Hamsters are great pets: they’re cute, cuddly and characterful. Hamsters are fantastic for older children and adults alike, and will be a great addition to your household. If you’re thinking about welcoming one of these little creatures into your home, there are some things you will want to consider first:
Can you commit to the hamster for its natural lifespan?
Hamsters are wonderful pets, and can be excellent companions. However, they do require a certain amount of love and care throughout their lives - if you adopt or purchase a pet it’s unkind to change your mind about it weeks or months later. Pets should be members of the family.
The level of attention hamsters need is certainly less than some pets - they don’t need to be walked like dogs, and they don’t need to be carefully watched in the garden like guinea pigs and tortoises. But they do need some daily care - they need to be fed, and be given attention, especially if you have a hamster variety that needs to be kept on its own. Hamsters bond with their owners and need lots of stimulation, so your pet will probably want to play with you every day.
Who is the pet for?
Is the hamster for an older child or for an adult? If the pet is intended for an older child (over the age of ten), then there are two things that you’ll need to consider. First, hamsters are a nocturnal species, which means it’ll be hard for kids to play with these animals properly. There are some animals who are slightly more active during the day, such as gerbils, who might be a better choice.
Secondly, if the hamster is for a child then there needs to be an adult who doesn’t mind taking care of it. Expecting any child, no matter how mature, to be able to take care of an animal on its own puts both the animal and the child’s happiness at risk. If you’re sure there’s an adult who is happy to do the daily feeding, the regular health checks, and the cage cleaning, then a hamster will be a great addition to the family.
Can you afford a hamster?
Hamsters are relatively cheap pets compared to cats, dogs and guinea pigs. They’re really very small animals, and even though they’ll shove more food into their mouths than you’d think possible, overall it is actually quite a small amount. Once you’ve purchased the hutch and the animal itself, the main upkeep cost is bedding, a material that will be need to be replaced on a regular basis.
Another financial consideration is healthcare. Like any pet, hamsters can fall ill and require medicine and veterinary attention. This can be pretty pricey, and so before you commit to one of these pets you’ll need to know that you have the financial ability to look after them when they’re ill. If you’re worried about vets’ fees, then have a look at our section on hamster illnesses.
- Are you allergic to hamsters?
Before you commit to one of these pets, it would be a good idea to make sure that you, and anyone else who will be in regular contact with the animal, doesn’t have an negative reaction to the allergens they produce. Symptoms of an allergy include sneezing, a runny nose, teary eyes and coughing.
- What level of companionship are you looking for?
Before you get a hamster, you might want to have a think about what you want from a pet, and consider whether or not your personality and habits are compatible with this particular animal.
Do you have room for a hamster?
Hamsters are very small animals, but they need a certain amount of space. Hamster cages are quite bulky, and you’ll want to have an area picked out and the cage all set up before you purchase your new pet.
We recommend keeping your hamster outside of the bedrooms. Although this might seem like the perfect place to maximise time with your pet, many new owners don’t realise how active these little animals are during the night-time. They’re most active during this period, and will scurry around their cage and frantically race in their wheel, which on the one hand is adorable but not exactly conducive to a good night’s sleep. If you’re not sure where to put your hamster cage, have a look at our Where Do I Put My Hamster Cage? section.
- How much companionship do you want?
Do you want a pet that you play with once a day, or one that is your constant companion? Do you want to be able to go outdoors a lot with your pet? Are you up late at night? Hamsters are intelligent little pets but they won’t be awake for the majority of the day. They are nocturnal by nature, and at most are a little active in the evening. If you want a pet for the daytime hours, then a hamster may not be for you. Perhaps a gerbil or a larger mammal such as a cat or a dog would be a better option.
Have you ever had a pet before?
Hamsters are wonderful little animals that require some daily care. If you’ve never had a pet before, the responsibilities of pet ownership can be more than anticipated. An excellent idea is to borrow a friends’ pet for a week or two, or to offer to look after someone’s pet whilst they are on holiday. During this time, you’ll be able to assess whether or not you’re happy feeding and playing with the animal every day, and can commit to all these things once the novelty has worn off.