The pet trade has an immense range of accessories for setting up a rodent cage. However, not all items are suitable. Some things can even be dangerous for the animals.
Hamsters, mice, guinea pigs, degus. The small rodents are popular pets – and supposedly easy to keep. A cage, bedding, and something to play climb and tumble around in the rodent home is complete. But stop! Especially when it comes to accessories, there are some pitfalls that can be unpleasant for the owner and life-threatening for the animal.
It starts with the materials: plastic is completely unsuitable in the rodent home, for several reasons: gnawed, swallowed splinters can lead to life-threatening injuries in the intestine. Due to the mostly smooth surface, there is a risk of slipping and falling. There is insufficient air circulation in plastic tubes and mazes. And angled elements can often only be cleaned inadequately and dry poorly. As a result, fungi, mold, and bacteria like to settle, which in turn can lead to serious illnesses.
So-called Wodent Wheels wheels are an exception, says Kristina Grich from the Samtpfötli Shop in Liestal. “They are made of a special plastic that is soft and does not splinter when chewed.” The US health authorities have classified him as harmless to health.
Wheels with Pitfalls
Instead of plastic tubes, Grich recommends cork tubes. “They are usually beautifully branched and can be climbed, as the animals find a good grip on the soft, structured surface.” There is also nothing wrong with untreated cardboard tubes or empty toilet paper rolls. These also like to be gnawed to pieces. “If you stick some food on it with flour paste mixed with wholemeal flour and water, this serves to obtain food, i.e. the main occupation of an animal in the wild.” Pipes and houses made of clay, unglazed ceramics, bamboo, and untreated, resin-free wood can also be used.
A dangerous patch for delicate rodents is lattice floors. They slip easily or get stuck with their paws. Cork or wood shelves are more suitable. “These can also be painted with a so-called slobber paint,” advises Grich. Thanks to this toy varnish, dirt, and urine do not penetrate the wood as quickly.
Another injury-prone trap is metal wheels with open rungs, suspension on both sides, and a cross brace. Since the legs are often not high enough, the animals can get trapped under the wheel. Feet and tails easily get caught in open suspensions and rungs. Serious injuries are the result. A suitable impeller should be completely closed on one side and completely open on the entry side. Wheels that are too small also cause severe curvature of the spine. The vertebrae are worn down incorrectly, which in the worst case leads to a herniated disc. Harmless, specially developed rodent wheels are available from pet shops.
Fear of Death in the Running Ball
Running balls and jogging balls, in which the rodent is locked up to give him space to run around in the apartment, are even considered absolutely contrary to animal welfare. Running is literally forced on the mouse or hamster here. Since the animals cannot leave the balls when it suits them, they quickly panic. There is also a risk of serious injury from bumping into furniture or falling downstairs, and poor ventilation creates shortness of breath and additional stress. It is better to let the rodent run free in a larger, delimited area.
So-called hamster cotton also has its pitfalls. It consists of a material that pulls strings and can even strangle the animals’ limbs. In addition, hamster cotton is not breathable and can cause serious digestive problems if the rodent swallows it. Instead, kapok wool, dust-free hay, and straw, as well as dried leaves and moss are harmless. “An unscented handkerchief or toilet paper is also an ideal nesting material,” says Grich. It can be given whole or torn into strips.
Furnishings made of fabric such as hammocks, teepees, special fabric nests, and houses are dangerous. As soon as the animal chews on the fabric, the long fibers are released. These in turn can constrict limbs, which can lead to amputation or even death of the animals. “Or the fibers are swallowed and cause an intestinal blockage, which you usually don’t notice in such a small animal. An agonizing death would be the result », warns Grich.
In addition, only untreated bedding should be used. Perfumed litter or litter treated with odor-binding substances, on the other hand, irritates the rodents’ respiratory tract and skin. It can also cause stress reactions, as it masks the animals’ own smell. “It is important that the bedding remains stable when building the underground tunnels,” says Grich. Small animal litter made from softwood shavings is particularly suitable for this. Other types of bedding can also be offered in so-called digging boxes. This serves to provide variety and employment for the small rodent.
Big Enough for Full Cheeks
When it comes to toys, pipes, and houses, always ensure that the overall size is sufficient, but also that the door and window openings are large enough so that there is no risk of getting stuck. “Hamsters have to fit through the entrances with full cheek pouches without any problems,” says Grich. Dwarf hamsters, therefore, need at least five to six centimeters in diameter, medium-sized hamsters at least seven to eight centimeters.
Rodent keepers should avoid feeding balls and wire racks that are attached to the inside of the cage. A paw or the head of the furry housemate gets caught in it too easily. It is better to attach hay racks to the outside or to distribute the hay loosely in the cage.