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Chinese Hamster


All about Chinese hamsters. All in one place.

Chinese Hamster Library

All about Chinese hamsters. All in one place.


In the wild, Chinese hamsters interact with a complex environment. The captive enviroment often lacks this complexity. Enrichment aims to promote natural behaviours.

Enrichment, like much in Chinese hamster care, should be individually tailored to your hamster. Different hamsters prefer different activities, and have varying skills to solve challenges.

Natural Behaviours

For hamsters, moving and hoarding food is important. Hamsters who are prevented from doing this show high levels of stress. Their behaviours ourside of the burrow in the wild are focussed on exploring to find and carry food.

In their natural habitat, hamsters continuously rearrange the size and shape of their burrows. Therefore they need burrowing and digging oportunities in captivity. Some Chinese hamsters like climbing, but they have poor eyesight and are at risk of fall injuries.

Hamsters are crepuscular, most active at dawn and dusk. They can learn to wake up earlier in the day if this is associated with treats, but they should be allowed long periods to rest in the day with a nice dark nest box

Because their teeth grow constantly, Chinese hamsters need items that are safe to chew to wear down their teeth. 

Novelty is important to hamsters, therefore it is beneficial to vary the enrichment you provide, both in and out of the cage.

Enrichment in the Hamster Cage

There are five categories of enrichment. Firstly, dietary enrichment focusses on variations in food to stimulate your hamster. You can change how you deliver it, for example through enrichment feeding. You can also alter the types of treats you give, such as the size, texture and place you feed them.

Secondly, occupational enrichment looks at providing physical and mental stimulation. This could be through giving an appropriately-sized running wheel, or through memory and problem solving. An example of the latter is hiding food.

The third category is the physical environment your hamster lives in. Think about whether the cage is the right size for your individual hamster. Look at the complexity of the items in the cage, such as bridges, platforms and other toys.

Sensory elements are the fourth category. These can take the form of different textures of substrate or nesting material, as well as having toys made of different materials in the cage. For example, you could give a cardboard tube, a plastic platform, a wooden house, and a ceramic mug. Novel smells can also be offered, but be careful that they are safe and that they are not too strong for your hamster’s sensitive nose.

Lastly, social interaction is a form of enrichment. Chinese hamsters are, in most cases, not social. Hamsters who live alone should never have ‘playdates’ with other hamsters. Instead you provide the social element through handling.

Cage Enrichment Items

Shelter or nest box which is dark inside

Cardboard boxes and tubes which can be joined together to make a tunnel maze

Wheel which should have a solid running surface

Platforms or bridges, but ensure they are not too high

Wooden tubes and toys, though these can be hard to clean

Sand bath, a ceramic or metal dish with chinchilla sand (not dust)

Benefits of Enrichment

 So, why is enrichment important for your Chinese hamster?

The ability to exhibit natural behaviours is one of the five freedoms of the Animal Welfare Act (2006). Enrichment which allows your hamster to do this has a positive impact in many ways.

It reduces stress responses, as well as improving the immune system and helping with maintaining body weight. It reduces abnormal stereotypical behaviours, and increases coping mechanisms.

And from a human point of view, a happy hamster busy digging, climbing and stashing food in their cage is a wonderful thing to watch!

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