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Having owned several different types of modular cages designed for small animals (including - habitrail, crittertrail, rotastak and imac), I can honestly say I've given them a thorough testing and so my verdict is as fair as possible. I have also kept small animals in 'regular' barred cages and also in tanks so my opinion on this (and pretty much all modular type cages) is based not only on this cage itself but also on it's use compared to other types of cages.
I came to own the habitrail ovo pad a few years ago after adopting a hamster from a local small animal rescue, the cage came free as they had little to no use for it since they believed (as I do) that this cage is only suitable as a temporary accommodation for a hamster/mouse and should not be used as a permanent home for your pet. I took it with me after assuring them that as soon as I had the little guy home he was going straight into a proper barred cage I had already set up for him. This leads me onto the first and one of the only positives to this 'cage'- it did in fact do the the job of keeping Gus (the hamster) secure on the 5 mile journey home, far more so than any of the cardboard 'take me home' boxes given to new pet owner by pet shops, has ever done! It would however be very foolish to purchase one soley for this purpose however as they're bloomin' expensive. Having done a quick search and found that a new 'pad' will set you back anywhere up to £30 and even a stained and chewed used one is being sold for £10 on Gumtree.
- But it must be good, it's so expensive -
Modular cages do tend to be on the pricey side. The bright colors and interesting designs attract the potential owners (mostly young children) and the hefty price tag lures you into believing that it must be a good cage- because why else would you be being asked to pay so much for what is essentially lots of pieces of thin plastic? It's done on the same premise as goods sold for babies, you are guilted into paying more because you believe that your child/pet deserves the best and the most expensive must be the best. With the habitrail range you also pay more because it has things like 'patent lock connectors'.
- But what is it? -
O.K so before I start on what is going to be a pretty negative and probably quite long review and explanation of why this cage is not only a waste of your money but also a pretty poor excuse for a cage, I should probably give a brief description of the ovo pad, what it is, what it does and what it looks like.
The Pad is as I said before a modular type cage, what this basically means is that the cage system is meant to be joined together with other cages (obviously from the same range) and expanded thus giving your pet a bigger cage and the manufacturer more money as you add to your collection. People spend hundreds on expanding their hamsters home because they feel it needs more space- don't believe me? type 'huge hamster cage' into YouTube and see what I mean.
The cage looks like it comprises two sections, the main orange and white section and that little blue and white ball looking thing on the side. Well the blue section is in fact the water bottle. I'll come back and rant about the bottle later. The cage itself is roughly 12" in diameter so has an approximate floor space of 113 sq inches. When bought new it contains a rather large exercise wheel, a food dish and a small house. The clear plastic sections at the top of the cage are described as windows and fold back to allow you easy access to your hamster. At the end of the cage is a small locked connector, this allows you to add other habitrail products onto your pad.
- Why is space so important -
There are several species of hamster available for prospective pet owners to purchase although these can be divided into two main categories, the large Syrian or golden hamster and the smaller dwarf breeds. When considering the housing of hamsters it is important to remember that although the dwarf breeds are smaller they have a faster metabolism and are social in nature so should be housed in pairs or small colonies, so will require the same size home as a solitary Syrian hamster, possibly a bigger one as dwarf hamsters often will not climb on barred cages and will struggle to use verticle tubes to gain access to extra pods added onto modular cages, so maximum floor space is vital when housing dwarf breeds. Either way, the bare minimum for laboratory hamsters is no less than 124 square inches of usable floor space, and hamster fanciers/breeders will recommend a minimum of 360 square inches, by either standard the ovo pad falls short. Hamsters in the wild live in burrows dug into the ground, these contain many different chambers and compartments including at least one separate area for urinating/pooing, an area for sleeping and an area for hoarding collected food. They are very active creatures (all be it at night) and require plenty of stimulation to be kept happy and prevent stress behavior. Providing your hamster with lots of space allows him/her not only to carry out it's natural behaviors but also gives you space in which to place plenty of enrichment items for your hamster to use. The ovo pad has very limited floor space and the large wheel provided takes up a fair amount of that space and even if you were to buy and add other units to your cage the amount of usable floor space is deceptively small, even 3 of these cages joined together (that's nearly £100 worth of cages) would come up short on the minimum amount of space recommended by hamster enthusiasts. Hamsters kept in small cages WILL smell and those cages WILL require far more frequent cleanings.
- Apart from space (or lack of), what else is wrong? -
Well remember that water bottle I mentioned earlier (that little blue pod on the side of the cage) I said I'd get back to it and I haven't by any means forgotten about it. Standard small animal water bottles have a ball within the spout to ensure that the bottle does not leak, or to at least limit the amount that the bottle will leak. The bottle supplied with the ovo pad instead uses a vacuum seal and unless you follow the instructions very carefully (I'm told often repeating the last few steps a number of times) to achieve a complete seal, it can leak quite badly.
This however is not my big issue with the ovo water bottle. It is in fact the terrible design of the bottle which means that it is uncomfortable for your hamster to use. Having used this twice, once for bringing Gus home and the other for transporting two small dwarf hamsters to the vet I noticed problems with the bottle both times. The dwarves had to crane their neck to uncomfortable angles in order to drink from it where-as the lager Syrian hamster Gus had to actually lie on his back to use the bottle.
It seems the bottle was designed with the wrong 'user' in mind with the bottle being easy for you the 'user' of the cage to fill rather than your hamster the inhabitant of the cage to drink. Modular cages as a whole are designed with you the user rather than your hamster the inhabitant in mind.
Another big problem with this cage is the ventilation, in fact almost the entire of the habitrail range has this problem, the exception being the hybrid cages that are a mixture of a modular and a bar type cage. This is an even greater problem the smaller the cage you have. Imagine a small room with all the windows closed it would be far less 'airy' than a big house with all the windows closed. The same is true of these types of cage and so unless you are willing to pay vast amounts of money for a huge set-up you will have the issue of poor ventilation and possibly condensation. Condensation is often a big problem as it can cause respiratory issues in hamsters and can cause food your hamster has hoarded to go moldy.
- Issues not related to the well-being of your hamster -
The cage also comes with a set of issues completely unrelated to how hamster-friendly it is, for those of you who still need convincing that it's not a good buy. The cage is very hard to keep clean, not wanting it to be stored away in my mothers loft having been used without washing it, I gave it a thorough clean once Gus was safely in his new home. In order to be properly clean it has to be completely dissembled, cleaned then reassembled which is pretty time consuming. You're in a catch 22 situation the smaller the setup the more frequently it will need cleaning, the larger the setup the longer it will take to clean. This cage also has an endless number of fiddly little spaces and grooves for dirt to build up in. If you were to extend it you would need to use connecting tubes and I know from experience that these are a bugger to keep clean. One of the big issues people have with assembling the ovos is that the lid falls off. I noticed this when I tried to put it all back together and I realized after several attempts that there's a nack to it.
As I mentioned earlier the cage on it's own is unsuitable as a stand-alone cage for your pet so be prepared to expand and pay at least double or triple what you pay for this cage in order to create a suitable home for your furry friend.
- In conclusion -
To sum up.. I am not a fan of this cage (could you tell) or modular cages in general.. If you were set on getting a habitrail branded cage though maybe to connect to an existing set-up, I would recommend the twist or cristal as they have better ventilation and are slightly larger than the ovo pad. If you're just looking for a modular type cage and aren't fussed on brand, I can't recommend the imac fantasy highly enough especially is you extend it with an extra layer or two. In general I would steer away from modular cages and opt for either a standard barred cage with a few layers or a large home-made bin type cage (type home-made bin cage into Google for a how-to)!