Calculating Floorspace: Internal Measurements, and Connected Enclosures.
While there is emphasis on the importance of floorspace for hamsters and how to calculate it, a common mistake made is using external measurements instead of internal measurements when carrying out this calculation. When calculating floorspace, it is important that you use internal measurements vs external measurements and this is especially important as it relates to bin cages (a fairly popular means of housing hamsters) or enclosures that have thick walls (like a variety of IKEA enclosures, including the popular Linnmon hack). This is particularly a problem encountered mostly with bin cages and the reason for this is because bins slope inwards and the measurements listed are given for the widest point of the bin, so if you were to use the measurements given on the label to calculate floorspace, it would give you an inaccurate idea of just how large your enclosure is.
For example, if we look at the popular IKEA Samla Bin, the external measurements listed are 78cm x 56cm, which (if we multiple length x width, which is how we calculate floorspace) would give us 4,368cm2 or 677"2 of floorspace. The bare minimum for dwarf hamsters is considered to be 620"2, so given these measurements, one would assume that the IKEA Samla bin would be an appropriate home - but you would be wrong. Even though it doesn't look to slope much, the samla bin slopes inwards and so internal floorspace at the bottom of the bin is only 450"2, which is far too small for any hamster species.
For some enclosures, while the internal measurements of the bottom of the enclosure may be inappropriate, filling the enclosure up with deep substrate can make the difference less substantial. However, it is important to remember that hamsters are burrowing species and need appropriately sized burrowing areas - so this technique of measuring the floorspace at the bedding height is really only applicable to enclosures that have a more subtle slope vs those that slope very narrow.
The Hamingway has an incredibly helpful enclosure database, in which many of the internal measurements for enclosures - including several bin cages - are listed to aid you in choosing the right sized enclosure for your pet. You can find it over here.
So we’ve discussed the importance of using internal measurements to accurately calculate floorspace. Now what about connected enclosures, do they count?
On the topic of calculating floorspace, an additional problem people come across is whether or not they can join multiple enclosures together to count for overall floorspace. Connected enclosures are a topic that is hotly debated and one that everyone seems to never agree on. I however have a very simple take on it; if the two enclosures being joined together are both appropriately sized in the sense that if they were being used as two separate enclosures they could appropriately house two separate animals, it does not make any sense to say that when joined together they do not count towards overall floorspace. To say two 775”2 enclosures joined together via tunnel does not equal one 1,550”2 enclosure and is instead viewed as just one 775”2 enclosure frankly lacks any reasoning in my honest opinion. As both of these enclosures can be set up appropriately to create an enriching environment for the animal, it is odd to state that that additional 775”2 enclosure does not contribute anything to the animals total overall floorspace that they have to explore. The issue is more so of a grey area than a black & white one, and there is no “set” rule of what counts and what doesn’t. However, I believe the guideline of “if it could otherwise appropriately house the animal by its own, it counts as overall floorspace” as a reasonable & appropriate one to follow.
Most oppose the idea of connected enclosures because the hamster can only access the other side via tunnel and object to the idea that two enclosures can be combined for overall floorspace for this reason alone. However, I again find this an illogical stance to take when speaking about enclosures that are otherwise appropriately sized as the hamster being required to access either side via a tunnel is really no different than had the enclosure been one large area and the hamster having to climb over a cork tunnel, or bedding barrier, etc. to access the rest of their set up. Photo credit: @theluckyhamsters.
Following on from that, if the enclosure could not house the animal appropriately as a stand alone enclosure then I do not count it towards the overall total floorspace. Simply because the bare minimums are already very low and you will struggle creating an environment enriching enough for your hamster separated over two small areas and it is important for hamsters to have an appropriately sized area of unbroken floorspace (this is floorspace not separated over two enclosures) to explore. However, that is not to say that this additional area is not beneficial to provide if it is being attached to a larger, appropriately sized enclosure as these additional areas can be used to provide your hamster with additional substrates to explore or general textural enrichment. So it is not at all that they’re completely worthless to provide but more so that multiple small areas connected simply do not equate to one larger area in terms of providing your hamster with uninterrupted floorspace & and an enriching scape to explore.
Additions to the main enclosure can be used to provide the hamster with additional enrichment like sand pits, soil pits, etc. While smaller additions do not contribute to overall floorspace, they can still contribute added enrichment to your hamsters life if you so wish to add them. Photo credit: tanjas.pottery.and.more
So to summarise; in my opinion and experience, if the two separate enclosures could otherwise house the animal appropriately as stand alone enclosures then they can be combined to count towards overall floorspace. If the two separate enclosures could not house the animal appropriately as a stand alone enclosure, then they do not count nor can they be combined to meet the bare minimum and must be connected to a larger enclosure that meets the appropriate enclosure size for the species. If one is adding a smaller enclosure that could not otherwise house the animal appropriately to an enclosure that does meet species appropriate housing guidelines, this should not be counted towards overall floorspace but does contribute to overall enrichment & is not at all a worthless addition to provide!
This post was last updated on: January 7th, 2022.