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10 Items Unsuitable for Your Hamster: What Not to Buy

In the world of pet care, it's all too common to come across products that seem cute or enticing at first glance, especially in pet stores that sell products aimed for children. However, it's crucial to remember that pets are not toys; they are living beings with specific needs. When it comes to our furry friends, like hamsters, providing them with a safe and nurturing environment should always be the top priority. In this blog post, we'll delve into the ten items that should never find their way into a hamster's habitat. These are the products that, despite their flashy appearance, can be potentially harmful or unsuitable for our little rodent companions. So, let's explore what to avoid and why, as we prioritize the well-being of our beloved hamsters.

Exercise Balls

Exercise balls can be detrimental to small animals like hamsters for several reasons. Firstly, they lack proper ventilation, making it challenging for hamsters to breathe comfortably. Additionally, hamsters often urinate in these balls out of fear, leading to unhygienic conditions as they roll around in their urine. The inability to exit the ball voluntarily can be distressing for them. These balls also pose a risk to hamsters' balance, causing them to tumble and get injured. There have been documented cases of hamsters' feet and toes getting stuck in the small holes of these balls, resulting in harm. Furthermore, the limited visibility in these balls can lead to collisions with objects, further endangering your pet. Instead, consider using a solid playpen or allowing your hamster to free-roam under supervision in a pet-safe area for a safer and more enjoyable experience for both you and your hamster.

Pet Store Hamster Cages

Pet store hamster cages often fall short of meeting the minimum space and habitat requirements for these small animals. In the wild, hamsters cover significant distances and burrow extensively. A suitable cage should have a minimum floor size of 12x24 inches and a height of 12 inches, but the bigger the better. Hamsters require at least 6-10 inches of bedding to engage in natural burrowing behaviors and enough floor space for exercise, along with room for hides and toys. Unfortunately, many pet store cages are designed to appeal to children with lights and shapes, which can mislead parents. Hamsters do not need cages shaped like castles or cars or that light up. These cages also usually come with tunnels that pose a risk as hamsters as they can get stuck, which can be fatal. It's crucial to prioritize a spacious, safe, and appropriate habitat for hamsters, as they are living creatures with specific needs, rather than viewing them as mere toys.

Mesh, Wire and Flying Saucer Wheels

When selecting a hamster wheel from a pet store, it's crucial to prioritize your pet's safety and well-being. Avoid wheels that are under 10-12 inches in diameter, as they may not provide sufficient exercise space. Additionally, never opt for wire or mesh wheels, as these can pose serious risks to your hamster. Wire and mesh wheels have holes where your hamster's feet and toes can become trapped, resulting in broken toes or feet. Flying saucer wheels, although lacking holes, are not secure, and their design can make it challenging for hamsters to maintain balance, often leading to falls and injuries. Even with standard silent wheels, size matters, and they should be a minimum of 10 inches to prevent potential spinal injuries. Some studies have suggested that larger wheels allow hamsters better control over their speed. Consider wheels like the Kaytee Silent Spinner for a safer and more suitable choice for your hamster's exercise.

Ladders and Tall Climbing Toys

When choosing toys for your pet hamster from a pet store, it's essential to consider their natural behaviors and limitations. Hamsters are primarily ground-dwelling creatures without the climbing abilities of rats or squirrels. Therefore, it's advisable to avoid high-climbing toys, as hamsters can risk injury if they fall. Ladders often have small spaces where feet and toes can get trapped, posing a hazard. Instead, opt for bendy bridges, which are available in various shapes and sizes and can serve as both a toy and a hide for your hamster, providing a safer and more suitable enrichment option. If you are looking for DIY ideas for hamster toys, pieces of toilet paper and cardboard rolls and boxes are a fantastic option as they can run through them and shred them for nesting material; and it is not toxic if accidentally ingested.

Plastic Food and Water Bowls

When it comes to selecting food and water bowls for your pet hamster at a pet store, it's advisable to avoid plastic options. While they are not inherently unsafe, they can quickly become unsanitary due to hamsters' messy behavior, leading to spills and contamination with bedding and waste. Instead, choose heavier ceramic bowls that cannot be easily tipped over by your hamster. Placing these bowls on a stable platform within the cage can further reduce spills and maintain a cleaner and more hygienic environment for your pet.


While pet stores often sell cotton as bedding and nesting material for hamsters, it's important to be aware of the risks associated with this material. Cotton has long, thin fibers that can potentially wrap around a hamster's limbs or teeth, leading to serious injuries. If ingested, cotton can also cause blockages, which can be fatal. Instead of using cotton, consider providing safer alternatives for nesting material, such as cardboard rolls, cardboard boxes, and loose pieces of toilet paper. These items are non-toxic and not only allow your hamster to create nests but also provide mental stimulation as they break them down for nesting purposes.

Small Tubes and Tunnels

Many pet store hamster products like small tubes and tunnels, often included with cages for creating various shapes, are absolutely not suitable for your hamster's well-being. These tunnels are way too small, and have poor ventilation, which can make it challenging for your hamster to breathe comfortably, especially if they urinate inside. Additionally, these tunnels can be difficult to clean and pose a risk of your hamster getting stuck due to their small size, particularly for larger Syrian hamsters. It's essential to prioritize your hamster's safety and comfort when choosing accessories, and larger, better-ventilated options like tubes that are marketed for ferrets or natural materials like cardboard can be more suitable choices for your pet's enrichment.

Pine/Cedar Bedding

Pet store hamster products like pine and cedar bedding are harmful to your pets due to the presence of harsh chemicals, excessive dust, and strong scents. These factors can lead to respiratory infections when inhaled and poisoning if ingested. When selecting bedding for your hamster, it's crucial to opt for options with minimal dust and natural, soft materials. Recycled newspaper bedding is a excellent choice as it provides the necessary sturdiness for hamsters to burrow while remaining soft and safe, reducing the risk of harm or infections for your pet.

Mineral Rocks

Pet store mineral rocks are often marketed as a healthy source of essential minerals, but they are not be the best choice for your hamster. These rocks are very hard, and while they can help in keeping your hamster's teeth short, hamsters are likely to prefer chewing on something less hard. Additionally, these mineral rocks have a high calcium content, which can be unhealthy for your hamster over time. If you want to supplement your hamster's diet, consider using a good quality probiotic or adding fruits and vegetables to their meals. To prevent overgrown teeth, you can provide natural materials like wood in the form of hides, bridges, and chew toys, which hamsters often use for nesting and seldom swallow. If swallowed accidentally, these natural materials are not harmful and can help maintain proper tooth length.

Trail-Mix Type Food

Pet store trail mix foods may not be the best choice for hamsters because they can be selective eaters, often picking out the tastier treats and leaving the rest. This can lead to an imbalanced diet. To ensure your hamster receives a well-rounded and nutritious diet, it's better to choose a high-quality plain brown pellet food specifically formulated for hamsters. Brands like Oxbow offer excellent options, but there are other reputable choices available as well. Pellets provide consistent nutrition with each meal, helping to meet your hamster's dietary needs more effectively.

In conclusion, it's crucial to be well-informed and make informed choices when adopting and caring for any pet, including hamsters. Avoiding products like inappropriate hamster cages, unsafe bedding materials, unsuitable toys, and misleading dietary options can significantly improve your pet's well-being. Hamsters, like all animals, deserve a safe and enriching environment that meets their specific needs. Doing thorough research on their care requirements, from appropriate housing and bedding to suitable toys and nutrition, is essential. Prioritizing your pet's health and happiness through informed choices ensures that you provide them with the best possible care, creating a fulfilling and joyful life for both you and your furry friend.

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