Roborovski like to run but this does not equate to enjoying a wide open space. Just as mice prefer to follow the skirting board around an open plan living room floor, you might notice your hamster runs laps around the outside of the cage or ‘swims’ up the side. Given their natural habitat and predators, this is most likely a stress response to being unable to hide. Being under the constant effect of adrenalin and cortisol (released during a fight/flee response) is similar to the effect of prolonged anxiety in humans and will affect your hamsters ability to bond to you, to learn, sleep, feed and grow. As your robo is a prey animal, these effects may not be obvious to you.
The key to a happy hamster is to provide plenty of hiding places, tubes and offering ‘scrub’ in the way of handfuls of hay or straw. Not only will they nibble this and chew their tubes (cardboard is cheap/free and ideal for this) but they’ll feel more secure in their home. The safer they feel, the quicker they will bond to you and the more you will get out of your pet.
I don’t have a list of ‘ideal’ cages. There are so many now to choose from. Given the above, giving your robo a 6ft long tank is probably not the best idea unless you don’t plan to handle them much. If you want to get a good bond you will need to look at a more usual cage size. There’s no legal minimum but your cage should be big enough to fulfill the five freedoms (see below). 60-80cm is generally average and this encompasses a wide range of brands. If you go for a barred cage, this will need to have 1cm bar spacing. I use underbed storage boxes for all my roborovski and use a dremel to drill ventilation holes. If you go for this option you will need rows of three holes on the long sides and five rows of holes on the short sides. You can drill a larger hole for your water bottle spout (or have two water bottles).
Bedding and Enrichment
Offer a good depth of bedding for the floor, soft (but not woolly/fluffy) nesting material (torn up kitchen roll is ideal) and plenty of hides/houses/tubes. Robo’s don’t climb well but are even worse at getting down safely from high places. Your cage levels should not be too high and their shouldn’t be anywhere in the cage that your robo can fall all the way to the bottom.
Ideas for hides can range from cardboard cereal boxes, mugs, glazed plant pots to wooden houses, bendy sticks and half square guttering. Some of these provide extra levels without needing a whole platform and are ideal for tanks/tubs.
The Five Freedoms