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DIY STUFF (make it yourself)

With hamster accessories often difficult to come by in SA, or quite pricey when you do find them, here are a few relatively easy things you can have a go at  making yourself.

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PLAIN CARDBOARD IS YOUR HAMSTER'S BEST FRIEND!

Inexpensive, easy to find, easy to replace when necessary, and SAFE!

You can create so much with it and you don't have to be a talented artist or skilled handyman with tools.

Always remember that your hamster does not care what anything looks like, and a low budget won't affect him at all.

POPSICLE STICKS

CAUTION & SAFETY NOTES ON POPSICLE (LOLLY/CRAFT) STICKS

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These are incredibly handy and inexpensive items for crafting various items for your hamster's habitat (fences, lining wheels and ladders, building structures, etc.). However, there are some serious risks involved that need to be noted but, since many hamster owners around the world use them to build amazing structures without any issues, we don't want to give them an outright "ban". There is risk involved in just about everything we use for hamsters in captivity so it is important that you please take note of the following precautions when using these sticks.

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GNAWING:

  • These sticks splinter very badly if gnawed, which will be really hazardous if your hamster ingests pieces or gets them in his pouches or mouth. They are not suitable as chew toys.

  • The sharpness of splintered popsicle objects can also cause bad scratches and cuts to the body and feet.

  • Make sure he has plenty of other more suitable gnaws and chews in the habby that may take focus away from chewing up his walls and structures.

  • It may be worth testing a few simple structures first to see if he is "one of those" destructive kinds of hams. In such cases, you should remove the items immediately and rather invest in safer wood sticks/rods or thick cardboard for your projects.

GAPS IN FENCES, STRUCTURES, & LADDERS:

There have been too many incidents where hamsters have gotten a foot or toe stuck in gaps and joins (even the most tightly closed items). While it appears to be mainly dwarf hamsters that have been at risk, NEVER underestimate the size of any hamster's toes, feet & nails, and how easy it can be to get stuck. If any part of the limb gets stuck, your hamster will either gnaw it's own foot off to free itself, or it will break or sprain it's leg in the panic to get free (many are found dangling from the fence with a twisted broken limb). In both cases, there will be severe pain and shock that could result in death if not found within minutes of the disaster ... your hamster will require immediate veterinary attention at an exotics vet. A broken or too-damaged limb will have to be amputated if the hamster has not already gnawed it off.

Gaps in fences (where you prefer the visibility of a picket fence appearance) need to be as follows -

  • Dwarfs: minimum 1cm spacing.

  • Syrians: minimum 1.2cm spacing.

However, we still prefer you to not have any gaps at all, just to be perfectly safe. If you do insist on gaps, cheap flexible chopping mats from Crazy Store (e.g.) are nice and translucent and work really well to cover the inner side of fences.​

Solid fences & walls - The inside of these where the hamster is active, HAS to be covered with card all the way to the top of the structure, so that just the outside is visible to you as decorative and to provide sturdiness of the wall. Do not underestimate a toe or little nails getting stuck in the closest of joins!

Ladders and structures -

  • The insides of boxes, nest boxes, and houses should be lined with cardboard on the inside.

  • Tops of ladders and the outsides of structures should be coated to help seal the joins. Safe non-toxic coating like Wondaseal or Modge Podge can be used (note that Modge Podge is not waterproof if pee'd on or water spilled).

  • Platforms/shelves should be lined with something solid - cardboard, paper, place mats, etc. Flexible chopping mats are very useful since they are easy to wipe clean, as well as being transparent, so your popsicle sticks are still visible.

RECOMMENDED:

  • Tongue Depressors are usually better quality and smoother than craft/popsicle sticks. They are also longer and wider, which should make your construction go faster. Since they are longer, walls & fences will also be higher and safer.

  • Cheapest places to buy: Dischem or salon supply stores (if you have a friend in a salon business).

  • Easiest way to cut these sticks without them splitting is with a carpet knife and do a few gentle scores until you're all the way through. Please ensure that any sharp corners or edges are sanded smooth.

SEALANT
GLUE

NON-TOXIC WOOD SEALANT

To seal the surface to make them less absorbent against urine and spills, only use a non-toxic coating, like WondaSeal OR Gripseal (available in clear and other tones). Found at many hardware stores and online via Takealot.

 

Modge Podge craft glue/coating is also safe to use, but is basically PVA glue and won't hold up to washing items in water. 

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SAFE GLUES

  • Contractors Acrylic (Low VOC) is great for sealing joins in habitats and, because it is slightly flexible, won't crack if there's small movement while moving the structure. 

  • PVA glues (Cold Glue), water-based wood glues and kid's craft glues, are safe for projects, where the glue needs to dry hard.

  • A hot glue gun can be used for construction projects, but try to find non-toxic glue sticks, or ensure that the glue is hidden. 

  • Cooked flour glue/paste is great for making paper mache and edible items:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SA0PZZ9hEA0. Please note that any flour used as an adhesive should be baked first (180-200degC for 20min), or use this cooking method in the link for glues. Raw flour can contain E.Coli from the grain, and milling processes do not always kill it, so it's always safer to make sure it is eliminated.

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PAINT
string

PAINTS & TAPES

  • Never use sellotape on any of the projects as these pose a risk if chewed.

  • Masking tape is much safer as it's more papery and slightly less risky.

  • Where masking tape won't hold sufficiently, Clear Packaging Tape sticks well but only if you can stick it down really flush so that the hamster cannot grip any edge to nibble it.

  • Duct Tape is stronger and can be used for lining MPet Wheels and covering joins. Obviously, if there are any signs of tape being gnawed, we do recommend that you remove it and find another solution.​

  • Paint that is suitable for human baby toys, cribs and walls are also safe.

  • Kids non-toxic craft paints.

PET-SAFE PAINTS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bv1PPJPAixU.

STRING / ROPE / TWINE

String can be used in certain projects, be it decorative to cover cardboard items, for hanging toys and swings, or to tie materials together instead of using glue.

 

CAUTIONS:

  • Some hamsters may take to nibbling strings or ropes and you will need to watch out for this as the threads can pose a tangling risk to limbs and teeth. Generally, though, these do seem to be ignored by most hamsters. 

  • Petroleum is used in the manufacture of some strings, particularly sisal types, so try to find ones that state "non-toxic" just to be safe.

Recommended strings: Twines made from hemp are great and are available via Hemporium and some of their stockists: https://www.hemporium.co.za/Fabric

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WATER BOTTLE STANDS

WATER BOTTLE STANDS
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This holder is easy to make by simply sticking lolly sticks to a cardboard tube that fits your water bottle loosely (make the tube by cutting any easy-to-bend piece of cardboard if you don't have a good fitting tube already). Simply get the little hole in the right position for the spout, or leave an open gap above it.

This one is also useful to glue to the inside wall of a tank or bin, if you don't want it free standing, and once you are sure where you want it to stay.

(Please see note about Popsicle Stick Safety above)

Alternatively, for a more durable solution, get an off-cut of a pvc plumbing pipe (beg from your local plumber) and drill/melt a furrow down the side, stopping at the appropriate height for the water bottle, sand down any rough edges, and stick it to a tile or lolly stick base for sturdiness. You could also glue lolly sticks all around the tube like the one on the left.  

Or you can simply melt/drill/grind a hole in a spare segment of hamster tube, using one of the holes, that are already there, as the starting point.

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TEMPORARY/EMERGENCY STAND.

This one is good & easy if you're desperate, as a temporary measure until you find something more durable and permanent. 

If it’s not very stable, maybe try stuffing a little sandbag inside at the bottom (wrap sand in paper towel) or stick it to a wider flat base, like cardboard, tile, or lolly stick, using a hot glue gun or aquarium glue.

WHEELS

WHEELS

REMINDER OF THE MINIMUM SIZES: 

Upright Wheels: DWARF: 21cm - 30cm (8.3 - 11.8”) ; SYRIAN/TEDDY BEAR: 27cm - 35cm (11 - 14") 

Flying Saucers - Dwarfs: Min. 26cm (9.8") and Syrians: Min 35cm (14")    ...or larger 

Use the correct sized dish for Syrian’s or Dwarfs.

To remedy the possible scraping sound that is mentioned, simply stick a piece of felt or fleece fabric on the post behind the wheel.

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If you're lucky to have a garage full of power tools, here's a more complicated, but beautiful, one: 

Note: A hamster that isn't yet potty trained may pee in the wheel. In such cases it's best to seal the inner surface. Sealing may also help to prevent splintering.

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CLEVER HACKS

TURN YOUR STIFF OR NOISY WHEEL INTO A SILENT SPINNER

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You can use any straight-sided round container, but the stand and mechanism is great.

DON'T BOTHER WITH THESE STRING LINING HACKS for MPet wheels. 

They may look pretty cool but your efforts will be destroyed in one night! Furthermore, the woven kind of hack can be abrasive and pretty harsh on the little feet, risking bumblefoot and painful abrasions. 

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EMERGENCY/TEMP WHEEL

Here's a simpler one made of cardboard...good for an emergency if your good one breaks.

If you're handy with tools, you could make this with plywood.

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~ Courtesy of Jo Whitehouse Taylor ~

crossbar hack

USING THE BARREL OF A BAD WHEEL TO MAKE A GOOD WHEEL

Get

  • A length of PVC Conduit piping from your hardware store (really cheap) 

  • 3 x T-joins, a pack of about 10 nuts n bolts & 3 or 4 washers

  • a thin metal screw-rod (about 8-10cm long).

  1. Use a saw or angle grinder to saw off the framework and bar from the front of the bad wheel.

  2. Use the cross-bar from the front to make an "X" with the back bar, pushing the screw-rod through the holes and securing with a nut and a washer.

  3. Use a gluegun to secure the loose bar to the edge of the barrel. 

  4. Place a strong card inside the X-frame and make a hole in the center to pass the rod through and secure with another nut and washer so that the rod is right at the end of the nut (adjust the nuts at the back).

  5. Use the illustrations as guidelines and make measurements for cutting and connecting the pvc pipe to make your frame high enough to accommodate bedding and wide enough to keep the wheel sturdy.

You can also use this method to make a completely new wheel, using a straight-sided round container, similar to making a hedgehog wheel)

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FLYING SAUCERS

You can also use a plastic plant pot drip tray, or a sturdy plastic lid. 

If you don't want to use craft sticks, make ridges with hot glue, or line the entire dish with a lightly textured plastic place mat or corrugated carboard.

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Use the CPU fan or fidget spinner hacks to make a smoother, faster run.

TUBES & PIPES

TUBES & PIPES

Warning: do not use plastic or cardboard tubes on the exterior of the habby. It is too easy for the hamster to gnaw through and escape. Hard PVC or acrylic pipes are hardier.

IT IS ADVISABLE TO REMOVE ANY TUBES & ITEMS MADE FROM UNNATURAL MATERIAL (PLASTIC). If your hamster gnaws at them, the bits pose a danger of blockages in the intestines. Do provide enough other more inviting items in the habitat to chew on (Whimzees, Gnaw Sticks, Seed Gnaws, etc.) Plain cardboard is, however, safe, and won't cause problems if gnawed.

POSTAGE TUBES come in various lengths and diameters and are REALLY inexpensive from places like PostNet, Merrypak, Packit, or possibly your local stationery shop.

If you have a fabric/curtain shop nearby, you can also try to bum an EMPTY CORE from them for free (the tube that the rolls of fabric are wrapped around).

Cardboard is a lot healthier than plastic, and easy & cheap enough to replace if necessary.

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by Kevin Campbell (Ontario, Canada)

10 THINGS TO DO WITH CARDBOARD TUBES

Use empty toilet paper rolls, paper towel roll.

For Syrians wanting a swing or adventure tunnels, wide postage tubes can be used for a better fit.

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PVC PLUMBING PIPES are great for connecting bin cages and for making underground tunnels.

We still recommend using cardboard inside the habitat, but this is an option.

 

Don’t use these for steep inclines as they will be too slippery for your hamster climb.

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See PAPER MACHE  and PAPER PULP "CLAY" sections 

(further down) to make more tubes, tunnels & logs. 

Alternatively, use fine sandpaper in ONE tube or a section of a longer tube. 

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PRINGLES TUBES can be very handy things, and the diameter is suitable for both dwarfs and Syrians!

However, please note: The colour printing ink is toxic and the foil linings (on the inside AND under the printed layer) is dangerous. BOTH HAVE TO BE PEELED OFF. It may be easier to just opt for a plain cardboard tube instead, in similar size, like the postage tubes.

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TUBE SWING

TUBE SWING

Any good sized tube will work. Tie a piece of string around it, towards either end, and fasten to bars/mesh at the top or wherever convenient at a height that the hamster can reach to get in and out, or use a sturdy stone or brick as a step below the ends.  

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BRIDGES & LADDERS

BRIDGES & LADDERS / RAMPS

FIX THAT OPEN-RUNG LADDER: 

Ignore the terrible setup in the video

BENDY BRIDGES & LADDERS

Make them as wide & long as you need.

Make sure there are no gaps where the hamster's foot can get stuck!

Using EMPTY TOILET ROLL TUBES

Made from STICKS/WOODEN RODS/DOWELS

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PLATFORMS & SHELVES

PLATFORMS / SHELVES

HANDY TIP for any wood or cardboard shelf:

To prevent the shelf from becoming stained & dirty, and to make it easier to wipe clean, use a flexible chopping mat to cover it.

Easy to cut to size or any shape, and transparent so that it doesn't conceal your construction material. You can even line bland cardboard surfaces with decorative paper and then cover with the mat.

Available at Crazy Stores and many Plastics shops. Inexpensive.

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PLATFORM OUT OF WOOD

OR CARDBOARD

Use thicker cardboard than demonstrated for better sturdiness.

SUPER EASY SHELF

You can possibly find these things in China Town, hardware or kitchenware stores, and Gelmar.

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~ From the book Homemade for Hamsters by Carin Oliver ~

Tip: It doesn't have to be a tree, and you can make it larger for a Syrian hamster. Get creative!

Note that runged ladders are quite dangerous, so rather do a solid one.

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MULTI-PLATFORM

  • Hardboard can be used for the platforms, or thick cardboard.

  • Legs are cut to lengths from empty core rolls (cardboard). You could use wooden dowels too.

  • Make the heights of each level at a reachable distance for either Syrian or Dwarf hamsters. 

  • If the height of the top platform is going to be a considerable drop, it is best to rather build that as a box to be a housey up there.

PAINO PLATFORM HIDEAWAY 

Can be made out of thick sturdy cardboard, empty paper towel tubes, and a cutting knife (or from wood if you have power tools).

~ Curtesy of Sheneille Pienaar ~

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BEDROOMS / NEST BOXES

NEST BOX
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NOTE: DO NOT USE A PRINGLES TUBE UNLESS PREPARED AS ABOVE.

Quite honestly, you do not need to purchase a special house/bedroom for your hamster to sleep or explore in. In fact plastic domes and houses are not particularly healthy....sweaty & hot in summer and not very warm in winter.

Any little cardboard box, preferably plain cardboard, will do and is healthier than plastic, easy & cheap to replace whenever necessary.

  • A solid bottom also makes it easier to empty and clean than trying to pick out poops and old food from bedding below a dome.

  • You can have the bottom open and place it on top of some deep bedding so that it is almost like a sing-chamber box.

  • Keep the front completely open.

  • Alternatively, place a short cardboard tube through the entrance, but be sure to cut  open a section of the top for better ventilation (keep the top loose on the sides so that it flaps open to make emptying easier). 

  • With thin carboard boxes, you can line the inside with thicker cardboard, particularly in winter, to provide extra insulation.

  • If your main box structure is made of printed/glossed cardboard, it is best to line the inside with thick plain cardboard since many hamsters have the tendency to scratch and gnaw the cardboard walls (good for teeth and nails, so don't be concerned) but the coating will be toxic. 

LAYERED NEST BOX FROM SCRAPS

Adjust the size of your carboard pieces or cutouts to make it slightly roomier for a Syrian hamster.

COCONUT HIDEAWAY

COCONUT NESTBOX OR HIDEOUT

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These are fun little adventure hidey chambers that are also safe for the ham to nibble and claw on (good for teeth and nails). Whole coconuts are really cheap to buy when in season and you won't find a cheaper accessory in any shop. 

They're a great addition to a sand or coco-peat pit or even as a hanging swing hovering slightly above the bedding or a shelf (make sure your ham can actually master getting into a moving object though).

Larger coconuts could also be used as sand baths, but will absorb urine odours if the ham decides to use it as a toilet, so make sure your little one has already "bonded" with another container for peeing in.

The coconut meat that you remove can also be fed to your hamster in small amounts as healthy little treats.

Chamber box
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Wine gift boxes are available from packaging & box suppliers. Inexpensive. 

You can insert more divisions & cutouts to make an extra chamber or two.

CHAMBER BOX

This can be with or without a solid base.

  • Chamber boxes without the base are usually placed on top of deep bedding and will mimic burrows and chambers that hamsters would build in the wild. The hamster will dig down into the bedding.

  • Those with a base will similarly mimic the chambers, but can be placed anywhere in the habitat to be used as a multi-purpose nest & forage box.

  • Many hamsters will choose a chamber to sleep in, another to hoard food, another to place poops in, etc. Some hamsters will use a chamber to pee in, but a fitting litter potty can be place inside that one for easier cleaning and to prevent urine from soaking into the walls and/or base.

  • They can also be used as forage boxes (see further down) for exploration. 

  • The lid can also be used as a convenient platform for food & water, but make sure it is nicely fitted or hinged to prevent shifting. 

 

You can create a chamber box using wood if you have a few power tools, or more easily from thick cardboard with scissors/box knife.

Try to use a method that does not require much glue and no tape.

If you have to use small nails, make sure no sharp ends are exposed, and also check the inside regularly if you detect that your hamster is gnawing the walls or bases. In the case of gnawing, remove the tacks, and use a safe glue instead, but best to replace with a cardboard version.

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FORAGE BOXES

FORAGE BOX

To complement their natural foraging instinct, a hamster may enjoy this, made from a simple 18-egg carton.

Ideal for dwarf hamsters, but you can make them from any other suitably sized box for Syrians (e.g. cardboard takeaway drinks cartons).

Squash alternate dividers flat, cut a hole for an entrance and another in the lid at the opposite end.

Fill with various substrates of choice, and pop in some treats for him to forage for, e.g. safe dried leaves/herbs/flowers (see Enrichments page), barley grass (freeze first or dry fresh in the oven yourself), strips of clean crumpled paper, Chipsi Digging Substrate, a mealworm or two, dry food mix, a safe nut, etc.

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BURROW BOX

BURROW BOX

If you have a habitat mesh in the front, this can be useful to provide a suitably deep burrowing area without the bedding tumbling out onto your floor.

  • Not entirely ideal as it can disrupt the natural flow of unbroken floor space and result in a minimum sized habitat simply being two small cages.

  • Only use if you absolutely have to.

  • A burrow box for the purpose of holding the deep burrowing bedding should be at least 25cm deep, and filled up, with the top open or have a half-shelf over one end (never cover the top completely).

  • The hamster should be able to access and exit the burrow area from the top, as well as via a few lower entrance-exit holes on the side facing the main part of the habitat. Use a bendy bridge or ramp for top access, unless there is a shelf 

  • A Syrian would require a considerably larger burrow box than a Dwarf would.

This illustration is just an example, using a carboard box, but should be larger for proper tunneling. The front and one side have been cut out and covered with thick transparency film to possibly view the hamster’s activity. The tube is for lower access at the bottom. 

PLAYGROUNDS

NEVER LEAVE YOUR HAMSTER UNATTENDED IN ANY PLAY AREA THAT DOES NOT HAVE A LID!

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PLAYPEN

This one folds up for convenient storage and is made from hardboard and duct tape, consisting of10x 50x30cm panels. You can connect as many or few panels as you like, depending on how big/small you need it to be for your space, but the ends can overlap.

Hardboard is heavy & sturdy and most recommended. Available at most hardware stores in large sheets, and you can utilise their cutting service to have the panels cut.  

Glass will be too easy to break, and therefore unsafe.

Cardboard will not be heavy enough and could be lifted by an ambitious hamster, or chewed through.

Make sure you place high objects in the center so that the hamster doesn’t use them as leverage to hop over.

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LABYRINTH/MAZE PLAYGROUND

This will be a fun addition to your playpen, or you can make a larger one with higher sides as more of a playpen.

A great activity for mental stimulation.

Your hamster should always be able to exit the maze, in order to avoid anxiety. Never have a hamster completely trapped in a maze.

Watch that your hamster doesn't chew through the cardboard....don't leave him unattended in any cardboard structure.

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If you can't figure out a maze yourself, here's a plan that you can enlarge 

SCRATCH MAT

Use a smaller box/lid for hamsters and press dried treats and seeds between the strips to make him work for his treats.

Excellent for gnawing & scrabbling to keep the teeth and nails trimmed, muscles in shape, and for mental stimulation.

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SAFE CLAY
PAPER MACHE

PAPER MACHE & DIY CLAY

Depending on your project and the sturdiness you require, you may want to consider if a "clay" mache or the standard mache is needed.

There are quite a few different methods/recipes. Here are some videos for good options and worth watching.

  • Be aware that raw flour can contain E.Coli from the grain, and milling processes does not always kill/eliminate it. We therefore recommended that any flour used as an adhesive be baked first (180-200°C for 20min), or use the Cooked Flour Glue recipe. 

PAPER MACHE STRUCTURE IDEAS

Some are fairly flimsy structures unless you make layers and layers and layers to make them sturdier, but they work well and look good. 

Use  a long sausage balloon as a mold for tubes, or balloons and bowls for other shapes. 

Remember to use the Cooked Flour Glue, or baked flour. 

wood log (mache)

EASY HAMSTER-SAFE CLAY

Super smooth, dries quickly in sun or oven, ready to paint within 24 hours, followed by a coating of modge.

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~ Courtesy of Jo Whitehouse Taylor ~

PAPER PULP "CLAY"

If you want to make the clay darker, or a colour, use food colouring in the liquid.

The Easy Hamster Safe Clay can also be used instead.

DIY PAPER BEDDING.

HOMEMADE PAPER BEDDING
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KAYTEE CLEAN N COZY STYLE

This is more suited as nesting material, plus you’ll need a lot more than this recipe to fill an entire cage as a bedding.

EASIER SHREDDER METHOD

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We recommend still chopping it up a little with scissors, or cutting the serviettes into shorter pieces before shredding, in order to avoid long tangling strands. Note that most paper shredders tend to clog up with soft papers.

CAREFRESH STYLE

Whether you use paper, toilet paper, or paper towel, they all turn out rough & pellet-like. HONESTLY...

 NOT WORTH THE EFFORT.

TRAVEL CAGE SYSTEM
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TRAVEL SYSTEM

One of these small bins could be useful as a holding ‘cage’ for when the main habitat is being cleaned. Also really great if your hamster has to do an overnighter at the vet.

RECIPES

RECIPES
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HOMEMADE SEED GNAWS

2/3 cup Mixed Canary Seed

2 or 3 Tbsp Buckwheat Flour 

Unsweetened Baby Fruit Juice/Puree or Water.

  • Mix flour and seeds together in a small bowl.

  • Start adding a little liquid, enough to make a stiff dough.

  • Roll small pieces of the dough into little balls. Keep your hands wet to prevent the dough from sticking.

  • Flatten the balls slightly. 

  • Place on baking paper on a baking tray. 

  • Bake at 150°C for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on how thick you’ve made them – they should be hard & dry, not still squishy.

  • Let them cool - they should harden more with air.

  • Store extra in a paper bag.

meatloaf

BOOSTER “MEATLOAF”

Great for nursing females, babies, sick/weak hamsters, and elderly hamsters. (Or as an occasional treat for any hamster).

NO salt or seasoning to be used:   

1 Tbsp of plain oats (without oat bran)

1/2 Tbsp of plain probiotic/organic yogurt 

1/2 Tbsp tinned Hills Restorative Care (chicken)

1/2 Tbsp of shredded carrots and/or broccoli (or any other safe veggie/s)

1 pinch of wheat germ (optional)

Weak Rooibos/Nettle/Dandelion Tea (or plain boiled water)

Protexin Soluble (available from most vet shops and some pet shops)

  • Mix all together, except the Protexin.

  • Add rooibos tea, a few drops at a time, until it’s to a consistency that you’re happy with.

  • Feed in consumable portions (with a pinch of Protexin added).

    • Freeze or refrigerate any excess in convenient portion sizes for extended use.

    • Remove any leftovers that haven't been eaten within a few hours.

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butternut pips

BUTTERNUT & PUMPKIN PIP TREATS

If you make butternut or pumpkin for dinner, or to puree for your hamster, don't throw away the pips!

  • Press them out of the raw veg and wash in very hot water to get rid of the slimy feeling.

  • Pat dry with some paper towelling and leave to air-dry for an hour or two on a piece of wax paper or cling wrap.

  • Pop them into a sealed container and store in the freezer.

Give as little treats. They defrost quite quickly.

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PEANUTS & PEANUT BUTTER

Not all peanut butter from the supermarket is safe - use organic only (no ingredients other than peanuts), or you can easily make your own from plain peanuts, which you can use in recipes or give a smear as an occasional treat.

As the video explains, do not give your hamster a blob of peanut butter.

To prevent a mass getting stuck in the pouches or becoming a chocking hazard in the throat, make sure it is in a thin smear that he can only lick. Also be careful of feeding too much (and whole peanuts too) because they contain aflatoxin which can be harmful to hamsters in large amounts.

A weekly treat will be fine.

FACTS & HOW TO MAKE HAMSTER-SAFE PEANUT BUTTER - 

PLEASE WATCH BEFORE YOU GIVE PEANUT BUTTER TO YOUR HAM:

GOOD COMMERCIAL PEANUT BUTTERS

If you do not want to make your own, organic peanut butter with no sugar, salt or preservatives are the safest choices and just as good. 

  • Nature's Choice is GMO-free and available in the health foods sections at Dischem and most supermarkets.

  • Simple Truth Peanut Butter is available from Checkers stores.

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FRUIT/VEGGIE TREATS Recipe by Abby Angus ~

Approx. 60ml safe Baby Food - without chunks (not fruit for dwarfs)

3 Tbsp Flour (whole wheat or buckwheat flour)

1 Egg White

  • Mix all ingredients together and pour into baking moulds. Use more flour to make a stiffer dough if you want to shape/cut them instead and place on a baking sheet.

  • Bake at 150°C until cooked and hard.

  • Pop them into a sealed container, or vacuum-seal in small batches, and store in the fridge. 

  • Give as little treats.

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nibble rolls

NIBBLE SEED ROLLS

These are quite a hit with most hamsters. Keeps them busy, and it's great for the teeth & nails.

Please note that any flour used as an adhesive should be baked first (180-200°C for 20min), or use the cooking method in the link.

Raw flour can contain E.Coli from the grain, and milling processes do not always kill it, so it is safer to make sure it is eliminated.

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DRY MIX OPTIONS:

  • Your hamster food mix (although quite expensive if you're using a good quality).

  • Seeds: Mixed Canary Seed, hemp seeds, meal worms, flax seeds, chopped pumpkin seeds, hulled sunflower seeds, hulled buckwheat, etc.

  • A few safe dried flowers & herbs.

NOTE - You do want it to be a healthy treat: 

Avoid bird seed mixes that contain corn and black sunflower seeds.

Nuts, coconut, and mealworms are very high in fat, so do be conservative. 

It is a messy project (sticky fingers, seeds flying all over and in the oven, etc.) and if you're not up to it, you can order them ready-made:

....OR TO GIVE YOUR HAMSTER A BIGGER CHALLENGE: 

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HOMEMADE HAMSTER DRY FOOD MIX GUIDELINE

This is not a perfect balance, nor a perfect mix, but possibly better than an inferior commercial dry mix.

Note: DRY FOOD SHOULD NOT BE USED AS THE SOLE DIET. YOUR HAMSTER REQUIRES FRESH VEG & PROTEINS TOO.

IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Besides the fact that mixing your own dry mix can actually be more expensive than buying one of the recommended good quality local mixes, certain factors should be noted:​

  • Before you think you may have a business opportunity here, kindly note that it is fine to make a food mix for your own personal use, but it is actually dishonest to sell homemade food mixes to other unsuspecting hamster owners without extensive research into nutritional category proportions & proper balances for each species.

  • Some herbs and plants can be dangerous for pregnant hamsters, so please make sure your hamster isn't pregnant or nursing, and do your research if that is the case.

  • HOWEVER, for those people who live far away from access to good mixes, and unwilling to purchase from our recommended online local suppliers, making your own may be better than providing any poor quality mix sold at a local pet shop. This isn't the cheapest or the easiest solution, but it is a more natural one. 

GUIDE OF DRY INGREDIENTS (makes about 730g)

Try to get GMO-free/organic products!

DO NOT JUST USE ONE  INGREDIENT FROM EACH CATEGORY! It is important that your hamster gets its important variety of nutrients from different ingredients.

200g Variety of WHOLE GRAINS: 

Barley, Hulled Buckwheat, Oats, Spelt (hulled wheat), Rye, Red & White Sorghum.

100g Variety of GRAIN FLAKES: 

Barley Flakes, Puffed Barley, Milk Thistle seeds, Rolled Oats (without bran), Rice Flakes, Rye Flakes, Wheat Flakes or unsalted Weetbix.

100g Variety of SMALL SEEDS: 

Black Sesame, Chia, Hemp, Quinoa, Flax/Linseeds, Rape/Canola seeds, and various types of Millet (Japanese, foxtail, yellow).

80g Variety of PROTEINS: 

Crickets, Dubia Roaches, dehydrated Egg (or Avian Egg Food without garlic), small Dried Fish/Shrimp, Grasshoppers, Silkworm larvae.

If your hamster doesn’t like any of these, be sure to include plain chicken and beef, and cooked egg, two or three times a week in the fresh food diet (plain steamed flaked hake, tuna, or salmon is also fine).

Reduce the amount of protein serves for elderly hamsters.

   

100g Variety of DRIED HERBS & FLOWERS: 

Calendula/Marigold petals, Chamomile flowers, Chickweed, Cornflowers (pink & blue), Dandelion (roots/leaves/flowers), Dill leaves/stems, Gingko leaves, Grass (Wheat/Barley), Hemp leaves, Hibiscus, Mallow, Milk Thistle leaves/stems, Oat Straw, Parsley root, Red Clover, Rose petals, Stinging Nettle roots/leaves, Sunflower petals, Thyme, Yarrow.

Flower and Herb mixes are also conveniently available in shops - Burgess Excel Wildflower Forage and Burgess Excel Luscious Leaves.

50g Variety of FATS: 

Brazil Nuts, Coconut Flakes, Hazelnuts, Pecan Nuts, Pumpkin Seeds, hulled sunflower seeds.

50g Assortment of DRY TREAT FOODS: 

As a treat and to make the food more interesting.

Chopped up CBD Biscuits, Pea/Sweetpea flakes, crumbled unsalted Rice Cakes or Puffed Rice, dried Strawberry flakes. Mealworms (don’t use only mealworms as a protein/fat/treat ingredient as they are very high in fat and potassium). 

  • Mix together and freeze for 48 hours to ensure that most ganonies in seeds, flowers and grains are killed.

  • Store the bulk of the mix in a sealed container in the fridge or freezer to maintain quality.

  • ​Tip: Remember that each hamster has his/her particular taste it may not eat all the ingredients. It is, however, important that they get the variety of nutrition that each ingredient offers. If your hamster is fussy and you are concerned that he may not be eating the full balance of his mix, simply grind up a little of the mix finely in a small liquidizer/electric coffee grinder/pestle & mortar and mash this “powder” into his/her favourite fresh food (works well in pureed foods).

NOTES ABOUT OTHER INGREDIENTS:

Dried/Dehydrated Vegetables:

It is usually pointless to use these, since most hamsters don’t really like them, so could be a waste of money to add to a mix. They can however be reconstituted in water and given as part of the fresh food serves.

Fresh foods are an important part of the diet anyway, so rather feed vegetables in fresh or pureed form from the safe fresh foods list.

Dried legume veg (e.g. peas/split-peas, lentils, mung beans):

Also pointless. You may as well feed your hamster little stones, and he could break a tooth. Most are only suitable cooked or sprouted, so should be part of the fresh foods.

Dried/Dehydrated Fruits:

Rather don’t add. Most dried fruits tend to be risky due to stickiness because they can become stuck on teeth, on the pallet, in a cheek, in the pouches, etc. and a hamster could scratch itself open quite badly trying to get rid of the irritation.

Sugar content is also very high and difficult to assess in dry form.

We therefore recommend feeding fresh or pureed fruits from the safe fresh foods list.

Dwarf hamsters should only have a small piece of fruit once a week.

Pasta & Rice:

While some hams may enjoy gnawing on a raw/dry piece, they become quite sharp and could damage the inside of the pouches.

Pasta and Rice can also swell up inside the stomach and, if too much is eaten, can cause tummy aches.

Rather served a little cooked chopped up pasta/rice mixed into fresh mushier foods.

Peanuts:

Not the best “nut” for hamsters, but as an occasional treat can be fine.

Organic peanut butter (salt & sugar free), is fine to use in treat recipes.

Good online shops for some of the organic herbs/flowers/seeds: https://essentiallynatural.co.za/295-flowers-herbs and http://www.healthandherbs.co.za/

Many herbs, grains, and seeds are also available in Dischem (check in the vitamin supplements and the health foods isles).

Good online shop for live or dried insects: https://www.jozibugs.co.za/82-dried-feeder-insects and http://www.feedersforafrica.co.za/online-store/quality-dried-feeders/category/95-love-bites-for-your-pet

PLEASE LET US KNOW  if you find any other cool and easy DIY projects or tips
that we can add to this page and share with everyone else! 
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