Recently we decided to get a pet hamster because everyone in our family loves animals. We started researching proper pet care for hamsters and were shocked to find that hamsters need a lot more floor space than we thought. It made me wonder if we could use bin cages for our hamster and are safe?
While it’s a heavily debated topic, bin cages can be safe. Use wire mesh around the bin so the hamster can’t chew through the plastic. Ensure the sides or lid has proper ventilation, and the top should be solid and escape-proof so your little Huddini won’t escape or get hurt trying to escape.
I went to the pet shops in our area, but the cages I found were not big enough, and those that were big enough were a bit too expensive. I wanted to make a bin cage for our hamster.
While researching the best bin cage, I noticed conflicting opinions on how safe bin cages are for hamsters. After talking to my vet, I thought I would share what I found on this topic.
Are Bin Cages Safe for Hamsters?
My research revealed the safety of bin cages is highly debated among hamster owners, breeders, and vets. One side states that hamsters chew through bin cages and escape or become sick when chewing on the plastic.
The other side says that hamsters will live full long lives without cage-related issues if you make the bin cage properly. The question we need an answer to now is which side is right? Let’s take a closer look at bin cages.
Are Plastic Containers Dangerous to Use as Bin Cages?
Most bin cages are made from clear big 20-50 gallon plastic containers you can find in most retail or homeware stores. The argument is that the chemicals in the plastic are dangerous because hamsters chew everything.
The Chemicals in Plastic Containers
They chew for many reasons, including stress, anxiety, hunger, boredom, or keeping their teeth from getting too long. So a hamster will try to chew the plastic.
The dangerous chemical in plastic is called BPA, but there are tons of BPA-free plastic containers, so you can still use these containers to make a bin cage.
Is the Plastic Itself Bad?
The other issue is that the hamster can get hurt by chewing on plastic as plastic is not healthy for any animal, and the sharp edges can cause internal damage. The solution is to line the entire container with the appropriate size wire mesh.
If the hamster can’t get to the plastic, it can’t chew on it.
The Ventilation Issue
The last issue with using plastic containers for a bin cage is ventilation. Hamster cages need proper ventilation to keep fresh air circulating through the enclosure. Plastic containers are created to be air-tight, so if you want to use a plastic container for a bin cage, you need to make a few windows for proper ventilation.
You can do this with a soldering iron or a drill. You need to ensure that you file down the edges of any cuts or openings so no rough patches or edges can harm your hamster. They will chew or climb even the smallest protruding piece of plastic.
Why Are Bin Cages Popular?
Bin cages are becoming more popular because they have larger floor space and are more affordable. The issues with some of the cages you find in pet stores are:
Appropriate Floor Space (Not Levels)
They are don’t have enough floor space for hamsters to work off their energy. Hamster cages need to have at least 6000 square inches or more flat surfaces. Remember, hamsters love to explore, so the small cages that are high with different levels don’t increase the floor space.
The floor space in the hamster’s cage needs to be uninterrupted. It can cause your hamster to become very depressed, unhappy, and irritated.
Appropriate Cage Height
Most people think that the smaller cages with multiple levels you can buy at pet shops are great for hamsters, but this simply isn’t true.
Hamsters love to dig; one level is acceptable for them as long as the level is at least 14-inches high. Ensure that there is a thick layer of bedding so your hammy can dig. They love to dig as deep as they can.
A second level is excellent, as long as the divider is flat, not wire. It needs to have lots of chew toys and places to explore. Remember that if you want to use tunnels to connect levels, make sure your hamster will fit as some hamster types are too big for tunnels, and the tunnels should not be straight up or have too many zig-zags, your hammy might get stuck or slip, and a fall could severy injure it.
The big plastic containers solve this problem as they are high enough for your hamster to have lots of digging space, and you can add a level to give them more room to play. You must remember to leave enough space between the bedding on the second level and the lid so the hamster can’t get to the top and escape or get injured while trying.
Are Wire Cages Bad For Hamsters?
When you go to most pet shops, you will find tiny colorful cages with lots of tunnels and even multiple levels for hamsters, but are wire cages bad for hamsters? Wire cages are a terrible idea; the wires are coated with paint or plastic, and as we know, hamsters love to chew.
The most common problem is hamsters getting sick from chewing on the wire coating and damaging their teeth on the metal. The second issue with wire cages is that hamsters love to climb, and they can easily get stuck, break a limb, and get bumblefoot (painful foot injury) from walking on the wires. Wire cages are bad for your hamster’s health.
The same is true for wire wheels or toys. They can severely injure your hamster and cause bumblefoot. Instead, get a broad plastic wheel that is not too far from the ground but can easily turn.
Can You Use a Fish Tank for Hamsters?
A fish tank is an excellent idea for a hamster cage. Here is a list of some factors you need to consider when you want to use a glass fish tank for a hamster cage:
- Ensure the floor size is at least 6,000 square inches.
- Tanks don’t have excellent ventilation, so you need to put the cage near a window or put fans near the top of the cage to increase the airflow.
- Make sure you get a lid that the hamster can’t escape from or get stuck in; mesh wire lids like those in a lizard cage are perfect and help with ventilation.
Bin cages are not dangerous for your hamster if you customize them correctly and buy BPA-free containers. You can ensure your hamster doesn’t chew through the plastic sides or bottom by putting mesh wire on the sides that they can’t chew.
Ensure they have enough ventilation and floor space, chew toys, and a wire-free big wheel, and they will love you for it.