Is plaster safe for hamsters?
January 30, 2008 1:08 PM   Subscribe

Are plaster (of paris) objects safe for hamsters? I know they'd likely chew it, but would that be dangerous or toxic? I'd like to carve a neat little home for my new friend, but I don't want it to end badly.
posted by luftmensch to Pets & Animals (15 answers total)
No, don't. Plaster of paris is very water absorbant. If your pet chews on it and swallows it, it could cause some serious dehyrdration and constipation type problems.
posted by 45moore45 at 1:12 PM on January 30, 2008

How about Sculpey?
posted by zeoslap at 1:18 PM on January 30, 2008

posted by Leon at 1:23 PM on January 30, 2008

I'm not comfortable using sculpey for this, I think. I know it's toxic before baking, and even once baked it says not to use it in contact with food, so I'd rather not let my little friend chew on it.
posted by luftmensch at 1:24 PM on January 30, 2008

How about papier mache? (with non-printed, unbleached paper?)
posted by vers at 1:25 PM on January 30, 2008

cardboard toilet paper and paper towel tubes--they can chew on those and hide in 'em, too!
posted by 45moore45 at 1:26 PM on January 30, 2008

What about a coconut shell? A friend of mine made a coconut shell house for his son's frog.
posted by macadamiaranch at 1:27 PM on January 30, 2008

Carve it out of wood! I would probably use 7/0 gauge steel... and fashion him some matching armor... but this is why i can't have a hampster.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 1:28 PM on January 30, 2008

what I know from commercial/retail plaster of paris, is that it generally contains trace heavy metals from gypsum and also some additional unsafe chemicals (want to say formalin but don't think it's something quite that nasty). this from raising turtles (no dehydration problems, and most certainly no constipation problems jeez) which absolutely love to chomp on any form of calcium carbonate.
posted by dorian at 1:44 PM on January 30, 2008

How about carving it out of balsa wood? Easy to carve; won't last too long, but you'll get ideas from carving it the first time that will let you make something even better the second time. And it's so easy to carve, you won't mind making the luftmensch HamHab Mark II and/or Mark III.
posted by amtho at 1:53 PM on January 30, 2008

Using wood or coconut shells are great ideas. I agree that plaster and Sculpey/Fimo aren't good choices. My guinea pigs (may they rest in peace) used to love houses made out of shoeboxes and other kinds of cardboard. If you want to get creative, you could make a more elaborate structure by making a nontoxic paste (i.e. out of flour and water) to glue your cardboard components together.
posted by bassjump at 2:18 PM on January 30, 2008

Baby_Balrog, I once made a dress for my (male) hamster.

Oh I cannot believe I just admitted that. Let's just say when you go to college at age 17 and can't even get into 18+ shows, you'll come up with some very disturbing hobbies.

That said, cardboard houses were ALWAYS popular with Akbar and Jeff (my former hamsters). Or use balsa wood -- it's light enough to cut with no special implements, yet sturdy enough to do cool stuff.
posted by at 2:38 PM on January 30, 2008

How about Crayola's non-toxic Model Magic?
posted by at 3:01 PM on January 30, 2008

The San Diego Zoo has what I think is the most awesome of small rodent houses ever, a house made entirely of a giant loaf of bread [pic] [recipe]. The keepers bake it, carve a few doors and windows and then let the mousey inhabitants gnaw their own interiors. It's enough to make any hammie swoon with jealousy.
posted by jamaro at 3:24 PM on January 30, 2008 [3 favorites]

Do NOT use Model Magic! I speak from experience. Although it is supposed to harden over time, unless you use extremely thin layers, it stays both moist and soft. It really isn't very good for models (at least this has been our experience, making cell models for high school projects).
posted by misha at 6:15 PM on January 30, 2008

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