The Real Cost Of Buying And Owning A Hamster

If you’re thinking about getting a hamster, you need to read this. I had only a vague idea before I got my Teddy. I knew I wanted a cute and cuddly orange hamster, and I knew nothing about hamsters. Then I found out through trial and error how to properly care for a hamster, and how having a hamster changes your life.

This is what I’ll be talking about here. How much a hamster costs, how much it costs to get him food and bedding, cages costs, everything.

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So how much does a hamster cost, buying and monthly expenses ?

To be fair, the hamster itself is incredibly cheap. A Syrian hamster will run about 5-10 dollars, while a Dwarf (whether Roborowski, Campbell, Siberian, or Chinese) will be slightly cheaper.

As for the monthly expenses, those include only bedding and food/treats, which can vary depending on what you get your hamster. An estimate would be around $10 per month for food and bedding.

There are initial expenses, like the cage, wheel, exercise ball, toys, and so on. An absolute minimum, considering the  cage size, and wheel and ball size, would be $225, of which the cage is he most expensive.

You can find an exhaustive hamster supply list here, complete with everything you’ll need once you decide to get yourself a hamster.

Aside from those, which I’ll cover in detail in the article, there’s the impact the hamster has on your life. Owning a hamster is, after all, a responsibility and you need to think about it before you get a hamster.

Now let’s get into the details of how much a hamster costs. All expenses in this article are in U.S. dollars, to stay coherent throughout the article.

How much for the hamster

Hamsters are actually very cheap. In that, most of the time you’ll find them along with fish in terms of cost. For example my Teddy was 4.90 USD. That’s incredible for owning a pet that will be by my side for the next 2-3 years.

Now, Teddy is a Syrian hamster. A dwarf type will cost less, but how much less depends on the pet shop you pick him up from. But on average, hamsters will go between $5-10, with the dwarf kind on the cheaper end.

You can also get hamsters from a private breeder. But in those cases you must make sure that those breeders treat their hamsters humanely, and have medical checks run on the parents frequently.

A private breeder will not cost more than the pet shop, and getting a baby hamster from a friend will be basically free. But you must be sure that the hamster parents are healthy before you get your baby hamster.

Visit your friends who have hamsters a few times to check up on the female, to see how her litter is coming along and pick out the one you like.

So in short, an actual hamster can be anything between $5-10, even free if you know someone who had a recent litter.

What a hamster’s cage will cost

This depends on what kind of cage you want to get your hamster. Normally the minimum cage size for hamsters is 24 x 12 inches, and about 12 inches tall. That’s 61 x 30.5 cm, and about 30.5 cm tall.

This the minimum for a Syrian hamster, but this will work for dwarf hamsters as well. When it comes to cage size, it’s best to go for bigger cages. This is because the hamsters need more space than the absolute minimum.

Of course, it depends on your home as well. Can you fit a large glass tank somewhere ? Do you need to move the cage often ? How much space to spare do you have in the room you want to keep the hamster ? What is your budget ?

A large enough cage will be somewhere around $120-150, plus handling and shipping if you’re ordering online. Picking it up from a petshop will spare you those taxes, but might be more expensive overall.

Generally there’s 3 kinds of cage types:
  • Plastic – the most common after metal, can easily fit tube accessories. Not the most breatheable, be careful which kind you get. I’ll leave you an Amazon link to the one I have, you can check it out there as well as the pricing.
  • Metal/wire – very breatheable, but you need to be sure the spacing between wires is less than half an inch so the hamster can’t escape. Here’s an Amazon link to a good, large wire cage, which also has a movable level.
  • Glass tanks – can get these in larger sizes than plastic or metal cages, but they need to stay put. You need a lot of space and a wire mesh for the top of the tank. I looked around and found a fairly good one on Amazon, you can check it out here.

A word on glass tanks. They’re great for hamsters but ordering online is a bit tricky, with the transport. Sometimes glass comes whole and the tank is fine, sometimes it comes broken. Honestly it’s best to pick up a glass tank from a pet shop or somewhere you can inspect it yourself, and bring it home yourself.

If you want a much more detailed breakdown on each hamster cage, and which type you’d like for your hamster, you need to read this article. You will find the same Amazon links as above, but discussed in more detail, along with pictures. It’s got all 3 types of hamster cages, their pros and cons, and how to clean and care for the cages too.

A hamster cage might seem expensive at first, and at a first glance it might be. But you only need one, and your hamster will use it his entire life. This is not something you buy again and again every few months.

Do not make the mistake I did, and skimp out on the cage. I ended up changing 3 cages just because I didn’t want to spend a little extra on the first purchase. The first 2 I got Teddy were too small for an adult Syrian hamster.

How much the hamster’s bedding will cost

Hamsters need a lot of bedding, and the most readily available is wood chips. The best kind of bedding you can get your hamster would be aspen wood chips, if they’re available in your area. If not, another option would be paper bedding.

Bedding is something that lasts you for several weeks, even months, depending on how much you give your hamster, and how often you change it.

If you want much more info on how often to change the hamster’s bedding, which kind is safe, and how to pick the right one for him, I suggest you read this article. It’s got the bedding types available, along with a list of unsafe beddings you need to avoid.

For example my Teddy’s bedding is about $12 and 3.2 kg/7 lbs, and it’s good for about 3 whole months. I change his whole bedding every week, and his corners a bit more often.

So that’s $15 every 3 months, 4 times a year. $5 a month for something that will help keep the hamster warm is not that much, really.

A good option for aspen bedding is this one by Kaytee. It’s twice the size I get my Teddy so it can seriously last your hamster for half a year, if not more. Aspen bedding is one of the safest types you can get for a hamster. You can check the listing on Amazon here, and read the reviews as well.

You can also get paper bedding for your hamster, if aspen isn’t available where you are. Here’s an Amazon link for a paper bedding, which will last your hamster about 3 months. Paper beddings are a bit more expensive than wood shavings.

It’s up to you which you think would be best for your hammy. I use wood shavings since they’re easy to find in my area.

As for the nesting material the hamster needs to put in his nest, a couple of ripped up paper towels will be enough. Or, unscented, plain toilet paper squares. Teddy shoves the paper in his cheek pouches, and then starts taking them out in his home, decorating the place.

How much the hamster’s hideout will cost

As for the hideout for the hamster, his hideout is where he will spend the majority of his time. Hamsters need just a bit of space to build their nest, and a good hideout will protect them

A good hideout is one made of wood. It keeps the hamster warmer, absorbs moisture and prevents condensation, and is safe to chew. Hamsters chew absolutely everything, including their hideout, so get your hammy a wood one.

If you want to know more about the kind of hideout a hamster needs in general, you can check out this article. In the second half of the article you’ll find out how your hammy will use his hideout, and how to clean it properly.

I got my Teddy a plastic one at first, and I kept it for a while until I noticed it kept the moisture inside, which kept Teddy’s nest wet in some places. So I got him a slightly larger, sturdier wood one.

I’ll leave you an Amazon link for a wood hideout that looks a lot like the one I have for my Teddy. The thing about hideouts and toys for hamsters, most of the time they are too small for Syrian hamsters.

Most of them are geared towards dwarf hamsters. But I’m showing you one that’s large enough for a Syrian hamster to fit in, and feel comfortable.

So the hideout would be somewhere around $10, which is again something you buy only once. Even if your hammy will chew and chew and chew on it, that hideout will still be in place for years.

Hamster toys, bought and DYI

The hamster’s toys will need to be made of wood as well. This is because hamster, again, chew on everything. If the hamster doesn’t chew on his toys, he will chew on the cage bars, or his hideout, or his water bottle, anything.

A hamster’s teeth never stop growing, so he needs to always file them down. And wood is he best material for their teeth, since it will file them down without hurting the hamster.

There are a whole array of toys you can get your hamster, some you can buy, some are best if you make at home. For example cardboard tubes left from paper towels (the ones you have in your kitchen, maybe) are great for hamsters.

Cut a few holes in them and you’ve got a hide-and-seek toy that can fit an adult Syrian hamster. Again, the Syrian hamsters need much more space than a dwarf so be careful when you choose toys for your hammy.

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I’ll link you to an article on the best toys you can both buy and DYI for your hamster friend, right here. You’ll find some links for Amazon listings for the toys which are best if you don’t invent them (like a wheel) and some ideas on what you can make at home.

Everything I link in this article is also suitable for a Syrian hamster, since this was what I was looking for when I got toys for my Teddy.

As for the cost, it depends on what you end up getting your hamster. These are again things you buy for your hamster only once, and he will use his entire life.

So it could be anywhere from nothing (like the paper towel tubes) to $22 for a digging tower. It’s up to you, but remember that your hammy will need a few toys, even if you make all of them at home.

How much a hamster wheel can cost

Hamsters need a lot of exercise, and fortunately an exercise wheel and ball are things you only buy once. Actually everything except the food and bedding will keep the hamster forever.

Again, don’t make the mistake I made when I got my Teddy. I skimped out on the cage, but the wheel as well. At first I left him that small plastic wheel that came with the cage, too small by even a baby Syrian.

The I bought him a bigger, metal wheel, a 7 inch/18 cm one. Which was fine, but only for a while. One he grew to his full size, he needed a larger one. Again. So I went a bought the biggest I could find, a 9 inch/23 cm one, which fits hit much better.

When you get your hamster an exercise wheel, you need to account for how large he will get as an adult. An adult Syrian hamster will need a minimum of 7 inches/18 cm to be able to run freely. A dwarf hamster can do with just inches/13 cm but that’s the minimum.

If you want to know much more about choosing the right exercise wheel for your hamster, you definitely need to read this. You’ll also find out how much exercise a hamster needs, and how much he can run in a night as well !

A large enough wheel for a Syrian hamster can run around $30, which will last him his entire life.

How much an exercise ball for your hamster will cost

As with the exercise wheel, and exercise ball is a good way to give your hamster an opportunity to leave his cage safely.

You can place the hamster in his exercise ball, and let him roam the house. Or, you can use it as a temporary place to keep him while you clean his cage.

If you want to know more about how to care for your hamster when he is n his exercise ball, you can read this article. You’ll find out how to properly introduce him to his exercise ball, how to make sure he is comfortable, and how to keep the ball clean.

Exercise balls for hamsters run around $8 plus shipping and handling, if you order online. If you get it from a petshop it might have less taxes, but be a bit more expensive overall.

Again, this is an item you only buy once, like the wheel and cage and hideout. For example my Teddy has his ball since he was young, and I just figured out that I should get him a large enough ball to fit him as an adult.

All exercise balls for hamsters are made of hard, durable plastic, so you won’t need to replace it under normal circumstances. Unless someone steps on the ball, or a large pet or child plays with it, it should stay intact even if it bangs against the furniture.

How much the hamster’s food costs

The food is the cheapest thing on this list, I think. This is partly because you can feed the hamster the food you eat as well, or you can get him a pre-made food mix.

If you decide to feed your hamster whole foods from your home, then this article will help you figure out what kind of foods are safe and unsafe for a hamster to eat.

Overall, I’d advise getting your hamster a pre-made food mix. Those usually have dry food that keeps for long, and is more suitable for a hamster’s usual diet and what he’d normally find in the wild.

If you feed your hamster exclusively from your fridge or pantry, then his food will cost basically nothing. But you’re in danger of not meeting his dietary requirements, or overfeeding him.

If you’re using a pre-made mix, it can get to $10, both online and in a pet shop. I get Teddy a 1 kg/2 lbs food mix with grains and pellets and a few seeds. It lasts him about as much as the bedding, so 3 months.

So that’s $10 every 3 months, which I also supplement with a bit of veggies or cooked chicken whenever we’re cooking.

Hamster health and vet visits

Hamster’s can’t really be described as sickly animals by nature. They stay healthy for along time, but once they get sick they need immediate attention.

Those I can’t give you an estimate for, since it can vary wildly according to the hamster’s illness. The most common problems a hamster can run into are wet tail, diabetes, hypothermia, dehydration, starvation, and colds.

Of course, there are a lot of other problems that can come up, but these are the most common. And most of these are easily fixable, if noticed in time. Bringing the hamster to a vet within 24 hours of developing a disease, or getting injured, is going to save him in most cases.

But I can tell you that if you keep your hamster in the right conditions, feed him properly, give him plenty of room and exercise, he will be fine. So a trip to the vet will be basically free. Just watch out for the temperature in the room you keep him in – more on that here.

Transport cage for the hamster

Your hammy will probably never have to leave you home. But there might be moments when he’ll have to go to the vet, or you’re moving house and can’t move him in his entire cage.

A transport cage can be an old, smaller cage that your hammy had when he was a baby, or you can get one that’s made specifically for temporary keeping.

As with everything else for the hamster, this is something you only buy once. And a transport cage can be anything from $10 to $30, and some types can be used as a permanent fixture to your hammy’s habitat.

If you want to know more about traveling with your hamster, and how to make sure he is comfortable during travel, you should check this out. You’ll get a few hamster travel cage ideas, and find out how to keep him safe during travel too.

Consider this before getting a hamster

When I first got my Teddy I had no real info on hamsters. I’d seen one or two before, I knew they were small and fluffy, and needed a cage, and didn’t live more than a couple of years.

My girlfriend fell in love with the idea of Teddy in an exercise ball running around the house, so we went looking for an orange Syrian hamster.

When we got him, we spend an entire evening looking at him, at how cute he is, and how much energy he has. We wouldn’t trade him for anything, even if he’s a bit over the top sometimes, like waking us up in the middle of the night with a squeaky wheel.

We had no idea what to expect, and there were some odd surprises. But I think that there definitely are some things you should think log and hard about before you get a hamster.

Can you offer the hamster the right conditions ?

By this I mean that hamsters need some specific conditions to live in. There’s temperature, spacing, bedding and food, and toys to take into account.

Unless you can keep the hamster at a 20-23 C/65-75 F temperature, with a cage 24 x 12 inches, and about 12 inches tall (that’s 61 x 30.5 cm, and about 30.5 cm tall), you shouldn’t get one.

Hamsters need proper conditions, along with the right amount of bedding and food to stay healthy and happy.

Do you have the time to play with your hamster ?

Hamsters are in fact a mix between nocturnal and crepuscular. That means that some will come out during the night, and some will only come out at dusk and dawn. Their waking hours can change over time, but this is how they usually work.

If you’re working a very early shift, with a very early bedtime, you might miss your hamster waking up. Or you might only catch about an hour or half an hour of playtime with him before you must sleep.

I’d recommend a hamster to those people who do not work an early shift, and can stay up later than 10 pm without worrying about how tired they’ll be tomorrow.

To tame your hamster you need a lot of interaction with him, and if you’re sleeping when he’s up, that will be harder to do.

Is there someone who can watch your hamster when you’re gone ?

There’s no good reason to bring the hamster out of his habitat or your home, aside from a vet visit or something major like moving house.

Travel can stress the hamster too much, so it’s best to leave him in one place. But when you have to leave town for a few days, do you have someone who can come over and feed him ?

A friend or a family member, or even a neighbor who have the time and disposition to come over every evening and feed the hamster, see if he’s alright, check up on him.

Do you have a calm, quiet place for your hamster to stay ?

Even if you’ve got an especially rowdy home, with 4 small kids, 2 dogs and a parrot, you must have some sort of quiet place.

Hamsters need a quiet place where they won’t be disturbed while they sleep, which is much of the day. So keeping him in the living room with barking dogs and people running around won’t be healthy or comfy for your hamster at all.

If you can keep the hamster in a quiet room, where nothing can disturb him, then that’s great. The attic or a cupboard or basement are not good places for your hamster, even if they’re quiet.

(If you like this article so far, you can pin it to your Pinterest board by clicking the image below. The article continues after the image.)

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A hamster’s average life expectancy

Hamsters are fairly short-lived. Both Syrians and Dwarf hamsters live up to 2-4 years, under the right circumstances as pets.

They can die young, around 4 weeks of age, if they develop wet-tail and aren’t give treatment fast, or they can develop diabetes when they’re older, aside form a host of other problems.

But in general, your furry friend will stay with you from 2 to 4 years, Dwarf hamsters being the most long-lived of all.

So if you do decide to get a hamster, take into account that random bits of wood shavings, a furry face, and evenings playing with a walnut or toilet paper roll will be in your life for the next 2-4 years.

How a hamster will change your life

Owning a hamster is not that difficult, all things considered. When I first got Teddy, I didn’t know hat to expect, but I’m glad I got him.

He’s taught me that some things must be done his way( like leaving a lot of room on the kitchen counter for him at night). And many things that would annoy me in the day would just disappear when I play with him.

A hamster, or a pet in general, will put a smile on your face, with everything this ball of fur does.

Once you get a hamster, you will be more aware of how warm or clean your home is (like bedding strewn everywhere), and even the noise level.

You will become a very responsible person when you know you can’t really take him with your everywhere, like a cat or dog, to set up someone to take care of him. And you will see a piece of cardboard and know exactly what he’d do with it.

A word from Teddy

I hope you found everything you were looking for here. I know us hamsters can seem like forgettable pets compared to larger ones, like cats or dogs. But we are a whole other type of pet, with lots of love and funny tricks to offer.

So make sure you think about it well enough before you get one of us hammies to live with you. We need some accommodation, but if you can make some room for us in your life, we’ll put a smile on your face every day.

If you want to know more about us hamsters, you can check out the articles below ! You’ll find out why we need so much exercise, and how to feed us properly, and much more.

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