The first and most important thing to remember about Syrian hamsters is ONE HAMSTER PER CAGE. Although a hamster will almost always be gentle and loving with you, well meaning people think they get lonely. However, if two Syrian hamsters are caged together before long they will begin fighting,  resulting in serious injury or even death.

A useful cage and one used by many breeders, is the type compising a "cat litter" tray with a wire top clipped to it. The NHC recomendation for syrian hamsters cage is a minimum of 1000cm squared useable floor space x 19cm high. If you can afford a slightly bigger cage of the same type, perhaps with two or three levels so much better, but do ensure that any young hamsters cannot fall the total height of the cage. A piece or cardboard slipped across any opening will prevent this. Hamster love to climb and will get plenty of excercise in a cage of this type.

There are also on the market the all or nearly all plastic cages, comprising a number of compartments linked by tubes. These look attractive and will stop draughts, although expencive to buy if a suitable size is used. These cages do however come into their own if you also own a cat or dog as the hamster is protected against claws.

Glass or plastic aquariums can also be used but a lid made with 1cm x 1cm wire mess is required, as a standard lood has little or no ventilation, and so condensation can form. The lid can be made by making a wooden frame that fits just outside the tank and fixing the wire to this.But please ensure that the hamster cannot climb and push the lid up if it is not secured and remember that hamsters teeth never stop growing and need something hard to chew to keep thire teeth the right legnth.

Setting up the cage

Once you have decided and purchased a suitable cage it will need to be set up ready for your hamster. A good layer of sawdust or wooshavings should be spread on the floor of the cage to absorb the urine. Sawdust is the most absobent of the two but it's personal choice. If you are keeping a long haired hamster then sawdust is prefered as shavings tend to tangle the long hair. Please NEVER NEVER as suggested in some books, put newspaper under the sawdust, as chewing this could lead to poisoning.

You now need to provide your hamster with a nest and for this shredded paper bedding is much the best. There are a variety of different types on the market, once again this is personal choice. However, some types of fluffy bedding  may cause intestinal problems if swallowed and hamsters always pouch the material when making their beds.

The next step is to ensure your hamster has a water supply, the best way to do this is with a conventional commercially made water bottle, although dishes can be used they tend to get full of sawdust very quickly. The water supply must be changed regularly.

Food dishes can be bought and used but normally the hamster will pouch it's food and then put it inits store, so food can just be put in the sawdust. As this does not look tidy many people prefere to use dishes. However, since hamsters must chew, a plastic dish can gradually dissapear. A useful substitute is the plastic top of a coffee jar, this will still be chewable  but can be replace if nessasary from the next jar of coffee. Chewing the plastic does not appear to halm the hamster but if you want to be vert careful you could buy stainless steel or pottery dishes.

Care should be taken when positioning the cage as this is most important. Do not place the cage in direct sunlight and ensure it is out of drafts. The cage can be kept in the house or in a frost free shed or garage, if it is kept in the latter then provide the hamster with more bedding than you would indoors. If the hamster is kept indoors do not put the cage near radiators or fires as exrtemes of temperature are halmful. As long as ther is no sudden change in temperature the hamster will be safe.

Wheels will always be a controversial subject when it comes to "toys" in a hamster cage but a young hamster does enjoy a wheel. The spoked type can lead to problems with legs slipping and breaking and the plastic spoked wheels do tend to be chewed and then drop of the spindle. The solid plastic type is safer, the larger and wider the better this is the type we choose to use for our hamsters. Whels can be a problem for long haired hamsters, as the hair can catch around the spindle and be pulled out. Keep an eye on your hamster and it's wheel, if there is any evidence of loss of fur or the hamsters back is really bent when running  tie the wheel to prevent it moving or remove it from the cage.

Many toys can be purchased for you hamster including seesaws, tunnels, climbing blocks and ladders, but a lot you can make yourself. Carboard rolls can be hung on wires in the cage or a plastic squash bottle with the top and bottom cut off can be hung up. A wooden shelf can be put in most cages and hamsters love to climb on these to groom themselves.

Playballs can be used for excercise or to place your hamster in while you are cleaning the cage, but do not leave them for more than a few munites at a time. Cages should be cleaned once a week to ensure that your hamster is healthy and happy. In the end, whatever cage you decide on and whatever type of toys you choose please remember to handle your hamster and above all enjoy you pet.