Ideally, before buying a hamster you want to have everything ready before you go out to the petshop to choose him/her. That way your new hamster can be put straight into his cage and get accustomed to his/her new home more quickly and you can begin the taming process sooner!
When I got my first hamster, Pip, I only had my cage, waterbottle and wheel before going out to the petshop to buy him. I then bought all the necessary supplies like food and bedding while I was there. Then once we got home, I let him run around in his new hamster ball while I sorted out his cage with bedding and food. He (I’m pretty sure anyway!) was happy with the arrangement. So if you can’t buy your cage etc before purchasing your beloved new pet, it’s not the end of the world! However, I can’t guarantee a smooth introduction for every hamster so I do encourage you to be organised. I’ll be taking you through each step of keeping hamsters as pets until you are accustomed to it all so don’t worry.
Anyway, now that you know about the kind of things you need to have before buying a hamster we can move on to the exciting bit which is choosing your new hamster.
CHOOSING A HAMSTER:
When buying a hamster you need to decide whether you want a Syrian hamster or a Dwarf hamster. (Later I’ll be adding a “hamster breeds” page so you can find out more about these two types of hamsters. I’ll give you a list of pros and cons of each type of hamster so you can decide which hamster best suits you, your environment and your family).
Once you have decided on your hamster breed, you can go to the petshop and pick one out. You may want to take all of them home, just because they’re so cute! I wanted to anyway! But I’m afraid that’s sadly not an option, which brings us to a very valid point. Don’t just pick the cutest one in the shop! When buying a hamster, you need to pick the brightest most alert looking little creature in the place.
Once they have been woken up (as they are nocturnal) they should be running around and taking in your scent. If there is one that is very slow to wake or if it just sits there by him/herself, not moving, then I highly recommend that you don’t choose that one because he/she could be ill. The shop assistant should let you hold a few of them, and if they’re lively, alert and curious then they are probably more than fit to take home.
Make sure you check their eyes, mouth and tail before you buy them because they are the three key places to check for a disease in a hamster. The eyes should be clear, with no discharge, the mouth should be clean, with no sign of infection and the tail and back should be clean and dry, with no signs of diarrhea.
MALE OR FEMALE?:
There is no real difference in personality when it comes to choosing the gender of your pet. Some experienced breeders will say that male hamsters can be more placid, but it usually depends on the personality of the hamster as an individual! Just make sure, if you choose a female, that she came from a cage, separated from the males. Otherwise you could end up with an extra seven or eight hamsters!
I’ll take a moment to tell you what it was like getting Pip, my first hamster. It was a Sunday afternoon, the day before my birthday. I went to my local petshop, which is very good. I had done some research before deciding to get a hamster and I had come to the conclusion that a Roborovski hamster was the best for me. ( Go to my “hamster breeds” page for more info on them) The woman in the shop gave me the youngest robo they had and I held him in my hands for a while. I think he had gone into shock when he was put in my hand, because after a few minutes of staying still, he had recovered and tried to make several leaps to freedom! Luckily, every time he did so, he was caught by the shop assistant! I knew that he was healthy and lively, so I took him home.
TAKING YOUR HAMSTER HOME:
After buying a hamster, usually the petshop will supply you with a cardboard box to take your new pet home in. You can however invest in a carry case for your hamster, which will come in handy if you need to take your hamster to the vet. I took Pip home in a hamster ball and it was equally effective.
THE FOUR DAY WAIT:
Once you have picked out a hamster, bought the hamster, brought the hamster home, set up his/her cage and put the cage in a quiet place then you can let him/her settle in. It is very important that after buying a hamster you give him/her at least four days to settle in.
During that time, don’t go near the cage, clean the cage or interact with the hamster. The only thing you need to do during those four days, is change his/her food and water. It may seem cruel and imposssible to ignore your hamster, but your hamster needs time to get to know his/her surroundings. It will also make taming and interaction more fun for both you and your hamster in the long run.
Still, no-one ever told me how hard this would be, and if you’re an animal lover like me, then it will be difficult! Especially if you have young kids, who don’t understand why they have to wait to play with their new pet! But it is very important that you do wait, and after four days of “closed season” you can start the taming process.
That brings us to taming! Over the next few weeks, I’ll be taming my new Syrian hamster, Alfie, so check in regularly to find out how he’s settling in and how we’re getting on with the taming process.
Buying a hamster is exciting and I hope that this introduction helps you to confidently introduce your new pet into your home! Good luck!
If you’re unsure about where to buy, the British Hamster Association has a breeder location page and information on buying a hamster
Also the Internet Hamster Association of North America site (IHANA) has lots of good advice on buying a hamster too.