I have been keeping hamsters for more than 3 decades. My first introduction to hamsters was as a teenager when my friend brought home a hamster who lived in a tiny, 5 gallon aquarium. This is NOT a good cage, as we quickly found out.

I’m adding this page in hopes of helping you avoid some common pitfalls in selecting good housing for your new hamster!

Obviously, hamsters who are free, in the wild, have a lot of space in which to run around. There is no way to replicate this in the house, because we can’t move a sizeable chunk of Syrian desert into our homes for them to feel perfectly at home.

Pet Syrian hamsters have also been selectively bred for hundreds and hundreds of generations, and this has had a positive impact on pet Syrian hamster temperaments and personalities. Obviously, we want hamsters who like the life we offer them, and they have been bred to sort of enjoy captivity. (I’m also convinced that we actually offer them a happier life than many would experience in the wild, but that is a topic for another post!)

So the question remains:

What makes a good hamster cage?

Research has been done to document what size cage hamsters are happiest in. This research shows that hamsters who have 450 square inches of unbroken floor space are the happiest. These hamsters don’t have as many boredom or stress habits (like bar chewing) as hamsters kept in smaller enclosures. I always recommend going with a cage that meets these dimensions.

It is worth noting that “unbroken floor space” means that 450 square inches needs to be all on one level. There can be other levels, but at least one of the levels needs to be 450 square inches.

The good news is, cages meeting the space requirement are now on the market. It used to be that the only option was to import or make our cages, for them to be big enough. But thanks to people like you, demanding better cages for our favorite little pets, the market has opened up, and there are not many options available!

I’m going to share my favorites with you below. If you purchase a cage through my link, I do receive a small commission, and I appreciate that support. 🙂 I also plan to add a tutorial on how to build your own bin cage, for those that can’t afford a ready-made cage. (It is still more cost effective to make your own.)

1. My all-time favorite is the Savic Hamster Heaven cage! I love the fact that there are over 600 square inches on the bottom level alone! And I love the fact that there are horizontal bars, because curious hamsters love climbing these. I also love the added “fun” levels AND tubes, because, like it or not, hamsters DO LOVE tubes. Just be careful to keep everything locked up tight to prevent escapes, and you will need a larger wheel than the one that comes with the cage.

2. The Pervue Pets Universal Small Animal Cage is my second-favorite cage. Once again, I LOVE the size, coming in at just over 600 square inches. This is a cage without any bells and whistles, so you can set it up however you want, if you had a different look in mind than the playful, colorful look of the Savic cage. This one does have a large level for added space, and it is a more secure cage, if you’re concerned about little fingers accidently leaving something open.

Both of these cages DO allow for the hamster to push bedding out of the bars, which will happen, and you will be sweeping up after them. I think it is a fair exchange for the enjoyment they get out of climbing and directly interacting with you, but if you don’t agree, there are other options!

3. An aquarium makes another ideal hamster cage. The 40-gallon breeder size offers about 575 square inches of space! Just make sure to purchase a secure lid to keep a hamster in. The main benefit of an aquarium (besides the classy look!) is that you can put as much bedding in as you want. Hamsters prefer 6″ or more, so they can burrow, which is no problem, and causes no mess in an aquarium. Cleaning is a little harder, because they’re heavy. But if you have a hamster who just LOVES to burrow, this is the best pre-made option out there.

4. A bin cage! I will be adding do-it-yourself directions on how to make a bin cage. This is what I have used myself, because the other fancy options were not available at the time I was building my hamster housing supply. I also like the way they stack, and how secure they are. They are almost escape-proof, just like an aquarium. Also, like the aquarium, they can take more than 6″ of bedding. The only downside is they look a little cheap, and they don’t have the clear, completely see-through look, so you can’t watch your hamster quite as well as with an aquarium. They are MUCH easier to clean though! That pretty much makes up for the rest for me! Just be sure to select a bin that is 450 square inches or bigger! Ikea has some good options.

5. The Crittertrail SUPER Habitat was made by a company who used to only offer tiny little hamster cages. Due to people like you demanding something bigger, they came out with this, and I am glad they did! The bottom level offers over 500 square inches of living space. I like the option to add on, through the tube outlet, just note that very large hamsters may not be able to fit through their tubing size. Medium and smaller hamsters fit just fine. Because ALL hamsters like to try the tubes, I don’t recommend this cage for a hamster that comes from very large lines.

I do not recommend the other crittertrail cages, unless connected to this one as extra space. There has been some debate (and drama) over tube cages, and while I wish the tubes were made larger (like in the Savic cage!), since hamsters LOVE them, and consistently choose to use the tubes, I have to also like them. 🙂

There are many other cages that would meet your hamster’s needs, unlike the market of past decades! Don’t be afraid try another cage, not listed here, that meets the 450 square inch space requirement.

Please also know that for every adequate cage, there are probably 10 very poorly designed cages. Your hamster will not be happy in a tiny cage, as my friend and I soon learned about his hamster, all those years ago. Do the math on the sizing for the largest level, and make sure it hits 450 square inches. Invest in a home your hamster will thrive in, and just be happy you have so many good options!