How To Set Up A Hamster Cage [Step By Step Guide]

Yay, you’ve finally decided to adopt a little furry speed machine, a hamster! Congratulations.

But do you have a home for the little guy yet?

No? Ouch.

You better act fast. Hamsters, although tiny, are pretty territorial and demanding. They need a home!

Err, do I need to buy one? Or build one? What do hamsters need in their cage?

Key Takeaway:

Well, there are different types of hamster cages. There are bin cages that you can DIY, ready-to-use wooden hamster cages, store-bought plastic cages, wire cages, and trusty glass enclosures. You’ll also need other supplies like hamster chew toys, a food bowl, hamster bedding and nesting material, and a water bottle.

Wait, DIY? I don’t know how to build a cage! 

Don’t worry, new parent. We bring you a step-by-step guide on how to set up a hamster cage. Trust us; by the end of this guide, you’ll have a happy and bouncy pet hamster in a safe and stimulating home.

So, let’s get to work right away.

hamster in his cage

Cage Supplies Checklist

Setting up a home for your hamster isn’t an hour-long task. It can take multiple hours or even days. You’ll need a lot of things, from the structure to the decorations.

Below are the essentials you’ll need for your squeaky noodle’s dream home.

Everything Your New Hamster Needs in His Home

Before you can get to work, you’ll need some essentials. Here’s a checklist of the items you’ll need for your hamster’s house:

  1. Hamster cage: You’ll find a lot of different types of hamster homes at pet stores. The most frequently used materials for a hamster’s cage are wood, plastic, glass, wire mesh, and cardboard. Size matters too. Larger hamsters, like Syrian hamsters, need more space than Chinese hamsters. We recommend getting a glass aquarium with a wire mesh top (for sufficient ventilation) and a pretty nature-themed setup. We will look at the details of how to choose a hamster cage in a bit.
  2. Hamster cage bedding: Pick between paper or aspen. Wood shavings from pine, cedar, and other softwoods can cause respiratory problems.
  3. Bathing sand: Cleaned and baked play sand is your best choice. Avoid a powder sand bath.
  4. Hideouts 
  5. Chew toys
  6. Hamster wheel and exercise ball
  7. Water bottle/bowl
  8. Hamster house
  9. Food bowl
  10. Sandbox
  11. Rocks
  12. Hamster food

Step-by-Step Guide for Setting a Hamster Home (9 Steps)

So, put everything in the cage, and that’s it?

Of course not!

Hamsters live short lives. Most hamsters live an average life of 18-36 months. 

Some breeds live longer than others. For instance, a Syrian hamster lives longer than most dwarf hamsters. A hamster that’s only 18 months young is considered an old pal? Yep.

As a loving parent, you want to make sure your hammy (whichever you have) has the best shot at a healthy and happy life. That’s why we are here talking about setting up a hamster cage. Good job; you’re on the right path.

Now, let’s take care of actual business: setting a home for your whisker puff.

Quick Tip: Only start the project once you have everything in hand. Doing the project in bits can be confusing.

Step 1: Freeze the Bedding and Bake the Sand

There are two suitable bedding materials you can use for your hamster’s home:

  • Paper-based bedding
  • Wood bedding

Both of these may have bugs and bacteria that can harm your little pal.

So, before you put the bedding in the cage, freeze it overnight. Do so a day in advance because you’ll have to thaw the bedding before using it.

As for the sand, bake it. That’s the best way to ensure it is free of crawly irritants. Cool down the sand before spreading it in your hamster’s new oasis.

Note: Never use cotton wool as your bedding. Your hammy will chew it and may get a bad tummy ache.

Step 2: Thoroughly Wash and Dry the Cage

Store-bought cages will be dusty. They might also have some nasty bugs. Dead and alive. Ew!

You don’t want to introduce your hammy to his new home with these around. So, wash it. Use a mild soap and lukewarm water solution. Baby soap works the best.

If you’re using a wooden cage, sanitizing wipes will do.

Rinse the cage through and through once done. Do it twice so you don’t leave any soap inside. Now, use some kitchen towels and pat the insides dry. A blow drier will work too.

Your mission here is to suck out any moisture possible. Otherwise, your fluffy tornado will have to deal with mold growth. It’s unhealthy.

Step 3: Wash the Toys

Hamsters are little dynamites with hearts of explorers. And so, you’ll need a lot of toys for their cages.

Also, hamsters love toys they can chew, climb on, or hide in. Pick wisely.

But whatever you add to their new home, make sure it’s germ-free. You don’t want your hamster to chew on something full of bacteria. Make a similar mild soap-lukewarm water solution you made for cleaning the cage.

Or, you can go for toy-specific cleaning liquids available in pet marts. Read the instructions carefully on these bottles.

Step 4: Draw a Mockup Interior Design

Time to put your creative interior designer skills to use. Draw your hamster’s home on paper and think where you want to put what. Where will the water bottle go? How will you lay the rocks?

Be practical with your design. Your pet hamster shouldn’t feel cramped in a spot.

Tip: Keep your pet’s health in mind.

Here are some ideas:

  • Line the path to the water bottle with rocks so your hamster can trim his nails on the way.
  • Place the hideouts near the ground so your hamster can find them easily.
  • Put the wheel and exercise ball right in front of their home.

Step 5: Mark Holes and Hooks

Holes and hooks? What for?

The water bottle, food bowl, and exercise wheel require some support. You don’t want them toppling over while your hamster is running inside the cage.

Mark the spots where these will go and then drill holes in those places. Then, attach hooks to hang the items up.

Tip: If you don’t want to make a mess of drilling, buy ready-to-use hooks and hangers from pet stores.

Step 6: Spread the Bedding and Nesting Material

Congratulations! You’ve dealt with the tricky parts. Now, the fun begins – cozying up the home.

Make three sections:

  • A sleeping area with bedding and nesting material where your pet can curl up.
  • A playing area filled with toys.
  • A drinking and toilet section with some sand and rocks.

No area for food? Whyyy?

You will set up food bowls near his home and hide some dry mix in the playing area. Scatter feeding adds more exercise to your fur ball’s routine. It’s a secret. Don’t let him know!

Also, make sure to be generous when adding bedding and nesting material. Hamsters enjoy burrowing, so give them enough to dig and make themselves a cozy nest.

Step 7: Install the Dividers

Now that you have your sections, it’s time to divide them to avoid confusion. You’ll be tempted to use cardboard boxes. Resist the temptation!

Hamsters love chewing on cardboard boxes, and if they do, this could cause a choking hazard. So, buy plastic or glass dividers with smooth edges.

Climbing stairs and bendy bridges also make good dividers. And they look pretty. Buy, buy, buy!

Step 8: Set the Toys

The moment you’ve been waiting for. Decorating the cage with toys.

What toys do you have? Chew toys? A gnawing block? Hamster wheels?


Did you test your wheel? If not. Do it now. It’ll be hard to remove once it’s in the cage.

Make sure the toys you’ve added are safe for your pet. Some toys have small parts that could be choking hazards.

Hamsters like playing with (and in) toilet paper tubes. Throw some in.

If you have a Syrian hamster, cut the tubes, so the jumbo-sized hamster can get in easily.

Also, add new toys every now and then. It’ll prevent boredom and boost mental stimulation.

hamster drinking water inside his cage

Step 9: Bring the Hamster Home

You’re all done!

Now it’s time to introduce your pet to his new kingdom. Scoop him off the box and place him inside his new home.

Give him a few minutes to explore before you close the door so he can get familiar with the setup.

Once he’s done checking, close the door and watch his reaction.

He’s going to be jumpy. That’s his happy dance!

What to Do After Putting the Hamster in His Home?

Hamsters like to live in peace. No sudden human movements, no noise, no lights.

So, once you introduce them to their homes, let them be!

Leave your hamster alone in his new home – especially if you just brought him from animal welfare or a pet store.

He will take his time to admire what you’ve put together for him, spread his scent, and memorize the setup.

Spread scent and memorize? What’s all that about?

Hamsters have poor eyesight. The max they can see is a couple of inches past their nose. They use their sense of smell and sharp memory to recognize their surroundings. Part of it has to do with low-light conditions in their natural habitat. Hamsters aren't big fans of bright light.

No bright light? So, should I cover my hamster’s cage during the day?

It depends on where you’ve put his home. You can cover it if it’s in a busy room or near the window. 

Finding the Right Cage for Your Hamster

You can’t set your pet in a cozy castle without a structure. Therefore, the most critical choice you have to make is the type of cage you’ll use. We talked about the different kinds earlier. Here’s a detailed review of each one:

Wooden Cage

Hamsters love their natural habitat. If you want to recreate it for them, a wooden cage is your best pick. Good quality, good looks. However, a wooden cage is prone to mold growth and bacteria build-up. If you want to avoid that, cover the solid floor of your cage with a bottom plastic layering. It’ll absorb the moisture (from water spills and hamster pee) and keep the cage safe.

Plastic Cage

Light-weighted, easy-to-carry, and pocket-friendly. This must be it!

Sadly, that’s not the case. Plastic cages are not as hamster-friendly. They don’t provide enough ventilation, and they can be pretty flimsy. Plus, if you put them in direct sunlight, the cage’s temperature will become too high for your hamster. Pass.

Glass Aquarium

If your pet hamster is an escape artist and wants to try his luck frequently, a glass aquarium is what you need. It’ll also protect your pet from other animals, and you’ll be able to see what your round runner is up to. Ventilation can be a problem. But it’s nothing a wire mesh top can’t sort. So, get your hands dirty.

With proper ventilation, a glass tank won’t get stinky, either. But (yep, there’s always one) this home will cost you a pretty penny.

Wire Cage

You’ll also find options in wire cages. These are the airiest homes out there. But beware, your hamster’s teeth are sharp – he can chew his way out of them.

A wire cage isn’t ideal for bigger breeds like Syrian hamsters. They need more space. A dwarf hamster won’t mind, though. Ah, and the plastic trays that come along?! Good lord, they’re a complete mess.

Hey, what size should I get?

Hamsters are tiny. But they need space to run around, exercise, and live. They will judge you for the size of their homes. A Chinese hamster will be happy with at least 450 square inches, while a Syrian hamster will want something more like 620 square inches at least.

Building a DIY Cage

What about DIY bin cages? How to build a hamster cage?

If you don’t want to buy a ready-made home for your hamster, you can build one yourself. All you need is a plastic bin and some tools listed below.

Oh, and, of course, some elbow grease too!

Tools You Need for Building a Bin Cage

  • Sharp scissors
  • Еdіblе gluе
  • Screws
  • Zip ties
  • Hot knife
  • Dividers
  • Drill machine
  • Mesh wire
  • Lubricant

Steps for Building a DIY Bin Home

Ready to get down to business? Here’s how to make a hamster bin cage a show stopper!

  1. Take a big enough plastic bin of good quality. A minimum of 450 square inches of floor space is good enough. Always measure the length and width of the inside of your bin. Multiply both figures to get your square inches.
  2. Use a hot knife to cut the center of the lid.
  3. Remove the plastic piece and mark the spots where you’ll secure your wire mesh.
  4. Mark these spots with a permanent marker.
  5. Drill the spots using a drill machine.
  6. Measure your mesh and cut it to size using a pair of scissors.
  7. Secure the mesh using zip ties, screws, and edible glue.
  8. Cut a few dividers inside the bin using a knife.
  9. Clean the bin with mild soap and water, and then apply some lubricant to the lid so it slides easily.

Now you can add the essentials like substrate, bedding, and toys. Ta-da!

Cleaning the Hamster’s Cage

How to keep a hamster cage from smelling?

Hamsters like keeping themselves clean. They’ll self-groom at night and enjoy a sand bath to get rid of dust and dirt. But that doesn’t mean you skip the cleaning process. You must do it regularly.

Schedule spot cleaning once or twice a week. Change water and food, remove dirty bedding, wash the toys, and pick up leftovers from hideouts.

You’ll also need to do some deep cleaning to keep your hamster cage clean. Once every 5-6 weeks is good enough. Avoid making drastic changes to the enclosure when you’re at it. It can stress your hamster.

Mistakes to Avoid While Setting Up a Cage for Your Hamster

Mistakes are a part of the learning experience. So, no worries if you make them. But it’s ideal if you don’t. It saves you time and extra work.

Here are some common mistakes you can avoid:

  • Putting the food near the running wheel. It’s a safety hazard. The wheel will get unstable and can injure your pet.
  • Putting the water bowl near the sandbox. Don’t do that, even if the sandbox has a lid. The fecal matter and urine will get into the water bowl, making it a breeding ground for bacteria.
  • Not adding enough bedding. Hamsters love burrowing. In the wild, they can easily dig up to 3 feet-deep burrows. Be nicer and add more bedding. Also, compress it as you add more.
  • Keeping a hamster’s enclosure near AC vents, windows, and heaters. Hamsters don’t like sudden temperature changes. Keep the enclosure away from air vents and drafty windows. Also, it shouldn’t get too hot in there.
a hamster resting in his cage

Mission Accomplished: Hamster Home Hacked!

Hamsters are adorable, little balls full of joy. But because of their size, most pet owners think their pet hammy doesn’t need enough room. That’s not true.

In this guide on how to set up a hamster cage, we looked at how getting the right size and the right material can make all the difference.

A large, at least 450 square inches big, cage with a semi-crowded floor plan makes a beautiful home.

Before you can give it a shot, make a list of the things you’ll need. We are sure you’ll do great at the job.

Did you find the information in this article helpful?

At Oddly Cute Pets, we work hard to bring you the most informative and helpful content concerning pet care. We hope this guide on how to set up a hamster cage was useful for you! If you’re looking for more information on hamsters and other uniquely adorable pets, do check out our website.

Thank you for your time, fellas!

Leave a Comment