If you plan on having hamsters for a long time, a Critter Nation is worth the investment. The cage space it provides is unrivaled and it looks the most sleek and professional compared to other options.
While the initial cost is high, you can often find these cages used or on sale!
The lists below has been optimized for lowest cost. We will discuss some alternative options too!
In our opinion, absolutely! However, we plan on keeping hamsters for many, many years to come. If you are a new owner or don't foresee having rodents for a long time, this cage may not be for you.
Keep in mind that the Critter Nation is made of extremely durable coated steel and will last a lifetime. So, even if you take a break from hamsters, it can be disassembled and stored for later hamsters, or used for other rodents later on (rats and chinchillas in particular love this cage!)
In short, you are essentially paying a high price up front, but will never have to buy another cage for the rest of your life. You can even paint them, as seen at left!
And remember: Before sticker shock overwhelms you, check Craigslist and Facebook for used Critter Nations!
Each critter nation comes with one shelf. The shelf includes a metal bracket and a flat plastic pan, as you see in the photo. The shelf only extends halfway across the cage, which is a bit of a problem.
Hamsters have terrible eyesight and depth perception. They may not see that there is a ledge, and will walk straight off the shelf. Hamsters are pretty fragile creatures, so one bad fall could be enough to seriously injure them. As well, we've found that hamsters will use the bars to climb up to the very top of the cage, only to fall back to the bottom when they lose their grip. That's a 2 foot drop!
For these reasons, we highly suggest that folks purchasing this cage add an extra shelf to go with it. With the extra shelf, you minimize falls as you are effectively shortening the distance the hamster would drop.
The cement pans are the most economical option for converting the Critter Nation into a suitable hamster cage. The trays that come with the cage are pretty much flat and won't hold bedding. Hamsters need lots of bedding for nesting, so these pans are essential!
There are alternatives to the cement pans though!
Bass Equipment Company makes 3" stainless steel pans that are specifically designed for this cage and fit in perfectly. This is another issue of high start-up cost, but something that will last forever: stainless steel won't rust, stain, or break down with use.
Another compelling reason to use these pans is to split the cage in half! That's right, you can house 2 hamsters per level if you go with this option. To do this, you will place both shelf brackets (the one that comes with the cage and the one you purchase secondarily) on the same level. Then, simply put a cage pan on top instead of using the plastic shelves. It truly is that versatile of a cage system!