Hamster Enrichment Ideas: Top Enrichment Ideas For Hamsters

Ways To Provide Enrichment For Hamsters

Hamsters are generally easy keepers, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get bored sitting in the same environment day in and day out. If you have a hamster, you will want to ensure that he or she is receiving the mental and physical stimulation necessary to thrive.

What are some of the best hamster enrichment ideas? When coming up with enrichment ideas for your hamster, you will want to consider both their natural environment and natural behavior. Some of the top ideas are:

  • Provide room for burrowing and climbing
  • Toy rotation
  • Running wheel
  • Tunnel system
  • Sand bath
  • Treat scattering
  • Digging box
  • Bringing the outdoors in
  • Outside play
  • Hamster ball

Whether you have the budget for an elaborate enclosure or simply the time for some supervised outside play, these are simple ways to allow your hamster the ability to explore and exercise. Read on for the details on each of these enrichment opportunities. 

Best Hamster Enrichment Ideas

Burrowing And Climbing

It is vital to the well-being of your hamster that he has an enclosure large enough to meet his physical and mental needs. Most of the hamster cages at your local chain pet store will be too small for your pet, especially if you have a Syrian hamster.

Your best option is to search for an adequate enclosure online or, if you are crafty, to build one yourself. Having a large enough enclosure will allow you to ensure you have the ability to encourage two of your hamster’s natural behaviors: burrowing and climbing. 

Wild hamsters live in burrows that they develop underground. This is where they feel safe and where they spend the majority of their days. To provide a similar environment for your hamster, you will ideally add a layer of bedding that is 3-6 inches deep, depending on the size of your hamster. This will allow your hamster to create his own tunnels, providing him an outlet for his burrowing instinct. 

Climbing is another activity you can encourage in your hamster. To do this, you will only need to add various platforms and ramps around the enclosure. These can be store-bought cage accessories, or you can bring in some large lava rocks and branches from outside (just make sure they are pest-free and somewhat clean). As a bonus, more climbing structures in the cage usually means there are more hiding spots underneath them for your hamster as well.

Hamster Enrichment By Rotating Toys

Hamsters love exploring and climbing on a variety of toys when in their enclosures, but they can become bored and tired of the same toys for months on end.

For this reason, we suggest taking part in a toy rotation – add a few enrichment activities into your hamster’s enclosure for a month or so, and then take them out and replace them with something else.

You don’t need to source new toys each month to accomplish this – you can store the toys that are out-of-rotation in a bin until it is time to re-introduce them. These don’t need to be expensive toys purchased at the pet store, either – toilet paper tubes, cardboard boxes, and branches make excellent enrichment activities for hamsters. 

Provide Hamster Enrichment With A Running Wheel

Research has shown that a captive hamster can run up to 6 miles in a single night. Hamsters are active creatures, especially in the evening and through the night. A hamster in captivity will not lose this natural instinct to run and will become frustrated and depressed if not given an outlet.

Every hamster enclosure needs a running wheel – a plastic or wooden wheel with a solid running base is preferable, and these come in both free-standing models and space-saving models, which are secured directly to the wall of the cage.

Because your hamster will likely spend a large chunk of his evening running on his wheel, you may want to look into the “squeak-free” models that are popular. 

Use Tunnel Systems For Hamster Enrichment

Hamsters, especially dwarf hamsters, can take advantage of and enjoy tunnel systems added to their enclosures. These are plastic tunnels, sold in pet stores and online, that come in a variety of colors and shapes.

You can create an elaborate tunnel system that exits the cage and then makes its way back, or you can use tunnels to connect multiple cages, allowing your hamster additional spaces to explore. Many tunnel systems allow you to place a platform or sleeping den through the system as well, creating an above-ground burrow. Elaborate tunnels can be costly, but you can often find used tunnels for a decent price. 

Hamster Enrichment With A Sand Bath

Hamsters love taking sand baths, and if you don’t already have one in your hamster’s enclosure, it is a simple and inexpensive addition to make. A sand bath will consist of a shallow and heavy-bottomed dish and, of course, sand.

Avoid chinchilla sand – it is very fine, and the dust can harm your hamster’s sensitive respiratory system. The best sand to use is reptile sand, so long as it does not have additional calcium added to it. You may be surprised at how quickly and thoroughly your hamster takes to a sand bath – they love rolling in the sand and grooming themselves afterward. 

Try Treat Scattering For Hamster Enrichment

Hamsters are natural foragers, and allowing them to engage in this instinctual behavior will be beneficial to their well-being. Start with treats. You can scatter a few treats throughout the cage.

Maybe place one inside of her den, another on top of a climbing structure, and another in a corner. Hamsters have an excellent sense of smell, and this engaging activity will be rewarding for both them and you as you watch them seek out their treats. After a while, you can “hide” her treats more thoroughly or start scattering her feed blocks. 

Hamster Enrichment Digging Box

A digging box is a shallow dish or container that is filled with various types of different substrates. These may include corn cob, pellet bedding, reptile sand, peat moss, coconut fiber, and regular flake bedding.

The idea is to enrich your hamster’s senses by offering a variety of materials in which he can dig. It should be a shallow container that is separate from your hamster’s traditional bedding – either inside of the enclosure itself or outside of it and used for supervised play.

The dish should also be shallow so that your hamster does not become trapped at the bottom – using a variety of materials is engaging for your hamster but can be unstable if too deep.

Bringing The Outdoors Inside For Hamster Enrichment

Bringing the outdoors inside simply means providing natural objects for your hamster to explore within the safety of her enclosure.

You can accomplish this with river rocks, small branches, leaves, and sticks. You can also sprinkle herbs and flowers in your hamster’s enclosure (ensuring they are non-toxic to small animals) – she will enjoy sniffing them out, analyzing them, and maybe even snacking on them. This is an easy and inexpensive way to provide natural enrichment for your pet.

Hamster Enrichment With Outside Play

Another way to provide natural enrichment is to bring your hamster outside. Hamsters love being outside and exploring the natural world so long as they feel safe. Remember, a hamster’s predators will attack both from the ground and from the air, so he will be alert and afraid if he feels he’s out in the open and without shelter.

Make sure to closely supervise your hamster when outdoors, and if possible, sit with him so that he can approach you for security when he is feeling scared. You can also use an exercise pen designed for small animals to ensure your hamster does not escape. Hamsters are quick and unpredictable, and if they get away from you even for a few seconds, it can be a challenge to catch them. 

Use A Hamster Ball For Hamster Enrichment

Hamster balls can be enjoyable for your hamster and for you when used responsibly and for short periods of time. Your hamster cannot eat or drink while in the ball, so should not be left too long.

You will also want to keep him safe while in a hamster ball by 1) ensuring the ball stays on a level surface and is not at the top of the stairs or other slope, and 2) keeping other pets and young children away – the last thing you want is for your hamster ball to be batted around by a curious cat or picked up and rolled by an excited toddler.

Hamster Enrichment Is What You Make It

Hamster enrichment does not need to be elaborate or expensive. In fact, it will cost you nothing at all to take your hamster outside for some play time and/or bring some items from nature into his enclosure.

If you have a healthy budget and you would like to go all-out for your pet, you can certainly do that by providing a village of tunnels, spacious enclosures, and a variety of toys and climbing structures. Whichever end of the spectrum you fall on, your hamster will appreciate the enrichment for both his physical and mental health.

You can learn more about hamsters in my articles below, or find my latest content here!

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