Should I adopt or buy a hamster?

Before you consider whether you should adopt or buy a hamster, ensure you spend time fully understanding what it takes to care for one and whether it is the right pet for you and your family. We have a complete guide here if you’d like to take a look.

But once you’ve decided that a hamster will be the perfect addition to your family, it’s time to consider how you want to get one.

You can buy a hamster from your local pet shop, or there’s the option of adoption. So, let’s go over the differences between buying and adopting and the pros and cons of each.

The Difference Between Buying and Adopting 

First of all, buying and adopting may seem like the same thing. After all, whichever you choose, you’ll be purchasing the hamster as you’ll exchange money. However, there’s one huge difference.

If you buy your hamster from a pet store or breeder, you will be the first person to own that hamster. But if you adopt from a shelter, you will be rehoming a previously owned hamster.

However, this major difference means a lot more than you might think. Let’s go over the pros and cons of buying and adopting.

The Cons of Buying a Hamster

Buying a hamster may not immediately flash any cons into your mind, but there are some things you need to think about before buying.

Potentially supporting breeding mills

Many pet shops get their hamsters from breeding mills, where the hamsters are specifically bred to make money. These hamsters can go through extremely poor conditions, and buying these hamsters supports this type of breeding.

However, some pet shops work directly with shelters and sell hamsters that need to be rehomed. Therefore, when considering buying from a shop, it is important to do your research so you know where your hamster has come from.

Unethical breeders and unhealthy hamsters

If you’re looking at getting your hamster from a breeder, similarly to the breeding mills, these hamsters can be bred and kept in poor conditions. The breeders can be in it to make money, with zero interest in the health and happiness of the hamsters. 

Of course, not all breeders are like this, but it’s something to consider when choosing a breeder.

You may not get the gender you want

Hamsters are notorious for being difficult to identify their gender, and if a pet shop keeps their hamsters in the same cage as others, your chosen male hamster could end up being a female and, worse, pregnant.

This leads us on to our final con:

Minimal care and cage sharing

Pet shops often keep their hamsters in the same cage; this is not okay. Syrian hamsters especially need their own space, and as previously mentioned, this can also mean taking home a pregnant hamster that you didn’t sign up for.

Here are a few tips to help minimise these cons if you do decide to buy a hamster:

  • Find a small, independent pet shop. These are more likely to care for their hamsters and use a reputable breeder they trust
  • Look for clean and well-equipped cages (food, water, wheel)
  • Hamsters should have their own cage, or at the very least, not be overcrowded
  • Check your chosen hamster has a sleek and shiny coat and doesn’t have any discharge coming from its eyes, ears, nose, or rear end

The Pros of Buying

Now, it’s not all negative if you choose to buy from a pet shop. Let’s move on to the pros.

First to own the hamster

The first pro is that you will be the first person to own the hamster; if you don’t count the pet shop as an owner. This means you’ll have a young and spritely hamster, ready to experience the joy of your loving family.

Easier to train and integrate into the family

As you’ll be the first owner, your new hamster won’t have any prior experience living in a home or with another family. This makes training your hamster and integrating them into the family easier. It won’t have developed strange behaviour or be used to a particular setting.

Now that we’ve gone through the pros and cons of buying, let’s take a look at adopting a hamster.

The Cons of Adopting

First up, the cons of adoption.

Previously owned, so it may be an older hamster

Of course, adopting from a shelter means that the hamster has already been owned; therefore, it is most likely older than if you were to buy from a pet shop.

Hamsters already have a short life span, so if you want to get the most time possible with your hamster, adopting can seem like the second choice.

Can be harder to integrate into the family

Having lived in a different environment with different people, an adopted hamster could be more challenging to integrate into your family. They may prefer a certain type of environment or be used to being handled differently. 

This can make introducing them into your family difficult, as it can take some time for the hamster to adjust.

The Pros of Adopting

I’m sure the first pro for adopting will immediately spring to mind, but this list may have points you hadn’t thought of. So let’s take a look.

Give a new and loving life to a hamster

The obvious pro of adopting a hamster instead of buying one is that you’ll be giving them a second chance to have a loving family. 

Animals in shelters can get a bad rep, and some people will be turned off by the idea that they’ve been previously owned, but all they want and need is someone to love and care for them.

Being the person to adopt a hamster who needs a home brings a warm feeling that buying simply doesn’t give you.

Support local shelters doing good work

There are so many shelters looking after animals without a home, and by adopting from one of them, you’re supporting the amazing work that they do. 

Shelters use the money you pay for your new pet to thoroughly care for the animals under their roof, ensuring they get the best care before finding a permanent home.

Well cared for hamster

Following the previous point, adopting a hamster from a shelter means you’ll have a new pet that was really well cared for. Shelters go above and beyond to ensure their animals are happy and healthy. 

So, even though your new hamster may have come from a bad home into the shelter, there’s no doubt they’ve received a whole heap of love since then.

Should You Adopt or Buy a Hamster?

Now that we’ve gone over the pros and cons of buying and adopting a hamster, the decision is yours, which route you take.

The main things to remember are:

  • Make sure you’re ready for what it takes to own a hamster
  • Conduct thorough research on the pet shop, breeder, or shelter that you’ll be getting your hamster from
  • Take your hamster home, care for them, and love them unconditionally

If you’re not sure where to start, here are some shelters and pet shops in the UK to get you started: