Monday, 9 June 2014

Ikea Detolf Hamster Cage

Since we brought the two hamhams home (two months ago on Saturday!) I've been spending far too much time obsessively watching hamster videos on youtube. I kept seeing hamsters being kept in these magical things: Ikea Detolf display cabinets flipped on their side. They make really enormous tanks (43 by 163cm) for a very reasonable price (£40), when you consider the usual cost of much smaller made-for-pets tanks. Plus, they look really nice. Double plus, I already had an expedit unit, and they fit so nicely on top of one. It was meant to be.

The assembly was super simple: follow the instructions, but just don't attach the door or the shelves, which look like the trickiest part of building the detolf. Super easy, but definitely a two person job, though - someone to hold the glass panels in place while the other person secures them. Within ten minutes we had it on the side of the expedit and ready to go. No lid needed for tiny robos! (If you have a Syrian or a bigger or more climby animal, maybe a made-to-size wooden frame and chicken-wire contraption?)

As you might know if you follow me elsewhere, our two robos lived quite happily together for a month, and then started fighting, so they've been living separately ever since. (Pintsize took a chunk out of Sputnik's butt.) Pintsize stayed in the plastic tank we originally bought for them, and Sputnik was in a homemade box cage. We decided not to reintroduce them because they adjusted so well and seemed so happy being on their own. So, we needed to divide the detolf somehow. The glass shelves that come with it aren't great, and leave a massive gap between the bottom and the shelf. Definitely big enough for a robo.

We popped out to B&Q and bought some high-density fibreboard which we got cut to size in store with their magical big saw which was much quicker and neater than we would have managed at home. Then, we used our handsaw to cut the bottom corners so they'd fit around the metal frame of the detolf, and slotted it in. (We ended up using PVA (hamster safe!) to glue the pieces we'd cut out around the metal bar. A little bit fiddly and annoying.)

Our initial plan was to use aquarium sealant (also animal safe) to secure it in place, but it was a pretty tight fit, and the sealant really didn't work like I thought it would. So, we actually ended up ditching the sealant, and just using these clippy things (see above: I think they're part of the door hinges?) to secure the hardboard to the rails at the top, so they're pushed back against the metal rails for the middle shelf. It's stuck really quite securely. To make sure, we pushed Sputnik's heavy plant pot of bathing sand up against his side (see below) of the barrier. There's really no way it's moving.

I saw a lot of people concerned about this split tank situation on hamster forums because there wouldn't be sufficient space between the hamsters, and they might smell each other and get stressed. I did give this thorough consideration! The thing is, every hamster is different. When ours were separated, we kept their cages next to each other, and they've never seemed remotely bothered about smelling each other. So, we felt pretty confident they wouldn't mind living next to each other in a detolf. We've been keeping a careful watch on them over the past 5 days, and they really just don't seem to mind at all. They're not displaying any worrying behaviour, and seem no more interested in the barrier than they do any other wall. They just seem super happy in their new homes!

Definitely the best hamster-related purchase I have made! It looks awesome, they both get plenty of room to run about in, we can have a lovely thick layer of substrate, the ventilation is great, and I can see their adorable faces much more clearly through the glass. Perfect! (Note how my desk is now right next to the tank for optimal hamster viewing.)

The only problem is that the dolls have been usurped, somewhat. This is how the room used to look, and as you can see, it's only the one cubby hole of Blythes that still live in the expedit. We bought two extra drona boxes to house hamster related goods, and so lost two more cubby holes. Dolls are still being relocated, updates to come. Alas for tiny flats!



  1. This looks fab! Hope they are enjoying their new home :)

    1. Thanks! :D They seem to be very happy in it!

  2. Hi Alice, thanks for this brilliant write-up, the split cage looks perfect! I'm splitting my detolf for our recently adopted hammyadditions and was going to use 2 glass shelves secured in place as the partition. After reading this I'm going to have to investigate a bit more! Really good pic & great idea using the door fasteners to secure the fibreboard in place. What an inventive solution! Hope your dolls have found a new home :)
    ps. OMG the owl cushion!! so cute!!

    1. Thank you! I'm so glad it helped! :D The glass shelving could maybe work but I just felt it wasn't secure enough, and they are pretty tiny and can squeeze through some very small gaps! >_< Would definitely recommend fibreboard partition! :) Really puts my mind at ease! Good luck splitting your detolf, I'm sure you hams will love it :D

  3. Since we brought the two hamhams home (two months ago on Saturday!) I've been spending far too much time obsessively watching hamster ...

  4. Since we brought the two hamhams home (two months ago on Saturday!) I've been spending far too much time obsessively watching hamster ...