“I’m done with men. I have a hamster. That’s all I need.”
― Janet Evanovich
Should I Get a Hamster?
If you’re looking for a new furry friend to keep you company, but your lifestyle or living situation aren’t suitable for a big pet such as a dog or cat, a hamster can be a great choice. Hamsters are small, relatively inexpensive, and can be left alone for many hours during the day since they are naturally nocturnal and will simply sleep while you are away at work or school.
While owning a pet always comes with certain responsibilities, such as making sure that they get an adequate amount of exercise and stimulation, pet hamsters are pretty low maintenance compared to a lot of other animals. While they may not be suitable for very young children, hamsters are a popular choice for families with kids six years and up.
Of course, there are pros and cons to everything in life, including pet hamsters. So if you’re not sure whether a hamster is the right pet for you, check out our list of pros and cons below to make a more informed decision.
The Pros of Owning a Hamster
Hamsters are cheap pets
Compared to other pets, such as dogs, hamsters are pretty cheap to own. You can get a hamster for $5-10 USD. Their cage will set you back around $50-150, but this is a one-time purchase and you may even be able to get a used cage in good condition for much less. Your hamster’s bedding (which usually consists of wood chips) will cost you about $15 every three months or so.
You should plan in additional costs for a hideout (so your hamster can build a nest) as well as exercise materials (such as a hamster ball or hamster wheel), chew toys (to keep their teeth from growing too long) and food. A pet hamster’s diet should consist of appropriate rodent pellets as well as fresh produce, but since they’re tiny and don’t eat that much, their food is a pretty low ongoing cost.
Lastly, you do need to factor in potential costs for vet bills. Hamsters, just like any other animal, can get sick or injured. They are also prone to dental problems, which can require treatments, which is why it’s so important to provide them with chew toys and keep their teeth growth in check.
Hamsters don’t need a huge amount of space
While it’s possible to keep a dog or cat in a small apartment in the city, the size of your living space may well prevent you from getting a bigger pet that requires a lot of room to run around and play. Rodents are generally a good choice for people who live in apartments in the city, so if that’s your situation, a hamster might be a good way to go. Most hamsters are only between 2 and 5 inches big (although bigger breeds do exist). Habitats are available in a wide range of sizes, from around 200 to 800 square inches of floor space. While it is important to choose a habitat that provides your hamster with enough space to move around, even a bigger habitat can usually fit comfortably in the corner of a room. You also don’t need to own a yard to give your hamster everything it needs to be happy — although if you do have one, you can let your hamster roam around outside in a hamster ball, for example. Just make sure to keep a close eye on it at all times so it doesn’t get lost or snatched up by a neighborhood cat!
Hamsters can be tamed, and become quite social
Not all animals can be successfully tamed. Snakes, for example, can get used to human contact, but can’t be fully domesticated. Some people don’t mind owning a pet that is essentially a wild animal, but if you’re looking to build any sort of real relationship with your pet, a hamster can actually be a good choice. It can take several weeks to tame a hamster, and during that time they may be skittish; but once they’re comfortable around you, a hamster can be quite social and enjoy being petted or cuddled. They may also show their affection and trust by snuggling up to you or falling asleep in your hand.
Hamsters are smart and fun
Hamsters are very alert and aware of what’s happening around them. If you spend enough time training them, they can even learn to recognize their own name or perform simple tricks. What’s more, they are naturally curious and possess some basic problem-solving abilities, which show when you put them in a maze, for example. Building a maze for your hamster and watching them as they navigate the different challenges can be a lot of fun for the whole family (or the whole internet, if you take a video and upload it!). Even watching them clean themselves or rummage around in their habitat can be entertaining as they are simply adorable.
Hamsters can be left alone during the day
Hamsters are nocturnal, which means that they sleep during the day and become active at night. If you spend most of your day at work or school, you won’t have to worry about your pet hamster becoming lonely or bored, since they won’t really miss you while you’re away. They’ll probably wake up around the time you come home in the evening, and then you can enjoy a few hours of playtime with your tiny friend.
You don’t need special training to safely own a hamster
While hamsters can bite and may also become aggressive if handled poorly, they are generally very easy to raise and own. You don’t need any special training to tame a hamster, as opposed to, say, dog owners, who often have to attend obedience school or even hire private trainers to learn everything they need to know about training and socializing their dog. While it’s certainly important to do proper research before bringing a hamster into your home, you will find plenty of free resources online to answer your questions and help you prepare for your new family member, and you won’t have to take any expensive classes.
Hamsters have no special grooming needs
Hamsters love to groom themselves and are very good at keeping themselves clean. You don’t really need to bathe your hamster. If, for some reason, they ever get dirty, it’s usually enough to carefully wipe their fur with a warm, moist cloth and dry them afterwards. Hamsters are even pretty good at keeping their habitats clean and will only pick one or two specific corners to relieve themselves. While owners of certain other types of pets, such as dogs and cats, sometimes have to spend time each week to brush their furry friends or even trim their fur and nails, you won’t have to worry about such things with a hamster.
The Cons of Owning a Hamster
Hamsters are nocturnal
Hamsters are naturally nocturnal. They like to sleep during the day and play at night. If you’re a real nightowl yourself, that might not be an issue, but a lot of people get annoyed at the noise their little pets make when they become active. From running in their hamster wheel to noisy eating, to bar biting and cage chewing — if the habitat is close to your bedroom, you might have trouble sleeping. Since hamsters are usually asleep during the day, that also means you might not get to interact with your pet as much as you’d like. Waking them up during the day is not only mean but can also make them upset or aggressive.
Hamsters bite more than other pet rodents
Hamsters have relatively poor eyesight. To make up for this, they use their other senses to experience the world – touch, smell, and of course, taste. For this reason, sticking a finger into a hamster cage may well result in a bite. It’s not the hamster’s fault — it likely just wants to figure out if that strange new object in its cage is edible.
While biting is less of a concern for adults and teenagers, younger kids may become frightened, especially if the hamster’s tiny teeth actually draw blood.
Hamster cages need to be cleaned regularly
Hamsters like a clean home. Their habitat should be cleaned at least once a month with warm, soapy water (some recommend doing it on a weekly basis). Additionally, you’ll have to scoop out their soiled bedding daily. While this isn’t quite as bad as cleaning a cat’s litter box or picking up a pile of warm dog poop with a plastic baggy, you might find that taking on this additional chore becomes tiresome after a while.
On the other hand, if you don’t keep your hamster’s cage clean, it will start to smell, affecting your own level of comfort. Plus, dirty cages can actually become a health hazard for your pet. If not cleaned regularly, different types of fungus may develop, and some of those may actually lead to a dangerous fungal infection. Two common infections are ringworm and Aspergillus, and Aspergillus can be deadly for your hamster.
Hamsters need a lot of exercise
The hamster wheel is a cliche for a reason. Giving a hamster a wheel is a good way to ensure that they can exercise and power themselves out right inside their habitat. However, hamsters need additional stimulation and also enjoy a change of scenery. It’s therefore important to let them out of their cage and let them roam around your living space once a day. To make these explorations safe and ensure your hamster doesn’t get lost, you should always supervise their trips outside their habitat. Using a hamster ball can also be a good idea.
Hamsters don’t live very long
With good care, hamsters can live for 2 to 3 years, though most pet hamsters only live for a year and a half on average. Compared to other pets, such as dogs (who live for 10 to 13 years on average) or cats (who live for 10 to 15 years), that’s not a very long time at all. Of course, you may not have quite such a strong connection to a hamster as you may have with a dog, but any loving pet owner will still mourn the loss of a furry companion, even a small one. On the other hand, some people actually consider the hamster’s natural short lifespan a plus, because they are not as much of a commitment as other pets.
Hamsters are not the most loving pets
Hamsters have a mind of their own, as well as tons of energy. Your pet hamster may not always be in the mood to cuddle with you — instead, they may simply want to run in their wheel, eat, or busy themselves otherwise in their habitat. Also, not all hamsters are the same. If you’re unlucky, you might pick one who isn’t very social at all and prefers to be enjoyed from a distance. So if you’re looking for a pet that looks at you with adoration, follows you around, and snuggles up to you in the evenings, you might be better off with a dog or a cat.