winter white hamster

Should I Get a Pet Hamster?

By kleo

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If you are thinking about getting a pet hamster, here are some things to think about first. We also have a quiz at the bottom of the page.

1. Hamsters are Nocturnal

Typically hamsters like to wake up at around 8:00 PM and are active the rest of the night. Hamsters are incredibly athletic little creatures and usually run many miles every night in their wheels. This may not be ideal for people who like to go to bed early or who are light sleepers.

For the most part it is best not to interrupt your hamster’s sleep cycle because hamsters can be cranky if woken up during the day. Never wake a hamster up by picking her up with your hands, because hamsters are known for biting when they are scared. Hamster bites really, really hurt. This is the main reason I wouldn’t recommend a hamster as a pet for a child under 10 years, because their schedules will simply not match up.

If you are a light sleeper, it is best to keep your hamster in a different room so you won’t hear her running on her wheel. It’s important to purchase a high quality wheel that won’t squeak in the night. It’s also important to position the wheel in the cage so it won’t bump against the sides of the cage.

On the flip side, a nocturnal pet can be a plus if you are a night owl as well. I had a pet hamster when I was in college, and she was the perfect companion for late night study sessions.


2. Hamsters Need Vet Care Too

Many people don’t realize that small animals like hamsters need vet care too. While you won’t need to take your hamster in for checkups or shots like you would for a dog or a cat, you will need to take your hamster to a vet if your hamster becomes ill. Hamsters can come down with illnesses that are extraordinarily painful for them, and it’s not ethical to let them suffer when they have no way to help themselves. They are entirely dependent on you for their care. Some people will argue that it’s cheaper to get a new hamster, but that is missing the point. It’s not about doing what is cheapest, it’s about doing what is right. Doing what is right means providing responsible care for an animal that can feel pain and suffering.

It’s important to find a vet that treats hamsters before you bring a hamster home. You never know when there will be an emergency, and you will need to be prepared and know where to go. To find a vet that treats hamsters, start searching online. Association of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians is a great place to start your search. Be sure to call the vet and ask what their experience level is with treating hamsters.


3. Hamster Costs

While hamsters do not require as much of a time and cost investment as other animals like dogs, they still do require adequate care and upkeep. For a bare minimum setup, you will  need to set aside at least $100 for all of the basic supplies, and that’s if you get a good deal on a cage or make your own. It’s not uncommon for new hamster owners to spend around $200 to buy all of the necessary supplies. You can also expect to spend $15-$25 a month for upkeep, including bedding, food, and toys. Finally, it’s best to keep an emergency vet fund in case you need to take your hamster to the vet. Your emergency vet care fund should be at minimum $100, but again it would not be a bad idea to have $200 just in case.

To sum it up, expect to spend $100-200 on setup costs, $15-25 a month for upkeep, and keep $100-200 saved up for an emergency vet fund.

For more detailed information on the costs of an initial hamster set up, visit the Hamster Setup page.


4. Hamster Time Investment & Enrichment

Again, while hamsters do not require demanding time investments, it is very important to give them adequate attention to ensure their needs are met for mental stimulation. Hamsters live in cages that are much smaller than their natural habitats, so it’s important to keep hamsters from become bored. They can’t choose where they live, so it’s up to you to provide for them to have a happy existence.

Plan on buying or making at least one new toy for your hamster each month. That will help keep his environment interesting and fun. See our page on toys for more information.

There’s no hard and fast rule for how often you should take your hamster out of his cage to explore. Syrians are typically more handleable and it’s good to take them out of their cage for about 15 minutes a day. Some dwarf species never learn to enjoy being handled, so it may be better to let them stay comfortable in their familiar cage surroundings. However, it completely depends on the personality of the individual hamster.


5. Hamster Personalities

Think about the reasons you would like to own a hamster. If you are looking for a pet that is highly interactive and forms strong bonds, rats are probably a better pet for you than hamsters. While hamsters can be tamed and can learn to enjoy human interaction, they are not social creatures to the same extent as dogs and rats. Many people buy hamsters and then become bored of them and give up on them, which is not fair to the hamster. While there are many fun and interactive ways to play with hamster, it does require some creativity to think of fun toys to create and games to play since most hamsters will not initiate play themselves (though some might!). If that doesn’t sound like the pet you are looking for, then don’t get a hamster.



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