle the food all over the hamster’s cage, you cannot track how much your pet is eating but in case you have two hamsters scatter feeding is a better option as it can prevent fighting over food. However, you can always mix food bowl and scatter feeding.

One more thing- if you buy a food bowl, make sure it’s not too big so it doesn’t take up too much space in the cage.

Water Bottles

If your new cage does not come with a water bottle in it than you need to buy it separately. You might run into some discussions on different forums regarding water bottles and if it is better to use a bottle or bowl.

Some owners prefer bottles as they are less messy. Also, some hamsters like to put litter or bedding material in the water bowls so bottles, in that case, are better options.

On the other hand, bowls are easier to clean and if not plastic, hamsters cannot chew on it. Many hamster owners find drinking from the bowl a more natural way to drink then from the bottle.

As you can see no important pros and cons for either options. What ever you buy ( bowl or bottle ) you will not make a big mistake and maybe your hamster will show to you which option he prefers.

Houses /Hideouts/Tunnels

Hamster likes to play and be active. That is why wheels are necessary but you hammy needs more toys.

Put wood ladders, ramps, and different climbing structures in your pet’s cage. You can also use ropes to make hanging toys and bridges. Just remember to use thick rope in order to avoid your hammy being entangled and injured. Note that all these climbing structures are more suitable for Syrian hamsters than for other types. Smaller hamsters like Roborovski and Russian are not good climbers due to their lightweight and the fact that don’t have strong muscles. For these hamsters, high-level houses are not suitable. Chinese hamsters are a bit more nimble than Roborovski and Russian but they still prefer longer than taller cages.

Hamsters like tubes and tunnels and a great deal of them are made of plastic. You can put those in your hamster’s cage but pay extra attention when it comes to plastic toys. It is ok if your pet is playing with them but if it starts chewing on parts of the tunnel or tube then you should remove it from the cage. It is extremely dangerous for your pet to swallow small plastic parts. You can make a big maze fun by putting several tubes and tunnels together but if you do have some tiny hammy like Roborovski, make sure the maze is not too complicated for him/her.

Hamster love to dig so your hamster will be thrilled if you provide some deep box full of sand or soil ( must be sterilized before you let hamster in)

As hamsters are prey animals they like to hide ( in the wild they must hide) that is why you will find plenty of hideouts options in the pet store or online.

It can be a simple cardboard box ( shoes or cereal boxes ) that is practically free of charge or you can buy a multilevel castle for your hammy. Just be careful with those large and complex hideouts with a lot of tunnels, rooms, and doors, hamsters can easily get stuck, especially if the hideout is not suitable for the size of your hammy.

Hideouts are made of different materials. Plastic is cheap and easy to clean but there is a risk of chewing on and swallowing plastic. Wooden hideouts are a great alternative just make sure that wood is not treated with chemicals and that is toxic-free.

Natural fibers hideouts are pretty safe but do not last for a long time and Ceramic is one of the best options as they are durable, non-toxic and chew-proof.

Don’t forget to use your kid’s old toys. For example – a dollhouse would be a perfect house for your hammy. Also, early learning toys for toddlers such as different kinds of sorters, roll again towers, etc would be perfect hideouts for your furry pet.

I’ve found some ideas on how to make hideouts and toys for your hammy by yourself. Check this link, I hope you like the ideas.

Final Thoughts

Hamsters are really good pets both for teenagers and adults. They like to dig, run, hide. They are full of energy and like to play.

In order to make them happy and minimize the possibility to get stressed you should follow certain steps when it comes to hamster’s cage set up. Put enough bedding material so your hammy can make its own soft and secure nest.

Hamster ‘s wheel is an absolute must but do not forget other toys to keep your pet entertained ( chewing toys, tunnels, tubes, different hideouts). Make sure your hammy always has fresh food and water supply in its bowls. And don’t forget to maintain the hygiene of the cage as these tiny creatures are super clean and will be happy only in a clean environment.

Recent Posts