After buying a cage, and before getting a hamster there are a few other things you need.
- Substrate (posh word for the stuff you line the bottom of the cage with)
Most people go directly for woodshavings, as these are what the stereotypical hamster bedding is. I dislike shavings as they are dusty, not very soft and get everywhere! They can cause respitory issues, as they did with my syrian before I knew better, and can generally make their lives uncomfortable. There are some good ones on the market, dust extracted and soft, and these are called snowflake shavings:
If you want to use shavings make sure they are not pine or cedar as they are dangerous to small animals. Also ensure you air the shavings before use to remove as must dust as possible.
There are other options when choosing a substrate, one of these being Megazorb:
This comes in huge bags as it is horse bedding, and is fantastic. The 85l bag costs me £8 and lasts a good few cleanouts for all the animals! It is soft and absorbant, with a slightly yougurty smell XD.
Next is Aubiose, another horse bedding which is also sold in huge bales:
This is hemp bedding, and from what I have heard its really good. I am planning on changing to this in the near future.
Once you have chosen a substrate type, there are some more things to think about. Houses provide hamsters somewhere to sleep where they feel safe and warm, and somewhere they can escape if things are a little too noisy. Many cages come with houses, but if they don't there is a wide variety to choose from. I won't recommend any, as a house is a house, but here are some pretty pictures :D
Dwarf hamsters only:
Syrian and dwarf hamsters:
Next onto wheels. You MUST provide your hamster with a wheel. In the wild they would run up to 8km a night and so a wheel is necessary. There are some great ones on the market, but also some terrible ones.
Make sure you get a solid running surface, wheels that are grids or slats are terrible for your hamster as they can easily get their legs trapped whilst running, resulting in a break, or even get bubmlefoot, a terrible condition caused by spending long periods on mesh/slats.
Apologies for the picture overload ><. All above "good" wheels are silent, which is of course a pro. Ensure you get the right sized wheel for a GROWN hamster, as they grow fast and often get too big for the strater wheels in a matter or weeks. A syrian hamster should have a wheel of at least 8inches. For a dwarf wouldn't go any smaller than 6.5inches.
Next on the shopping list is food. A good hamster mix is essential for keeping a healthy hamster. I use Harry hamster, Hazel hamster in the U.S, and I find it to be the best food on the market for syrians.
For my dwarf hamsters I use the Burgess Dwarf Hamster Harvest, which has smaller pieces and is more geared towards dwarf hams.They are pretty much all the essentials, apart from obviously a water bottle and food bowl. Once you have all this it is a good idea to set up your cage, which I will show you in the next post as I doubt anyone will still be reading by now XD.