Hamsters are popular small pets. The rodents typically live two to three years and are usually solitary in nature. There are many sub-breeds, including Syrian or golden hamsters and dwarf hamsters, which are both popular as pets. Hamsters are usually kept in a wire cage, aquarium or plastic pet condominium.
Pet hamsters require a cage for protection, litter and nesting. Commercial models can be elaborate, although more creative designs can be fashioned at home from simple materials. Regardless of which method is used, it's important to make sure cages are sturdy, allow circulation of light and air and prevent escape. Bedding should be made of non-cedar wood chips or shavings or recycled paper litter. Ceramic food crocks and drip-style water bottles are staples of hamster cages. Your pet will greatly appreciate toys such as wheels, levels and long tubes.
Glass or plastic aquariums can easily be converted into hamster cages by simply crafting a wire screen for the top. One-quarter-inch welded wire mesh, sometimes called galvanised steel mesh, can be cut with tin snips or industrial scissors and attached by several methods. One involves cutting squares out of a large piece and bending along the edges to form a cap to fit over the edge of the aquarium. This method requires a snug fit and weight mechanism to prevent escape.
Another method is using 3/4-inch nuts and bolts to attach the wire to wood pieces that fit snugly over the edges. A screwdriver or screw gun is required for this method. If using harder woods, a drill with an appropriate bit helps avoid cracking.
Plastic storage bins are also easily converted into hamster cages. Models with snapping lids are preferable. Cut a large, square opening in the top and seal it with wire mesh. Use a drill along the edges of the lid to create holes for screws to hold the mesh in place. Place the holes every 4 inches or so, doubling them at the corners. Flip the lid, bottom facing up, and insert appropriately sized bolts from the bottom to face upward through the holes. Place slightly oversized 1/4-inch wire mesh over the screws and use a wrench and screw driver to install nuts onto each bolt. Waste material from the whole in the centre can be cut into strips and predrilled and placed over the screen along the edges to facilitate a more secure and less hazardous edge. This method also helps distribute pressure over the wire along the edge. After the wire mesh has been installed, use tin snips to cut away excess wire material.
Wire cages can be fashioned from 1/4-inch welded mesh wire, zip ties, a plastic pan and springs. The outer walls of the cage should be cut to fit within the dimensions of the plastic bin, which will serve as the cleanable base of the cage. Make sure to cut away sharp edges and protruding spokes. Secure each wall to the other with zip ties. Excess zip tie material should be cut after application. The lid should fit snugly over all four walls. It can either be attached on one side with zip ties and held in place with springs for ease of opening or zipped on all sides. Cut a large doorway in one side. Make a door from more wire mesh to cover the entire hole. One side should be attached to the wall with wire mesh, while the other side is held in place with short, fairly tight springs. Inside the cage, levels can be constructed from more wire mesh and held in place with liberal application of zip ties. Ramps between levels can also be crafted from wire mesh or pieces of wood. The entire frame of wire mesh cages can also be constructed from wood. If this method is used, staple guns may be used to affix the wire mesh to the frame or individual levels.
"Measure twice, cut once" isn't just a catchy adage---it's sound advice. Measuring first reduces the likelihood of error and economises the use of materials. Save excess wood to make new structures within the cage or to make repairs.
Wear goggles or other eye protection when drilling. Use gloves when handling wire mesh and use care when cutting it with tin snips. Supervise all work done by children to prevent injury.
Avoid using materials that pose choking hazards to hamsters.
Designs are only limited by imagination.