Cage themes for hamsters are popular. Often they get positive feedback because of how attractive they are.
This week, I decorated a tank for Pinto now that he’s well enough to move out of his hospital cage into a permanent residence. That got me thinking about cage themes.
Here are my suggestions for keeping your hamster at the heart of your cage grand designs!
Planning your Cage Theme
Think of your individual hamster’s preferences.
Do they like a certain style of wheel or type of water provision?
Do they become distressed by changes to their environment?
Do they have any health problems?
When you are planning a cage theme, consider what your hamster likes and needs. Older hamsters or those who are unwell may need a single level living space. Hamsters with diabetes may need few or no wooden elements. Some hamsters prefer more cover and less open space in a cage. A cage for a pair of dwarf hamsters will have different requirements than for a single Syrian hamster.
Choosing the Enrichment Items
Shopping for hamster stuff is one of the fun bits of making a cage theme!
When you are buying enrichment items, look at them for safety. Check whether any holes would be small enough for a hamster to get stuck.
This is especially important for things that weren’t designed as animal toys. I love tealight holders from Poundland, but some styles have holes in them that are too big to be 100% sure a hamster can’t get through but not quite big enough for me to be happy that a hamster that tries won’t get stuck! Things like birdhouses are sweet, but think about paints or stains that have been used and whether they are safe if ingested when chewing.
If you use bendy log bridges to divide areas of the cage, look for gaps where paws and legs may get caught. Consider using flat pieces of wood instead.
This ceramic decorative cactus was a perfect ramp to access the shelf in the Indoor Garden theme – until the hamster spent a busy night digging away, tipped it over from resting securely on the base of the tank (to block access to the hole) and nested inside it! Thankfully she was persuaded out and the item was removed.
DIY: Making Your Own Enrichment
You don’ t have to go and spend a fortune to make a lovely cage theme. Making your own means that you can customise it for your individual hamster’s requirements. An added bonus is the enrichment it provides to the human in getting creative!
Cardboard boxes can be cut and slotted together to make intricate mazes or even a castle for your knight with shining fur.
hey may not last long when chewed but that’s part of the fun with hamsters.
Some people make enrichment items out of glued lolly sticks. Personally I use these for supervised play only rather than leaving them in the cage to be chewed, but you need to do your own risk assessment regarding ingestion of glue.
If you choose to use glued DIY items inside the cage, take care to keep the amount of glue to a minimum. Also think about how to design it so it is still safe when your hamster has partly chewed it overnight, for example will it collapse if one supporting leg is destroyed?
A good way to enhance a cage theme is adding decor on the outside of cages, especially for glass tanks. This makes a cage look pretty for the human without impacting on the hamster inside.
Remember to add this decor on the OUTSIDE not the inside where a hamster can reach.
You can create your own backgrounds using whatever medium you prefer – drawing, painting, collage. Since these will never be in the reach of the hamster, you are only limited by your imagination!
The living room viviariums here have decorative backgrounds which were sold for use on fish tanks. They were simple to cut to size and then sticky tape to the outside of the back surface.
I have also used wrapping paper for a similar effect!
Note: this vivarium set-up was for harvest mice
Backgrounds can serve a useful purpose for the hamster as well. Some hamsters can find the openness of a glass tank challenging, especially if the tank is located in a busy or light place. A background on one, two or even three sides can help a more shy hamster feel secure.
At Christmas, I bought I hamster gift parcel from a small company which introduced me to Furnishables static cling decoration. These stickers cling to the outside of a glass tank and can be repositioned easily without leaving a residue. My top tip for helping them stick well is to make sure the outside surface of the tank is super clean! Wiping lightly with a damp cloth to moisten the area can also help if you are struggling, especially when trying to apply the printed side to the tank.
Putting Your Plan in Place
Don’t clean your hamster out just for the sake of making a cage theme! If you want to change things around, wait until they are due and use the time to polish your plan. Hamsters can find disruption to their scent distressing.
When you are planning your cage theme, remember to allow natural hamster behaviours, such as digging, nesting and chewing. Accept that the cage may look beautiful as soon as you have put the hamster in it, but that is likely not to last as it gets hamstered!
My cage themes aren’t the prettiest out there which I’m fine with. I want my hamster to be at the centre of the cage design so you’ll see cardboard tubes and white nesting material. While it may not be ‘on theme’ my hamsters like them so I don’t leave them out just for the sake of aesthetics.
When you are putting your hamster into their newly designed cage, aim to put some familiar substrate and nesting material back in the cage. This is especially important if you have a pair or group of dwarf hamsters.
Allow natural hamster behaviours, such as digging and chewing. Accept that the cage may look beautiful as soon as you have put the hamster in it, but that is likely not to last as it gets hamstered!
There should also be a nesting area with safe bedding – avoid the fluffy stuff.
Pinto’s new woodland cage theme, complete with waterfall and little fish!
In summary, always have your hamster’s natural needs at heart and their preferences, over and above how nice something would look on social media!