California Hamster Association
Critter Nation Questions
You can purchase many of these items at other sites, but we have optimized lists for lowest cost. You may be able to omit certain items, or at least bring down the cost per cage by choosing a double or triple level to save on shipping costs. All links are listed below.
Cage: $210 for double + $140 for add-on
Cage pan: $46 each + $50 shipping ($196)
Extra shelf: $14 each ($42 total)
Total: $567 ($189 per cage)
Note: Cages are often on sale, so do some hunting before the sticker shock overwhelms you!
Cage pan: $46+$25 shipping
Extra shelf: $14
Cage pan: $46 each + $40 shipping ($132)
Extra shelf: $14 each ($28 total)
Total: $356 ($178 per cage if separated for 2 hamsters)
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.
What are these pans you're talking about? Why are they so expensive?
The trays that come with the cage are pretty much flat and won't hold bedding. In order to hold bedding, you must purchase some type of pan. 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.
The same company also makes galavanized steel pans that are cheaper, but the galvanized coating will break down with urine. Then, they will rust--so they will need to be replaced eventually. Keep in mind that the shipping is based on size and weight, so the shipping costs will be the same regardless of the pan you choose.
Why do I need an extra shelf?
Each critter nation comes with one shelf. The shelf includes a metal bracket and a flat plastic pan, as you see in the photos. The shelf only extends halfway across the cage, which is a bit of a problem.
Hamsters have terrible eyesight and poor depth perception. This means that they may not necessarily 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.
Another compelling reason to get an extra shelf 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!
Are there any less expensive alternatives to these pans?
There are! One option is to purchase a large cement mixing tray from Home Depot (link below). It happens to fit in this cage rather perfectly. The major issue is that it is 8 inches tall--great for holding bedding, but it does block out a lot of light and can make it difficult to see your hamster unless you are looking from above. It also looks a little clunky in the cage, but the price savings might make that worth it to you as they are just $13 a piece.
The tray has slanted sides so the base is smaller than the top, which cuts down a little on cage space, but this cage is so oversized it's not a major issue.
Where do I get all the stuff you've mentioned?
If you plan on having hamsters (or small rodents in general) for a long time, a critter nation is worth the investment. While the initial start-up cost to get a critter nation safe and modified for hamsters is high, no additional expenses should come up for virtually as long as you choose to keep animals. The cage space it provides is unrivaled and it looks the most sleek and professional compared to other options.