Q: My Syrian hamster is an escape artist! I made a lid out of mesh, but he bit through it. I replaced it with an aluminium mesh, but he gnawed through that as well. Now, I have a steel grid as his cover, but he chews on it non-stop. He has a ton of toys and a huge wheel, so it’s not like he is bored. What should I do?

A: You have one very determined Syrian hamster! Escaping its cage to go on an expedition is a common trait with this breed of hamster. Hamsters do enjoy their toys but I think your hamster prefers an adventure that is out of the limits of his home. The excessive chewing on the steel grid may be dangerous for him in the long run. Do make sure it is really a stainless steel grid and not just coated with steel. The outer coat of metal will definitely slough off with the constant chewing and be ingested by your pet. This is not good at all! In addition, the excessive chewing on the hard grid can lead to damage of your hamster’s incisors. The teeth can crack and lead to bleeding gums, pain and even infection.

Please look into the size of his cage—make sure it has a base of at least 50cm by 25cm and a height of at least 25cm. There should also be different platforms to allow climbing vertically. You may also consider building your own maze and tunnel made out of toilet paper cardboard rolls. As your hamster loves to explore, a tunnel maze can provide him with adventure. Do ensure that this tunnel maze is secured at all the connections and that it is placed in a safe area in your home where he can be supervised. Make sure he does not escape the tunnel maze and run to hide somewhere else! One other toy you can consider is the running ball. This will allow your hamster to run and explore all corners of your home. Do make sure he doesn’t run the ball under your bed or cabinet where you can’t reach him. Supervision is still advised.

Syrian males are fine living in solitary. However, you can always provide daily companionship and fun play with him. You can also bring him out of his cage, spend time teaching him tricks and commands, or even going through obstacles. Use healthy vegetables to do the training. Do not feed him sugary fruit-based treats. Hamsters can be taught to do tricks like ‘paw’, ‘stay’ and ‘stand’. In this way, you can spend more time with him and he will also be entertained with healthy vegetables and learning tricks!