(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
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.|
Eleven inch wheel: £7.99
Water bottle: £1.50
Food bowl: £1.59
Sand bath/potty: £7.28
Pet safe disinfectant: £3.50
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!