Hamster  Playground
by David Imber
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Q: I would like to query "toys" for hamsters. They have a wheel, and the house is an inverted plastic bowl with an arch doorway cut out. What toys would be safe and non toxic?

A: Regarding toys, this is one of the most joyous aspects of caring for hamsters: One can make a toy out of next to nothing that is infinitely more interesting to them than the expensive things you'll see in pet stores

For example, I have an inflatable children's wading pool. I fill it with clean cardboard boxes, plastic tubing that I pick up from the hardware supply store (75 cents/foot), creatively cut-up soft drink bottles, one Wodent Wheel, and so on. This is my hamsters' "playground" and they run around happily in it for an hour at a time (one syrian at a time or one cage of dwarves at a time).

It's high enough that they can't climb out, but they can see and hear us walk past constantly (they stand up and look toward us - if we stand at the side they run over to us). All this endless fun cost about USD $18 for the pool (if I remember) and about $4 for the rest. If the pool weren't available I
could imagine doing this in the bath tub. Hamsters are extremely easy to entertain due to their habit of rambling endlessly. Give them lots of corners and passages to walk through and around and they're
in heaven.

We wash the playground frequently, but some scent probably lingers from visit to visit. It's completely unscientific, but we actually think this is good for the hams. We feel it keeps them curious and stimulated, but in a safe way.

Also, the hour or so they might spend in the playground is carefully monitored. We give them a chunk of apple now and then in case they get thirsty, and carry them back home if they seem tired or bored.

The playground idea really works, and I'd urge everyone to give it a try. It's great fun for us and them (occasionally we even get in the pool with them and become one of the "rides"). You can probably come up with some creative approaches to this with whatever you have at hand.