Monday, 13 May 2013

How much does a hamster cost?

It's easy enough to think that hamsters are cheap pets. Walk into any large chain pet store and they'll be on sale for £10 or less. Just because the hamster is cheap, however, doesn't mean that their care is cheap!

(I'll be going through this as if the hamster being bought is a Syrian, however getting a dwarf hamster is honestly not much cheaper.)

The RPSCA minimum recommended cage size for any species of hamster is 75 by 40 centimetres, which equates to 3,000 square centimetres of floorspace. For a Syrian hamster, my personal recommended minimum cage size is 80 by 50 centimetres, or 4,000 square centimetres. This is far more space than most cages sold as suitable for a hamster -- in fact, the only cage suitable for a Syrian hamster sold in store in the well known big green pet store here in the UK is the Ferplast Mary rat cage. At 80 by 50 centimetres, and 37 centimetres tall, it is widely regarded to be too small for a pair of rats, but makes a good sized Syrian home. This cage, however, currently retails in said pet store for £70. (The store also sells the Hamster Heaven, but only online, not in store, and it can be found cheaper elsewhere.)

Buying online is definitely the way to go to get a good sized cage without breaking the bank. The Alaska, at 84 by 48.5 centimetres, is larger than the Mary and is currently available at zooplus.co.uk for £39.90. The Mamble 80 is also good value for money, currently at £34.99 at littlepetwarehouse.com. If you want to go larger, the Mamble is also available from littlepetwarehouse in a 100 by 54 centimetre version for (currently) £44.99. Another cheap option is making a bin cage; the Ikea Samla bin at 78 by 56 centimetres makes a good sized Syrian home. This does, however, require a bit of DIY!

Lets say you decide to go for the Alaska cage. That's nearly £40 spent on the cage alone. The next important item is the wheel. Most wheels aimed at Syrian hamsters are only suitable for the dwarf species, and a wheel with a diameter of at least eight inches is needed, as a hamster needs to have a flat back when running. Personally I would not recommend buying a wheel less than eleven inches in diameter for a Syrian, as there is no such thing as a too big wheel, but a too small wheel can cause back pain and spinal issues. Since we're on zooplus already, lets get the Trixie Rodent Wheel. This is a plastic wheel, so is easy to clean, that isnot going to break the bank -- the 28 centimetre (eleven inch) version is currently available at £7.99. Other options include the 12 inch flying saucer and the 29 centimetre Karlie Wonderland wheel (both currently £11.90).

Annie's old Ferplast Mary and Trixie Rodent Wheel, plus
her Ferplast rat tube
Next on the list of necessities is a water bottle and food. Both of these are easily got from the big green pet store, with a 75 millilitre classic water bottle at £1.50 and a 700 gram bag of Harry Hamster food for £2. In my experience, more expensive brands of water bottles are not worth the extra money, and the 75 millilitre is fine for a Syrian even though it is branded as the "mouse" sized bottle. Harry Hamster is the only food endorsed by the National Hamster Council and is actually cheaper than the store's premium brand (called Healthy Handfuls). Also from the big green pet store, you can get an extra large pack of Snowflake brand shavings for £9.49. These shavings are dust free and the only brand of shavings I'd recommend using. The best bedding material you can get is actually torn up tissue paper or kitchen roll (the fluffy cotton wool bedding is actually really dangerous and should never be used -- even if it claims to be pet safe, it can tangle around limbs and cut of circulation, or cause a blockage if ingested. There's a thread about it on one of the hamster forums I frequent).

There are also other things that you may want to buy for your hamster that are not strictly necessary, like a house (a cardboard box will do fine from the hamster's point of view) or a food bowl (scatter feeding is actually an enrichment activity for the hamster). If you want to buy a house, a "guinea pig" corner house that is the perfect size for Syrians is currently on zooplus for £7.49. Similarly, a hamster food bowl is currently £1.59 on zooplus. A "must have" toy in my opinion is the bendy bridge, with the medium one, ideal for Syrians, currently £2.79 on zooplus. A Ferplast rat tube (most "hamster" tubes are too small for Syrians) is currently £6.99 from zooplus. A small hamster climbing frame from zooplus is currently £3.99. If you want to potty train your hamster, a Trixie corner toilet is currently £3.29 from zooplus, and a kilogram of chinchilla sand is currently £3.99. Most Syrians will use sand bath as a potty, and they may also love digging in it and using it to clean themselves like dwarf hamsters will.

Then there are also hamster treats. A bag of JR Farm mixed flavour yoghurt drops is £1.39 from zooplus. Dreamies cat treats are loved by my Syrian, and a 60 gram bag of these is currently £1.49 from zooplus. A 200 gram bag of mixed nuts by JR Farm is currently £2.99.

Finally, there is pet safe cleaner for cleaning out the cage, which can be got from the big green pet store for £3.50.

Even with buying all of this online, often at discounted prices, this comes up to a lot:

An old layout of Annie's Ferplast Mary.
Cage: £39.90
Eleven inch wheel: £7.99
Water bottle: £1.50
Food: £2.00
Substrate: £9.45

House: £7.49
Food bowl: £1.59
Toys: 13.77
Sand bath/potty: £7.28
Treats: £5.87

Pet safe disinfectant: £3.50

Total: £100.34

Yes, you read that right. It costs just over £100 to get this rather basic set up for a £10 hamster. True, some of the things are not necessary, and you can buy cheaper toys or make some yourself, but hamsters are not cheap to look after properly. This total would be even higher if it was all bought in stores rather than online; obtaining all of the essentials, a handful of different toys and treats from the big green pet store would cost nearer £150 to £160. Plus there is the emergency vet fund to consider, which depends on how expensive your local small animal vet is.

If you think hamsters are cheap children's pets, well, think again!

8 comments:

  1. Great information. I don't think I knew about the dwarf hamsters using sand before, but I guess it makes sense considering. I know that there were many people who were not willing to pay much for their hamster's vet care. Some were willing to go above and beyond however. One lady allowed us to spay her dwarf hamster because she had ovarian cancer.

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  2. sand baths take grease out of a hamster's fur

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  3. Great advice, really useful as I'm looking to get a hamster and of course any animal you get if you are setting up for it properly it's not going to be cheap initially but how much would you say it costs to upkeep a hamster (money wise not the attention it will obviously need) monthly or yearly for its food and new bedding etc. to a high standard after set up?

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    1. About £15 with the bedding, food and treats.

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  4. Excellent advice on floor space. Unfortunately, I have found that these larger cages also tend to be quite tall which can pose a hazard. After one of my hamsters climbed up into the roof of her new cage and dropped straight down thus breaking her lower spine (resulting in euthanasia at just 16 weeks old) I am always wary of buying a cage higher than 28cm.
    I've gone down the road of smaller cage but more time running about on the carpet or in the ball instead.

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  5. Thank you so much!! I have recently been thinking about getting a Syrian hamster and I am so glad someone has taken the time to right out such useful knowledge to share with others. This really helped, thank you.

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  6. Thanks for the advice because I'm gona get a hamster soon .so that has really helped me out thanks again

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