A large amount of space in a cage for a hamster isn't enough. It needs to be their habitat. This article is all about enrichment. See other articles below and also chat to other members on our forum by clicking the tab above (on mobile view it's the word “Forum” above or tap in the 3 bar hamburger menu top left on green background for the full menu).

Enrichment is a key word in hamster care. Places to go, things to do, variety of levels and texture and a safe dark place to nest in.

The basics of enrichment are:

1) Enough substrate or litter so the hamster can dig, move substrate around and be warm and comfortable. It is also a cushion for landings if they fall. The deeper the better, but no less than 6” as a bare minimum. It also needs to be a safe, dust free substrate - there are many options and these are described in the Substrate article.

2) A wheel. All hamsters need their wheels. In the wild they can run up to 10 miles at night and it's their most active time. Without a wheel, hamsters will probably try and chew their way out of the cage with pent up energy and the need to be active. Wheels and sizes are described in the Wheels article.

3) Ideally a shelf or platform. A level. This is somewhere to go and also a good place to put heavier or ceramic items that could sink in subsrate. Plus it is something to sit under so they feel secure.

4) A good sized house or nesting box that's dark inside. Most items sold for hamsters are far too small. Houses sold for guinea pigs or even rabbits are a better size, or you can buy multi-room or labyrinth houses that are dark inside. More about houses in the Houses article.

5) A variety of "toys" or items the hamster can use - floor tunnels, bridges, hanging "sputniks". Again there are many items available but not all of them are safe or big enough for Syrians. Syrians can get stuck in entrances that are too small. More about cage items in the "Cage Items and Toys" article.

6) Accessibility - things need to be available - a food bowl on a shelf needs easy access to the shelf. A water bottle needs to be easily reachable and accessible.

7) A variety of textures ideally. Different textures make life interesting for a hamster. For example cork bark is a contrasting texture with paper bedding. Sprays (eg dried millet or flax sprays) add to enrichment and forage and can help a hamster feel more secure as they provide cover so the space isn’t too open.

8) Nesting material - this is a very important thing. The Hamster's nest and hoard are their raisons d'etre! Their most precious things. There are unsafe nesting materials like Kapok and fluffy bedding sold and these should not be used - they can be ingested and cause illness or death. The safest nesting material is plain white toilet paper torn into strips. Hamsters can build a cosy nest from a pile of toilet paper strips.

The result of this enrichment, along with a suitable cage set up, enables a hamster to have normal behaviours - foraging, nesting and hoarding - a place to go and wash and feel secure, and activity. Normal behaviours are important to their ongoing wellbeing.