Even if they are small rodents, as family members, your hamsters have rights to live in a cozy place. Unless relaxing environment, you cannot be your hamsters' real friend.
Followings are hints to make hamsters' life healthy and happy. Please provide them quality life.

  • By the way, right is a good example of bad environment. It is fun for care takers, but the cage has a sanitation problem...

The best environment for hamsters are of course the environment similar to their home town. But it is almost impossible, unless your house is a Zoo (Hamsters are living in tunnels under the ground, so you need to have very wide backyard with good soil to establish the same environment).
So, the choices would be narrowed down to two options: Cage or Aquarium.
These days, lots of experts recommend to use aquarium instead of wire cages.
The best thing on an aquarium is that you can provide bigger space for hamsters than cages (usually cages are smaller than tanks), also an aquarium will prevent hamsters from scattering their bedding or flooring materials around.

It also keeps hamsters warmer than cages, that is another strong point. You may think tank won't provide good air circulation. The fact is, it won't be a problem. As long as the top part of your tank is wide open, it won't be a problem.
If you prefer using a wire cage, a wide and low-profile cage is your choice. Hamsters are the animals living on the ground, they don't need to climb high. 2 or 3 stories cages might be seen in your local pet shop, but those are not only useless but sometimes even harmful for hamsters. Hamsters may fall from a high place and get injured.

  • The left hand side picture is sent from one of JHFA members. It looks cozy, isn't it?

There are quite hot discussion if we should provide hamsters a hideout in the aquarium (or cage) or not. If you place hideout in your tank, they will be delighted for sure. But it may create a sanitation problem, some Vets are advising not to provide a hideout in your cage for hamsters.
However, it is a little bit pity living in a place no where to hide. Hamsters might be able to hide under the bedding, but it is miserable.
It may safe to provide a hideout as long as you clean their

cage and hideout regular basis (say weekly). Wooden box would be nice for hamsters, you can check your local potshot to find the box nest for small birds. The picture is special wooden cage for hamsters made by Japanese vender, Sanko. If you have a tool, you can make similar box.
If you provide hamsters a hideout, please clean their hideout once a week. You will find their left over or cache in the box, you can discard those even if your hamsters get angry. Those are health hazard especially in summer. You can clean your tank while hamsters are in the hamster ball.

Long long time ago, hamsters' bedding is shredded news paper. But now, you can purchase nicer materials at your local pet shop.
However, some of those are not suitable for hamsters even though the package says "for hamsters." Let us explain the right choice.
First of all, the materials have to be harmless for hamsters. Some of materials cause allergic reaction both for hamsters and human, you may want to avoid those. Some materials will cringe around hamsters neck or hand, those will end up with choking hazard or blood circulation problems. Hamsters may want to bite the materials, so poisonous materials should be out too.
In short, following materials are
not suitable for hamsters:

  • Pine chips or cider chips, known as "Wood chips." Those materials may cause allergic reaction not only for hamsters but also human.
  • Cotton or wool fibers. Those long fibers will cringe around hamster's neck, hands or legs, may cause choking hazard.
  • "Air caps" or "Peanuts" for packing. Those may keep your hamsters warm, but harmful if eaten.
  • Clumping sand for cats' litter. It will clump in your hamsters' cheek.

So far, those materials are recommended as safe materials for hamsters bedding at JHFA mailing list in Japan:

  • "Paper sand" for cats' litter
  • Bedding with grass

Recently, bedding materials made with corn cobs are seen at pet stores. Those may be ideal too.

Hamsters like exercises. Wild hamsters sometimes migrate more than 10 Km per night, small cage may cause hamsters frustrated.
However, it is not a good idea to release hamsters in your backyard or living room, they may be vanished or face fatal accidents. So you need to place exercise facility in your hamsters tank. There are many choices, but classic wheels can be the best.
Now a days, you can find variety of wheels, from classic wire wheels to space age "glows in the dark" plastic wheels. We recommend you to avoid classic wire wheels, because it

may cause injure or your hamsters when they slip from the narrow ladder. With plastic wheels, you don't need to worry about such accidents.
We highly recommend
"Woodent wheel" from Transoniq. These are the only wheels approved by the ASPCA (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), this is the best wheel we've ever seen. You can check the wheels in action at Transoniq's web page.

Other than the wheel, it is ideal to have a hamsters' ball. This is a hollow plastic ball, you can release your hamster in the ball. If you release your hamsters in your living room, they may vanished or get hurt, which are pretty thrilling experience. However, if you release your hamster in the ball, you can avoid those tragic accidents.
Right is a
"Komet Krawer" made by Lee's Aquarium & Pet Products. This model is made with plastic glows in the dark, it will appeal to your kids or techy bro. You should pick the right size ball for your hamsters by the way. If you purchase too much big ball for your hamsters, they can't move the ball at all.

It is said the best Temperature range for hamsters is 5 Celsius to 25 Celsius (41 Fahrenheit to 77 Fahrenheit). Lower temperature may force your hamsters to hibernate (which is very dangerous for pet hamsters, that may put your hamsters rest in piece), higher temperature will exhaust your hamsters pretty badly. So you need to control the temperature of your hamsters' tank.
In hot summer days, you can place the tank in a cool place, or you can place frozen pet bottle filled with water on the tank to keep your hamsters cool. In winter, you should use heater for your hamsters, if you keep your hamsters in a cold place.

The left is a heater for reptiles, but you can use for hamsters too. Please check your local pet shop. You may find ceramic heaters for reptiles, those might be a clever purchase for your hamsters.
Of course if your home is central heated like average American houses, the temperature won't be a problem. As long as your hamsters are living in your bed room, your hamsters are safe.

Other than temperature, water supply is also critical. Even though original place of the hamsters is desert, they need water. Without water, they will die. Especially if you feed your hamsters with dry pellet, water bottle is essential.
You should choose water bottles with;

  • leak proof
  • Wide mouth for easy cleaning

The picture is water bottles from Lixit California, USA. But you can choose whatever water bottles you like. Water bottle is a water bottle anyway.
Water bottles made with glass is also ideal, so that you can sterilize it.

Some hamsters will learn the toilet manner. If your hamsters do their job at the same location, your cleaning work get much easier. Also it helps keep the environment clean. Your hamsters may not make it, but it is worth to try to make litter box in your tank. The pictures are litter boxes for hamsters. (upper left is "Hi-corner litter pan" by Super pet, below is "Hamsters' toilet" from Marukan, Japan.)
You may want to check the toilet training method for hamsters. You can find
detailed procedure for the training at Hamsters Heaven. Please check.

By the way, for litter sand, you should avoid clumping sand for cats. It may clump in hamsters cheek and create a problem. There is no article if it is true or not, but the best way is away from any potential risks.