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Not for hamsters - read on - wheel is way too small
on 23 July 2014
Update on my review below! The bottom line is - this is not suitable for a hamster! If you have a small syrian hamster (which you don't know until it is fully grown) it may be suitable if it is an addition to a large cage which is minimum 80cm by 50cm - and of course then it'll cost twice as much and probably won't attach well. It is better to get a cage. RSPCA MINIMUM continuous floor space is 80cm x 50cm and there are plenty of good cages this size or bigger for not much more money and some cheaper. The Rotostak is a wonderful piece of design that is totally unfit for purpose sadly. I ended up getting an 80cm by 50cm Savic cage - which I am now having to replace for a 100cm x 50cm cage - because even 80 x 50 cm is not really enough floor space for a syrian hamster when they need a large wheel and rat sized accessories. We've had our hamster for about 8 months now, he is tame now and adorable - but what I have learned along the way is that anything that says it is made for a hamster is TOO SMALL for a syrian hamster! Only suitable for dwarf hamsters or mice. That goes for houses with small entrances and most toys. You need rat sized accessories for a syrian hamster - which I now have and now need a bigger cage to fit them in. So here's my recommendation - spend £49 on a great 100cm x 50cm cage from zooplus - it's called the Barney. If you can afford a bit more get the Alexander - same size but higher with extra levels in - it's £69 - and you'll never need another cage! They come with everything you need - levels, little houses - except a wheel - they all come with a wheel that is too small. A Syrian hamster needs a 29cm wheel. A dwarf hamster needs a 20cm wheel. I am now upgrading to the 100cm x 50cm Alexander and incidentally in Germany the minimum cage size recommendation by their animal welfare body, is 100 x 50. The 100 x 50 is minimum floor space in one unit - not lots of little ones so they have space to move, dig tunnels and just be a hamster basically. It's surprising how you can fit this in - it'll stand on a table, under a table or on top of an ikea storage unit (which will provide more storage and therefore more space). Our hamster can actually explore his cage, climb, have fun and has room for a big house in his cage that is nice and dark inside (which they love) and that he has built a huge nest in and also has room for a potty tray in the far corner - yes they are quite clean and will use a potty tray so makes cleaning a lot easier. If I had read the RSPCA advice about housing hamsters, I would have saved myself a lot of money along the way! The difference in behaviour is very noticeable when they have enough space to move around in and they are noticeably happier and easier to tame and handle. Yes they like tubes, but they like dark tubes, and a 10cm diameter cardboard tube is much safer - it can just sit inside a cage and they're cheap to buy or free with posters! They just like dark tunnels and dark houses basically, where they feel safe and can build a nice cosy nest and make little hoards.
Ok - here's the bottom line - do not get any rotastak unit for a syrian hamster unless you have a syrian hamster which is smaller than average when fully grown. Our hamster was getting stuck in the tubes within three weeks and have had to buy a big cage instead. A hamster with full pouches can measure 7cm across - bigger than the tubes - they can die in them. Plus there is a much better option! If you have a small or average sized syrian, get a good cage and make it fun.
I have now bought an 80cm wide x 50cm deep Savic cage. It comes with a plastic sputnik hammock that hangs from the roof. Have bought a 29cm wheel, plus some fun bits - a wood house, and a little wooden bridge. It is nice to see Charlie running with a straight back in his new bigger wheel, lying down and swinging in the wheel, climbing bars, and he had taken to just sleeping, avoiding the tubes and looking fed up in his Rotastak.
I really missed the Rotastak at first, and so did Charlie (it was for your own good mate). Charlie hated the new cage for about 10 days, he was nervous, jumpy, scared, stressed, weeing in his food bowl, overwhelmed by all the space and hated me - wouldn't even take a treat from me! But he loved the little house in it and made himself a nice nest in it. I nearly put him back in the Rotastak but stuck it out a few days more and after 14 days he was suddenly happy and back to his old self, loving it and is now our little pal again. He has his little house to build his nest in and he treats the rest of the cage as an adventure playground. I can get him in and out easily as the cage has a good big door and by putting a kitchen roll cardboard tube in the and he just walks into it. He is now so happy with all the space in the cage he doesn't want to come out very much.
I would never have plastic tubes again. The replacement cage came with a short Savic tube to put inside as a toy, which was supposed to be bigger than the Rotastak tubes and HE GOT SERIOUSLY STUCK IN THE TUBE! Luckily we were there to get him out, but he was a nervous wreck for days and it was quite upsetting to see him frantically trying to get himself out of the tube. A kitchen roll cardboard tube is much better - it is flexible and can be chewed if necessary. So overall - I vote in favour of a big cage and NO TUBES - for a Syrian hamster. A lot of people get the Savic Hamster Heaven and end up taking the tubes out, but at least it is still a good big cage with plenty of other fun bits in.