When it comes to choosing a pet, there are a lot of expenditures to consider.
Whether you’re thinking of getting a dog, cat, bird, or hamster, the initial and ongoing costs must be thought about in advance.
Cages, food, vet bills, toys, and other expenses add up quickly, so it’s best to understand the full picture of pet ownership and responsibility before deciding to purchase a hamster.
How Much Does A Hamster Cost?
Hamsters cost anywhere from $20 – $25, with an average cost of around $22.
This is usually the cost for only the hamster itself.
The actual cost may depend on the hamster breed, the store it’s purchased at, and the location.
Other additional costs, such as costs for cages, food, and accessories range anywhere from $1.50 for hamster treats to $115 for a large hamster cage.
Some of the additional costs are one-time purchases, but many of them are consistent, such as food and bedding.
Hamsters have necessities such as housing, water, food, habitat supplements, and exercise, and all of these additional costs must be added together to get an accurate idea of how much owning a hamster will cost you.
How Much Do Hamster Cages Cost?
Unless you want your hamster to run free in your home, hamsters must be kept in cages.
This isn’t only for your health and safety but for your hamster’s safety.
Because hamsters are so small, they can easily get lost or stepped on if left to roam free.
Plus, they should be kept safe and separate from other family pets, such as dogs and cats.
It’s important to note that you should not use guinea pig or dwarf rabbit cages for housing hamsters, as the bars are usually wider on general small animal cages, and hamsters can easily squeeze through them.
Though hamsters have tiny heads and larger bodies, they can squeeze through openings the size of their head.
Good, reliable cages to look for come with easy-to-clean drop pans (for cage cleanings), are chew-proof (preventing your hamster from escaping to freedom), have easy access doors with safety locks, and come with additional stimulating features, like running wheels, ramps, or plastic tubes.
There are many different styles and sizes of hamster cages to choose from, each costing something different.
These basic hamster cages have thinner bars, ensuring your adult-size hamster will stay safely inside.
Both plastic starter cages are two-tiered and come with a built-in running wheel to help keep your hamster entertained and fit.
As the cages go up in price, so do their accouterments and sizes.
Cages in the $50 price range are often two to three levels and have running ramps, and running tubes.
They also are chew-free, with power-coated wire bars.
Cages over $100 are much bigger and are multi-tiered, with even more added hamster activities.
PetSmart recommends a minimum of a 12” x 12” x 12” cage per hamster.
Small to medium cages range from 16″L x 12″W x 15″H to 15.5”L x 9.5”W x 14.75”H, while larger and taller cages can be around 12.75”L x 17”W x 24”H to 25” L x 12.5” W x 12.5” H.
How Much Does Hamster Food Cost?
The cost of hamster food depends on the size of the bag, the brand, and the quality of the food.
Most hamster food bags start at around $5 – $10 for a one or two-pound bag and can go up to $17 for a 4.5-pound bag.
Petco even sells a 20-pound hamster food bag for $63.
Quality matters when it comes to pet food, so the type of food you’ll need to purchase may also depend on the health of your hamster and whether they have any dietary restrictions.
Oxbow is a popular hamster food brand that is veterinarian-approved and contains 100% of a hamster’s recommended daily nutrients, including vitamins and minerals.
Some brands, such as Higgins, enrich their hamster food with DHA, Omega fatty acids, probiotics, and fiber.
Other brands like Kaytee strive for a more natural approach and pull their nutrients from the wild, incorporating fruits and nuts that a hamster would naturally forage for, such as sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, rose petals, and carrots.
Sunseed Vita Prima sources nutrients from sunflower seeds, sweet potatoes, peas, buckwheat, and parsley.
Hamsters typically eat about one tablespoon or twelve grams of food a night, as they are nocturnal animals, so it’s important to budget enough money for their daily intake.
Hamsters sometimes store or hoard food in corners and hidden places in their cages, so it’s crucial to check for this to avoid overfeeding.
It’s recommended that in addition to pellet food, hamsters get natural vegetables and fruits as well. It’s also important to take any uneaten food out of their cage after a few hours.
Hamsters and gerbils both generally eat the same type of food, so it’s possible to save money if you own a hamster and a gerbil.
What Are The Different Hamster Breeds?
Domestic hamsters come in five breeds, and it’s vital to learn about your pet’s specific breed to ensure its health and longevity.
Not all hamsters eat the same foods, for instance, so be sure you’re giving your hamster the proper diet it needs and the proper amounts.
The average lifespan of all five hamster breeds is around two years.
The five hamster breeds include the Syrian (Golden) hamster, Winter White Russian hamster, Campbell’s Dwarf Russian hamster, Roborovski hamster, and Chinese hamster.
The Campbell, Roborovski, Winter White, and Chinese hamster are all dwarf hamsters.
The Syrian, or Golden, hamster reaches between five and nine inches in length and can weigh up to five ounces.
They also come in either a long-haired or short-haired variety.
This species doesn’t typically get along with other hamsters and should be housed separately to avoid territory conflict.
Syrian hamsters typically cost around $23.
All dwarf hamsters grow to be around 3” to 4” and are much more sociable than Syrian hamsters, meaning they can often live together and get along just fine.
Because dwarf hamsters can live together, you’ll save more money on cages and other shared hamster equipment if you decide to purchase multiple hamsters.
Dwarf hamsters generally all cost an average of $23, as well.
Specifically, the Dwarf Winter White Russian grows to be about 2.7 to 3.5 inches long and weighs 0.7 to 1.6 ounces, while the Chinese hamster grows to be around 3.2 to 5 inches long and weighs 1.1 to 1.6 ounces.
The Campbell’s Dwarf Russian is about 2 to 4 inches long as a full-grown adult and weighs 1.5 to 2 ounces, and the Dwarf Roborovski hamster grows to be 2 to 3 inches and weighs 0.7 to 1 ounce.
Do You Ever Have To Bring A Hamster To The Vet?
Yes, you can bring a hamster to the vet when it’s sick or to get periodically checked out if you want, though most hamster owners do not.
It’s recommended to bring your pet hamster to the vet after purchase to evaluate its immediate overall health.
The vet can then thoroughly examine it, weigh it, and procure a fecal sample if needed, to see if it contains any parasites.
Fortunately, hamsters do not need vaccinations.
The vet can also give you helpful tips on hamster diets, exercise equipment, and the proper way to home and care for your hamster.
If you want to neuter your hamster, you can also discuss this with the vet.
As the hamster grows older, it’s recommended to get your pet examined bi-annually.
If you adopt your hamster from a shelter or other source, they may require you to take it to the vet before adoption.
Some pet stores also offer limited warranties on their hamsters.
For instance, PetSmart will refund you your money if your hamster gets sick within fourteen days of purchase, or if you’re unsatisfied with your hamster for any reason.
All PetSmart pets also come Vet Assured, meaning they have been sourced from a reputable source that must meet a certain standard.
The source is also screened for animal illnesses and diseases, like Zoonotic diseases.
Petco does not state if they offer returns on hamsters or offer any kind of guarantee, so check with your local Petco store before purchasing if you are buying your hamster from this chain pet store.
What Other Expenses Should Be Included In Hamster Maintenance?
Besides food and shelter, you can choose to buy several other items for your hamster.
PetSmart publishes a handy checklist for new hamster owners to ensure every pet has what they need.
The list includes a properly sized cage, pelleted hamster food, a food dish and water bottle, bedding, an exercise wheel, nesting material, treats, a wood chew, and a place to hide, such as a tunnel or covering of some kind.
Hamster bedding is made out of torn paper shreds, aspen shavings, or pine shavings and is scattered in the bottom of their cage to act as a litter box, odor control, burrowing, nesting, and place of comfort for them to dig through.
Bedding also helps absorb hamster urine or other liquids.
Bedding starts at around $8 for a 41L volume and goes up to around $27 for 56L volume.
Bedding has to be changed out about once a week or as needed and should fill the entire bottom of the hamster cage by a few inches, so bedding can be a big expense when caring for a hamster.
Hamster food dishes only cost around $2-4 dollars and can be washed and reused frequently.
Wood chew sticks are about $4 for 21 small sticks.
Chew sticks are important though, as hamster incisors never stop growing, making it necessary for hamsters to constantly chew on something to file their teeth down.
Hamster treats range from $2 to $12 and contain many different flavors and types, like dried banana slices and carrot sticks.
Hamster wheels are roughly $20 in cost and can be added to cages that do not come standard with them.
Running tube replacement parts start at around $5 and can run as high as a hamster owner wants, as tube extensions are always available to create more running space.
Another hamster owner favorite is the hamster ball, which is only around $5 to $10 each.
This gets your hamster out of its cage and also gives it exercise.
Are Hamsters Good Pets For Kids?
Though hamsters are generally low maintenance as far as pets are concerned, many parents struggle to know when or if they should buy a hamster for their child.
The age at which a child can care for a pet is totally up to the discrepancy of the parent, but many people recommend the child be at least 10.
Between 10 and 13 years old seems to be a common agreement in allowing a child a first pet, though some say as low as 6 years old is good for a hamster.
Giving a child a hamster to care for can teach them about responsibility and how to care for something besides themselves.
However, a responsible parent should still understand and accept that if their child fails to take proper care of the hamster then it’s up to them to take over so the hamster won’t suffer.
Things like daily feeding and ensuring that the hamster always has water are not necessarily time-consuming but do take some patience and vigilance on the part of the owner.
Weekly cage cleanings can also get tiresome, and those requirements are just the bare minimum.
Spending time with your hamster, letting it out of its cage to roll around, and setting up tubing for it to run and play are added benefits for a long and healthy hamster life.
It’s also recommended for parents to inform and remind their children that a hamster’s life span is only around two years, to avoid the surprise of death.