Substrate Depth

One of the first things you’ll learn when researching hamster care is that they require a deep substrate, but that’s very ambiguous if you ask me. What is substrate? Why do they need deep substrate? What qualifies as deep? With this post I hope to bring clarity to the subject of substrate.

What is Substrate?

Substrate is what most people call bedding, but I refer to it as substrate so it is not confused with nesting material.

Substrate is what you fill the bottom of your hamster’s cage with. It’s for absorbing urine and digging/burrowing.

Why Deep Substrate?

In the wild, hamsters burrow and create tunnels and chambers in which they live. These tunnels are sometimes up to (down to?) 10 feet deep!

The domestic pet hamster still has the burrowing instinct, and that is why we provide deep substrate.

Having substrate for burrowing is very enriching, and a natural behavior we should encourage.

What Qualifies As Deep?

Hamsters usually don’t burrow until they have plenty of substrate available to them, but what is deep?

The bare minimum of substrate for a Syrian or Chinese hamster is 6 inches, and for dwarfs it’s 3 inches. Those are the absolute minimums.

Quite honestly, that just doesn’t seem like enough. How is a hamster supposed to create tunnels with that little substrate? There’s a simple solution: add more substrate!

Hamsters actually tend to burrow when they have 8+ inches of substrate, and you wouldn’t believe how happy it makes hamster owners when they see their pet burrowing. Trust me, it’s so rewarding!

There is also no reason not to add more substrate, and the sky’s the limit (the lid of your cage is, actually)!

Key Points

  • Hamsters tend to burrow when they have 8+ inches of substrate, so don’t assume they don’t want to burrow if they’ve never had enough substrate to actually burrow.
  • In the wild hamsters create intricate tunnels as deep as 10 feet!
  • You can never provide too much substrate.
  • Substrate is used for burrowing and absorbing your pet’s urine.

If you’re interested in more hamster-related content be sure to like this post and follow the blog, and I’ll be back on Tuesday with more small pet care, DIYs, recipes, cage setups, stories and more, have a ham-tastic day!

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