There are a number of different options for housing your hamster. Each has it’s own advantages and disadvantages.
Store Bought Cages
There are several different types of store bought cages. Wire bar cages, plastic cages and combination cages are the major players.
Wire bar cages are the ones that have a plastic base to hold the floor covering, and the rest of the cage is made up of metal or wire bars. These cages provide maximum ventilation and interaction with your pet. However they also can be messy if you have a hamster who likes to throw things out of the cage, also some hamsters will back up and actually lift their back end up, almost in a handstand, when they urinate resulting in yet another mess to have to clean up. The bars allow the hamster something to climb on, but many hamsters will also chew on the bars. Some people can find this annoying as it can get rather loud in the middle of the night (remember hamsters are nocturnal). Bar chewing can also cause broken teeth in some cases.
Plastic cages are not as common in Canada, but they do exist. They will keep the mess inside the cage as they are completely enclosed, other than some air holes in the roof. Some of these cages you can add on to, giving your hamster a larger living space. There are also no bars to chew on. The main drawback to these cages is ventilation. Humidity, condensation and ammonia from urine can be hazardous to your hamster’s respiratory health. Some people may find these cages can also be more difficult to clean.
Combination cages are those that are both wire bars and plastic. Most of these cages are expandable using tubes and other add-ons which means they can become as large and complex as you wish. On their own however, many of these cages are not large enough. The bars on the cage allow for ventilation, while the plastic areas help in keeping everything in the cage.
Make sure that none of the wire type cages have a wire floor. They have to walk on the floor all day and wire floors and uncomfortable. They can also pose a safety hazard for paws which can get caught resulting in a broken leg.
Some people use aquariums to house their hamster. The benefit is that you can provide a fairly large living area for your pet. There are bottles and wheels made specifically for aquariums. These are also fairly escape proof, though it has been known to happen. There are no bars to chew so your pet cannot hurt his teeth, but also can’t climb on them. Again ventilation is a concern, though the mesh or metal lids that can be purchased should allow a good amount of ventilation. Aquariums can be easy to clean, but can also be heavy to lift once you get into a larger size.
These are cages made out of modified storage bins. There are several ways to build them, both with bars and without. Again you can create a large living area for your pet. Bins can also be made to be escape proof, but once again of course, it can happen. You can customize these cages quite a bit, adding levels and even tubes. You are really limited only by space, supplies/tools and imagination. These are also cheap to make in comparison to purchasing a cage setup of the same size. They are easy to clean and light to lift and move. There can be some ventilation issues, but it’s very easy to increase the amount of ventilation.
Which ever style of cage you choose should give your hamster plenty of room to move around, space for an exercise wheel and some toys, food, a water bottle and a sleeping area. Take into consideration ease of cleaning, expandability, cost and space in your home to keep the cage.