The three main places to buy hamsters are rescue shelters, private breeders and pet stores.
Where you buy your hamster will depend on your own motivation (for example, whether you want to help an abandoned hamster or raise a young hamster to adulthood), as well as cost and convenience.
Unfortunately, many hamsters are abandoned by their owners. This is why it’s very important for you to be sure that you really want a hamster and that you’re committed to caring for it for its entire life.
Hamsters that are abandoned often end up in rescue shelters. These shelters will treat any obvious health problems before making the hamster available for new owners to adopt.
If you like the idea of helping a hamster that may not have been cared for properly in the past and is looking for a new home, then a rescue shelter hamster may be for you.
The rescue shelter will probably need some assurance that you are able to care for the hamster properly before they sell it to you. Their main concern is making sure that the hamster is taken to a suitable new home with knowledgable, caring owners.
If you want a very young hamster or want to know about your hamster’s background then a rescue hamster probably isn’t for you. You may prefer buying your hamster from a private breeder.
Hamster breeders often select the hamsters they breed to produce specific traits (certain colors, for example).
If a hamster is the result of an unplanned pregnancy, doesn’t display the traits they want, or if the hamster is not a good candidate for further breeding, then the breeder will probably choose to sell the hamster.
Hamsters can produce several litters per year – and several pups per litter – so hamster breeders will usually have lots of hamsters for sale!
The advantages of buying from a private breeder are:
- they are likely to have taken good care of their hamsters, as they are usually experts in hamster care
- you will know about your hamster’s background, its parents and its exact age
- your hamster will probably have been handled a lot at a young age, this gets them used to humans and makes them less likely to get stressed
Although buying hamsters from pet stores can often be the most convenient option, we would recommend making the effort to find a private breeder if possible.
Large chain stores often buy their hamsters from hamster farms, which produce huge numbers of hamsters at a time. These hamsters are unlikely to have been handled much, which means they will be nervous around people.
Hamsters from hamster farms are also more likely to carry diseases. Pet stores should quarantine hamsters before putting them on sale, but this is not always the case. This means that you risk bringing a diseased hamster home, which could live a very short life or infect your other hamsters and make them ill too!
Another disadvantage of buying your hamster from a pet store, rather than a breeder, is that most pet stores have limited information about the hamster’s background and will only be able to give you an approximate idea of its age.
Of course, there are some good pet stores out there. If you do decide to buy your hamster from a pet store then we recommend finding a small independent store, with good reviews and hamsters that are clearly kept in good conditions, rather than going to a large chain store.
How much does a hamster cost?
When considering how much a hamster costs, it is important to realise that the main expense isn’t the hamster itself. It’s all the equipment necessary to care for the hamster properly.
Your hamster will probably cost around $10-$15. However, the equipment needed to look after them could cost $100 or more. For example:
- Cage: $30 or more, depending on size and quality
- Bedding: $5 to $10 initially
- Hamster House: $10 or more, depending on size and quality
- Toys: $10
- Food dish: $3
- Water bottle: $5
- Hamster wheel: $10 or more, depending on size and quality
- Food: $5 to $10 initially
Choosing a hamster
Try to choose a young hamster. Older hamsters will be larger and have slightly yellowed teeth. A young hamster will be small with white teeth and small white hairs in its ears. A private breeder should be able to tell you the hamster’s exact age.
Avoid any hamsters that show signs of injury – for example, bald spots, scratches, scabs or damaged ears. Also, make sure that there is absolutely no sign of wet tail disease, either in the hamster you are buying or the hamsters it is living with.
Pick up the hamster and see how it reacts. A hamster that is used to being picked up by humans will remain calm. If the hamster appears to panic then it may not be as good a pet and it will be more likely to get stressed, which could lead to serious illness.